For Matt Ragland, primary songwriter and acoustic guitarist, the release of their debut album, nelo, was a dream nearly 10 years in the making; going all the way back to when he first picked up an acoustic guitar in high school. He was soon writing songs and jamming with school friends and fellow Dallas natives Stephen Goodson (electric guitar) and Chris Hill (drums). A couple of years later, while in college, Ragland was refining his songwriting and performing around Austin with singer Reid Umstattd while Goodson and Hill were perfecting their own chops studying jazz at the University of North Texas in Denton. By 2002, they all reconvened — along with another UNT alum, multi-instrumentalist Mike St. Clair (bass, trombone, trumpet), — and nelo was born.
Well, unofficially, at least. According to Ragland, nelo didn’t officially take off until August of ’05 — the month he and the rest of the band left Texas for Athens, Ga. “That was really the defining moment,” he says, “when I called everyone and said, ‘OK, I’m ready to really do this. If you want to do it, too, come and join me.’ I wanted there to be that unifying moment where we all packed our bags and moved somewhere with one goal in mind. It was time to get serious.”
Years before moving to Athens, Ragland had a feeling he had the makings of the perfect ensemble. All he lacked was a proper singer. “Reid and I had been going to Camp Longhorn in Texas together for many, many years — from third grade all the way up to college,” he says. “I remember Reid singing one day and being blown away. Our connection was immediate. I wanted to write songs and Reid wanted to sing. It was a good match.”
Fast forward a few years, and nelo was well on its way toward firmly establishing itself on the Athens music scene. But a homemade demo was stirring up quite a buzz back home in Texas, too — so much so that nelo was soon playing to packed crowds in both states. Among those drawn to the buzz, was producer, studio owner and Willie Nelson-nephew Freddy Fletcher, who quickly made a deal that led Ragland and Co. straight into an Austin studio to work on their debut.
Today’s Daily Dose selection is taken from their debut release, but stay tuned to Insomnia Radio where we’ll be showcasing music from Nelo’s “Two Years Ago EP.” From what we’ve heard so far, this is a band to pay close attention to.