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Exclusive Interview with Roanoke

unnamed (11)Nashville has a strong tradition of music that focuses on relatable real life stories. It’s a city built on this institution. One of the latest acts to take this and run with it is Americana act Roanoke.

With the release of their self-titled album on May 13, the band has done an excellent job of showcasing harmonies and catchy roots-influenced melodies that put them in any conversation about the best Americana/Folk act today.

Roanoke took some time out of their post-release schedule to discuss their self-titled debut.

Releasing an album on Friday the 13th seems… risky. Was there any superstitious side that said maybe bumping it to a different date might be a good idea?

Kyle Breese: When we began working with our publicist, she sent over some possible release dates to shoot for, and when we saw that Friday the 13th was included, we couldn’t pass up that opportunity. Taylor happens to be very superstitious, so it definitely took a bit of convincing to get her on board, but in the end, even she couldn’t resist. I mean really, what’s the worst that could happen?

Living in Nashville, I’ve seen that there is a great deal more than just the country music that everyone associates with the city. There is a scene for almost everything and it’s almost all done well. What effect do you think life in a city with the competitive musical tradition of Nashville has had on the band?

KB: Living in Nashville definitely pushes us to be better, in every aspect. Better musicians, better singers, better songwriters, and honestly, better people. Everyone here is so talented that if you start comparing yourself to others or developing an ego, it’s a losing battle. In Nashville, your Uber driver might also be playing the Opry that night, so it’s very easy to stay humble. We’ve definitely done our best to take in all the talent here, all the while keeping our heads down and trying to be the best version of Roanoke that we can be.

I saw that you had the opportunity to use some historic equipment for the album’s recording. How did that affect the album’s sound?

KB: It was absolutely unreal. Our engineer, Patrick Himes, used to work at Woodland Studios and got the opportunity to work on Ryan Adam’s Heartbreaker record, which is already super cool, but we actually got to use the mic Emmylou Harris used on “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” and that was just about the coolest thing ever. Honestly, it really made everyone step their game up. Same with the Sound Emporium, we knew the magic that had been captured in that room (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Jason Isbell), so we just buckled down, did our best and tried not to seem out of place. I know that Jordan would sound much different had we not tracked it live in that room.

The song “Jordan” was inspired in part by an Alison Krauss performance. Aside from Krauss, who were the biggest influences on Roanoke or on the band in general?

KB: Man, so many. I would say the biggest influences were Jason Isbell, Trampled By Turtles, and The Civil Wars. They all heavily influenced the overall sound and lyrical style that you hear on the record. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours also had a huge influence on us. Every song on that record is a smash, yet they’re all incredibly honest and complex. I think they really found the perfect ratio of commercial viability and artistic integrity, and that is something that definitely had a profound influence on us.

With Roanoke being your debut album, was there a part of the recording process that you were unprepared for?

Joey Beesley: Absolutely, not only have we never recorded an album together, most of us had never recorded analog. Recording straight to tape was such an incredible experience that really taught us so much about ourselves as a band and as individual musicians.

We had been listening to Trampled by Turtles pretty heavily at the time and had heard that they would record live as a band… so, of course, we thought “If a heavily seasoned, international touring act can do it… so can we.” We spent the first day learning just how difficult it is to pull that off. We all had a lot more experience in a live setting at the time so it took us a bit to get to know ourselves in the studio, but once we found the right bpm’s and learned what mic worked best on what, things really started to take off. We began to really dig in creatively and get to know Roanoke as not just a musical outfit but a team.

I was also completely unprepared for the comradery that this album brought. So many amazing friends came together to help us create something great and that in itself was very touching. By the end of the recording process, we had grown to the point of tracking live as a full band while recording “Jordan” at Sound Emporium.

The album seems to be loaded with sincere emotion. Tracks like “Heavy Goodbyes” and “Without You” do a great job, in my opinion, of showing the emotions that are involved in relationships without over-sentimentalizing or romanticizing them. What is it that leads towards honesty in songs like this?

JB: First off, Thank you so much that means a lot.

Honestly, it’s a direct connection with how you are actually feeling at the time rather than imagining or embellishing on an idea of how someone might be feeling in a romantic situation. Don’t get me wrong you can really get a lot of great lyrical ideas by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but I’ve always been one to draw from personal emotions. This also came about so organically because we didn’t start writing these songs with an album in mind, I was just writing songs for a girl that I liked and vice versa. I’m also a big fan of conversation writers like Jason Isbell and Willie Nelson so drawing inspiration from them probably helps I guess.

What would you say is the main message of Roanoke?

JB: If this was the only Americana album I had ever heard, I would hope the message received would be “There is still a place in this world for good honest music that comes from the heart.”

What’s next for Roanoke?

JB: Well, having just released an album and a music video our next step is to continue bringing this album to any and every person kind enough to listen. We’re all songwriters so there will be no shortage of songs in the future but our immediate attention is on a summer tour. We’ll be kicking our first summer leg with an iHeartRadio performance on The Chris Top Show (WOBA) which will be live from Downtown Nashville during CMA Fest. (June 10th) Then off to Michigan, Iowa, and a festival in Wisconsin. In July, we’ll be in Rhode Island at another festival and so far in August, we’ll be in New Jersey, New York City, Boston, and Hog Jam in Ohio. After all of that, we’ll continue working hard and playing as many dates around the country that we can.

 

Roanoke is available now.

Written by Nathan Badley

When Nathan is not writing about music, he might be writing material for his often neglected blog at nathanbadley.com. Or he might be writing something else. Or podcasting. Or playing music. Most likely he is just watching TV thinking about how he should be doing those things. You can tweet him @badlandsbadley and congratulate him on his mad 3rd person writing skills.

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