It goes without saying that social media is a powerful tool. I’d be willing to bet a large number of the people reading this particular story will read it online, via Facebook or Twitter. So when Ellsworth musician Chris Ross writes a new song, he posts it on YouTube for his fans to listen to first.
“It’s such an amazing way to get feedback from people,” said Ross, whose new album, “Halfway to Wonderland,” came out last weekend. “I want people to feel like they are part of the process. I like having that connection. I always want to know what my favorite artists are working on, so if I can do that for the people that like me, it just builds. I think 90 percent of building a fan base today is having a presence like that.”
Most of the songs on “Halfway to Wonderland” can be found on his YouTube page, accessible via his Facebook page — along with an array of covers from artists such as Brandi Carlisle, The Band, Kings of Leon, the Drive-By Truckers and many others. Ross’ gruff but sensitive voice is perfectly suited to the kind of contemporary Americana he’s been writing for the past five years — from his early days with Stiff Whisker & the Driftwood Kids, to his solo career.
“Halfway to Wonderland” is the second full-length album from Ross in about a year — he’s as prolific as any other songwriter in Maine. And like his last album, “The Steady Stumble,” Ross traveled to Nashville, Tenn. to record “Halfway,” with a team of crack studio musicians. Unlike “Stumble,” he gave himself the luxury of five days to record it, instead of just three.
“I like to work fast,” said Ross. “The more time I have, the more time I’ll waste and more money I’ll spend. If you know you have a set amount of time to do something, you just get it done. I definitely live by the ‘keep it simple, stupid’ kind of thing.”
With a full year of tireless performing under his belt — Ross plays shows nearly every weekend, from Bar Harbor to Augusta — his chops are road tested and better than they’ve ever been. It gave him an edge he used to his full advantage while recording “Halfway.”
“I’m just more comfortable with everything,” said Ross. “But my songwriting process hasn’t really changed at all. I just wait around for inspiration to strike, and when it does, I go for it. I can’t stop it.”
His summer is already almost booked up with shows at many of his favorite venues — leading off with this weekend, when he plays an afternoon set starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Sea Dog in Bangor, a 9 p.m. Friday night show at Scores in Sullivan, and a 9:30 p.m. Saturday night gig at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor. In the fall, Ross hopes to put together a Northeastern U.S. tour.
“I get a lot of people asking me when I’m going to play New Hampshire or Massachusetts, or even just Portland. I get people asking me when I’m going to play in Chile,” he said. “I will probably get to New Hampshire before I get to Chile. But I can dream.”
To buy a copy of Chris Ross’ new album, “Halfway to Wonderland,” visit chrisross.net or download it on iTunes.