Chad Price could still be hung over, maybe even still drunk, when he hits town Thursday. The singer-songwriter, who started out in the punk band All before co-founding Colorado's beloved Drag the River, stumbled upon a unique way to celebrate the misleadingly titled Smile Sweet Face, his first-ever solo album: One day, four cities, 10 taverns.
"I guess the saving grace is that I'll be playing 20-minute sets, and then we have to drive to the next one," says Price in advance of his Oct. 17 crawl through Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Longmont breweries. "So we have to keep on some sort of schedule, you know. I can't just sit down and start pounding beers."
So Price has tried alcohol before?
"I've tasted it once or twice."
The key, he explains, is pacing yourself: "I'll have one [at each brewery] to begin with. And once we get halfway through, then maybe step it up to two. And by the end, it'll probably be five or so. The last few shows will be something to see."
As will the upcoming Triple Nickel show, where Price will roll out an album's worth of songs that would seem excessively dark if it weren't for transcendent melodies and lyrics that resonate emotionally without resorting to singer-songwriter clichés.
"Yeah, the songs are kind of about the worst of life. You know, the worst people, the worst situations. Not that I was in that space, but that's the kind of songwriting I like, and that's the kind of stuff I like to do by myself. So it ended up that probably nine out of the 10 songs are pretty much downers."
And no, the one happy song is not "With Bleeding Wrists" ("Lay down and die in my arms / Bleed into my hands / Where there is sorrow there's holy ground"). It's actually called "Peachy Tuscadero."
"In the period when I was writing all these new songs, I got a new dog, so I felt like I should write something about her," says Price of his canine homage, which opens with "Saw you behind the bars / Surrounded by bruises / Showed your teeth and stole my heart."
"Her name's Peach, but she thinks she's a little badass, so I call her Peachy Tuscadero."
Apart from three tracks featuring appropriately mournful accordion by Lucero's Rick Stef, the album is carried throughout by Price's lone acoustic guitar and voice.
"With Drag, out of a 14-song record, we've always had two or three of those kind of songs that I just did by myself. But as far as doing a whole record that way, it is different. You're kind of looking over for somebody else to make some other sounds or to sing, and there's nobody there."
That's no longer the case, now that Drag the River is back together and playing shows again. But it could have gone another way entirely. The band called it quits in 2007, more than a decade after Price and co-founder Jon Snodgrass began their alt-country collaboration. (Although both are originally from Kansas City, Mo., they only met up after moving to the Fort Collins area.)
"We had been touring a lot," explains Price, "and any band knows that when you're trapped in a van with four other people for that long, those people start to clash. It got to the point where we were replacing members too often, and so it was just like, obviously there's something wrong if you can't keep a five-piece together."
When the band members parted ways, it was anyone's guess what would come next: "We just kind of called it quits with no real vision of what would happen, like if it was for good or if it was just a little hiatus."
Cue the solo album. Between All and Drag the River, Price had more than a dozen records under his belt, but had yet to make one of his own.
"I guess I'd just been busy, really — a lot of practice, a lot of touring and a lot of songwriting. And then, you know, a couple years ago, Drag stopped for a while, and I had plenty of time to just sit at home and think of things I could do by myself."
Price will have plenty of company in the weeks ahead as Drag the River hooks up with the Revival Tour, an armada of former punk rockers organized by Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan. Did Price ever imagine he'd be playing alongside the likes of Million Dead's Frank Turner and 7 Seconds' Kevin Seconds in a singer-songwriterly setting?
"It was always something that I had thought of doing, but I never thought I'd be playing that kind of music with Kevin Seconds! [Laughs.] Or Chuck Ragan for that matter. So, yeah, it's kind of strange. I've played with all those guys back in the day, so this'll be a whole new experience."