Brad Lauretti, frontman of This Frontier Needs Heroes, described the house on stilts overlooking Lake Beluthahatchee as a taste of what old Florida was like.
He wrote every song for his fourth album, “Real Job,” during a two-week songwriting residency at the old wooden home of esteemed Jacksonville writer Stetson Kennedy, who helped expose racism in the South and died in 2011.
For Lauretti, the experience was a musical dream. Folk icon Woody Guthrie, one of Lauretti’s idols, wrote over 80 songs during his many stays at Beluthahatchee.
Lauretti said the two-week stay in late 2015 was a transformative experience. With no internet access, he spent his time reading Kennedy’s work, playing guitar and writing songs.
“It really poured out of me,” Lauretti said. “I felt like it was a really important chapter in my life and point on my path that I needed to do and it kind of just happened.”
Before his stay in Fruit Cove, Lauretti left New York City to pursue a music career in Jacksonville.
He arrived in Jacksonville from Brooklyn in 2012. A friend offered Lauretti a bartending gig at Underbelly with a chance to play shows on the side.
It was then that Lauretti formed This Frontier Needs Heroes with his sister, who’s since left, and released a self-titled debut album in 2009. This Frontier Needs Heroes consists of just Lauretti now and he relies on musicians from cities he plays for live shows. He’s currently on tour in Europe.
Lauretta recorded the album “Real Job” at Glow Studio in Athens, Ga., with Cash Carter on drums, Adam Kurtz on pedal steel guitar, Ryan Vogel on bass, Jon Loyd on keyboard and Sadie Frederick both singing and on violin.
Straddling the line between Americana, indie and folk, “Real Job” is a lot of things: uncertainty about the future, politically-charged salvo and ode to the struggling independent musicians. Lauretti explores the latter in “Free Market Music.”
He said that a career in music is far from a stable profession. He argues that more should be done to financially ensure independence for musicians. Lauretti details the plight of independent musicians who make little money while streaming services like Spotify make millions.
“Big companies are making lots of money off of musicians’ intellectual property by paying them one-18th of a cent per stream. Yet they’re making money.”
He explains in “Don’t Let the Dreamers Die” that people rely on music for inspiration but they might not appreciate the process of making it.
“If you took music away civilization would crumble, it’s like a utility, but it’s completely unregulated,” Lauretti said. “If you don’t invest in something, it’s not going magically appear.”
Then there’s “I Love Immigration,” where Lauretti recognizes the contributions immigrants have made. Lauretti relates a personal story about his Italian-American heritage.
Italians were discriminated against and labeled criminals, womanizers and anarchists in the 1920s. He mentions music legends such as Tony Bennett and Dean Martin, who changed their ethnic Italian names in order to appeal to a larger audience.
Lauretti’s grandfather came to the U.S when he was 13 and fought in World War I four years later.
“I want people to ask their own questions. Everybody here is either an immigrant or a descendent of an immigrant,” Lauretti said. “It’s absurd to demonize innocent people who have done nothing wrong.”
As for Jacksonville, Lauretti said his transition from Brooklyn paid off.
Not only has Lauretti played at Jacksonville venues such as Fireside Sounds in Fernandina Beach and the St. Augustine Amphitheatre, but he’s toured in England, Italy, France and Spain. Lauretti said he was just going to come to Jacksonville for a summer but things worked out.
“The weather, the people, I felt like there was something going on here. I wanted to be a part of building something,” Lauretti said. “Jacksonville’s been really supportive of me and I really appreciated that.”
Nick Blank is a student at the University of North Florida. This story was written for a journalism class. Look for more Local Band Spotlight stories Fridays in Life.