Being wildly known as a “musician’s musician,” the New York City singer/songwriter, producer, and musical advisor Steve Salett has led a multifaceted career since the mid-1990s, playing in several bands, performing his own music as The Poison Tree, and forming music collectives that have been a sustaining creative center for many musicians and beyond. Salett also runs Reservoir Studios in Manhattan and the Saltmines studio complex in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and recently founded his own label, Historical Fiction Records.
But he’s never released music under his own name – until now. First Landing is Steve Salett’s long-awaited debut solo album, and one he had to own in every sense of the word. “Spun the Wheel,” the second single from the upcoming album is a cinematic narrative that finds Salett singing from the perspective of an older man who had his chance, and is now at the end of his life and looking back over it. “It has this feel of an old movie or rather old Hollywood— some elegant and cutthroat life. The sounds of the swoopy fake strings and the torch song arrangement lends to it. But the character I invented comes to terms with a life of lost loves and missed chances gone.”
“I’m excited to be fully connected to the music that I’m making and to basically say, This is who I am, and feel comfortable in that,” Salett says. “There is no band name or project name that’s going to help people make sense of it or connect to it faster than just having this fully be part of my identity. The only way that it makes sense is that it’s me.”
A confessional, deeply vulnerable, and brutally honest record, First Landing finds Salett picking apart and piecing together the past decade of his life since the sudden and unexpected loss of his wife, Estella, to breast cancer in 2011. In the years since, Salett’s focus has been raising two young children and working with artists behind-the-scenes – but in 2022, he reemerged with the six-track Estella Jane EP, comprised of recordings he had been sitting on since the mid-2010s. Whereas that EP was an unflinching distillation of intense grief and loss, First Landing looks to the light as Salett finds himself anew – carrying the weight of his past, while discovering love again in his wife, Dara.
“Music was an outlet that made me feel human; my former life felt erased. Much of making this record was about connecting to the people around me, looking at my baggage and my anxieties, and determining the kind of person I wanted to be. It’s me, trying to figure out how to be happy and engaged, and just letting whatever I wrote inform me. I feel fortunate in the life I was able to rebuild. I met and married Dara, we combined our families, and we’re raising our kids together.”
Heart-rending at the best of times and gut-wrenching at the worst, First Landing is a no-holds-barred reflection of real life tragedy and its aftermath. Through his own hauntingly beautiful storytelling and richly textured soundscapes, Steve Salett invites listeners into his world.
Photo Courtesy: Allison Michael Orenstein