Named a top 100 SXSW Artist by NPR Music, Twin Cities based Collapsing Stars have been steadily making a name for themselves throughout the American west. Blending folk, blues and Americana sounds with beautifully interlaced cello and vocal harmonies, comparisons range from Iron & Wine and the Lumineers, to the Black Keys and Ben Harper. In the last few years they've earned producer credits on a record for Rhymesayers Entertainment, played a showcase at the renowned Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles and performed for over 120K people at Red Bull Crashed Ice. Their debut record titled '2012' has received noteworthy accolades including praise from Dan Wilson, the Semisonic frontman who has co-written songs for the Dixie Chicks, John Legend, Weezer, and Adele's 2011 hit Someone Like You. In 2018 they were named a top 100 SXSW artist by NPR Music out of 2000 showcasing acts. In response to pandemic related touring restrictions, venue closures and cancellations in 2020 and 2021, the group launched a new web series titled Forest Folk Sessions. Intimate acoustic performances in a breathtaking natural setting. They were an official SXSW artist in 2022 and their sophomore album titled "Chapter" is set for release this fall.
5 years ago Collapsing Stars frontman Justin Wayne Nelson quit his job, sold his very practical Honda Civic, bought a mini van and started touring the country with drummer Mike Langhoff. After 10 years of working a dead-end job, which Nelson refers to as his "lost decade," it was time for a change.
In the years that followed, he earned producer credits on a record for Rhymesayers Entertainment, performed with Mike at the renowned Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, and in 2016 played for over 120K people at Red Bull Crashed Ice (in a fake fur coat while fireworks shot out of his guitar). His Alt Folk group Collapsing Stars was selected as an official SXSW artist in 2018, and named a top 100 act to watch at SX by NPR Music.
In July of 2017 Nelson’s cell phone buzzed at 3am. He rolled over in bed, his eyes still half shut. There was a new message from Dan Wilson. “The record sounds really good, and I love the artwork too.” “I wasn’t sure if I was awake or still dreaming, said Nelson. One of the most highly sought after songwriters in the world said that he liked some music that I wrote, which is extremely high praise coming from such an authoritative source.” The list of Wilson’s song writing credits is extensive. In addition to co-writing Adele’s Someone Like You, Wilson has written songs for Taylor Swift, Weezer, John Legend, and The Dixie Chicks, just to name a few.
2012 Collapsing Stars’ debut record 2012 is the culmination of an artistic process that took roughly four years, a process that at times wasn’t always smooth. “For the first time in my life, I was experiencing some sort of creative block while trying to compose lyrics,” said Nelson. “I thought that in time it would pass, but after close to a year without any tangible progress on our record, I knew that I needed help.” Nelson decided to reach out to national recording artist Jeremy Messersmith. “Jeremy is extraordinarily accomplished in his own right, but what people might not know is that he’s a Dan Wilson disciple. So I was the beneficiary of the wisdom and experience of two incredible songwriters. He walked me through his creative process and showed me some word exercises that helped break me out of my artistic paralysis. And a lot of the methodology he was passing along to me was stuff that he learned from Dan when he produced Jeremy’s second record, The Silver City.”
Nelson wrote the first verse of the title track “2012” on December 20th, 2012. It was the eve of the highly publicized (and widely misinterpreted) “Mayan Apocalypse,” the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mayan calendar. “It seems like every year, some fanatical group is predicting the end of the world, and I approached this prediction with the same indifference as all the others. But it piqued my curiosity so I decided to write a song about it. The first half of the song is in keeping with the doomsday theme, and I wrote it on the night of the 20th. I woke up the next morning, still breathing. No fire and brimstone. No horsemen. Everything was fine. Here I was, left with half a song to write and I wasn’t exactly sure how to finish it. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that everything isn’t fine. There was no cataclysmic event that brought the world to an end that day, but you can’t turn on the tv or pick up a newspaper without being reminded of the countless existential threats that humanity faces. And there’s a feeling of helplessness as you watch social, political, and environmental stability erode. These themes inspired the material for the rest of the song, along with several others forming the body of work called 2012.”
“My music career may have peaked last spring. I got to perform for 120K people in a fake fur coat while fireworks shot out of my guitar. How will I ever top that?" - Justin Wayne Nelson
"Collapsing Stars' languid folk songs are punctuated by forceful stabs of bluesy guitar — and, in the case of "The Storm," a few appropriate nature sounds. The effect can be whispery and beautiful, but the band's music maintains a welcome undercurrent of reflection, doubt and even dread." - Stephen Thompson, NPR Music
"Unassuming but confidently made, this soothing blend of folk and Americana is a tonic for the soul." - Helen Jones, Americana UK
"Justin Wayne Nelson of Collapsing Stars was stuck in what he calls “artistic paralysis.” After going for over a year without writing any new lyrics, he reached out to local music everyman Jeremy Messersmith. Messersmith’s guidance was enough to uncork Nelson’s creativity, and the resulting record, 2012, was released on August 1. The title track to that record struggles with 2012’s much-ballyhooed “Mayan Apocalypse” and the anxiety it begat. In the video for the song, Nelson jousts with his impending doom as Biblical lithographs flash across the screen. Ultimately, he's undeterred and even empowered by surviving the prophesied end--and he emerges with a full songbook to share." - Jerard Fagerberg, City Pages
"Quality, thoughtful musicianship is apparent on Collapsing Stars’ first album, “2012” released last year. Predominately understated folk with bluesy elements, the album does have some range. “The Storm” begins with a patient guitar solo leading into melancholy vocals. In a nice touch, you can hear the sound of rain and wind. The title song, “2012” is a bit ‘strummier,’ while “Kings & Queens” evokes the Low Anthem with its plaintive yet inviting melody. Because some of the songs are a bit delicate, an intimate church setting might seem like the best venue to hear this group. On other hand, “Deep in Your Eyes” is a genuine blues numbers and “Relapse” veers towards raucous, so a live show could have some kick, especially if they bring enough musicians to create a full band sound." - David Zlotnick, OEB
"Having drawn comparisons to the likes of Ben Harper, The Lumineers, and Father John Misty, the Americana group Collapsing Stars are well on their way to achieving the success seen by those who they’ve drawn influence from. With their debut record, 2012, gaining praise from songwriters such as Dan Wilson, who has written for the Dixie Chicks, Weezer, and Adele, Collapsing Stars are filled with boundless musical talent and an undying eagerness to perform some of the best music in the genre today." - Tyler Jenke, The Brag (AU)