Seven years after beginning West of Rome with his Midwestern collaborators, Chris DeMay, is now on his own. DeMay releases his first solo record I Won't Be Me on Slothtrop Records (Madison, WI) in May 2007.
The landscape of songwriters like Neil Young, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith come to mind when listening to DeMay's I Won't Be Me. However, ironically and intentionally, and despite the album's title, the majority of I Won't Be Me is DeMay. Chris sings and plays most of the instruments on seven of the eight songs -- guitar, bass, drums, Wurlitzer and piano.
"About half the songs were written on the piano and half on guitar so style was somewhat dictated by the instrument and the mood it created, rather than my mood to create," says DeMay. Throughout I Won't Be Me, DeMay allows love, loss and the emotional cost of love to serve as the guide between the songs. He also credits Springsteen's Born to Run as inspiration for some parts of the album. DeMay says, "I thought about the characters in that record who were late teens and early 20s -- dying to get out on their own -- out of town -- and I imagined them older -- in their late 30s with kids, jobs, histories and experience. I imagined what those people are going through and struggling with in their lives."
The songs had a short shelf life before joining I Won't Be Me. The album is led off by the first piano ballad, "Bruno Kirby," which was written mere minutes after the news of the actor's passing in 2006. DeMay's voice is nothing if not heartfelt and soul searching throughout this song. "Kitchen Table Blues" is a gritty rock anthem that lauds Motherhood in the chorus. Recorded in analog in 2007 at one of Milwaukee's newest studios, The Tannery, "Kitchen Table Blues" features Milwaukee's rock and punk-rock veterans, The Pugilists (Nick Verban, Don Moore and Jack Rice) as the backing band. The two covers on the album -- Brian Wilson's "Love and Mercy" and Warren Zevon's "Gorilla, You're a Desperado" share the same sentiment of love and loss and fit well with the DeMay originals.
All of the songs were written in 2006 except "Working Class Woman," which was written in 2004. "Working Class Woman" compliments the sort of woman who "won't be had." DeMay doesn't patronize, but knows how to get a laugh in the same verse when he sings, "Don't be confused by her sweet talk, working class woman -- don't piss her off." Later, in between sweet simple melodies and horns, he sings, "working class woman hates her job, she'd rather be a stay-at-home mom." A gifted lyricist, DeMay mixes love and loss without forgetting the real life companion, humor.
DeMay recorded the bulk of I Won't Be Me to one-inch analog tape at Coney Island studio in Madison, with veteran musician and engineer Wendy Schneider. Working mostly alone, with Schneider and few guests, DeMay shaped seven of the EP's eight songs by the last days of 2006.