Photograph by Erik Caballero
Ricky Schmidt, of Hey, Chels, went solo for his new album Ricky.
Ricky, the new solo project from Ricky Schmidt (Western Settings, Hey, Chels), has an 11-track solo album called Palm Trees dropping on November 13. “Palm Trees encompasses mid-2019 to pretty much the present time for me,” says Schmidt. “I started writing this record with one hundred percent focus as soon as we finished writing the last Hey, Chels LP titled Everything Goes. The oldest song dating back to 2018 is ‘Vietnam,’ a song about running away and never coming home, a fantasy that only grew stronger since the song came into fruition. The rest of the songs started during the second half of 2019 and a couple of them didn’t find their final resting places writing-wise until we were in the studio recording them.”
Of the album’s first single “Escape Artist,” he says “This song is about needing to step away from the world and allow yourself time away from everything. We all need breaks and especially during a time like the one we are currently all in.”
The newest single is called "New Day." “This song is kind of about the idea that change is gonna happen whether you like it or not. Maybe a little of 'the old guard will die out soon.' Progress will be made and the world will go on and this song is a reminder of that. While we may live in a shit storm today. Tomorrow is a new day.”
The album was produced by Tyson “Chicken” Annicharico of Dead To Me (“He ended up helping my band Western Settings make two records over the last five years”), engineered by Brandon Mericle (“He had mics in places I didn’t know there could be mics”), mixed by Scott Goodrich (“We sent him over the songs raw and pretty much told him to go to town on it”), and features drums by Shane Hendry (Eskera, From Scars, Reunions, Sub Dio).
Schmidt originally planned to do the drums himself. “I sent Shane the demos without drums and he sent them back with his better versions. When he sent back ‘Hot Summer,’ it had crazy bongo drums and other auxiliary percussion on it. I remember just hearing it and texting Shane telling him, ‘More of that, please.’ Shane put auxiliary percussion all over all the songs, and it completely changed the whole record in the best way possible. When we recorded, we actually acquired all the instruments, and Shane actually played all the percussion you hear on the record.”
Guest vocals and co-writing assist is provided by Schmidt’s partner and Hey, Chels bandmate Jax. “She’s the other person singing and doing all the ‘oos’ all over the record. I kept calling her my secret weapon, because she really is. Having Jax around to do vocals means the sky’s the limit. I can’t sing falsetto. It’s the thing I would change about myself if I could change one thing, and then I would have no friends because I would just walk around all day everyday talking and singing in falsetto always.”
“Anyways, we were able to do all those rad vocal parts because she can actually pull it off. It was funny, once we all got in the studio and Tyson realized he had the green light to put Jax in the vocal booth, we all really started having fun with it. Other than lending me her voice, Jax was also the one person I had to bounce ideas off of while writing these things in my room. She’s definitely in these songs, probably more than I remember. For example, when writing ‘New Day,’ I couldn’t figure out where to go with the chorus. I played the chords on my acoustic and she sang the line and melody that ended up becoming the chorus. Jax is all over this thing.”
He says working on the album turned out to be therapeutic. “I leaned hard into this project to keep me sane during this crazy year, and the content is very much so relevant to the year 2020. It’s nothing groundbreaking, I don’t think, but I feel like I’m not alone in feeling the way I do. I wrote this record to remedy those feelings for myself, and I hope that maybe someone will be able to listen to these songs and feel good when they do.”