I Meant It To Be Sweet is the sophomore album from Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Tommy Wallach, the first since his 2008 self-titled EP on Decca Records. Vivid and expressive, finely skirting the line between emotive and theatrical, I Meant It To Be Sweet exhibits Wallach’s storytelling abilities (his first novel, We All Looked Up, will be published by Simon & Schuster in March of 2015) while evoking the cerebral, musical pop of Ben Folds, Rufus Wainwright, and Andrew Bird.
The album was recorded between Brooklyn (at the home studio of engineer and producer Giulio Carmassi, multi-instrumentalist for Pat Metheny’s Unity Group) and San Francisco (at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone). Carmassi did the majority of the arrangements, and also played everything from horns to strings to vibraphone. Ben Davis (Cuddle Magic) added additional arrangement, as well as stand-up bass and guitar. Jeremy Gustin (Albert Hammond Jr., etc.) contributed drums and percussion, Lizzy Loeb (daughter of Jazz guitarist Chuck Loeb) added sultry backing vocals, and John Vanderslice played a bit of keyboards. The result is a musically diverse yet tonally cohesive set of performances across tracks like the light-weight indictment “Cold As Christ,” the reverb-washed love song “Misanthrope,” the gypsy jazz homage “To Keep You Dancing,” and the creepy minimalism of “Whisper” (the homemade video for which was part of an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum).
Wallach’s flair for dramatics and his smartly polished songwriting stem from an early involvement in professional musical theater as a teenager in his hometown of Seattle, WA. He has played classical piano since the age of eight, and also trained on the guitar and mandolin. At college, he took up musical composition and theory, and even managed to write a couple of musicals, one of which he produced with friends in Los Angeles.
It wasn’t until his senior year of college at NYU that Wallach first performed as a singer-songwriter, appearing at the Sidewalk Cafe (Antifolk forever!). Shortly thereafter he began posting videos of his original songs and covers to YouTube, racking up over half a million views, a record deal with Decca Records, and a slot performing with OK Go at the Guggenheim in NYC. After releasing his EP with Decca, Wallach decided to turn his attention back to writing—attending graduate school for journalism at Stanford. His work has appeared in such magazines as McSweeney’s, Tin House, and Wired. Tommy will return to the studio later this year to record the tie-in record for his debut novel We All Looked Up, which will be released alongside the book in 2015.