What does "Nelo" mean? This is a question that is asked of songwriter/bandleader Matt Ragland on an almost daily basis. He admits that he may have insisted on a different name for the band had he known he would have to explain its meaning so often. But there are no real regrets, because he has had the privilege of watching his youthful dream grow into an undeniable reality since the band's official formation in late 2005. The word "nelo," according to Ragland, is "a strategy in the card game 'Spades' where one anticipates and attempts to lose every single hand in the game. If he is successful in doing so, he wins big in the end. Depending on where you're from, some say 'nil' and others say 'nolo.' In Dallas, we said 'nelo.' Ever since I learned the game as a kid, I loved 'going nelo' as we called it, and found that I was actually better at intentionally "losing" than winning. Growing up, the word: 'nelo' just kind of stuck with me and carried this special kind of significance that I still can't quite put my finger on. When I got older and started writing songs I realized that the writing process was not unlike 'going nelo'. I was taking all the loss, and disappointment, and negativity that I had previously experienced and using it to create something intensely positive. Without the loss and the experience, there could be no songs and subsequently, no band. So, when it came time to decide on a band name, there was no other name." Nelo officially formed in late 2005 but the story begins much earlier, going back to Ragland's childhood.
Matt Ragland grew up in Dallas, TX where his first musical experiences consisted of playing piano with his grandmother and pretending to direct symphonies in her living room with Chopin screaming through the stereo. Having taught himself to play a little piano by ear, he picked up the guitar for the first time midway through high school. It all started one night when Ragland happened to see someone he knew playing a familiar song on a brand new guitar by himself in the same room. "Suddenly I had this overwhelming sense that just said: 'Well, I can do that'. I bought the guy's old guitar from him the next day." Ragland admits that it wasn't as easy as he thought it would be, but it hooked him from the start. Immediately he took to writing songs and loving the guitar not as an instrument by itself, but as a means to getting out a message.
About a year into playing, Ragland befriended Stephen Goodson, Chris Hill and David Long, some classmates with whom he formed a band. Stephen's dad was nice enough to let them play after school until late at his house. The band had no real name and played only one show: their high school battle of the bands competition. According to Ragland, who was the lead singer of the group at the time, "we were absolutely horrible. But we had more fun than you can imagine. How we won the battle of the bands competition I'll never understand. I suspect it was the lack of competition that put us over the edge… Or maybe it was my best friend who kept stealing tickets and putting them in our voting bucket! Trust me, we needed all the help we could get." This band would later become most of Nelo, minus one important member: Reid Umstattd, Nelo's lead singer.
Umstattd grew up in Austin, TX in a house where the radio was always on and always tuned to the local oldies station. "My first musical memories are singing along to Motown songs in the house and in my dad's car. I was also in church choir for a while and remember having one solo, which to this day is the most terrified I've ever been in front of an audience." Despite these early experiences, Umstattd never realized his own singing talent until much later in life. By the time he was in high school, the only place you could hear Umstattd sing was in his car. "I would drive around by myself singing until my voice was completely hoarse. I still didn't think of myself as a good singer. I knew I loved doing it, but I never thought about performing until Matt and I became close friends."
Ragland and Umstattd had known each other since they were kids through Camp Longhorn, a summer camp in Texas that they had attended since grade school. It was not until their last year as campers that Ragland, who had not been playing the guitar long, heard Umstattd sing for the first time at a campsite in the mountains of Colorado. "I literally whirled around to see who was singing like this. I could hardly believe it was Reid. I'd known him forever. Seriously, I was too blown away to laugh." Ragland had already begun to write songs and discovered a real connection between what he wanted do musically and Umstattd's voice. From this day forward, the two developed a friendship and bond that would later make Nelo possible.
Prior to the band's official formation, Ragland and Umstattd were college roommates at the University of Texas. The two played casually as a duo and with friends off and on around Austin under the name 'Nelo.' Ragland wrote furiously throughout college and had completed over two records worth of songs before they graduated. After graduating a semester early, Ragland travelled to Europe where he backpacked for a couple months and returned home determined to get the band started once and for all. He called up his old high school musician friends from his first band to form Nelo and asked Umstattd to be the lead singer. Umstattd agreed and Nelo was officially formed in late 2005.
Now that the band was officially formed, Ragland felt that the group would do well in a change of scenery. The band settled on Athens, GA as the place where they would start, always planning on returning to Austin when the time was right. They rented two houses right next door to each other. Tucked amidst huge full-grown pine tress, the main house had one big rehearsal room in the back. By night this room was the site for late night parties and jams, and by day it was where the band first spent most of its time rehearsing and working on Ragland's songs from college. Nelo's first gigs were at a local underground dive bar called D.T.'s Downunder, a bar that Ragland would later manage. D.T.'s was about the size of a small living room, capable of holding only about 40 people at a time. Nelo first played D.T.'s in front of five people and grew to where the band was over-selling it every time they played. Gigging in Athens every week, the band worked its way up to playing the Georgia Theatre and the 40 Watt, Athens' two premier clubs for live music. Meanwhile back home in Texas, the band was also starting to get a lot of attention for a home-recorded demo CD that they left behind when they first moved to Georgia. In the spring of 2006, after living in Athens for about a year and a half, the band was offered an opportunity to record with Pedernales Records, an independent Austin, TX-based record label co-owned by Willie Nelson. Having only been back to Texas a couple times to play shows since moving to Georgia, the band moved back home to Austin to start recording and touring immediately.
On April 22, 2008 Nelo released its first record on Pedernales Records, licensed through Justice Records. The album was a self-titled re-recording of the original demo and was recorded at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio, located in the hill country just outside of Austin. The release was highly anticipated by Nelo's existing fans and made it into the top-ten rock album charts on Itunes. Nelo immediately began touring extensively, travelling coast to coast but focusing mostly on the southern and southeastern regions of the U.S. The band toured non-stop for over a year picking up new fans one by one. During this time Nelo sold over 10,000 records and started playing regularly at large venues in Texas like The House of Blues (Dallas and Houston), Granada Theatre (Dallas), Antones (Austin) and more.
In 2009 Nelo released a short E.P. called "Two Years Ago E.P." The recording took place over just a few days at Pedernales Studio and was produced by Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt). This release was somewhat of an underground/"for the fans" release that was made available only through digital outlets and sold physically at the shows. After recording and releasing "Two Years Ago E.P.", the band went back out on the road and continued its grassroots effort.
By the end of 2009, Ragland and Umstattd had parted ways with their original band mates Goodson, Long, Hill, and StClair. The band had been touring for two years and finding considerable success for an independent band with a grassroots approach. But Ragland had become frustrated with the overall sound of the band. He felt as though the songs were not sounding the way they should and change was inevitable. The band had become frustrated creatively in general and one by one, Nelo parted ways with each original member, leaving the core of the group: Ragland and Umstattd. The splits were mutually agreed upon and took place amicably. "We all knew that it was time to change. We were stuck. It was hard for me to say goodbye to my friends and original band mates, but each of us knew it was the right thing to do. These were mutual decisions. Bottom line: we've shared something that can never be replaced and are better friends for it," Ragland says.
2010 was something of a creative boom for Nelo. Ragland had written another record's worth of songs, Umstattd's voice had never been stronger, and the two felt it was time to get back in the studio to record their second full-length record. The band brought on new members: Brian Donohoe (saxophone) and Sean Jacobi (bass). Ragland was determined to do this one right and decided to produce the record himself. The actual recording was spread out over a period of nine months, but the process was an absolute re-invigoration and success. Feeling refreshed and enjoying the immediate connection that the band had with the new members, the group worked hard on the record and made no compromises in the process. Nelo was firing on all creative cylinders and after hiring C.J. Ericksson (U2, Steve Lillywhite) to do the mixing, the band finished its second record by the end of 2010. On October 12, 2010, "Ordinary Scene" debuted at number 3 on the top-ten rock album charts on Itunes.
In 2011, Nelo hit the road once again, adding Ryan Jacobi (drums) to the lineup. Ragland says and Umstattd agrees "We are in full swing now. The music sounds like its meant to sound. All I can say is that it feels good."
Texas Media: Jill McGuckin, McGuckin Entertainment PR, 512.217.9404; firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking/Management: Lisa Fletcher, Sideshow Entertainment LLC, 512.447.2337 or 512.970.0350; email@example.com
# # #
Matt Ragland - Guitar, principal songwriter
Reid Umstattd - Vocal
Brian Donohoe - Saxophone, keyboard
Matt Muehling - Lead Guitar
Sean Jacobi - Bass
Ryan Jacobi - Drums
Nelo (eponymous), 2008, Justice Records/Pedernales Records
Two Years Ago EP, 2009, Justice Records/Pedernales Records
Ordinary Scene, 2010, Wonderoo Records
Say hello to nelo at CD release party
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AA-S Best Bet - Nelo: The members of Nelo — say it like 'hello' — released their self-titled album ...AA-S Best Bet - Nelo:
The members of Nelo — say it like 'hello' — released their self-titled album on Tuesday, and they celebrate tonight at Antone's. The folk-rock band sounds like a mix of the Dave Matthews Band and Blues Traveler. Their unconventional use of saxophone, trombone and trumpet might just get your feet tapping along. Nelo is much more than just a jam band; the single 'Jumping Bean' gives you the feeling of cruising down a highway in a convertible. Catch this new band before the lines to see them get too long. Singer/songwriter Ryan Carter of the band Francis opens for Nelo.
Watch video of Nelo performing live on the Statesman's patio at austin360.com/musicsource.
— Blair Shiff
“With an infectious set of original songs and the pop sense to pull them off.”
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Austin-based nelo's smooth and compulsive 21st century pop sound has broad commercial appeal, with j...Austin-based nelo's smooth and compulsive 21st century pop sound has broad commercial appeal, with just enough Texas in it to keep things sharp and sturdy. The band has its origins in Dallas, TX, where guitarist and songwriter Matt Ragland, guitarist Stephen Goodson, drummer Chris Hill, and tenor sax player David Long played together while still in high school. By 2002, with lead singer Reid Umstattd and multi-instrumentalist (bass, trumpet, trombone, organ) Mike St. Clair now on board, the full six-piece was in place. The band itself marks 2005, the year the whole group relocated together to Athens, GA, as a formal starting point. With an infectious set of original songs and the pop sense to pull them off, nelo (the name rhymes with "hello") were soon a favorite on the Georgia club circuit. But they still retained a strong Texas fan base as well, and found themselves touring small and medium venues in both states, making things happen on two fronts at once. Producer Freddy Fletcher, who happens to be country singer Willie Nelson's nephew, caught nelo at one of their Texas shows and was impressed enough to bring the band into Nelson's Padernales Studio in Austin, TX, and start recording an album. The band left Athens and moved back to Austin to work on the project, which was eventually released in 2008 by Houston-based Justice Records
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http://www.austinme.com/index.php?t=browse_playlist Right out of the gate, “All Gone To Nothing”...http://www.austinme.com/index.php?t=browse_playlist
Right out of the gate, “All Gone To Nothing” immediately draws listeners into nelo’s full, contemplative sound. Although the band credits the likes of Stevie Wonder, Sting, Duane Allman, and especially Dave Matthews for their musical inspiration (easily heard in their proficient use of horns and poetic lyrics), you might also catch a bit of the Counting Crows and Widespread Panic among the streaming melodies and heartfelt crooning of Matt Ragland and Reid Umstattd.
At once uplifting, smooth, happy and emotional, nelo (rhymes with “hello” by the way) jams in a way bands with twice as many musicians wish they could. Bubbly instrumentals will have hippies bobbing across the grass at outdoor venues all summer long. This will be no surprise to the band, which regularly sells out shows and has already created a substantial buzz among high school- and college-age students. nelo is not pop candy, though. Four of the six members—Chris Hill, Stephen Goodson, David Long and Mike St. Clair—studied jazz in college. They’re launching their first nationwide tour this april, but you can bring ‘em right into your living room with this gem of a debut album. Do we recommend it? You bet.
-hillary r. skaff
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http://hub.ou.edu/articles/print.php?item_id=1870657758&hub=376d8b28bb5db855f5206983eaf790b3 CD R...http://hub.ou.edu/articles/print.php?item_id=1870657758&hub=376d8b28bb5db855f5206983eaf790b3
Recently, when I was in Chili’s Grill & Bar dining with a buddy of mine, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “Never Had To Knock On Wood” came over the speakers. I was instantly back in the mid to late ’90s. With the music that accompanied this great song, it became apparent everything they played ushered me back to the good ol’ days of my youth.
Now, what does this have to do with my review? Well, you see, when I was handed nelo’s self-titled album last week, I really wasn’t expecting much, if anything, from this Austin, Texas-based band. But, being such a sucker for the nostalgia of ’90s music, I couldn’t dislike nor stop listening to this band.
Imagine a twangy, more upbeat version of the Counting Crows with a cup of Blues Traveler, a pinch of Rob Thomas and Jason Mraz and a touch of Dave Matthews Band (in the sound of his voice only, not the annoying or convoluted parts of his music).
One thing is for sure, nelo certainly isn’t lacking in overall sound. The band’s instruments include a 12-string guitar, tenor and soprano saxophones, trombone, trumpet and an organ. This creates a rich depth of quality to their music that’s hard to come by these days with everybody using sound mixers, audio distortion, synthesizers and turn tables.
The entire album is pretty solid all the way through with some key, high points, such as the first track, “All Gone To Nothing” and the third track “On Top of Love.”
The band’s Hootie and the Blowfish-type sound makes the CD the perfect feel good music for spring.
Go ahead and check out their MySpace page. This CD will make you want to run around the South Oval with an attractive, free spirited member of the opposite sex and an adopted puppy from the animal shelter, while carefully weaving some of Molly Shi’s flowers in your hair.
sets typically hour and 1/2 to 2 hours plus encores.
over 45 original songs. no covers. emphasis titles on debut cd - "jumping bean", "you don't know", "on top of love", "footsteps", "goodbye"
There are no upcoming dates at this time.