The first time Tedo Stone ever set foot in a recording studio, the experience played out like the wildest of rock & roll dreams. At 2 a.m., Stone walked through the doors of Atlanta’s Glow-In- The-Dark Studios with a loose assemblage of backing musicians in tow. The location was well beyond their means, but they were working in the middle of the night in Studio B with an intern engineer at the boards. As mics were set up, they ran through the tune they were about to cut, one of Tedo’s newest, an anthemic ’70s-glam march called “War.” Just then, Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum record producer Matt Goldman was wrapping a session in Studio A. Something unexpected caught his ear, and he followed the sounds straight down the hall to Stone and his buddies. “He thought we sounded like T. Rex,” Stone says.
Before the players realized what was happening, Goldman had sidelined the drummer, jumped behind the kit and taken over production of the session. “We’d never even considered working with Matt,” Stone says. “You couldn’t touch him—he’s part of this other world I had no idea about where he’s like God.”
By 9 the next morning, they’d recorded and mixed a powerful track that would ultimately end up on Stone’s forthcoming debut LP, Good Go Bad (out July 9 on This Is American Music)—and they forged a lasting bond in the process.
This all went down in July 2011. Not long before, though, Stone was in a bit of a limbo. He’d just finished college at Ole Miss, and wasn’t sure what he was gonna do next. To get his head together—and because it sounded like a good time—he booked a flight to Hawaii, and ended up crashing on a buddy’s couch in Maui for a couple months. After some serious pondering, he decided to put all of his effort into music. Of course, touring tiki bars playing Jimmy Buffet covers wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, so he packed his bags and headed back to the mainland.
“Being in that environment, on island time—it helps paint a clearer picture when you’re trying to evaluate something,” Stone says. “There’s nothing clouding what you’re trying to do. As soon as I got home to Atlanta, I went straight into the studio at Glow-In-The Dark.”
After co-producing “War,” Goldman had plans to record a whole album with Stone, but when scheduling became a problem, the project was temporarily shelved. Not wanting to lose momentum, in November 2011, Stone took a more fleshed-out, gig-tested lineup with him to Athens, Ga., to record with legendary producer/engineer John Keane. “Being in that room where so many classic albums were recorded—Uncle Tupelo, R.E.M.—it was an incredible experience,” Stone says. “The place had this presence. We were a little taken aback by the whole thing.”
The hyper-efficient Keane shot the band out of a cannon, and after four intense days of live tracking, they’d finished their debut EP, Happy (released on Southern indie label This Is American Music). “John moves so fast, it creates an honest sound,” Stone says. “He never got in the way of a creative moment by us having to wait for him, and he pushed us the whole time—we were trying to keep up with him.”
To support himself and help pay for all this studio time, Stone took a day job as a technician for his older brother’s durable medical equipment company. When people are discharged from the hospital, Tedo sets up their oxygen or delivers a wheelchair to their house. “It’s rewarding,” he says, “but I’m always surrounded by people who are dying.”
His experiences on the job helped create a mindset that inspired many of the songs on Good Go Bad. “It’s really where the concept for the new album came from,” he says. “Life and death, in a broad sense—trying to avoid death and getting old. And it’s not just a physical thing; it’s a mental thing. People can be old at a young age, or young in their later years.”
After a while, Stone was much closer to seeing things from the perspective of all the elderly folks he’d been assisting. “I can’t help but think about where they are, and where I am,” he says. “At that point in your life, there’s not a lot of doing left, not a lot to look ahead to, so you start reflecting on time spent. Realizing that while you’re still in your 20s makes you more proactive about what you really want. It motivates you to start creating something you’ll be proud of when you look back.”
You can hear this carpe-diem passion in Stone’s new record, which he recorded with Goldman and longtime bassist Billy Lyons. It’s in everything from the anthemic rockers to the little whispered ukulele ballad Tedo recorded on his cellphone back in Hawaii and ended up using as-is. It ripples through the pensive, psych-tinged bedroom pop numbers, awash in shimmering modern synths, tied in a bow with precise little mathematical guitar & keyboard hooks. The production on Good Go Bad recalls post-R&B Brian Jones-era Stones in that every track has at least one completely unique sound to set it apart. And throughout, Tedo drops cryptic little couplets—lines that boil T.S. Eliott down to the simple essence. Any English major worth their salt should see the parallel between the former’s “You gotta be awake to get the covers off / You gotta be awake to make a miracle” and the latter’s “Do I dare disturb the universe? … Do I dare to eat a peach?”
Most of all, though, the passion is in Stone’s expressive, instantly recognizable voice. Not many indie rockers can pull off his soul-inspired approach, repeating lines over and over, varying the melody and phrasing slightly each time, so as to juice every last ounce of meaning from them before moving on.
“I think this album has a lot more personality and depth than anything I’ve done before,” Stone says of Good Go Bad. “For me, recording has a lot to do with documenting my time here on Earth. I don’t keep a diary or anything like that. But building a catalog and being able to look back and see where I’ve been in life and as a songwriter, that’s important to me.”