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Comfort, confidence: The Mastersons take a different approach with new album

Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore know what it’s like to be in the background.

As members of Steve Earle’s The Dukes, the husband-wife duo were asked by Earle to come to the forefront and open his shows back in 2010.

“Steve said, ‘You’d better have a record ready, because I’m going to feature you guys during the show,’ ” Whitmore says in a recent phone interview. “We didn’t even have a band name at the time. We were going through all these ideas, and Steve suggested, ‘Why don’t you just be The Mastersons?’ and that was that.”

Seven years later, The Mastersons are still opening for Earle.

They are still part of The Dukes.

And they’ve added their own headlining dates as The Mastersons and recently released the album “Transient Lullaby.”

With endless touring came new levels of comfort and confidence, and when it was time to record “Transient Lullaby,” The Mastersons knew they wanted to take a different approach from that of their first two releases.

The band set up shop at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas, where Masterson shared production duties with longtime friend and collaborator George Reiff. Together, they chased a sound that was subtler and more evocative, deeper and more contemplative.

“We’ve had a lot of time and a lot of miles to refine our sound and our style of singing,” says Whitmore, whose résumé includes work with Regina Spektor and Angus & Julia Stone. “I think the depth of our songwriting has really grown, too. Part of the time, we’re writing on a tour bus with Steve Earle, and the bar for poetry is pretty high when you’re within earshot of one of the greatest songwriters alive.”

Whitmore says the recording of the album took a few weeks.

“We don’t usually take too much time in the studio,” she says. “We like to capture lightning in a bottle, not beat it to death with too many takes.”

Spending all their time together, Whitmore says, the pair are very disciplined when it comes to writing music.

They write together – and separately.

“Since we’re touring together all the time, it may seem like it’s impossible to write a song without each other,” she says. “On the new record, we co-wrote together. We even got to work with Steve Poltz. I’ll admit that because we are together so much, sometimes you have to take a break.”

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