Spotlight: Blue Eyed Sun RIYL: Fleet Foxes, Maroon 5

By on August 11, 2013


The saying goes wisdom comes with age. But sometimes, young men have old souls and their gift of profound introspection is a wellspring of life lessons for us all. The three guys in Americana trio Blue Eyed Sun may be teenagers, but their sage sensitivity is timeless. The trio’s masterful debut, Tidal Sound, is a stunning mix of refined musicianship, sophisticatedly accessible songcraft, and heavenly vocal harmonies.

“The album is about the journey into maturity that we all experience,” drummer/backing vocalist Casey Batterbee says. “It can be seen from the perspective of a grown man reflecting back on his young life. I love this image, as it reassures us that life is a beautiful thing and not a moment should be wasted.”

Blue Eyed Sun is Brennan Leeds executive producer, producer, writer, lead singer on half the material, backing vocals, guitar, mandolin, choral arrangements; Kenneth Fox producer, writer, lead singer on the other half of the songs (Kenneth has the really high tenor voice), piano, guitar, mandolin, trombone, choral arrangements, backing vocals; and Casey Batterbee drums, all percussion, participates in arrangements. The three-piece group wrote all of Tidal Sound, played ninety percent of the instruments, and recorded and produced the album as a self-contained unit.

The members of Blue Eyed Sun are prodigiously talented. At 14 Brennan released a duet album and was dubbed “the next Paul Simon” by legendary four-time Grammy winning producer Michael Omartian (Christopher Cross, Cliff Richard, Madonna, Donna Summer, Steely Dan). By 16 Kenneth had written and self produced a solo album. And as a young teen, Casey studied with jazz great Bill Sears (Ray Charles, Dizzie Gillespie).

The depth of their gifts and telepathic chemistry has garnered accolades from some of the industry’s most respected names. Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter Michael Omartian enthuses: “These boys create real music, just like we used to in the old days.” Two-time Grammy Award-winning engineer David Hall says: “This was such a fun project to work on; it sounds really good.” Esteemed tastemaker Cliff Goldmacher gushes: “This album is beautifully done, sonically gorgeous, it’s truly exceptional.” Amber Buist of Village Travel and Events of Michigan says: “The vocals, the hook-laden writing, the instrumentation. Amazing.”

B.E.S.’s kaleidoscopic artistry and fluid creative interplay speaks to the deep personal bonds within the group. The three boys come from different cities and backgrounds, but they met at Interlochen Arts Academy—one of the top high schools for music performance in the world—outside Traverse City, Michigan in 2012. Kenneth was well known for an inspiring online fundraising campaign he undertook to help pay for tuition. The three’s friendship was fast and natural, bonding over songcraft and a fascination with artists like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Coldplay and a mutual love of the video game World of Warcraft.


The musical connection was just as instantaneous as the member’s friendships. “We met up one Sunday in a cluttered percussion room on campus. There were marimbas and drumsticks everywhere. We started running through tunes and we just knew it was something special,” Brennan recalls. In a four-month period of fevered inspiration, the group’s primary songwriters Brennan and Kenneth wrote 25 songs. Then they carefully whittled the list to the ten tracks on Tidal Sound.

The album is a glorious mix of clever insights, unflinching optimism, and expansive musicality. The blissful folk-pop of “Rocco’s Song” sweetly reveals keen insights using a caterpillar to butterfly parable.
“It’s based around the idea that nobody really grows up, we just pretend we do—we just ‘act’ more mature when we’re really not,” Kenneth explains. The simmering bluesy “Please” showcases the B.E.S.’s nuanced, groove-centered interplay. “Fidelity Melody” is a standout of tender nostalgia and balmy Americana. “This song really wraps up home for me. It is a homage towards home, and home is people,” Brennan says. “Eventually home and I have to be together, wherever that is. “

The members of B.E.S. have a mutual respect and admiration for each member’s talents and perspectives. Though Brennan and Kenneth are the primary songwriters, the band is truly an artistic brotherhood. “Kenneth is great at writing upbeat tunes that just get stuck in your head. I write these weird folky songs that twist and turn and go everywhere,” Brennan enthuses. Brennan and Kenneth both praise Casey’s staggering talents as a soulful and highly accomplished technical musician.

The boys produced Tidal Sound themselves stealing time away from their rigorous school schedule. Using the stark Michigan winter as fuel, the three virtually lived on weekends at Halohorn studios during January of 2013 recording, producing, arranging, and playing nearly all the instruments and directing choral segments for Tidal Sound with recording engineer Andy Van Guilder (Rachel Brooke). The album was later mixed at Blackbird Pro Studios in Nashville, Tennessee by two-time Grammy award winning engineer David Hall (Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Rimes) and mastered by industry legend Benny Quinn (Lady Antebellum, Merle Haggard, Marshall Tucker Band, Chris LeDoux).

“While we were recording, we had to sleep in the studio because it would be too logistically complicated to go back to campus,” Kenneth recalls. “I remember we lied there on these dinky old beds, and stared into the darkness and talked about the future, and how awesome it would be if we could keep playing, and we could keep doing what we loved.” 

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Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.