Trey Anastasio had just returned to New York City from a weekend songwriting session with his collaborators Tom Marshall and Scott Herman when the city started shutting down in the wake of COVID-19.
Anastasio — who stayed busy in 2019 with Phish tours, a documentary, his band Ghosts of the Forest, Trey Anastasio Band and solo acoustic shows — suddenly had a lot of free time on his hands. So, he started recording songs in his apartment, ranging from the arena-rock stomper “I Never Needed You Like This Before,” where he channeled Black Sabbath, to the acoustic ballad “Lonely Trip” (“While you’re on this lonely trip, keep an eye on other ships,” he sings). He then posted the tracks to Instagram.
Soon, Anastasio got adventurous, turning wine glasses and a toaster into percussion instruments, and drumming on rolls of toilet paper and Purell. “Oftentimes, we end up with something really magical,” Anastasio told Rolling Stone in April as he was deep into the process.
Now, some of those songs have become an album — Lonely Trip, out Friday — composed entirely of music Anastasio wrote during isolation. The album will debut on Sirius XM’s Phish Radio Thursday at 8 p.m. Anastasio has released a wild homemade video for his epic slow-building rocker “…And Flew Away.”
“I wanted to connect with our community in some way,” Anastasio wrote in a short essay about the album. “The unplanned nature of the recording meant I didn’t have a lot of gear during this process. I had an electric and an acoustic guitar, a small amp, two microphones, some percussion and two keyboards, including an old Kurzweil with very realistic drum sounds on it. Everything was recorded through a Spire 8-track. Lonely Trip is truly a raw, low-fi recording.”
Anastasio says sharing the songs on social media felt unexpectedly profound: “It harked back to my youth, before there was a Phish, when I would write songs and home-record them specifically with the intention of sharing them with my circle of friends via cassette four-track recordings. As the weeks went by, I worked on improving my recording techniques. I called recording engineers including Ben Collette and Vance Powell to get tips on microphone placement, and I purchased a bass guitar online. I also started tapping into a Dropbox folder with about 30 four-minute drum sequences that I had recorded with Jon Fishman over the last year.”
“Lonely Trip was my message in a bottle during this time, and I wish I knew how to properly thank all of you in our community for listening and responding. It meant so much to me. Thank you. Wishing all of you much love and safety during this turbulent time,” he wrote. “This album is dedicated to the heroism of our healthcare and essential workers.”