Liam Howland Nelson…
Time was on his side. With the Covid lockdowns in full swing and a lifetime of musical experience percolating within him, Petaluma-based musician and producer Liam Neslon (aka Howland—a family name) found the perfect moment to craft his first solo EP.
The result, Lost On Me, released by Marin-based Unreachable Records, comes after decades spent recording other bands, a profession the musician says he naturally fell into.
“Helping other people achieve their musical dreams is rewarding in a different way,” says Nelson. “But it was something I sort of never meant to get into—it was something that happened. I mean, I started recording bands when I was 18.”
That early start in the studio led Nelson to develop a successful career in audio production, while also performing—from local shows at Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater as a kid to later touring the country with Santa Cruz-based act The Dying Californian. Throughout, the notion of producing solo work remained, though the moment wasn’t yet right.
Even while working at San Francisco’s Hyde Street Studios, famous for recording Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Dead Kennedys, and Crosby Stills and Nash, among others, Nelson “didn’t find the inspiration to do my own thing.”
Then came the Covid lockdowns of the past couple of years, and with his family close by “buzzing around in the background,” inspiration struck.
“Sitting in my little spot at home during the pandemic, I felt richly creative,” says Nelson. “I don’t know, maybe I was putting up barriers where they didn’t exist.”
Lost On Me, a five-track EP with additional musical contributions from Shannon Ferguson, Will Collins, David Noble and Hannah Jern Miller, made its way into the world. Think The Shins, LCD Soundsystem and a touch of The Strokes in the guitar work.
“Not Right Now,”the first track, kicks off strong with a bouncy, bobbing four count that had me out of my chair pretty quickly. “Coach,” the track from which Lost On Me derives its name, features strong vocals from Nelson. “Hang Around” has a breakdown starting at 2:47 that has me fully shooketh—it’s like a sample from an alien landing on top of a solid four count.
Throughout, Nelson’s many years as both an audio producer and a musician are evident. The layering is tight and the levels are perfect.
Though produced during the pandemic, this project was not pandemic-inspired. Nelson says that more than anything, this was an unexpected opportunity, an allotment of time that he made a pact with himself to utilize.
“I don’t know if I have any great insight into the album,” says Nelson with a wry smile. “I try to let it happen to me.”
And it did.