artist dean nelson aftertaste

Review & Interview: “Aftertaste” by Dean Nelson

“Aftertaste” is an upbeat, fun-to-move-to song that is not as innocent as you might think – or maybe you didn’t think it was innocent, in which case you would be right. Singer and songwriter Dean Nelson will not even confirm the song’s musical inspiration and meaning. Released on February 18, 2022, “Aftertaste” has over 2,500 streams on streaming giant Spotify. Personally, I have had this song on repeat for the last couple days as it’s just that catchy.

The opening instrumentals are completely different from the rest of “Aftertaste” – they made me feel like it was going to be some heartfelt ballad or something. Then you’re thrust into the faster tempo and awesome percussion that is “Aftertaste” with the first verse jumping into a very rock kind of vibe. 

“Aftertaste” has strong vocals and instrumentals not unlike Nelson’s other songs. The artist has done quite a few songs since 2018. The 2022 release has the same fun vibe that Dean Nelson’s first release “Halfstack” has while many of the singer’s other songs are slower tempos and higher emotions. “Aftertaste” is different, though. It’s the only one that changes the vibe in the beginning. It’s a nice change that could easily have missed the mark, but Dean Nelson shows his skill and hits it right off.

Overall, “Aftertaste” is a great song and I’ll be adding it to my cleaning playlist and then some. Be on the lookout for more from this small-town-born singer and songwriter. Great things are coming. Follow Dean Nelson on his social media platforms linked below.

Q&A with Dean Nelson

Q: “Aftertaste” has such an interesting vibe. What was the inspiration behind it?

DEAN NELSON: The inspiration starts with the music I grew up loving (gun to my head, I still love it as well). That punchy rock and careless lyrics be damned, whimsical nature. I guess that’s not 100% true, the lyrics have meaning. I have this bad habit of writing about things that aren’t always copasetic with what the public wants to hear. For all those who wish to know what the song is about… You can write me directly and I will tell you. I just don’t want to put the words up here because my mother will read this, and although I’m not a mama’s boy, I do love her more than bears love honey. 

It reminds me of an early Lenny Kravitz, RHCP, All-American Rejects song (an eclectic grouping of groups there) Even though the lyrical content is NSFW, I think it can also be thought of as a person that really just wants to kiss their crush. I like songs being a bit more open to interpretation. So I don’t really want to tell you what I think it’s about (I want to underline that Me, myself and I there). For the most part, I write songs to be beautiful… See Not this time, or Before, or Caramel… Or catchy… For me, that would be Pom Pom, Halfstack, and Aftertaste. This is a song that’s meant to be played at loud volumes. 

Q: Walk us through your writing and production process in making “Aftertaste”.

DN: About five or six years ago I was playing guitar with a frequent co-writer and cousin, Spencer Jones, such a handsome guy. We were messing around and I made a mistake and augmented the second chord in the song. I have always loved when stuff like that happens in songs. I’m thinking of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Santeria, Hotel California. It adds so much power to a progression! I didn’t know any of that at the time, I just thought it sounded cool.

Spencer helped me to reign in some of the chorus lyrics and chords (especially that rule-breaking E7) and also helped me to not go too crazy with the lyrics. I was saying some more nasty stuff. I like to do that as a placeholder. That reminds me of that Billy Joel story about the song “Honesty”. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story, it’s pretty funny though.

Years pass and I don’t have a verse for this thing. I guess I forget about the song, I don’t know. It just wasn’t clicking I think, and I was using an acoustic guitar to write it. It wasn’t there. Finally, join another band and they ask for song ideas. I was sitting with them and just having listened to The Red Hot Chili Peppers on the way to practice I had this silly, “bottle rocket in the pocket, go off anywhere” line pop into my head. We ended up writing another draft of the song and before we could record the beast, we broke up.

A couple of years ago when covid was going nuts, I made myself make demos for all of my half-written songs and this song was at the top of the list. I was able to add some of these bells and whistles… the Easter egg, close listener stuff. I have been on this kick of using as many different producers as I can. I knew this guy named Kevrie Howard. He’s a mammoth of a producer. He just released this amazing EP around that time and I thought, “Shit, that’s what I want Aftertaste to sound like.”

So we started meeting up and he just obliterated my exceptions in the best way. The biggest selling point is the mix, something I wouldn’t have done at first listens… but now I absolutely love it. I think he was 10000% right with the call. The rhythm section is just an atomic bomb. I love it. It was so fun meeting up with Kev and just talk for two hours. Then push stuff out. It’s the dream recording experience for me. There isn’t this pressure, it’s just fun and I feel like that is great for the process and you can hear it on the track.

Q: You have mentioned that you essentially grew up without music. How did that affect your music when you got into it?

DN: Yes, my parents are amazing! They were also very strict on the music we could listen to as kids. So much so that we didn’t listen to… well pretty much anything. Which of course made me sneak around and find ways to listen to music. I remember the first time I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. I didn’t know music could sound like that. It feels like I took a time machine from the old west straight to the future where everyone had beer-flavored nipples and the wine flowed from every faucet. I became obsessed. I would wait for my parents to fall asleep and then my brother Lance and I would sneak downstairs and stay up till the sun came up listening to as much music as we could through VH1 and Fuse… back when that was a thing. 

I heard 50 cent and thought he was the greatest rapper of all time… well for like a week. Hahaha, I loved the guitar though. It just spoke to me. It felt like my own voice, like an extension… even though I didn’t have one at the time, and it has taken me so long to get to the point where I feel confident, it’s exciting to think about how much more I can improve as well! Some folks around me are just some of the greatest pickers I’ve heard! Their skill inspires me to pick up the guitar and play more. I feel like Arizona is the place to be, the desert sound is gonna be the next big thing. I defy you to listen to Ultraviolet Communication or Pablo Lovetrain, or Blu joy, Juniper Ridge, Ruby Shore, Tullis, Every Day After, The Color Eight, Etc… And tell me there isn’t something special here. 

Anyways, it’s not an uncommon thing to hear that you want what you can’t have. I wanted it more than anything. At first, to be famous, something to make up for not being seen. But over time it became something more like a calling a made for myself. That sense of peace and fulfillment that you heard you’re supposed to chase. That’s in music for me. I have had to keep side jobs for a long time. I quit more than a few times, but I always came back to this because, well because it makes me so happy. It helps me to feel like part of this world and I just love playing for people. Partly because I like the attention, as well as I feel this connection with them from time to time. I wouldn’t change a thing in my journey. 

Q: What has been one of the highlights of your music career so far?

DN: My cousin and co-writer, Spencer Jones, I mentioned him before. We have got to have a lot of cool experiences! Touring through England for a few months was something I’ll never forget! Opening for Soul Asylum and Meat Puppets was awesome. Recording with Grammy-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli, a guy that made albums that I would sneak downstairs and listen to as a kid AND IN THE SAME ROOM they were recorded in at Sunset Sound in LA. Damn man… that was a trip.

I got to work closely with my favorite producer of all time Rob Gardner, Hell I get to room with the handsome son of a bitch. Working with Victor Indrizzo and Sean Hurley and them saying “Hey, you’re pretty good.” That was special to me. More than anything I just love making music with people. Music has changed my life and helped me fit in. It introduced me to women that changed my life. It opened some cool doors and got me to play in front of thousands of people. That’s so cool!

Q: What projects are currently in the works?

DN: I’m working on a few different projects right now. A producer that I really like working with, Garrett Bowers, he and I have been working on a full album. It’s a concept album on the cyclical life of the lost soul. Party, regret, learn, repeat. It’s called “Kiss Me First” And we’re hoping to get it done by the end of the year. We’re about 75% done with it! That’s exciting because we’ve been working on it since before Covid.

And I’m also working on an EP called “Hand Some” Which has become a swan song for the band that has been playing together for the last 2 1/2, three years. I remember hearing people say how you would be able to guess what the other band members were about to do up on stage just because you’ve developed so much chemistry together. This is one of those bands for me.

We rented a cabin in the words and live tracked the whole thing (with minimal overdubs). It was so much fun being in the same room. Drinking, doing drugs, and then making an EP. It felt like a Fleetwood Mac album being made (in spirit, not in sound). It was so much fun making this as well because it was something that Spencer and I got to write together (for the most part) and that hasn’t happened in a few years. We just make a good team. I’m hoping for a summer release.

We’re 90% done with it. It has some really deep music in there. Beyond that pop sensibility. It is something I’m proud of. I feel like anyone who listens will feel like they were in the room with us. I think that’s REALLY rare these days with music. 

I just wanted to say Garrett is one of the most creative people I know. I love working with that guy. Not just a good person, every ounce of goodness is matched by genius.

Q: Any advice for other small-town raised or up-and-coming artists?

DN: Yes, say yes to everything. Even if you don’t want to for the first few years you just have to take everything. The more time that you’re up on stage, the more time that you’re behind the microphone with the red light on, the better you are getting.

David Grohl said it, and it’s one of the truest things I’ve ever learned. Record, record, record. Always record. Record bad ideas, record on your phone. Just keep playing and recording. Don’t worry about equipment, if you keep finding ways to play you will be able to get the equipment you need. 

Be the person on the side. If you write and play guitar, be the lead guitarist in another band. Play bass, just takes whatever you can get, and develop relationships and networks. 

Become a true fan of the people around you. Stop listening to the big bands, or at the very least make playlists with local groups sprinkled into your playlist. You need others to succeed and get where you want to go. 

Stop trying to write a hit and write what you want to write. Stop trying to become famous. YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THAT. If you want to be famous, do something else, the numbers are against you with music. But you can mean something to the people around you. Ahh, let me say this, the desire to be famous isn’t a bad thing. It just can’t be the main thing. 

Make mistakes, it’s okay to be embarrassed. It’s part of the process. Remember that you’re the shit, don’t treat everyone else like they are less than you. 

If you don’t know where to play, find an open mic and start there. Talk to everyone about where they play. Find out what you need to get into those places that others play and make that the next step. 

Reviewed & Interviewed by Dana L. Sullivan





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