On Oct. 7, two Bret Harte Union High School students released their first studio album, ‘holding on to maybe’ under the name of the duo’s vocalist, Ezra James. James and bandmate Carston Weidmann are both seniors at Bret Harte and have played multiple sports– Weidmann playing baseball and basketball and James playing football, soccer, and running track– throughout their school careers.
Now, they are adding songwriters, musicians, and recording artists to their list of accomplishments.
The two teenagers started recording music together in 7th grade, and one of their first times performing together was in the 8th grade when they performed at the school talent show.
The budding musicians said it was more of a hobby, and “never really turned into something serious until a couple of years ago,” when they began working on this album in the room above the garage at Weidmann’s home in Murphys.
Weidmann played guitar and bass for the record and utilized electronic instruments also. He also co-produced, recorded, ‘mixed’ (a music engineering term for the process of combining the separate parts of a song into a harmonious, balanced sound) and ‘mastered’ (a more nuanced final edit of the recordings that creates cohesion and optimizes the music for radio, streaming, etc.) most of the album himself in his home studio.
James, the voice and ‘frontman’ for the duo, plays drums and writes and sings all of the songs, which he says are a blend of indie rock, alternative and hip-hop sounds.
“It’s a big mix of everything,” explained James. “We like the sound of indie music but then I listen to a lot of rap music, so I can kind of flow over those songs.”
Each has his own favorite song on the album, which has nine songs total, and is available on Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora and even in video form on the boys’ YouTube.
James’ favorite is the albums opening track, and the first song the teens recorded together. The song is called “so it goes” and starts with the peaceful sound of seagulls and waves lapping a beach, then launches into a catchy guitar riff with James vocalizing in an almost-speaking voice over it. In the chorus, James sings, “Yeah I’ve been looking for a way out, always looking for a way. Yeah, I’ve been looking for a way out, way out of my head.”
“That went more in depth about anxiety and depression and stiff like that,” explained James. “That was definitely a big switch compared to the other songs on the album,” James stated, acknowledging that most of the other songs “are about relationships and stuff like that.”
James jotted down the lyrics about a year ago, saying, “coming out of covid… it was definitely just a stressful time.”
The singer-songwriter is happy with how the song turned out, saying, “I wrote those lyrics down without even having a song in mind, so once we started finally recording the music it was pretty easy just to put those lyrics over, and it just felt right.”
Weidmann’s favorite song to record was the last on the album, titled “flower,” which was one of two songs on the album that weren’t recorded in his Murphys-based home studio. Instead, the boys traveled down to Los Angeles this summer, where Weidmann’s cousin owns a recording studio.
“It was amazing actually…alot of the visuals we shot down there on the beach….the whole week was incredible,” said Weidmann.
The entire song was recorded at the Electrosound Records studio and features real guitar, bass, and drums.
While in L.A., the teens shot the cover art for the album, and recorded a music video for their single “idk why.” The video, released July 14, has 545 views on Youtube and has 4500 streams on Spotify, according to Weidmann.
The teens said that when their album was released on Oct. 7 of this year, they had “a lot of people staying up that night just to listen to the album” and when they went to school the next day, other students were coming up to tell them they “did a great job.” The whole album was even played during lunch.
“The next day was kind of when it really hit me,” said Weidmann, who says he had a baseball game the night before but listened to the album on the way home.
“We showed up (at school) and people were pulling up and like blasting it in their cars,” Weidmann said with a smile. “Overnight,” he continued, “we got 2,000 streams and right now we’re at about 4,500 on spotify.”
Weidmann has been accepted to attend Belmont University in Nashville after graduation, where he will be pursuing a career in audio engineering. James is planning to stay more local and may attend college within the state, or “pursue music in and of itself.”
While the young musicians are excited about what comes next, they are staying in the moment.
Weidmann stated, “We’re already ready to get started on the second album but it’s kinda, you’ve just got to take a moment…We’d love to find some gigs to play at and go play live somewhere, but we dont really have that planned out yet.”
The musical duo does have plans to release more music videos, and is looking forward to recording more songs together over summer break before heading off to college.
For now, they want to enjoy the success of their first album release, which they want to thank the community for.
“Our hope was just that people appreciate it and recognize how much work it took to go into it and take it seriously, so, I think people responded really well,” said Weidmann. Weidmann and James expressed gratitude “to everyone who has listened” to their new album.