As the saying goes, there is a time and a season for everything. Both Brett Ryan Stewart and Amelia White must have had this adage in mind when deciding to finally release “Somebody to Hold,” which they co-wrote seven years ago. On its face, the song, a lilting Americana ballad that features the two artists trading melodic pleas, serves as yet another ode to humankind’s deep longing for connection. However, in the wake of a year spent in the isolation, division, and confusion of a global pandemic, it feels like so much more. Stewart recalls coming across an old iPhone demo of the tune at the start of lockdown and being instantly transported back. “It was a different world. And yet, still, that hunger for human connection was lingering in our subconscious enough to summon these lyrics. Who’d have known that years later that notion would be amplified tenfold by a global quarantine.”
“Somebody to Hold” is one of four songs Stewart and White decided to resurrect for their upcoming EP, 11 A.M (also releasing June 4, 2021), and it serves as the project’s first single and opening track. Certainly, in the sea of hollow commercialism that characterizes much of modern music, the raw transparency of this single is, no doubt, capable of catching one by surprise. That being said, this courageous exhibition of authenticity has come to be expected from these two seasoned artists who, over the years, have forged an indelible bond of friendship and creativity, largely founded on shared past struggles — such as addiction, Amelia’s having grown up gay in a Southern conservative household, and Brett’s lifelong battle with Type 1 Diabetes.
For her part, Amelia White has released albums every two years since arriving in East Nashville in 2002 and has become known for her distinct delivery and fearlessness in putting her own scars on full display. She’s had her songs placed in the TV series Justified, and her 2019 album Rhythm of the Rain garnered acclaim from prestigious sources such as NPR, which described it as “consistent in quality and full of insinuating hooks, slyly sleepy singing, and lean jangly backing ... looks at the current political frenzy from a seasoned bohemian remove,“ and Rolling Stone, which included it in their Top 10 Songs of January 2019, noting “the steady pitter-patter of a drum loop which wouldn’t be out of place on an early Sheryl Crow recording.”
It is also unsurprising that Brett Ryan Stewart, a five-star producer of countless acclaimed projects through his Wirebird Productions in Nashville and who has had his music placed in high-profile shows like Netflix’s Queer Eye, along with co-producer Irakli Gabriel, were able to create such a rich sonic landscape — especially considering the formidable cast of musicians and engineers “Somebody to Hold” employs. The ensemble includes a who’s who list of Nashville’s burgeoning Americana scene, notably Gabriel and his wife Anana Kaye, who recently released a Stewart-produced album with the late David Olney; and Paul Niehaus, who has played pedal steel with the likes of Calexico, Yo La Tengo, and Iron and Wine. “Somebody to Hold” was mixed by Joe Costa, whose engineering credits include projects by Ben Folds and Kesha, and was mastered by Tommy Wiggins, who has credits with the likes of Lilly Hiatt and Brendan Benson.
All in all, in putting to music the type of wordless longing that has characterized so much of our recent collective human experience, “Somebody to Hold” acts as a sort of salve for the very wounds it lays bare. Just as the tune yearns for the sort of home that can only come from love and companionship, so too does it find a perfect home in the unique and shared trials of our modern day. Truly, in the courageous expressiveness of both Stewart and White, one cannot help but feel that a pain shared is, indeed, a pain halved.
“Somebody to Hold” will be released domestically through Wirebird Records and internationally via Orchard. It will also be made available on Bandcamp.
Accompanying the song is a video by Duende Vision. May be that the world coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is as bright as that which, undeniably, lies ahead for Brett Ryan Stewart and Amelia White.