Updated Fri, Mar 22, 2013 6:26 am
It will be a homecoming of sorts when singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Happy Chichester hits the Jackie O's stage this Saturday.
"I started playing in Athens my first year of college when I lived in Pickering Hall on Old South Green," said the Columbus native, perhaps best known for his stints with Royal Crescent Mob and Howlin' Maggie. "My experiences from that year were deep and lasting."
Chichester's time at Ohio University, however short-lived, ended up galvanizing the then-18 year-old, helping him kick-start his musical career.
"It was a wild time, truthfully, and I'm lucky I survived. Me and Jim (Rico, future Howlin' Maggie member) met through a mutual friend and songwriter, Matt Merola; all of us living on the fourth floor of Pickering," he explained. "We got into some crazy stuff and I spent most of the school year on disciplinary probation. I went home and told my parents I was going to be a songwriter and musician."
Fast-forward to 2013, and it's clear that Chichester made the right choice. His third solo album, Torchwood Loop, recorded at his Columbus rehearsal space and released on his label, PopFly Music, is an eclectic mix of groovy guitar pop, folk, Latin and classical, with some field recordings and Muzak thrown in for good measure. It's also a solo album in every sense of word, with Chichester composing, arranging, singing and performing nearly every note on the record.
"It's as close as I'll ever come to making a Prince album," he joked, referring to his one-man band approach. "I have a place on High Street in Columbus. After the shop downstairs closes it's OK to get loud, so I usually play drums in the evening for an hour. That's how the songs on Torchwood Loop got started...the drumming routine kept going and one thing led to another."
Chichester added that, in a world of 24-hour media and toxic political news, playing drums turned out to be a form of therapy for him.
"If I don't exercise self-restraint, I can be a junkie for political news, and it's astonishing to observe the obscene amounts of money and energy being spent to keep people divided, to not solve problems and to personally attack and destroy political enemies," he said. "When I practice my drums I get relief from that, and it reinforces the connectedness of people and the world...it's a healing and edifying force."
Healing has been foremost on Chichester's mind this past year. In 2012, he contracted Bell's Palsy, a usually temporary form of facial paralysis, which delayed the album's release until last week.
"The thing about getting sick was that it slowed everything down," he explained. "It gave me time to work [on the album]. I’ve been in hiding with a paralyzed face for the past six months and am excited to get out and rock again."
This Saturday, he'll be rocking out with some old friends, including his RC Mob and Howlin' Maggie colleague, Carlton Smith.
"Carlton and I met when we played in Royal Crescent Mob," said Chichester. "We'd been looking for a drummer for years, and when he showed up, the search was over. We've played together off and on since then."
Longtime pal Derek DiCenzo ("A prodigy who can do anything," according to Chichester) is on bass, with former Howlin' Maggie member Lance Ellison and Jesse Barr sharing guitar duties.
"Jesse is a good friend and musician who helped with the album," said Chichester. "The last time I played in Athens it was with Jesse and (Columbus/Athens musician) Joey Hebdo. We all love singing together. Odds are you'll hear a Howlin' Maggie tune thrown in the set."
With a few solo albums under his belt, Chichester plans to keep busy. He just finished a European tour with the Seattle-based band Brad (which includes Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard) and has a couple of dates left on his own mini-tour of Ohio and Kentucky.
"I'll keep making music as long as I can, and hopefully the album and the band will merit enough of a supportive audience to keep going," he said. "In any case, there are always songs to finish, to record and to try out in a live setting."
Doors open at 9 p.m. this Saturday at Jackie O's, with the show getting underway at 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.happychichester.com.