While the name Stephanie Erin Wittmer might be a new one amongst fans of modern country music, one listen to her debut EP Pilot reveals songwriting and vocal chops on par with seasoned professionals. Recorded at Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, TX with Jeff Saenz and Beau Bedford at the helm (known for their impressive output with the likes of Texas Gentlemen, Paul Cauthen, Ruby Boots, David Ramirez and more), Pilot merges 90s country influences with modern folk-pop flourishes that make for an inspired journey along open roads and past tumbleweeds, “only stopping for good views” — or news, depending on the chorus.
Equipped with metaphors aplenty, Wittmer takes her musing about relationships full circle in “The Great Ones,” comparing the rarity of an epic love to that of an epic song. “All of the great ones don’t come that easily / It takes a little patience and some fine tuning,” she affirms. She tackles self-discovery and finding solace in the aptly-named title track, dives headfirst into a fast-moving crush on “Always Been a Sucker,” and explores heartache and pain in EP standout “The Difference.” Repeated listens to the short yet spirited collection might recall such iconic voices as Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, and Shania Twain, but fans of modern Americana faves such as Margo Price and Dori Freeman will find something amongst Pilot’s four tunes to love as well.
Growing up in small-town, rural Illinois, Wittmer was exposed to country music and performing at a very young age; she recalls putting on performances for her parents when she was three or four years old. Like many children, she took piano lessons, wrote poetry in her journal, and then finally thought to merge the two when she was a teen. Her post-college life took her to LA, and the road from there to her present sound has been a winding one. Before going back to her roots or “finding the flame” that she once knew, as she sings in the EP’s title track, she teamed up with some friends for a bedroom electronica project and also spent some time writing singer-songwriter tunes on the piano. “I had all these ideas for songs, that I just had to get out … too many,” she says. “I started writing all these country songs and realized I really love this genre.”
A fan of Bedford’s work, particularly with Paul Cauthen, Wittmer recalls meeting him while visiting family in Texas and reaching out to him with demos. He responded favorably, which led to the two discussing working together, and ultimately Bedford assembled a rock solid band that knocked out the four songs in just a couple of days, recording live with minimal overdubs. The EP features the talents of McKenzie Smith (Midlake) on drums and percussion; Texas Gentlemen Charley Wiles and Scott Lee on guitar and bass, respectively; and Parker Twomey (Paul Cauthen) on piano and organ. Esteemed pedal steel player Will Van Horn’s embellishments put a flawlessly-placed bow on the glowing, fresh, rootsy package, with instrumental touches that add just the right flair to Wittmer’s sweet-yet-sassy vocal stylings.
While Pilot serves as an impressive intro to Wittmer’s sound, the songs seem to flow from her so freely — she tells of literally writing parts of “Pilot” and “The Difference” in her sleep — that we can only expect to hear much more from where this triumphant debut stems.
Publicist: Frank Keith