Sara A. Lewis: Welcome to Points South. I’m your host Sara A. Lewis of the Oxford American. Today, we're kicking off a run of bonus episodes, featuring music we recorded earlier this year, pre-COVID, with our friends, Fayetteville Roots Festival. We're all missing the joy of gathering together to listen to live music in person. So we're going to bring the live music to you. We've put together several live recordings and conversations, and over the next few months, we'll be airing these episodes on Points South.
Bryan Hembree: Thank you very much. I'm Bryan Hembree, a musician with Smokey and the Mirror and co-founder of the Fayetteville Roots Festival. I want to introduce my colleague, Sara A. Lewis from Oxford American. Yes, exactly. Um, Oxford American is based in Little Rock, Arkansas. And, uh, tonight is what we call a pan-Arkansas collaboration.
SAL: Yeah, y'all are here for the very first iteration of Points South Live. So we're excited to bring to you this event. We hope that it all goes smoothly.
BH: And Sara mentioned, this is the first Points South Live, but Points South is actually already out there in the intra-webs. You can find it at Oxford American slash Points South, is that right?
BH: And, uh, there's an episode that you can catch, um, where we interview Los Texmaniacs live from the Fayetteville Roots Festival this last year. But tonight, before we get any further, we have a tremendous band from Nashville via the Bay Area. Right. And we can say that. This is Front Country and we want to welcome them here to Points South Live.
Front Country: ["One Kind Word"] Alright. ["If Something Breaks"]
BH: Front Country. That was amazing. Big hand for Front Country, everybody. Two absolutely beautiful songs. But before we start to talk about music, let's introduce the band. Melody Walker, you want to start?
Melody Walker: Sure. Hey, I'm Melody. Uh, I'm the lead singer, songwriter. Nice to meet y'all. It's good to be here.
Adam Roszkiewicz: Yeah. I'm Adam Roszkiewicz. Everyone calls me Roscoe. I feel like this is a safe space, so you could call me that as well, for now.
P.J. George: I'm P.J. George, playing the bass. Nice to meet you all.
Jacob Groopman: I'm Jacob Groopman, I'm playing the guitar and the resophonic guitar and attempting to sing back up vocals.
BH: Now, you're based in Nashville now, but that was not always the case. And in one of your recent bios read that you were a roots traditional band, you know, making your way kind of in, in, uh, you know, the Silicon Valley tech world right? So, you know, do you now imagine yourself as a national band with a little bit of tech? I mean, does it go the other way? What was it like? What, what made the move from the Bay Area to Nashville? How did that happen?
MW: Now, I think you described it perfectly. We don't do tech things. So we had to leave. We couldn't afford to live there anymore. And, um, and Nashville was where all of our friends were moving from various other expensive places to live. And, uh, it's relatively inexpensive compared to say San Francisco, L.A., New York. So some of our musician friends were moving there and it really started to look pretty enticing.
BH: It definitely is. I mean, it seems to be an epicenter of musical creativity, especially East Nashville, right. This idea that there's this community that really is, uh, gathering musicians together. Um, tell, tell me about how that has influenced your music, you know, after the move, and, you know, because I feel like there's definitely a country, uh, flare, right? If you, if you want to talk about roots or traditional side, there's a country flair. Has that been, um, perpetuated since, since you moved to Nashville?
JG: I think so. I think for me a big part of it was there was a lot bands doing a similar thing that we were doing, like this kind of take on acoustic music that's not bluegrass, but not quite Americana. It's just kind of our own version. And a lot of bands are doing, um, kind of their own path within these kinds of instruments in the types of songwriting that's happening. A lot of, a lot of those groups seem to have been moving to Nashville and we felt pulled there, I think, to be a part of that scene.
SAL: Yeah. I think it was interesting listening to the music where you certainly feel the country vibe, but you're not relying on the same tropes of, of work and being on the road. You have a different approach to that. So I would love to hear something about like, what's informing the lyrics and the music to talk about that experience and the struggle without having to engage the pickup truck.
MW: Well that last song was, uh, about fixing it on the road, if something breaks. It did use a road. Um, but pickup trucks, yeah. That's not really my scene. Um, I'm a Bay Area girl. Um, you know, I try to write music that is relevant to my own experience. But you know, I think we've all resonated in this band with country music and roots music, bluegrass music, all of American roots music, um, on some level, for, I think the sort of authenticity of it. And it's hard to say what country music sort of inspires in different people, right? People in the city listen to country music, people in the country listen to country music. So what is it? You know, I can't put my finger on it, but, um, I grew up around bluegrass music. So I think that's kind of how it feels authentic for me. But I've always tried to write from a perspective that I feel like I can really own.
BH: When you say you grew up around country music, were you playing country music or were you listening as a child and then you moved towards playing and writing? Like what was that process for you?
MW: Well, I grew up with a dad who picked bluegrass. Uh, he played mandolin and guitar, but he also played piano and wrote songs of all kinds and exposed me to the Beatles and the Beach Boys and all that good stuff. My mom's more of a Stones girl, really. So I had both sides of my family. That's a really important influence. Um, so yeah, uh, I did grow up around it, but I, I can't say that I actually played that music as a kid. I wasn't like in a family band or anything. I didn't grow up really in the tradition, but I grew up around my dad and his friends jamming bluegrass. A really formative experience for me was going to a festival every year. So my family would go to the Strawberry Music Festival in California, which is a really great eclectic, what I like to call like a "bluegrass and beyond" festival. And those are our favorite ones to play, even still today. So it's kind of like, I'm just really trying to relive my childhood, I guess.
BH: So take us back to that era. Um, when did you transition to being a, a player and a writer and, and, and what were you, what were you kind of connecting to musically then?
MW: I honestly don't know if I would be a songwriter if my dad wasn't a songwriter, you know? How do you get the idea and like the, the chutzpah to, to get out there and think that you could write songs and have people hear them or even want to play them? So I feel extremely lucky that I grew up with that example. And my dad, you know, isn't a professional songwriter. He's, he's a, a working dude, you know? Um, he was a pipe fitter and electrician when I was a kid, a union guy, and now he's in management and way less happy. But, uh, but yeah, he, he still writes songs, you know, and so that's really inspiring to me. And I just saw it as a lifestyle. It's like a thing anyone could do. And I really can't overstate what an impact that had on me to be able to do this.
BH: So if it breaks, you can fix it on the road, right? And that's where that comes from. It's that like yourself?
MW: Actually, ironically, my, my mother owns an autobody shop, so. Walker's Autobody. Um, and she, yeah, she does mostly fleet repair and buses. Um, and, and my aunt is the painter and my uncle was the body guy and yeah, it's a family business of literally fixing cars, so.
BH: That's tremendous. That is, uh, that's why we ask the probing questions. Jacob, what about yourself? How did you come to play music and writing music and thinking about yourself as a musician in that way?
JG: Um, well, I think I started to play guitar because I thought it would be cool and then just really, really connected to classic rock, like, blues and jazz. But it was in college when I started getting really interested in American roots music, um, through bluegrass, through like Bill Monroe, actually through the Grateful Dead and seldom scene. And just went and took a deep dive into, like, where all of American music came from. Then when I moved to the Bay Area after college, I kind of split my time between rock and roll and world music, but, and bluegrass. Cause that that area is such a diverse music scene that I always liked to have to play all sorts of different styles of music. And I think this band allows for that as well. We kinda do probably too many different styles of music.
SAL: I think one of the cool things about being in this space is that we're at the convergence of a bunch of different modes of art. So we're having music in a space that's got visual art, culinary arts going on downstairs. There's a listening room with tons of music. There's a library. And as artists, I'm curious if, beyond the music, there are those touchstones, those visual artists, books, that are informing the work that, that you do here.
AR: Alright. I read books. Um.
BH: Roscoe reads books.
SAL: The Bible and Art of the Deal, right?
AR: “Always be closing,” I think. Is that, that? No? Um, well, yeah, I guess, I don't know. I—thank you for catching me off guard. You know, when we're on the road, we have the opportunity to like, you know, be in so many different places. We'll go to a, we'll go to a museum like an art museum, and we searched this stuff out. And I always feel so, like, this has happened since I was a kid actually, like, I would be in the presence of something that would be, you know, just blowing my mind and it could be, like, I'd be reading something or I'd be, you know, like, looking at some incredible art. And then I'd want to stop and go play music or write something or, just immediately. And sometimes that would happen when I was watching music, which was always, like, I felt very conflicted about because, like, I'd be watching someone who would be blowing my mind and then I'd be, like, "I just want to go home and play." Um, which is something I think we can all relate to as musicians. Um, so yeah, it plays a huge part. It's all connected. You know, we're all part of the same stream of creativity. You know, we're all like, on the, uh, on the same raft together.
BH: I love that.
AR: It's a lifeboat.
SAL: You want to hear some more timeless tunes?
BH: I think let's hear some more timeless tunes. From Front Country.
SAL: Alright, let's do it.
FC: ["Keep Travelin'"]
Melody Walker: Thanks, y'all. Podcast people like to party. This next one's a Woody Guthrie song. We just recorded this one. We're going to come out with it pretty soon.
FC: [Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi"]
MW: Woody knew what was up. We basically had to do that song since we moved from California to Nashville cause it was too expensive. All right. We got just a couple more. It's a podcast. It's short, guys. Has anyone here ever been to a live podcast taping before? Us, either, I guess. It's kind of exciting.
AR: It's like Rocky Horror or something. We have to throw toilet paper at you now.
MW: I don't think that's a podcast.
AR: It's not a podcast?
MW: There probably is a Rocky Horror podcast, though. Uh, yeah. I went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show way too young. Uh, like, a live one, when I was like 12 and um, my aunt and my mom took me and I was terrified. I like really loved the movie, but I was really terrified of, like, being, like, live, with people dressed like the movie. It was too much for me. And they like try to put a "V" on your forehead. Um, cause you're a virgin if it's your first time. And I was like 12, I was like, "I know, but I don't want anyone to know! They're not gonna think I'm cool!" Anyway, so there's a lot there. But um, that, um, the people that were at the door were like, "It's cool, you don't have to get the V. It's fine."
AR: That's nice of them.
MW: And they were really cool. And then I went in and I had a good time, but I was scared at first.
AR: Please, please leave this in.
MW: Yeah. Um, so yeah, we, this is a new song. We're actually doing a Kickstarter right now for our next record. If anybody, if you like to do Kickstarter things, we got one of those. We don't have, like, one really rich friend. So we have to settle for a bunch of broke to slightly-not-broke friends. Um, so this is one of those songs that's going to be on the next record. It's called "The Reckoning."
FC: ["The Reckoning"]
MW: Alright. We're going to play you more songs that are going to be on our next record, coming out sometime, sometime soon. Uh, if people help us make it happen.
Man in crowd: Three more!
MW: Alright. So this is another new one. This one, I want to send this out to all the women in the audience, especially in anyone who loves a woman or a femme person, or somebody, anybody who has an experience that's different from you in your life. And you just have to take them at their word for their life experience. I think that's a really valuable thing to do. And I think it's how we, ultimately, all want to be treated, is to have people just believe us when we tell them what our life experience is. So this is called "I See You."
FC: ["I See You"]
MW: I don't know if this is supposed to be, like, a normal show with talking, but I suppose they can edit it out if they don't like the stuff I say. But, uh, we're just gonna play one more. I think that's all we have time for. And if anybody needs more music and you just haven't had enough, we've got some over there and we have a new thing that is, you know, a Kickstarter thing. Anyway, you should come say hi, anyway. We'd love to meet all of you. And uh, I think it's possible. We could probably meet everyone in this room. It's a pretty small room. So don't be a stranger.
FC: ["Sake of the Sound"].
BH: Alright. Thank you, Front Country. Thank you, Blake Street. Um, on behalf of Oxford American and Fayetteville Roots, thank you all, the audience, for being here and participating in Points South Live.
SAL: This episode was produced by me, Fayetteville Roots, Hannah Saulters, and Christian Leus with Ryan Harris and Eliza Borné. Trey Pollard of Spacebomb does our theme music and sound design. This episode was made possible with support from UAMS, BlakeSt, Spacebomb Group, and Fayetteville Roots. You, too, can support Points South. Use promo code PODCAST for 15% OFF any purchase at OxfordAmericanGoods.org. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with another Points South Live featuring songs and conversation with Dead Horses.