Park City duo Joy and Eric record an album at Sundance Resort’s Owl Bar
Fans of Park City’s musical duo Joy and Eric are one step closer to seeing a wish come true.
Singer Joy Tlou and guitarist Eric Sopanen, who will perform the Grand Valley Bank Community Series at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, at Deer Valley, have recorded an album — their first in a 15-year career.
The 28-song collection, titled “One Night,” was recorded live in May and June at Sundance Resort’s Owl Bar, according to Tlou.
Tlou and Sopanen recruited engineer Barry Warner, the former keyboardist for The Romantics and owner of Industrial Sound and Music, to set up a straight, full-on, line-by-line recording at the Owl Bar.
“It took three nights to piece it together, and we’re now ready to start sharing it,” Tlou said.
The album features the duo and guest singers covering songs that run from Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra to Nirvana.
“We have played at Sundance Resort since the early part of the century, and while we’ve been performing there, we began noticing the talent of the people who worked there,” he said. “We found out that these people really could sing.”
Guests include Owl Bar doorman Willy Ludlow, staffer Gibson Smiley and servers Erika Sehestedt and Carly Nicole Sisson.
Tlou remembers the first time he heard Ludlow sing.
“He was singing to a Van Morrison song that was playing over the sound system, and I asked him if he knew the song ‘Brown-Eyed Girl,’ because it was one of the Van Morrison songs Eric and I had in our rep,” Tlou said. “Willy said he thought he knew the song, and I said, ‘Do you want to sing it tonight?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’”
That performance opened the door to making the record, Tlou said.
“Once people saw Willy sing, they all got excited, and we ended up with all of these people who work at the bar singing with us,” he said.
While the album features Ludlow covering “Brown-Eyed Girl,” Sehestedt, who is also the singer for Sin City Soul, covers the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” on the album.
“I think Erika told us the first time she ever sang live in front of people was with us, all those years ago,” Tlou said.
Sisson’s track is “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” which was first recorded in 1931 by Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra, Tlou said.
“Carly says it’s the only song she knows, because she sings it to her 2-year-old daughter every night at bedtime,” he said. “Eric played the ukulele, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Tlou recruited Smiley to perform on the album after hearing him sing Wham!’s “Careless Whisper.” So he asked him to perform, “Faith,” a song written by former Wham! vocalist George Michael.
“He has this beautiful and enthusiastic voice,” Tlou said.
The other songs include Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” The Samples’ “Buffalo Herds and Windmills,” Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind,” to name a few.
“The beauty of these recordings is the band has never rehearsed them,” Tlou said.
Even the cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer“ were done without a run through, he said.
Those songs feature Felix Desposorio, who fills in the drums for Tlou and Sopanen’s regular drummer, Pierre Menefield.
“Pierre, who used to be in Mighty Dave’s Crescent City Thunder, plays left-handed,” Tlou said. “So Felix reconfigured his drum kit at home and learned to play left-handed so he could sit in on those songs.”
Rounding up the musician line is acoustic bassist Tony Herrman.
“Tony has one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard,” Tlou said. “He performs with his keen sense of harmony and effect, so every time we play, he might do something different.”
Recording the songs at the Owl Bar in front of a live audience was a unique experience for the band, according to Tlou.
“There was this crazy sort of tiny, log-cabin, family-home-evening feel,” he said with a laugh. “It was so much fun, because it was spontaneous, but also because Eric and I have gotten to know these people who sang with us over the years. We have literally watched them grow up.”
Tlou is currently figuring out which platform to use to distribute the album.
“We want to make sure the artists whose songs we are playing get paid the way they should,” he said. “We also have the rights to produce a limited number of actual double-CD sets.”
Tlou and Sopanen began playing together more than 20 years ago in a band called Soul Patrol.
“I was in the band and we all knew about Eric, because he was in all of these other bands,” Tlou said. “So I was sent to recruit him.”
Tlou attended a couple of shows Sopanen played.
“I stopped him, physically, and asked if he would like to come work with a 10- to 11-piece soul band,” Tlou said. “He said yes, and graced us with his talent. I mean, he had, and still has, an amazing reputation. There were people who would come see us, just to watch him play.”
Tlou got to know Sopanen musically during the band’s soundchecks.
“I would ask him things like, ‘Do you know the intro to that U2 song?’ and he would say, ‘Which one?’ and then he’d start playing it,” Tlou said. “It was amazing.”
The idea to play as a duo came after the two left Soul Patrol a few years later.
“I invited him to dinner, and told him we’d burn some steaks and play some songs,” Tlou said. “What I didn’t know then was that Eric had never played acoustic guitar in front of people. He always played electric guitar.”
The two got together and started playing a game.
“I would throw out a title, and he would play it, and it would go on like that,” Tlou said.
One day, one of Tlou’s neighbors stopped him at the grocery store.
“She told me she had heard us playing every Tuesday, and would invite friends over so they could sit outside on her back deck and listen to us,” he said with a laugh.
A few months later, Tlou and Sopanen, under the moniker Joy and Eric, played at the now-defunct Suede bar on Main Street.
“Since then we have played Riverhorse on Main, all the ski resorts, and one of our favorite places to play — Sundance Resort’s Owl Bar,” Tlou said.
The duo has opened for a list of diverse musicians and groups including Eric Johnson, the Samples, Robert Cray, OMD, O.A.R., Smash Mouth, Natalie Cole, English Beat, John Oats, Josh Turner and Earth Wind and Fire.
One of the most memorable shows for Tlou was opening for Chicago in 2009 at Red Butte Garden.
“When we finished playing the first song in the set, the audience made a noise that was so loud it nearly knocked me over,” Tlou said. “It felt like wind hitting me in the chest.”
Tlou felt a similar experience while opening for Neon Trees a couple of years ago.
“Eric and I are old men, and the people who worked for the band told us it was the best night ever.”
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Neon Night For Powder Rights will feature a DJ, garish clothing and a silent auction.