By STEVE PFARRER
Several years ago, Grayson Ty and Laura Buchanan first met as separate working musicians. That night, Ty, a singer-songwriter, was co-billed at the Iron Horse Musical Hall in Northampton with Eavesdrop, then an acoustic folk-pop trio that Buchanan was part of.
Fast forward to 2023, and the two musicians are now partners both in life and music, and they’ve released their first album together, “Long Way ‘Round” – with the name of the duo, fittingly enough, being an amalgam of their first names: “Sonaura.”
Their album, co-written by Ty and Buchanan, is very much a product of their relationship, which began in late 2019. The two singers were both coming off relationships with other people, Ty said, and when they crossed paths again, they hit it off.
Then, with the pandemic arriving a few months later, they found themselves hunkered down together – “We were kind of in each other’s bubbles,” Ty said – and they began working on some music together as well.
That period of intense emotion and creativity led to the 12 songs on “Long Way ‘Round,” a mix of folk, country, pop and a few other touches, the songs all built around their harmonies, acoustic guitars and drums, with additional musicians adding keyboards, electric guitar and bass.
Lyrically, the songs are very much a matter of the heart, like a love story in progress, with songs that move from heartbreak to reconciliation to the passion, vulnerability and hope that new love can usher in.
“We’re both kind of romantics at heart,” Ty said with a laugh. “But the last few years have been a pretty intense time for us, and we’re both songwriters – that’s the most important part of music for us – so all of that really shaped the songs.”
Their songs are a study in close collaboration, both vocally and lyrically. The singers alternate taking the lead on verses on most of the tunes, though they sometimes trade off the lead on the same songs, and they harmonize on the choruses.
The variety of sounds on “Long Way ‘Round” also reflect their separate musical footprints. Buchanan, for instance, is still part of Eavesdrop, but that band has evolved over the years to become a seven-piece group that bills itself as “Americana Folk-Pop.”
“Laura has a deep background in country and roots music, and I come from more of a pop/R&B/soul background,” said Ty. “But we’ve been able to merge all of that and find a lot of common ground, just pulling the best of it together.”
And when it comes to lyric writing, each brings different skills and viewpoints to the table, Ty noted. He sees himself as more of a storyteller, creating narratives, while Buchanan “has a way of saying things in the most concise way.”
“We learned a lot from each other,” he said. “I can set a scene, and Laura’s really good at coming up with conversational lyrics.”
“Hit & Run,” for instance, is one of the album’s heartbreak songs, a slow blues/soul number built around minor chords and arpeggios on electric guitar, with Buchanan singing lead: “Don’t come crying to me now / Violated those vows / Keep on telling me how / You’re so sorry now.”
“Ever After” takes the opposite tack: It’s a celebration of new love, with Buchanan again singing lead and the singers combining for pretty harmonies on the chorus: “Far as we know / You and I have found what / We’ve been searching for.”
The album’s title is drawn from a line in that song –“Let’s take the long way ‘round” – and musically the tune shows Buchanan’s footprint, with a folk-country sound built around strummed acoustic guitars, a touch of piano, and a tuneful, slightly moody solo on acoustic guitar.
Ty takes the lead on “80 Miles,” a colorful synth-pop number that references Sedona, Arizona, a red rock town where the couple posed for their album cover last fall when they visited the area. It’s a classic road song, with the singer eager to end a long drive and get home to his love.
“Trick of the Light,” another pop-flavored tune with synthesizer and fairly heavy drums, has Ty singing lead on a tale about love and infatuation, wondering whether his love interest feels the same: “You got my attention / Somehow I’m / Colorblind and / Lost inside / Another dimension.”
Ty says he and Buchanan worked on the basic cuts of the album, including drum tracks and some programming, at their home studio in Easthampton, then sent the music to his friend Jeff Lynch, a guitarist he’s often gigged with; Lynch is also an engineer with Mainline Recording Studio in Westfield.
Lynch added acoustic and electric guitars to the mix and finalized the drums, and the album also has contributions from Zack Cross on keyboards and Reed Sutherland on bass. In addition, Sutherland and Matt Thorton added strings to the album’s last cut, the folky “A Dance With the Moon.”
Ty says the album was mastered in Nashville by Pete Lyman, a Grammy-nominated engineer who’s worked with dozens of artists, including Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Lori McKenna, Tom Waits and Old Crow Medicine Show.
“We’re really fortunate to have had such a reputable team behind us who saw and delivered our vision for this project,” Ty said in a followup email.
In fact, Ty said he and Buchanan don’t have immediate plans to perform the songs live – though they’re getting pressure to do that from friends and family, he joked.
“We both wanted to make the most polished record we could, even if it took a dozen takes on the vocals,” he said. “We’re just happy to have the album out now, but we’ll be working on ways we can take the songs to the stage.”
More information on the album is available at sonauraband.com.