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William J Locker embraces being a frontman on new record

Music’s been part of William J Locker’s life since he was a kid.

From growing up with his father working at a local radio station, to watching his brother find success as bassist of The Nadas, to carving his way as a drummer in his own bands ... music is what he knows.

But now, he’s stepped out from behind the kit to release his debut solo record, “Redhead,” which is due out Oct. 10.

“Growing up, there was always music around,” he said. “There was always a band practicing downstairs. When they’d leave, I’d sit on the drums and mess around. That’s what I’ve been focusing on the last decade, playing drums in bands.”

Locker has spent time drumming in acts such as Bright Giant and Towncrier. He’s also a drum teacher at the Central Iowa Music Lab.

But his new record, “Redhead,” is different from his past experience. Locker, who grew up in Nevada and lives in Des Moines, isn’t sitting behind the kit. He’s front and center, playing guitar and singing songs he's been working on for a year.

“I’m not really nervous doing this stuff ... but it’s nice seeing what I’ve been doing for a while from a different job,” Locker said.

Locker has played two shows as a frontman, with the third slated for Oct. 10. He said the transition seemed natural.

“There’s no rules now,” he said. “I’ve always had song ideas, I’ve just never put ‘em down until this last year.”

“Redhead” shows transparency. The songs are both personal and gripping. A track like the opening number, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Man,” sends the listener into a noisy expulsion of nostalgic rock; while a track like “Go Make Friends With the Crows” harnesses an unforgettable pop rock hook with the same rock ‘n’ roll grit.

The record shows two sides: One is the gnarly mettle on display from Locker’s lyricism; the other oozes through in the music, in the form of distorted decadence.

“It is very much a kind of bluesy, breakup record, also a ‘beginning of a relationship’ record,” Locker said. “You’ve got [both] ends of a relationship throughout the record — ‘she loves me, she loves me not’ type-of thing. That’s what’s so fun about how it came together. It tells a story.”

“It seemed like everything was crashing down at once and I had no creative outlet at all,” he continued. “And I had this free, acoustic guitar a friend gave me and I just started messing around with it. And I wrote some songs on it.”

Locker said it took a bit of courage to show the new songs to his brother, Jon. Despite that initial struggle, it worked out.

“[You’re] very insecure when you’re first starting out,” he said. “You just gotta do it. I showed him the tunes and he thought it sounded pretty rock ‘n’ roll. I definitely wanted to go for that old sound.”

Being a solo record, Locker leaned on other musicians to help create the sound for “Redhead.” His brother played bass; Neil Stoffregen played keys and lead guitar parts; Lucas Welchans also provided lead guitar riffs; Heath Pattschull played saxophone; Erik Brown played trumpet; Nella Thomas and Jerry Lorenson sang backing vocals. Matt Sepanic at the Sonic Factory helped finish the production of the record via mixing and mastering.

He said he wouldn’t be able to of make “Redhead” without the support of the other musicians.

“I’m surrounded by friends and family,” he said.

William J Locker’s new record, “Redhead,” will be available at the release show Oct. 10 at Gas Lamp.

William J Locker at Gas Lamp

Where: 1501 Grand Ave.

Cost: $7