Soon-to-be husband and wife Hannah Lomas and Jamie Rowen make up Stray Local, a music duo that creates a blend of indie-folk-pop punctuated by rich vocal harmonies, catchy guitar riffs, and well-crafted melodies.
I got the chance to talk with Hannah about how she and Jamie first met, what the music scene is like in Wilmington, their songwriting process for their new single “Earthquake Love”, their love of running and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit first about how you and Jamie met.
Jamie and I met because we both attended UNC Greensboro for music school. We met at the first orientation right after graduating high school. So we both signed up for the first orientation and since we were both music majors, we were in the same little class.
What made you guys, though, want to start playing music together?
We’re both studying classical music. But at Greensboro, there is this program called the Old Time Ensemble, which is a traditional North Carolina Appalachian music class, so we both signed up for that class. Jamie already played guitar and was studying classical guitar, but I just was studying voice. So when we both signed up for the class, I needed help learning an instrument and he needed some help with singing, so we would meet outside the class and and give each other tips.
So when you guys decided to officially become a duo and start pursuing music professionally, what inspired the duo name Stray Local?
That’s a good question. To be honest, Jamie had written a jazz tune in college that he titled “Stray Local” and when we were going through possible band names, it just came up and we liked the sound of it. But since then, it just seems like it makes more and more sense as a name for us. We like how it gives this feeling of you can explore in your own culture and learn so much, but also explore outside of your culture and still be able to be a part of it like your local to it. With the way that technology is, you can really cement yourself in any kind of music or any kind of experience.
That’s so cool. So something I’m always curious about is what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound is generally classified as like indie-folk-pop. But if you guys had to describe you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe the music that you guys create?
That’s a good question. And characterizing even with the indie-folk-pop, it’s hard to really get across the sound. I think we’re still experimenting so much that I don’t know. It’s really hard.
That’s fine. But kind of going off of that, who are some of your musical influences as a duo?
Right now, we really love Bahamas and Local Natives and Sylvan Esso and Feist. There’s so many and not that we sound like any of them directly, but we love their vibes so much.
Individually, are your personal music tastes similar or are they pretty different?
They’ve come to be more similar but I think we both have completely different musical backgrounds, so that kind of helps us come from a different perspective. Jamie being a guitarist, and primarily acoustic when we started, that brings a different flavor. I like the pop flavor things a little bit more than he does; he likes the folk flavors a little bit more. So then when we come together, depending on who wrote the song, it has that different edge to it.
Gotcha. And so you guys are based in Wilmington, right?
What’s the music scene like there? Because I know there’s obviously a pretty robust television industry scene…
It’s been growing so much in the past five to 10 years and it’s really a great thing. Of course we have the tourist industry, so there are plenty of cover bands and that kind of thing. But the original music scene is really thriving, considering how small our town is. There are a lot of folk-flavored bands, but all across the board, I mean there’s some rock bands and really any style is represented.
That’s awesome. So your new single is called “Earthquake Love”. What’s the story behind that song? What inspired it?
It really is kind of our own story, I mean poetically I guess, represented. Jamie and I did not start as a couple. We started as band mates and friends. For the longest time, I was kind of in denial and I didn’t want to start a relationship. But it kind of hits you when you’re not expecting it and you don’t know what to do with that sometimes. It can hit you hard. Basically, it’s “Earthquake Love” is like love might not be on your mind and you don’t really need the distraction right then or whatever it may be, but if it hits you and its right, there’s nothing you can really about it. So “Earthquake Love” is being hit with that love and feeling like your blood is rushing through your body and you’ve got the adrenaline and your heart is pounding and everything feels like it’s shaking and crumbling underneath you. That kind of thing.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I’m curious what was it like for this song specifically? Did it come pretty easily when you started writing it or was it something that took you guys a long time and you to keep coming back to it?
Yeah, sometimes it seems like you have to keep on revisiting and keep on laboring over a song. This one seemed to come pretty organically. I can’t even remember what came first, the music or the lyrics… We had the guitar hitch and we decided to try a new way to write a song and just to be really simple. So in this song, it’s like a C chord basically the whole time. I mean there are some differences, but we’re like, “Let’s just not try to write a lot of crazy changes and be too complicated with it.” It was something simple that vibes, that has a repetitive nature and just mix it up in that foundation. We had that cool guitar line that Jamie came up with and we just ran from there.
With the lyrics, it’s funny. We had the chorus instantly, that wasn’t very hard. And we had the groundwork for some verses and we weren’t quite sold on some of the lines. So Jamie I went on a walk around the neighborhood and brainstormed lyrics, and by the time we circled back around to our house, we finished the lyrics.
So speaking of songwriting, do you guys tend to write solely by yourselves as a duo or do you guys like collaborating with other writers and artists in co-writes?
So far we’ve only written as the duo, but we would be interested doing some collaboration in the future.
Gotcha. So you guys mentioned that you were having a hard time coming up with the lyrics and you just talked about the walk around your neighborhood, but once you guys got into the recording studio, were there any major changes made to “Earthquake Love” that happened, whether it be something in the lyrics or something sonically or was it pretty much the way you guys wrote it?
Before we went to record the official track, we had already done a pretty extensive demo in our house. We already worked out and experimented with some of the different sounds we wanted that weren’t possible as a duo playing live. So we already come up with a lot of those sounds, but one thing that was added that we love is that Sean Thomas Gerard, our producer, added these really cool keyboard jingles basically in the bridge, near the end of the breakdown section. It just lightens the whole mood. So we really loved that. That’s honestly the only major difference; it’s not really major, but [it’s the] only real difference from our vision before in the demo to afterwards.
That’s cool. You guys are still relatively new to the music game, so what are some music industry related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach as Stray Local in the next couple of years?
Just like any band, we want to just keep on moving up to the next level. So right now we’re playing regionally and [in] smaller venues. We’d love to take that step up and travel across the country and play larger venues, maybe play some festivals. That’d be great. “Earthquake Love” is our first official music video where we feel like we have an artistic expression on top of just the music. So we’d love to keep on combining those different arts. And music[-wise], just continue to put out good quality music.
Speaking of the music video, was that the first time you guys really made an official music video?
Yes. Our previous videos are all live performance videos, some of them are in studios but they’re all performance videos. Whereas [with] this one, we worked with some talented local choreographers, who they themselves are husband and wife team, so we knew their chemistry is great. They dance in the video and then we worked with a great videographer, Michael Austin Daniel, who had some really cool ideas. So opposed to just setting up and playing live, we were playing back with the track and throwing some cool production into it.
Awesome. So last question — our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd. So what is something that you guys are currently nerding out about?
We are super nerds about running. We race, we train, we run. We go to run clubs all across the state and and run with clubs and play music. But we’re really love the tech that goes with it, so smartwatches, the Garmin, the tech socks and shirts and all that stuff. We’ve actually just come out with our own running clothes that we sell at shows that we designed and learned how to screen print. It’s been really fun to nerd out about running.
That’s so cool. Have you guys gotten up to a marathon or not yet?
Yes, I’ve run two marathons, most recently last year. But it might be a while before I do that again. That hurts.