On his new album, Greg Schatz tells the mundane truth and the album is special for it.
The story of Greg Schatz’s new Everything That You Wanted is told on the back cover, not the front. The disjointed, ragtag still life atop an old piano on the front suggests a junk shop aesthetic that is not quite right. The album’s not fussy or ornate, but it’s not haphazard either. There’s far too much talent on the tracks for the songs, like the photo, to seem slung together.
On the back cover, Schatz wears his version of the salesman suit, but the look on his face says this pitch will never work. He’s not resigned, but he doesn’t seem hopeful either—more “Here we go again” than anything else. His persona is very much at the center of every song, and that plainspoken, unvarnished truth gives Everything That You Wanted character.
Schatz will play a CD-release party for the album at Siberia Friday at 10 p.m.
The album opens with the kiss-off “I Hope Your Happy Now,” which is the sort of song that could easily go sideways. Many songs where the girl says goodbye are unpleasantly shaded by bitterness, anger and self-pity, and Schatz’s lyrics don’t exclude those emotions. But his vocals suggest that he is too experienced to see the situation so starkly. It sounds like he tried in the relationship, so the needle moves a little on his bileometer, but he sounds like a guy who’s been around enough to know he probably could have done better, or that they weren’t a good fit, as much as he hoped otherwise. He’s a guy who has enough exes that he runs into them and has to deal with them, and he’s likely discovered that once they weren’t seeing each other, they could be fun again. As such, he likely does wish her well—not win-the-lottery or date-a-stud well, but he doesn’t want to see her life get worse just because he’s not in it.
On “Head Games,” Schatz owns his place in the relationship going south without any undue hand wringing—they happen—and he’s upfront about what he does in “Dream Crusher.” The latter is specifically written from his perspective as booker for the French Quarter Festival family of festivals as he speaks to artists who are clearly unhappy with choices he has made. He’s not happy that he made people unhappy, but he approaches it situation matter-of-factly. It’s part of the job.
Schatz’s in-song life isn’t all negotiations and accommodations. He describes a day with absolutely nothing special about it and relishes it in “It’s a Beautiful Day,” and the happiness that keeps the album afloat is the joy of simply being in the game. Romantic relationships may go south, but he’s still having them. He’s breaking musicians’ hearts, but he’s working. He’s alive and appreciates the wonder of another day.
Perhaps the sense that he’s in the mix explains why the other buoyant songs on the album are instrumentals. In those, Schatz is just one of the guys on piano. His strong core band includes Alex McMurray, Dave James, Doug Garrison, Paul Santopadre and Dave Stover, and neither of the album’s instrumentals seem designed to push Schatz and his piano in front of them. Instead, he gets the simple pleasure of playing his part in a group, shining when it’s his time to, then laying back to make room for others.
Schatz’s easygoing demeanor on Everything That You Wanted means it’s not showy. Neither the compositions nor the performances stand out, but he nails a very specific low-key groove and, appropriately, makes his home there.