Thursday night’s all right for folk rockin’! Or something like that. Nashville’s Forlorn Strangers are coming to The Blue Side and we can’t think of a better way to spend the second-to-last-day of the workweek. We recently caught up with the band to talk about how they got together, what it was like recording at John Prine’s studio, The Butcher Shoppe, and what they believe is the greatest song ever written. The fun starts at 8 p.m., friends. Don’t be square. Be there.
Let’s start with some history of the band. How did you get together? How did the band form and how long have you been at it?
Ben, Hannah and Chris were a part of a writer’s group in South Florida. They started getting together to play their songs for each other before realizing they should turn this into a band. They then moved to central Texas to work and live on a farm for several months before finally moving to Nashville a few years ago. Abigail was added shortly thereafter to help make the first EP, “While The Grass Grows.” Jesse recorded, produced and mixed the record in his house in East Nashville and officially joined the band that next summer. So the band has been together, officially, since the summer of 2014.
Did you guys have any goals when dreaming up the band – perhaps stylistically or otherwise?
We definitely wanted to keep the band as “wooden” (acoustic) as possible and make harmonized vocals a center point of what we were doing. This was because we were inspired by folk bands like Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Laurel Canyon bands of the ’60s (Crosby, Stills and Nash; The Byrds).
What are some of your favorite memories as a band? Conversely, can you talk a little about some of the hardships you guys have a experienced through the years and what advice you’d give to someone looking to start a band for the first time?
The road can be really tough. You’re away from family and friends for long stretches at a time, and you’re not eating and sleeping very well. We’ve had shows cancelled at the last minute and played to many empty rooms. The thing that puts those issues completely out of mind is the people we meet. We’ve been all over the country and have met so many wonderful people who have come to shows, bought records and even opened their homes to us. The best advice we can give to new bands is to stick with it. It’s a lot of hard work, but it is also the most rewarding thing we have ever done.
I read that your debut LP was recorded at John Prine’s studio – what was that experience like? Was it intimidating or inspiring or both? How so?
The Butcher Shoppe! Such a cool place. We definitely were intimidated by the history of the place. Everyone from U2 to Johnny Cash to Sturgill Simpson has had music made there. At a certain point, though, we just had to roll up our sleeves and make a record. There were certain moments that really got to us – seeing handwritten notes from Johnny Cash on the walls, a Grammy sitting on the mixing board, and John Prine liking one of our Facebook posts made us feel like we were in the right place. We felt like we were just contributing our little piece to the greater whole of that studio.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
Our two biggest bands that keep us going are The Band and Fleetwood Mac. The Band just has this communal vibe that we really responded to. Good mountain music made by good people. We’ve definitely had many a party end in everyone breaking out the guitars and singing “The Weight” and “Ophelia!” Fleetwood Mac made the best music under the worst circumstances. Their harmonies are like a manual of sorts for us. We always talk about wanting to make our “Rumours” one day.
Can you give us names of some artists we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
As a band, it seems like we’re always listening to the Beatles. But East Nashville just has the best artists around these days. We love Smooth Hound Smith, Devon Gilfillian, Carl Anderson, Erin Rae, Molly Parden, Cordovas – man, we could go on forever!
Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
Ahh, this is always tough. We love Wyoming. We played in Laramie last summer and just went back; it was a amazing. Not only are the folks kind, but the state of Wyoming is absolutely gorgeous. We camped in the Tetons and Yellowstone between gigs. We love Charleston South Carolina, too. Our gigs are always positive and once again, the people are so good to us. We feel like we’ve made a little family there.
What does the rest of 2016 look like for Forlorn Strangers from here on out? Even more new music? Shows?
Our release tour goes until mid November, with a few dates to follow in December. Our main goal is to finally settle back down in Nashville. We would love to pull all of our things out of storage and actually have a home again where we can be creative together. There is talk of a kids record. We’ll see.
What do you think is the most perfect song ever written and why?
Wow. Well, it’s hard to choose only one, but the first song that comes to mind for us as a whole band is “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby Stills and Nash. The songwriting, instrumental skill, melody, and lyrics just don’t get much better in one singular piece of modern music. At least for this band and and where we’re headed, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is paramount.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at The Blue Side?
The Blue Side is always a great time! We will take you from slow, heart wrenching ballads to upbeat, foot stomping tunes that you won’t be able to sit down for. As a band of five writers and singers, our music is a mix of all genres that blend into one unique sound. You won’t be disappointed.