Local Americana/country artist Mel Washington hasn't released a full-length solo album in five years. That changes with upcoming disc "Feast or Famine," which features 10 songs Washington has spent his time meticulously crafting over the last half-decade as a follow-up to 2013's "Houses."
"I just wanted to be sure that I was telling the right narrative, ya know? — to be sure that I was being unapologetically honest in the songwriting and that the records aren't crowded with unnecessary things sonically," he says.
One day ahead of its release across streaming platforms, a new song from "Feast or Famine" premieres on Charleston Scene.
This track, along with the others on the disc, was recorded with Charleston producer Wolfgang Zimmerman of Rialto Row.
"Whiskey River" is an emotional country ballad that features mood-setting slide guitar, twangy vocals and full harmonies. It's in the vein of some seriously talented country crooners, like South Carolina's own Darius Rucker, Billy Currington or Jake Owen.
"I actually wrote 'Whiskey River' on the rooftop of what used to be Soulshine Pizza Factory in Nashville, Tenn., with my good friend, Olivia Burnette," Washington says. "At the time, I was homeless, which I allude to in the second verse of the song, and it was one of those songs that, as we were writing, I looked at her and said, 'I think we might have something very special here.' "
That was in 2015. Washington recorded a few track demos before getting in the studio with Zimmerman to create the album version.
For the other songs on "Feast or Famine," Washington collaborated with a variety of singer-songwriters, including Susto's Justin Osborne. He was inspired by simple conversations while crafting his narrative.
"I think folks like Shovels & Rope and Susto have really encapsulated well what South Carolina life is like," Washington says. "That's important to me."
Washington has a rich local music history. He was a guitarist in Charleston band All Get Out, an indie-alternative band on Equal Vision Records led by Nathan Hussey. However, he prefers being in control of his vision, though he does miss the camaraderie that comes with a full band versus a one-man act.
"Playing in All Get Out was a blast and something I miss occasionally, but truthfully, it was a bit of a prison," Washington says. "I'm liberated now. In some ways, it's a lot less pressure, because I get to make the decisions on how much I tour and what those tours look like. In other ways, it's a lot more pressure, because I'm the center of attention, and at most shows, I'm the only one on stage."
For larger projects down the road, Washington has partnered with Uber during the Country Music Awards Festival in Nashville through the company's Music Movers program.
He's also launched an alcohol-free hopped cold brew coffee brand called BE and is finishing up the GoFundMe fundraising campaign to pay for the rest of "Feast or Famine," which, for now, is slated to be released in the fall.