Asteria Lux: Never Mind the Generation Gap

Courtney Yovich, Genesis Green and CJ Watson comprise Asteria Lux.

Courtney Yovich, Genesis Green and CJ Watson comprise Asteria Lux.

Nashville music veteran CJ Watson is officially out of retirement. And he expects to stay that way for a long time.

“I’ve probably been in a couple hundred bands, and none of them has been this much fun or had this much promise,” CJ said about his new project, Asteria Lux.

He, along with bandmates Courtney Yovich and Genesis Green, recently took time out of their schedules to sit down and talk with us.

Asteria Lux is a Nashville-based jazz trio which just released their first EP, “Lovedrunk.”

That’s a somewhat-ironic title considering Courtney is 17, and Genesis just celebrated her 18th birthday. At 49, CJ makes no qualms about robbing the musical cradle.

“The funny thing is,” he said, “Yeah, there are moments when it’s obvious that we’re from different generations, but most of the time these two are just my best friends in the world. They’re people I would hang with if I wasn’t doing music at all. They’re good people; and they’re both really smart and they love any kind of music, and that’s the kind of people I like to surround myself with.”

They aren’t just smart, though.

Asteria Lux is currently touring the South and Southwest. See them if you can.

Asteria Lux is currently touring the South and Southwest. See them if you can.

Courtney has won numerous songwriting contests including a top 20 finish in the CMT Song Contest. She was selected to play at the Hatch Festival and receive mentorship from renowned musician and producer Patrick Leonard. Genesis has sung on records by Stevie Wonder and Eric Heatherly. At 16, she earned a coveted spot at ASCAP’s Young Writers’ Conference. CJ, on the other hand, got his first record deal more than two decades ago. Since then he’s had tons of songwriting success and has written two books. He has lectured around the globe at universities and songwriting workshops. And, he was in the first rock band to tour China.

He told us how the band came to be. “I started working with Courtney — we started writing together when she was 12 — and we just immediately hit it off,” he said. “I knew that she had some special talents and so we did that for a while, and I produced a record on her that we just loved.

“And then a couple of years later, I got a call from a friend who said, ‘I’m going on the road, and my intern needs to get some hours in,’ and I said, ‘Okay, sure, whatever.’ And she sent Genesis over. And about the second or third week I said, ‘I know you’re probably a singer or something,’ and she did a few songs that she had written and they were really good so I said, ‘Wow, how long have you been doing this?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’ve been writing 6, maybe 7 weeks now.’

He continued, “I immediately started producing work tapes on her, and we started writing together. I don’t know why it took me more than a second to have the idea, but one day Genesis and I had been talking to an agent friend of ours, and he was developing the act to book, and he said, ‘There’s just something missing.’ And something clicked in place in my head and I said, ‘Courtney is what is missing from this.’ So I talked to both of them because they were fans of each other, liked each other and had a lot of musical respect for each other. And they said, ‘Yeah we’d love to do an act together if you’ll be in it.’ So I un-retired and been having a lot of fun ever since. And so over that time, these two have both become family to me.”

Their sound immediately gravitated toward jazz. There was only one problem, as CJ explained. “Courtney was the only one of us who really knew anything about jazz. I have done everything but jazz, but she teaches us as much as she can, and fortunately for us she’s a good teacher.”

After gushing with an “Aw, thank you,” Courtney said, “I was playing jazz music since I was 5 years old, so I’m really, really excited the direction that we are going.”

About the band’s unique sound, Courtney said, “We have such a wide influence of different styles. It’s not just traditional jazz, but it also has some classic rock and psychedelic influences and everything — very singer-songwriter acoustic type of stuff, to full production like Supertramp, Pink Floyd kinds of things. So I think we’re pushing the boundaries of what modern jazz is, I guess.”

Genesis added, “People ask me, ‘Where did you get the idea for your style and the style that you use when you sing?’ One day I just kind of came into it,” she said. “When I met CJ, I had a little more of a rock thing going on, but the more I wrote with him and the more I sang and went around and tried different things, I realized that my voice really sat in the jazzy type of stuff that we were writing. And we just started writing it and I love singing it.”

Wait a minute. Teenage girls are supposed to be “Swifties” or “Beliebers,” right? What’s this Pink Floyd stuff?

“It gives me hope for the future,” CJ quipped about his young bandmates’ musical tastes. “These two know almost all the music I grew up listening to and a lot of music that my dad and my grandma liked. They have a very wide spectrum of stuff that they listen to, which I think is awesome. Courtney’s got more vinyl records than I do.”

Genesis said, “I listened to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald growing up, as well as Pink Floyd, and the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones. Every classic rock band that you could think of, I love.”

“One of the things that impresses me the most about both,” CJ said, “Is that (they) don’t draw any boundaries when it comes to listening. Genesis loves musicals and stuff like that, and then for Christmas last year, she was like, ‘I’m really hoping I get the new Black Sabbath album.’

Though Asteria Lux carries a jazz label, the three members don’t necessarily cling to the genre. Genesis said, “We have people ask us what genre we are, but we would really like to get to the point where we can say we just make good music — you know music we love with all kinds of influences and all kinds of genres.”

The band is currently on tour throughout the South and Southwest US. Following a short break, they head to the Northwest with hopes of extending the tour into Europe this fall.

CJ said they are not particular where they play, but he likes to be in venues where people listen to what they’re singing. “We put a lot of care into the lyrics, and we love it when people hear them. That being said, if people are just partying, having a good time and dancing, we’re okay with that, too.”

“Lovedrunk” is an apt title for the EP. Asteria Lux’s music is as intoxicating as it is smooth and silky. Courtney and Genesis share lead vocals on top of CJ’s masterful lead guitar and background vocals. Courtney also plays guitar, while Genesis’ bass anchors the rhythm section.

“Essentially I started playing bass a year and a half ago when we went out to Montana to start the whole band thing and film a couple of music videos for Courtney,” Genesis said. “I played guitar for 4 years before I started playing bass, and I’m not afraid to say I’m a terrible guitar player but an awesome bass player,” she added with a laugh.

Courtney said, “Guitar is my primary instrument. I started playing guitar when I was 5, so I guess it’s been 13 years now since I’ve been playing. So yeah, that’s been what I’ve been working on my whole life. It’s been a journey for me,” she continued. “You know I’m from a small town in Montana, and so now I’m living on my own in Nashville and working with these guys, so yeah, it’s been this incredible adventure, and I’m so excited to be working with them.”

Genesis said, “This is the most fun experience I’ve had. I started doing music with CJ when I was 15, and nothing has been such an experience. It’s awesome. You’d think having two teenage girls in the band would be detrimental, but we’re both totally cool and not egotistical and not stepping on each other’s feet, so it’s great to have your bandmates be your best friends.”

CJ credited Music City power couple Sheree and Lou Spoltore for “opening some doors” to kick start Asteria Lux’s early success.

“We’re going to ride this thing as far as it will take us,” he said. “We are having the time of our lives.

“You know, the thing with music is, it’ll surprise you every day,” he said. “If you just put the time in, put the work in, and don’t come in with any expectations other than making music, it will keep you from getting bored for your entire life.”

And sometimes, it’s even worth coming out of retirement.

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About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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