Alan Walker

NEW YORK — Alan Walker writes melodies that stick in the head and heart. With his second solo album, the former front man of NYC’s The Brilliant Mistakes introduces nine new songs to his fans that have come to expect “restlessly catchy hooks, a clever turn of phrase and frothy, piano-driven pop with heart, soul and smarts.” (The Boston Globe). A Little Too Late is set for release on June 28 on his own label, Aunt Mimi’s Records.

Working with some of NYC’s finest session musicians, Walker and producer Lincoln Schleifer (Donald Fagen, Levon Helm, Buddy Miller) sought to make a record that had the feel of a classic 70s album, in the vein of early Jackson Browne, where the songs determined the arrangements, instruments and players, and overall mood. His music creates tell-tale impressions, planting the seeds of stories for listeners.

Walker, who composes on the piano, says he is driven by the songs themselves. “Once they are in my head I can’t get them out. I’ve loved music since I could walk, since I first heard the album Let it Be through my bedroom walls from the living room when my older brother first played it. The best moments for me with music are the original inspiration of a song, when a melody and chords and lyrics first come together, and then bringing that idea to a band or fellow musicians to see how it evolves.

Led by the indomitable production and genius chart writing of Lincoln Schleifer, a cast of incredible musicians gathered in Schleifer’s basement recording studio in the Bronx, Lincoln’s Log Cabin.  The core band on A Little Too Late is made up of John Morgan Kimock on drums, Jon Herington (of Steely Dan) on electric guitars, and Rob Schwimmer on Hammond B3 and synthesizers, with Schleifer on bass and percussion, and Walker singing lead and on piano.

Alan says, “It’s always fun to see these guys and hear them sprinkle their magic on a few of my new songs! Lincoln is a veritable musical genius with an organic approach to his production that always looks to do what’s best for any given song. I love working with the guy, and after four albums with him (two band and two solo), plus a series of other recordings and back catalog re-mixes, I’ve come to fully trust his ideas and decisions, even when I’m not 100% sure where an arrangement is headed. In a way, that’s what makes it fun. He’s also a seriously talented bass player.”

The Beatle-y, harmony-laced album opener, “The Morning After,” is a subtle nod to one of Alan’s favorite bands, Squeeze. The song tells a story of two people who decide to see things through rose-colored glasses when maybe they shouldn’t have.

One of the album’s highlights, “Mama Kat,” is a ballad propelled by Larry Campbell‘s exquisite pedal steel and acoustic guitar playing. This song, like a few others on the CD, derives from Walker’s unfinished song ideas from his 20s or 30s. He explains, “Back then, songs came out of me on a daily basis (for better or worse). So more than 20 years after the initial verses and lyrics were written I finished the song by adding the bridge. This is a love song written at the very precarious moment when you think you’ve met the person you want to spend the rest of your days with—the mysterious ‘Mama Kat.’”

Twist of Fate” has a rootsy-pop Americana sound, offering a tragi-comic tale of a lovelorn drunk at the cocktail bar. Everyone plays love’s fool at one time or another, and Alan says, “this tidy little tune gives me room to write something a bit deeper about first attraction, love and happenstance, and all that comes with it.”

Town Called Misery” follows along the lines of early Joe Jackson. It’s a song about a girl who escapes her small town to start a new life in the big city, a classic pop cliche, in the tradition of The Beatles’ glorious “She’s Leaving Home.” Alan elaborates, “It’s a nostalgic song though because there’s no hiding anymore now that we all live inside the internet, and one can no longer run away from the past that lives on our screens.” Schwimmer adds to the whimsical mood of the track adding claviola, taisho harp, and some sounds from the kitchen sink.

The next few songs—“Only Son,” “Wait,” and “A Little Too Late”—have a hint of R&B harmony vocals added to the mix from guest vocalists, Teresa Wiliams and Lucy Kaplansky, with whom Schleifer has previously collaborated. Alan says, “It was a real thrill to work with them both. Their enthusiasm for the songs and fun approach to recording made this a day I won’t soon forget, and they came up with some beautiful parts. Their contributions on each of these three tracks were quite varied, and creatively unique, but I especially love what they did on ‘Only Son,’ a very sad song that we tried very hard to not cross the line into sounding maudlin. I couldn’t be happier with the result.”

Only Son,” Alan says, may be one of the saddest songs he’s ever written. It’s dedicated to the mother of a friend who somehow, tragically, managed to lose her only son twice, the first time during the fall of Saigon shortly after he was born, and the second time from an untreated cancer where he was found alone on the floor of his apartment in Washington DC. Alan says, “The lyrics tell the rest of the story, or at least attempt to make art out of real life.” Acclaimed cellists, Myron Lutzke and Jake Charkey add to the feeling of heartbreak, leading to an intimate, spare, and melancholy track.

The upbeat “Wait” is another song from Walker’s archives that springs to life in this collection of songs. Gary Sieger steps in on electric guitar, Alan switches out to wurlitzer electric piano and they add exceptionally talented horn players—Bill Holloman on tenor sax and Larry Etkin on trumpet. “One of my all-time favorite lyrics is Elvis Costello’s ‘Blue Chair’ (from Blood and Chocolate), the ultimate love triangle song,” Alan says. “This song isn’t exactly that, but with a wise narrator dispensing advice to a friend about a woman, the lyric allows for a nice blending of fiction and autobiography.”

The title track, “A Little Too Late,” offers a wry comment about Walker’s songwriting career, replete with its own choir. It is about a fictional relationship that seems to keep coming back around to the same places. Alan remarks, “Every album that I work with Lincoln on has what we call the ‘art project,’ the song that turns out completely different from our original expectations. This arrangement takes some inspiration from a couple tracks on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. Jon Herington channels the best of Richard Thompson on the guitar solo. This one is also me having a bit of fun with what even I would call too many words, at least for a pop song.”

“Somewhere Down The Line” is a lament filled with romantic nostalgia, its sound enhanced by Holloman and Etkin on flugelhorns and Andy Burton on Fender Rhodes. The song’s lyrics address the kinds of secrets we keep from even those closest to us, “Cuz you’ve got my heart and I have only what is left inside… The truth is on my lips but I can’t even get around to it… How do we know… The damage of our secret lives… The truth is fading from our lives.”

With the straightforward song “Better Man,” that has Schwimmer replacing his B3 with a wurlitzer and the return of tenor saxophonist Holloman and trumpeter Etkin for some outstanding solos, the album ends on a high note.

A Little Too Late evokes a rich tapestry of moods, both light and dark, and feels simultaneously both fresh and familiar. “I’ll leave it to the listeners to decide exactly what they want to hear,” says Alan, “interpreting the songs on their own, adding their own thoughts, dreams, biases, etc.” Out June 28 on Aunt Mimi’s Records.

A Bit of History on Alan Walker and His Musical Journey:

Born and raised in New York City, Alan Walker has been playing in clubs there since the mid-80s, with his first show at CBGBs and his first band Club Iguana. He is the former lead singer and piano & organ player of rootsy/melodic pop band, The Brilliant Mistakes, who were aptly named after a song by one of their songwriting mentors, Elvis Costello. The band frequented the downtown NYC club scene starting in the early 90’s and, at one time was a WFUV favorite, appearing live there as well as on WFDU with Jerry Treacy. They were played by David Dye on WXPN’s World Cafe as well as on Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight, and performed at SXSW a few years running.

WFUV’s Darren Devivo called them, “Clever, pure pop—New York City style. The Brilliant Mistakes make intelligent, well-crafted music filled with instantly memorable hooks in the tradition of greats like Joe Jackson, Marshall Crenshaw, Richard Barone and others.” The Boston Phoenix called them an, “unpretentious, no-nonsense roots-pop band that flies under the radar (while the critics fawn).” Aimsel Ponti wrote in the Portland Press Herald, “Alan Walker’s voice reminds me of Karl Wallinger from World Party… terrific melodies and songs.”

The Brilliant Mistakes had a great run starting in 1993 for nearly two decades. Alan was joined by his fellow songwriter Erik Philbrook, drummers Mickey Wood and Paul Mauceri, guitarists Andy Resnick, John Putnam, Cameron Greider and Keith Tasker, as well as a long list of great horn players, collectively known as The Expensive Horns. Before stopping in 2012, they had released one EP and three albums starting with All Hands & The Cook (1998). Lincoln Schleifer produced The Brilliant Mistakes’ second and third records—Dumb Luck (2003) and Distant Drumming (2008)—as well as Alan’s debut—Something Up My Sleeve (2019) on his own Aunt Mimi’s Records. During the COVID years, Walker remastered a lot of the old Club Iguana material as well as other material from The Brilliant Mistakes catalog and it can now be found on his website anthologized in a few collections and on streaming services.

Alongside his musical career, Walker works full time in book publishing (VP of Higher Education at Penguin Random House). He spoke more about it all in a 2019 podcast interview with Center Stage with Pamela Kuhn, who says he, “has put the polish on life as a popular musician while having an extended and successful livelihood in publishing… Every great composer has their own love of the marriage of music and word. And I can’t help but feel that Alan Walker has kept his creativity fresh with his day ‘gig’ at Penguin Publishing that keeps honing his skills.”

Although the city definitely had an effect on who Alan Walker is, the songs he writes, and certainly the musicians he has become most closely involved with, he says, “I get just as much inspiration from being in the country, outdoors hiking with my dogs or on a road bike. I’m half city, half country boy, having grown up in NYC and the hills of Western MA. I’d like to think there is both humor and a subtle edge to my lyrics, which may be the city side of me, and also melancholy in my melodies, which is the country part, but then again, maybe it’s not so simple, and it’s all mixed up in the soup that my songs come out of.” 

Walker’s classic pop songwriting is inspired by an appreciation of such artists as Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Squeeze, and Crowded House.

At age six, Alan first became a music nut when he heard the Beatles’ Let it Be emanating from his family living room into his bedroom. Upon hearing I Me Me Mine for the first time, the world was born anew and he went on to receive his first record, Revolver, as a Christmas gift that year. Having two older brothers, he grew up with a steady stream of rock and pop, from the Stones, to Hendrix, to Pink Floyd, to the pre-Gram Parsons Byrds, and everything else in between, only to later discover on his own the endless trough of great mid-70s pop on NYC’s AM radio (Gerry Rafferty anyone?). His first rock concert (and spaceship sighting) was ELO at Madison Square Garden during the Out of the Blue tour.

In high school, Alan and his pal—and future band mate—Mickey Wood spent most of their free time buried in their friend Tom Marshall’s record collection which was filled with the sounds of something exciting and different, with albums like Elvis’s Get Happy, Dire Straits’ Making Movies, XTC’s English Settlement, and bands like The Talking Heads, Squeeze, Split Enz, The Pretenders, and The Clash! Like with that first Beatles’ album, it was as if a door had opened. It was during this time that they formed a band and set out to imitate their new musical heroes, and create their own music (at this stage with somewhat painful results).

Nowadays Alan still listens to a lot of music, but it’s mostly 60’s and 70’s soul records and anything ever recorded by Nina Simone or Dusty Springfield. In the interim he spends time with his beautiful wife of 22 years, Sally, and their two dogs and two cats.

He is thrilled to release his sophomore solo album, A Little Too Late, on June 28 on Aunt Mimi’s Records.

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Artist Update

Alan Walker (of The Brilliant Mistakes) Releases
A Little Too Late

June 28 on his own Aunt Mimi’s Records

Composer, Songwriter, Pianist, Alan Walker Releases 2nd Solo Album with Producer and Multi-instrumentalist Lincoln Schleifer

Along with some of New York City’s finest session musicians including: John Morgan Kimock, Jon Herington, Rob Schwimmer

With Special Guests: Larry Campbell, Gary Sieger, Andy Burton, Teresa Williams, Lucy KaplanskyBill Holloman, Larry Etkin, Myron Lutzke, and Jake Charkey