Ian Ferguson seems to be shadowed by watchers wherever he goes. image: Chad Crawford

Ian Ferguson

Discovering a State of Gold in the basement

The path to Ian Ferguson’s debut album, State of Gold, didn’t begin with a flash of inspiration or a deliberate choice of recording venue. It began with Ferguson locked in his basement.

“I was living with my mom at the time,” Ferguson says. “I was downstairs recording. I didn’t have my phone with me, and my mom wasn’t home. I don’t know what happened, it could have been my dog, but I heard the door slam and I was stuck in the basement for several hours until my mom came home. I had nothing to do but work on recording and at some point I was working on a song and thought, ‘This could turn into an album, and I could record it at home.’”

While Ferguson’s debut solo album, State of Gold, began with an underground revelation, he was already a recording veteran. Born in Los Angeles but reared in the small town of Kingston Springs, Tennessee, Ferguson began his musical career in his teens with the indie blues/folk rock combo The Kingston Springs. National tours and critically-acclaimed records (2010’s The Vacation Time EP and their 2012 self-titled album) followed, but by 2013 the wild ride that propelled Ferguson through his teenage years and early twenties came to an end, and Ferguson retreated from the spotlight for a while.

“I was working a bunch of jobs I hated — everything from washing dishes to cleaning houses — but it allowed me to come home and focus on writing and recording. My inspirations went really crazy at that point. As much as I loved being in a band, it was heaven on earth being able to go down in my mom’s basement and record all by myself.”

Although Ferguson enjoyed unrestrained freedom to experiment and explore musically, he found himself with technological boundaries. Working with a 1990s era computer and an outdated version of the recording software Cubase, Ferguson recorded the basic tracks, ultimately mixing the record himself. There were frustrations along the way, but the benefits far outweighed the stumbling blocks.

“It was definitely a pain in the ass at times,” he says, “but there’s nothing better than working with something you’re comfortable with. I had worked in professional studios before which may have been a lot easier, but I had also been in the position of blowing money on studio time and not liking what I got out of it. The amount of happy accidents I had recording this album never would have happened in a professional studio.”

The results of those happy accidents are spread across the grooves of State of Gold. Mixing Southern-fried folk and blues sensibilities with a heaping ladle of glam-rock goodness and power-pop sheen, the album delivers with Marc Bolan-inflected stompers like “State of Gold” and “Love Crime,” while displaying George Harrison-esque pysch-shimmer on tracks like “All My Days” and “I Do Not Mind.” Riding alongside is a Kinksian turn for clever pop song subversion as on the album’s recent single release, “Tyrants Waltz.”  It’s an album that wears its influences on its sleeve while infusing original wit and charm to the music — never succumbing to the musical fashion faux pas of confusing imitation for inspiration.

After spending almost two years writing, recording and mixing away from the public eye, Ferguson was ready to return to performing, but reintroducing himself to former Kingston Springs’ fans and building a following for his new sound proved challenging.

“It was like starting all over again,” he says. “Some of my old band members came back and played with me, but I also began working with other musicians. I’m very stoked about my current band.”

With a recent knock-out in-store performance at Grimey’s and tours scheduled through the fall, Ferguson will have little time to spend in the basement over the next few months. However, it won’t require another locked door to return to recording.

“I have songs that have been locked away for years,” he says. “I’m constantly writing new material, and it’s hard sometimes to keep up with the songs I’ve recorded. My dream is to finally close that gap. Get to the point where I’m writing, recording, and releasing material almost immediately, but I have a few records of material I have to knock out before I’ll get there.”

As for locale, Ferguson is not limiting his options solely to the basement. “The ultimate goal is bringing what you hear in your head to life,” he says, “Whether it’s on a record or a live show, what matters is finding the way that works for you.”