Interview: Essex County take it to the ‘Extreme’

The new EP from Essex County mixes ballads with hard rock

As a self-confessed Essex County fan, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the three brothers (Nate, Mark and Kieran Bass) play several times at local gigs in and around their hometown here in Essex.

Their appearances on the smaller stages at this year’s C2C made one of the biggest impressions as the crowds caught on to their beautifully-blended harmonies. Since then, their feet have hardly touched the ground as they’ve been back and forward to the US, both performing and in the recording studio.

The result of the latter is the band’s newly-released, self-titled Essex County EP. Five songs, all of which they have co-written with well-known writers including Brandon Hood and Jordan James, plus one very special person – their mum Diane Bass, of whom more later. 

The EP, produced by Grammy-nominated Brad Hill, is a mixture of ballads (with a bit of a kick) while Fire It Up (co-written with Andrew Scott Wills) is a nod to the rock anthems of the ‘80s and ‘90s, something Nate says showcases the band’s versatility.

“We’re inspired by hard rock and love the band Extreme,” he says. “If you listen to their album Pornograffiti, there’s everything you can think of from a hard rock record – the absolute shredding, the rock guitars, the drums screaming – and then there’s this song More Than Words, with such a beautiful melody and you go ‘what the hell was that about’.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as kind of an Extreme in that sense. Yeah we can do all the ballad stuff, but we really want to show we are not just that and we can literally Fire It Up if we want to.”

Another highlight on the five-track EP is You in Tennessee, a touching song that will get inside your head – picturesque poetry set to music is how I would describe it. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea (it’s clearly not the hard rock end of country) but it’s a love song to soothe the soul.

It was written via zoom during lockdown with Nashville power writer Brandon Hood and, as often happens with the best songs, it came together in just two hours.

For Nate, it is already a favourite: “Brandon wanted to reference things in America and came up with the line ‘There’s gold in California’ so we just kept chopping away at it. Kieran suggested ‘The devil down in Georgia’ then everyone was like ‘There’s no you in Tennessee’ and it was ‘oh my God’.

“We went into mum’s kitchen and how you hear it when we play it live, that’s exactly how we arranged it and played it. And it was so…we just knew we had something cool there. When we got to Nashville in March, we went to Brad’s amazing home studio and sang everything we had in our arsenal. That was one of the very first songs he picked out.”

Long Way Home was the result of a co-write with Bonnie Dymond and Robyn Collins and, says Nate, describes some of the “madness” of the music industry and being on the road while realising it is indeed, a long way home.

Essex County
l-r Mark, Kieran and Nate Bass are
Essex County

Something of a tearjerker however, is Waiting on Me, co-written with Jordan James. This song is about the loss of a loved one and the future they had together, while the ‘man upstairs’ had other plans. The words talk of seeing all the signs in life in the hope that they are there watching over you and are Waiting on You to get home.

It came out of what Nate says was a “spiritual moment” as the brothers were joking around with Jordan before their mood changed and the song took off.

“We’ve had friends who have passed away, you put your mind into the scenario and you think what would it feel like if you had all these plans…the song is always based off of love first of all, we tried to make it both universal and genderless, so it could be anything for every person.”

The final track on the EP has been long-awaited. It was written 20-odd years ago with their mum Diane when the boys were appearing on The X-Factor. The song famously brought Nicole Scherzinger to tears, and Nate says when they told their mum it was finally going to be recorded, it brought tears to her eyes too.

“We had demo-ed it a couple of times, but it never ever came across how it was coming across live,” continues Nate. “Everyone we played it to, liked it live. I explained this and Brad was ‘I agree’, as soon as you start adding drums and things it becomes a very cliché 90s record. Brad said these are classic melodies, classic changes and we should lean more that way – piano, guitar and bit of cello and let our voices shine throughout. The way the song came out, is how we would do it live – it’s very emotional.”

So emotional in fact that Nate decided to make one of his regular storyboards to go with the song. Given it followed closely after the death of the Queen, the end result was a beautiful montage of images of Queen Elizabeth II in her younger days, that he says is a fitting tribute to the late Monarch.

Ryman charity gig
Essex County are playing a charity event at Ryman Auditorium in November

EP aside, the band now has its sights set on a bright future.

Next month they will be back in Nashville for some more writing sessions and pop-up shows, as well as a charity benefit concert at The Ryman, sharing the stage with the likes of Phil Vassar and Chris Young for the charity Christmas 4 Kids.

More gigs this side of the pond are on the wish list too and the boys will be back in the UK for Christmas with high hopes for firing it up some more in 2023.

The Essex County EP is available to stream from the usual channels.

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