Just about everyone is working from home these days — even musicians. Today marks the release of Safe @ Home, an album made by two musicians sheltering in place in separate locations. Multi-instrumentalists Jeff Hulett and Jacob Church recorded the songs — in pieces — from their respective Midtown homes, and all proceeds from the sale of the album will benefit Music Export Memphis (MEM) and their COVID-19 Fund for musicians.
“We made this album all in quarantine over the past six weeks,” Hulett says. He used GarageBand and his smartphone to record acoustic guitar, vocals, drums, and keyboard sounds. Hulett then sent his tracks to Church, who used Pro Tools to record electric guitar, bass, drums and percussion, vocals, and more. Church mixed and mastered the album — with the exception of “N. Belvedere,” which was recorded and mixed by Andrew McCalla.
“This was a great opportunity to get to know Jacob Church more and try something completely different,” Hulett says. “His musicianship is top notch. I’m more of a rough-around-the-edges-type musician, so that pairing worked quite nicely. I’ve known Jacob for several years peripherally as he’s mixed and mastered some solo stuff and Me & Leah stuff. Then in February we did an in the round at DKDC with Graham Winchester. Little did we know then we’d be releasing an album together on May 1st. Strange how things come together sometimes, I guess.”
Safe @ Home
is suffused with a longing that speaks to the loneliness of life under lockdown. It’s a loneliness cut with sweetness, though — these are songs about friendship and love. Their sweetness and the wonderfully lo-fi pop production call to mind youthful friendships and long summer days when hours stretched, thick as honeysuckle-scented August air. In some ways the album feels like being grounded on a summer day in middle school — it’s the frustration of FOMO mingled with the satisfying certainty that, when this is over, the reunions will be twice as sweet. “Watch Out,” the album closer, is a stand-out track on an album that, except for the immediacy of the emotional content of the songs, does not feel as though it were only six weeks in the making.
Further underlining the themes of collaboration and togetherness in spite of separation, each track on the seven-song album has a corresponding piece of art by a Memphis-based or formerly Memphis-based visual artist. “I'm an extrovert by nature so I'm always eager to collaborate and be in community with people,” Hulett says. “The biggest honor for me on this album was bringing as many people together as possible. From artists, to musicians to graphic designers to videographers this thing — all done in isolation — has brought so many people together.”
Between them, Church and Hulett have played with a multitude of noteworthy Memphis bands (think Snowglobe, The Ammunition, Me & Leah, and more), and the Memphis connections show. There are shades of Snowglobe, Chris Bell, and, at least to this listener’s ears, Shannon McNally’s pitch-perfect cover of Jim Dickinson’s “The Outlaw” from The Wandering. In all, Safe @ Home is an album that embraces both the bittersweet sadness of separation and the comfort of connection.