When the Lab Rats disbanded two years ago, the hip-hop duo's musical mastermind Kelly Warner wasted no time conceiving a follow-up project.
"There was a lot I wanted to say and do," Warner explained. "I wanted to dive in head first."
Within months, Warner played his first show as Hotel Eden, a one-man band that nods to Warner's work with the Lab Rats while leaving hip-hop behind in favor of honest-to-God pop music. He wowed crowds immediately with performances that found him hopping from guitars to keyboards to turntables, orchestrating would-be hit singles on the fly.
A Way Back Home, Hotel Eden's inaugural EP, drops this Saturday with a release party at Carabar.
From the sentimental piano plinking of "Tell Me Where You've Been" to the rhythmic fuzz-bass romp "Here" to acoustic comedown "Never Go," the five songs capture the essence Warner was aiming for with Hotel Eden - a culmination of every social and musical experience he's accumulated over the years.
Those experiences have been vast and varied. Born to touring musicians in Florida, Warner picked up drums at age three and soon moved on to piano. He was adopted by his aunt and uncle at age four and soaked up as much musical knowledge as he could from his adopted father, a lawyer whose tuneful dabblings left an impression on young Kelly.
He fell in love with a progressively broader swath of styles as he worked his way north for college.
After a stop at Georgia's Dalton State College and a stint doing radio at Ohio State's Lima campus, Warner settled down in Columbus. He made beats under the name Loop Doctor before pursuing his "first love" by forming the Lab Rats with Brian Brown.
A quick spin through A Way Back Home shows Warner wasn't kidding when he said his whole life was wrapped up in these songs.
"The entire EP is designed to be very positive," he explained, filling in the title track's backstory as he remembered his first trip to the West Coast last year. The experience was invigorating, and upon returning to dreary Ohio weather, he hoped to recapture the sensations of sunny San Francisco.
"There's always something amazing going on that you're not part of," Warner said. "Every once in a while I'll long to go back to the Pacific coast. So I kind of wanted to share that exciting energy."
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