Bret Autrey simply describes the rollercoaster that led to his new collection, “deadchannel_Trilogy.”
“It was a hell of a lot of work and a hell of a long journey,” said Autrey, who performs under the name Blue Stahli.
This “journey” wasn’t inspired by “sunshine and rainbows,” as the Arizona native puts it. In 2018, his mother died after battling brain cancer. He was her primary caretaker, along with friends and family.
“I live in LA now,” he says. “I would drive out to Phoenix to hang there for a month or months at a time. I’d come back to LA for a weekend or week and go back out to Phoenix.
“When you’re losing a parent and you’re up against something like she had, glioblastoma, there is no cure for it. When people die of this, they don’t go quickly.”
It was a long and painful process for him. He eschewed music and focused on his mother. He only had time for music when his mom was in physical therapy or asleep from radiation and chemotherapy.
When she died, Autrey didn’t know how he could return to music.
“There’s not only grief that hits you. There’s a hell of a lot of end-of-life stuff you have to take care of,” Autrey said.
“When you’re in charge of executing all that stuff and wrapping up everything, and packing up the house and selling the house, which was in the family since I was both, was incredibly difficult.”
Eventually, he did return to music and captured these feelings on the “deadchannel_Trilogy’ — “Quartz,” “Copper” and “Obsidian.”
“That entire experience felt like I was being smashed into the ground by a massive weight that would not let up and, as soon as you thought you could be broken down, you’re broken down again.
“I made this trilogy to represent this big swirling tornado of all the random pieces of how this felt. Each album is set out as a different stage of it. It also represents the journey back and forth between the two cities.
“Living in LA, I would make that drive across the desert, over to Phoenix and then from Phoenix, back to LA. I did that drive many times.”
“Quartz” is “just awash of ’90s craziness.” Autrey said it’s representative of Phoenix and about the reconnection with the things he loved.
“I said, ‘I’m going to make this sound like an album I would listen to in 1996 while driving home from Blockbuster, renting a Rutger Hauer movie for the millionth time.’”
“Copper” achieves the melancholy, experimental soundscape, while “Obsidian” defines who he is after his mom’s death.
“‘Copper’ represents the road trip between Phoenix and LA. It’s meant to be a complete road trip album.”
On it, he used an old piano from his church that his mom rescued from a dump. After his mom passed, Autrey brought the guitar to his LA home.
“The piano was out in the common area,” he said about the church. “Kids would come out and bang on it and beat the hell out of it. People set coffee cups on it. They thought it was an eyesore and said they were going to haul it to the dump. My mom said, ‘If you’re going to throw this away, you can take it to our house, which is slightly better than a dump. She wanted to have anything musical in the house. She loves music and she gave that to me.
“I would write tracks out and sit at that piano and record the improvisation stuff that came along with it.”
The finale, “Obsidian,” is Autrey’s journey through a life change, processing grief and family tragedy, defining who he is as a person after being broken down and starting anew.
Autrey has one hope for his trilogy.
“I hope it can help someone else going through an incredibly heavy situation,” said Autrey, who also writes music for video games.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the fact that that my job literally also allows me an outlet. I don’t care about being famous or making a ton of money. I don’t care about that, and I don’t want to be famous. I just want to make music I like and express some of these things. I hope it does some good being out there."