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One Man Band on the Run

By Sarah McCartan

Netherfriends, aka Chicago native Shawn Rosenblatt, is a one-man band on the run—the tour run that is. What was once a multi-member band has morphed into a multi-component psych-pop solo project, grounded by a trusty loop pedal.

The pinnacle of Rosenblatt’s run thus far has been his epic 50 songs 50 states project. This vast undertaking is exactly what it sounds like. In just shy of a year Rosenblatt ventured into the unknown and traversed the entire United States performing, writing and recording a different track in each state. Rosenblatt allowed his music to sustain him from one tour stop to the next, until finally concluding this journey in Hawaii.

Netherfriends introduced listeners to preliminary tracks from this collection via the “Angry East Coast” EP, which has since been followed up with the full-length album, “Middle America,” released last summer.

“Touring life isn’t the worst thing you could do. Staying here would be the worst thing you could do,” Rosenblatt sings in his track entitled “Columbus, OH.”

Throughout the entirety of “Middle America,” Rosenblatt successfully puts a harmonious twist, an upbeat take and a magnetizing turn on the expansive and somewhat disparate towns that make up the great, rolling Midwest.

As for the remaining songs from the 50 songs 50 states project, Rosenblatt notes these tracks are in the works to be mastered and is considering utilizing an interactive virtual map as a means to release them.

Although Rosenblatt continues his perpetual performing and writing groove, he has recently settled into several multi-week residencies in various cities, including his hometown of Chicago.

The IN caught up with Rosenblatt while staked out during a month long stint performing Tuesday nights at the Circle Bar in New Orleans. From here he will be joining forces with Meth Dad (Tyler Walker) to embark on a Florida tour, making the first stop a weeknight spectacular at the Handlebar.

IN: Music seems to come naturally for you. Was there a defining moment in your life where you realized music is what you solely want to do?
ROSENBLATT: When I started 50 songs 50 states—that was it. There was no going back. It was really a crazy year to be able to survive on just music. It’s all anyone wants to do—to survive on what you love, your art. No one ever takes that jump unless there is a clear reason to, or a way they can afford to take that jump.

IN: What was your biggest takeaway from this 50 songs 50 states experience?
ROSENBLATT: It helped me to be confident enough to play a decent solo set onstage and deal with bands and other people that were helping me out along the way. There are a lot of things you learn from being nobody on the road.

IN: How did you choose which songs from this collection to release first? Were these areas of the country you found yourself most attached to or intrigued by?
ROSENBLATT: These were the songs that I finished first. The Midwest is hard as a musician since most towns are college towns. If you don’t go back consistently you lose all of these kids and they scatter.

IN: Are there moments where you think about going back to a traditional band setup?
ROSENBLATT: If I had a lot of money—but I don’t see that happening so I’m going to stick to solo. I get a better reaction solo.

IN: Any thoughts of writing a memoir on your experiences one day?
ROSENBLATT: If I survive it all. I don’t want to think that far ahead. I’m making a career out of music now, which is pretty surprising. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and keep making things that I enjoy.

To listen to “Middle America” and a full collection of Netherfriends’ works visit netherfriends.us.

NETHERFRIENDS
WHAT: Netherfriends, Meth Dad, Jpegagus, Travelers and The Possibility Wave
WHEN: 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23 (Doors at 9 p.m.)
WHERE: The Handlebar, 319 N. Tarragona St.
COST: $6 for ages 21+; $8 ages 20-
DETAILS: 434 – 9060 or netherfriends.us