Sound Advice: Erika Wennerstrom with Jesse Ebaugh and The Tender Things and Molly Sullivan (Dec. 23)

Erika Wennerstrom and friends play Woodward Theater.

click to enlarge Erika Wennerstrom - Photo: Partisan Records
Photo: Partisan Records
Erika Wennerstrom
Dayton, Ohio native Erika Wennerstrom is looking to the future. For nearly 15 years, the singer/songwriter/guitarist has kept busy building the career of the band she formed in Cincinnati in the early ’00s, Heartless Bastards. She’s led the band through five widely acclaimed albums (three for Fat Possum Records and a pair for well-distributed Partisan Records), with each successive release raising the band’s profile exponentially. Over the span, Wennerstrom also uprooted Heartless Bastards from Cincinnati and re-headquartered in Austin, Texas, switching the lineup once she relocated (although drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh moved to Texas with her from Ohio and Northern Kentucky, respectively).

The Bastards notched most of the bucket-list benchmarks many musicians dream about along the way. The group has promoted its releases on practically every late-night network talk show; taped a session for PBS’s legendary live-music program Austin City Limits; scored positive reviews from every press outlet a band could hope to be praised by — from Pitchfork and The Village Voice to Time and Rolling Stone; opened dates for Lucinda Williams, Drive-By Truckers and Bob Seger; played major festivals like the Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo; and toured the country ceaselessly as a headliner, playing to ever-increasing crowds.

The band’s big, grounded Rock sound has developed into something a little more refined and Americana-flavored since its inception, with Wennerstrom’s songwriting skills sharpening with each album. The primary constant has been Wennerstrom’s colossal engulfing vocals, which have always been stop-you-in-your-tracks striking. 

After the touring cycle for 2015’s Restless Ones came to an end this summer, the band was ready for a break, with the members wanting to explore other creative endeavors. With a prolific catalog of songs that continues to expand, Wennerstrom began contemplating a solo side-project. In September, she began an extensive solo tour, performing stripped-down versions of Bastards songs, as well as some of the newer material she’s been working on. According to the press release for the tour, Wennerstrom will be recording new material that will either be released under her own name or under a different “band” moniker. And she promised the new record will be available faster than the Bastards’ standard three-year gap between albums.

Wennerstrom recently recorded an episode of Lounge Acts on WCPO. Below is a clip of her performing an unreleased song, "Like a Bird." Click here for Gil Kaufman's interview with the singer/songwriter and two additional songs.

Wennerstrom’s homecoming visit for solo shows this week in Dayton and Cincinnati (as well as a stop in Nashville) are being billed as “Erika Wennerstrom and friends,” with her Dayton show featuring an opening set from R. Ring (Kelley Deal of The Breeders’ project with Northern Kentucky’s Mike Montgomery) and Cincy native and busy Dayton musician Paige Beller. Compelling Cincinnati singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan opens the Woodward Theater show Friday, along with another Heartless Bastards’ project, Jesse Ebaugh and the Tender Things. Ebaugh, who played with local acts like Heevahava and Pearlene before moving to Texas, calls the Tender Things a “songwriter project,” and it is said to reflect his Country, Bluegrass and Rock influences. A new album with a band consisting of Bastards drummer Colvin, noted Texas guitar sideman/sessioner David Pulkingham (Alejandro Escovedo, Patty Griffin) and Elijah Ford (son of The Black Crowes’ Marc Ford, who’s released solo work and was part of Ryan Bingham’s band for several years) is expected this coming summer. 

Although Wennerstrom is looking ahead at what’s next for her musically, for the holidays she’s remembering where she came from. Besides the homecoming solo gigs, she also recently played a reunion show with Shesus, the kick-ass Dayton Indie Rock band in which she briefly played bass before the Bastards took off. 

Click here for tickets/more info.