Pandemic proves to be creatively fruitful for Summer Salt

Before Wednesday's show at Big Room Bar, the Austin duo discusses 'The Juniper Songbook,' Summer Salt's second full-length release since the pandemic hit

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Summer Salt

Singer/guitarist Matthew Terry and drummer Eugene Chung of the chill-vibes-only, “trop-pop” duo Summer Salt are natural homebodies, so when the pandemic brought the music industry to a halt two years ago, the pair embraced their hermetic tendencies and got to work making songs.  

Those writing sessions led to Sequoia Moon, a Summer Salt full-length that came out last summer, along with The Juniper Songbook, a stripped-down reimagining of select songs from the band’s catalog that released on Friday, just in time for the duo’s acoustic tour, which stops at Big Room Bar on Wednesday, March 16.

That’s not to say it has been smooth sailing entirely for the Austin, Texas-based band. “The pandemic definitely has created a lot of anxiety: What does this mean for our careers? What if things fall apart?” Terry said in a recent phone call alongside Chung as the two navigated potholes driving outside of Boston, Massachusetts. “But I feel like it hasn't discouraged us from wanting to write. We’re just trying to figure out how to balance ... our personal lives while also being artists.”

After Sequoia Moon, Terry and Chung took the opportunity to revisit songs from their catalog dating back to 2014 debut Driving to Hawaii. In the process, they pared down the selected tunes by cutting some bridges and otherwise trimming the fat in order to “get right to the meat” of the song, Terry said.  

Years of touring and recording has also made Terry more confident in his voice, so rather than double-tracking vocal parts for The Juniper Songbook, he limited himself to one lead vocal track and challenged himself to sing it with conviction. Plus, Summer Salt tracked this album in a studio with an engineer instead of recording at home.  

“I usually record in the bedroom, and I do multiple takes and kind of overanalyze things,” Terry said. “But to have someone there that's like, ‘This is good. Let's go with this.’ It helped with that [tendency].” 

To add a bit more excitement and freshness to the new release, Summer Salt decided to include a new song, “Hideaway,” which Chung originally wrote on piano, making it an ideal candidate for an album of stripped-down songs with mostly acoustic guitars and keys. And the track’s escapist themes couldn’t come at a better time, as temps rise and COVID cases decline, making way for a tour featuring two dudes playing songs with sunny, breezy melodies and sepia-toned nostalgia for lighter times.