BALTO'S STORY must be told in stages. It begins with the breakdown of guitarist/vocalist Dan Sheron after a failed gig doing telemarketing and copy editing in Moscow (yes, that Moscow). Sheron rode a train to Siberia and wrote a series of songs during some bleak and, presumably, cold times.
"I was at a point in my life where maybe I was just trying to lose it, but I completely lost it," says Sheron. "The benefit of losing it was I accidentally wrote all these songs. There was some kind of vibe to it and it came out of a really rough period, and I really meant what I was trying to say."
When Sheron returned from Russia to the States, he recruited some friends to record with him at a studio in New York City for what would become Balto's first album, 2011's October's Road. Sheron's confessional prose helped transcend the rootsy folk-rock that October's Road contained.
A second album, Monuments, followed in 2012 after Sheron moved to Portland. It took some more chance encounters for the current incarnation of Balto to come together, but a fateful synthesis of musical camaraderie and old-fashioned songwriting magic has helped produce the band's upcoming 7-inch EP, Call It by Its Name.
"I never really liked playing alone," says Sheron. "I never settled into doing the kind of dude-with-a-guitar thing. The songs are served so much better by other people's voices."
Call It by Its Name showcases Sheron's strong foundational songwriting rounded out by the supporting cast of drummer Seth Mower, guitarist/mandolinist Luke Beckel, bassist Devon Hoffner, and pianist Adam Finger. The lineup adds tasteful layers to Side A's "Saints and Crows," bridging the tenets of Americana with a kind of swirly, Pink Floyd-like psychedelia. The confluence of relatively new performers in Balto—some from jazz and Southern rock backgrounds—has proven to be a boon for the band thus far.
"Craigslist was not involved at all," says Sheron about how the band got together. "It's like having OkCupid or Tinder not being involved in your relationship. Everybody is very different and everybody is building a friendship at the same time we're building the band."