Performing is a group effort for Intuitive Compass, an Oregon-based duo made up of Aurelia Cohen and Menomonie native Jason O’Dea, who now goes by Jason Dea West.
The band formed in 2011 and has seen success, with the band recently being signed with Cassette LA, a music and mix house in Los Angeles, to feature their music in television and film series.
The duo have traveled the country performing together and found in each other life partners as well. Their son, Theo, turned 5 this year.
With him starting kindergarten, it seemed the perfect time for Dea West to focus on a new challenge: his first solo album.
“I feel like it’s about time, and the world really needs the kind of music he writes,” Cohen said of Dea West’s album “Journey in Today.” “I never see him not touch people, so I’m really happy this album has emerged.”
He’s returning home, fittingly, he thinks, to release “Journey in Today” at 7 p.m. Friday at Raw Deal, 603 Broadway St. S., in Menomonie. After performing a solo set, Cohen will join him to play a set as Intuitive Compass.
Dea West, 29, has been writing music as long as he can remember — at 10 years old he recalls making up tunes while working as a paper boy delivering the Leader-Telegram in his neighborhood.
As a teen, Dea West was in punk and garage bands in Menomonie, and eventually he moved out to the San Fransisco area and helped form the band Barefoot Surrender. In 2011, he formed the band Intuitive Compass, later moving to southern Oregon. Through it all, he continued to write songs, perhaps hundreds, that went unused.
“I always knew I had a lot of great solo songs that just didn’t quite fit the sounds of whatever project I was working on. They weren’t Intuitive Compass songs, they weren’t Barefoot Surrender songs, they were my songs,” Dea West said. “This is the appropriate place to release my album because the people I grew up with around here remember these songs, and it’s kind of a long journal entry.”
As a solo artist, Dea West said his music keeps the western folk sound of Intuitive Compass, but this time around he’s telling his own story — something he feels both liberated and intimidated by.
He tries to remain true to himself in his songwriting, and thinks that comes through in this collection of tracks.
“It’s a view into my world and my experiences, and who I am,” Dea West said. “I sing about a lot of different subjects ... but I think it all insinuates the same thing: Life is too short to be confined to feeling or being one certain way.”
He co-produced the album with Dennis Dragon, a recording engineer based in California. Dea West said Dragon’s studio was traditional, with vintage equipment from the time it opened in the 1950s. That led to an authentic sound Dea West said he was proud to create.
“There are no studio tricks, it was just honest and live,” Dea West said. “I don’t think it could have gone any better. It felt like I met Dennis for a reason.”
Dragon, who died unexpectedly on Sept. 25, was not around to see Dea West’s album release, but Dea West thinks he would be proud of it.
Cohen sure is. She said the quality coming from using analog equipment separates his album — and Intuitive Compass’ latest self-titled album released this year, which was also produced by Dragon — from contemporary folk music.
“It’s a quality you don’t find these days, and I’m sure there are places doing something similar, but the mix and ... that warmth and lack of compression ... I’m astounded,” she said. “You can hear it and you can feel it. I’m so thankful there is his album and our most recent album.”
She expects Intuitive Compass to continue “into a new era,” where she’s hoping they will book bigger shows, such as the 2018 Salmonfest in Alaska they are scheduled for. She’s hoping Dea West will tour more as a solo artist, and the duo will move into bigger and, hopefully, better things.
Following Friday’s performance, Intuitive Compass will perform at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Mousetrap, 311 S. Barstow St., in Eau Claire before heading to Minnesota for several shows in January.
Cohen, who is originally from Tucson, Ariz., said she’s especially excited for people in the Chippewa Valley and Midwest to hear his music.
He writes about where he’s from and his experiences and mixes in a little history, which she said can only be truly appreciated by people who are from the same place.
His music tells the story of a kid trying to escape his childhood, which she thinks many relate with.
“He’s of this place and he’s also someone who escaped,” Cohen said.”He bridges that gap for people, offers the ability to experience relief and freedom, the thing that is making your own destiny.”
The songs have been written over the course of 12 years, from the time a 17-year-old Dea West hitchhiked with a truck driver from Menomonie and headed to Nashville. The title track, “Journey in Today” reflects that adventure.
“During that time I really started to appreciate folk and traditional music,” he said. “It is a story song about all of the different people I met. It felt like every day of my life then was an epic journey, there was so much happening.”
“Journey in Today” will officially be released in stores and online Friday, though the approximately 100 copies Dea West was able to fit in his suitcase for the trip will be available during the show.
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