I've known Laura Blackley for many years now. I had
the pleasure of playing music with her in Trespassers Will for a
few years and have kept in contact with her ever since.
After a recent jaunt through my town, I caught up with her and
asked her a few questions. I thought it might be
interesting to share them with you all.
The Laura Blackley Band is almost constantly playing
somewhere, I think they play upwards of 200 shows a year and
they do it in a variety of venues and states. They've just
released their second CD and it's great.
What instruments do you play and how long have you been playing
I play acoustic guitar and vocals. I've played piano in
the past- really though I consider myself a songwriter more than
What bands are you in or have you been in?
Currently I'm the front person for the Laura Blackley
Band. I have done solo acoustic projects and been in bands
too, like Trespassers Will and Thursday's Child.
How would you describe the local music scene in Asheville,
Asheville's music scene is like no other- very supportive and
encouraging of it's local acts- I love being a part of it.
Since this is a college town, our music scene is different from other places' music scene, we seem to have a music fanbase constantly in the 18-30 age group.
Does that fact have any effect on your setlists or performance
ideas when you pass through here?
No, our stuff lends itself pretty heavily towards
country/delta blues influences, which seem to appeal more to an
older crowd and less to college kids (But some college kids
really like us too!) We've had some success in reaching
audiences in Blacksburg- it's a really cool place to play.
I know from reading your newsletters and schedules
that you book different configurations of your band. Some is just you, some is you and Julie, some is the full band. How do you decide what to book and do you book it all as The Laura Blackley
No, We've actually got a Laura Blackley Duo, a Laura Blackley
Solo, a Laura Blackley Trio as well as the Laura Blackley Band
these days- I suppose it's formulaic, but I think that's
one of the pitfalls of naming your band after one of it's
members......You want people to come to your shows, so you've
got to use the band's name recognition, but then you can't call
yourself anything else.
By the way, who is in the band now? You on guitar and vocal, Julie on drum and vocal, Tony Harp on bass, who else? I think at one time you had a pretty well known fiddle player? and some awesome electric guitar players too. What's the official band configuration?
Wellll- I'm still writing and singing and playing guitar;
Julie on vocals and drums; Tony Harp on bass; Mars Fariss on
dobro, electric and acoustic guitars and vocals.
Let me just say, Julie TOTALLY get's the job done on drums
and vocals too! Awesome drumming and wonderful harmony
vocals. I was pretty much blown away when I saw you all
play last time.
What is your favorite kind of music to play?
Anything by anyone with the last name Williams, original
stuff influenced by roots music, anything with a
"twang" and just a little touch of funk...
A lot of indie bands have their own cds now. how do you think that effects the greater music scene?
I think that adds an element of diversity that the major
labels are sweating fairly heavily right now...I feel like the
majors have produced and marketed the soul right out of most
major label releases these days (all in pursuit of the almighty
dollar, which I guess is another topic)- therefore the only
place to find that soul and freshness is in smaller indie label
or completely indie releases. That's been my experience
Has the internet music scene with it's large number of OMD's had any effect on your band? Are you on any OMD's or do you have music on your own band website?
Yes, we're on MP3.COM,
and we have streaming audio on our own
If you could talk to David Byrne about rare African Art or to David Lee Roth about drinking beer, which would you choose and
Honestly- Hell I guess I would talk to David Lee about the
beer, but I feel like he's kind of an asshole, so I'd probably
try to exit the conversation pretty quick (I chose this because
I really don't know much about rare African art, so I probably
wouldn't have much to add to the conversation with David Byrne,
and we'd probably end up talking about his music.....
You play a lot of dates, I'm sure after a while some of
them stand out and some don't. Tell me about the most fun gig you've
Our CD release show this past May at the Grey Eagle in
Asheville- I love playing hometown shows. We had a bunch
of friends and supporters come out for the event, we got great
coverage from the local press, and I felt like we were really
tight and enjoyed the hell out of just playing together and the
energy of the show itself......it definitely made all the
schlepping around from city to city for not much money worth it
Everyone's got a gig nightmare story too, tell me yours.
Probably the time the goat stood on Mark David's guitar
case, chewed through his power cable, and the band got
threatened by the goat's owner to "Let 'im do whatever he
wants or I'll start shootin'!" (Remember that one?)
Yes I remember that one, I tell that story a lot too.
That was when we were all in Trespassers Will and were playing
at a field party in Ellet Valley. Shelia or Layla that goat was called as I remember.
It was sort of a good time all in all but I'll never forget that
For ME, the most fun was always playing those field parties because I always thought the people there were fun and
attentive and were there to have fun and hear the music.
Seems like our biggest fans and crowds were always at those
field parties. Maybe those were the precurser for the festivals you're doing now? Would you like to mention some of the festivals you've played at and how you got booked in them?
Mostly as the booking agent for the group it's my job to
research festivals and clubs on the internet, try to make
contact with them, and see if they are interested in booking our
act (yes, I've missed those field parties too...)- I feel like I
could be more aggressive and "in-your-face" on the
phone while I'm booking potential shows, but I think that's
really hard to do when you represent/book/manage yourself.
But yes, (sorry for the tangent) I definitely love the
atmosphere of the field party/festival so I look for that stuff
when I'm doing our bookings for the warmer seasons.
Photo by: Tamara Fravel
What's your impression of the public's perception of indie music, and your impression of the band scene in general all over?
Unfortunately enough, I think the public buys into
(unconsciously) the Big Fat Industry Lie that the people they
hear on the radio have somehow worked harder, or been blessed at
birth with superhuman amounts of talent (Britney Spears????
PUHHHLEAZE!!) to get them where they are today. I don't
think the general public really seems to care much that the
radio airwaves are pretty much polluted with whatever big,
corporate, moneyed interests have the most
"payola". I am so disgusted with the lack of
creativity and originality in today's vast wastelands of radio
(thanks to this are due largely to Senator John McCain for
auctioning off airwaves to the highest bidder back in the early
90's and of course to Clear Channel, the proud owner of roughly
60-80 percent of most radio markets in most major cities), and I
feel that it is unfortunate, because most people are still
heavily influenced by radio, which means fewer people go out to
see live music locally, in small clubs where that originality
still exists unless a band has a huge, rich publicity machine
behind them they have a tougher time getting people familiarized
with what they do.
Speaking of radio, your albums are getting a lot of airplay (and rightly so!), is it NPR, college or commercial radio that you're on?
The only commercial radio airplay we've gotten has been where
we've done stuff locally (like benefits or outdoor events) and
we've gotten to be on "Morning Drive" shows as a
result, or to promote the show. Mostly the radio formats
that I approach when I'm sending out CDs are Triple A (Adult
Album Alternative), Americana, College/NPR, Women's Shows, and
some blues formats. We've had some luck, but it's
been a real grassroots approach. (We found a friend at
WUVT in Blacksburg and I've been pitching this idea to him to
try to get the station to sponsor an Americana showcase or
something like that at Baylee's (a local Blacksburg bar) but I
don't know if it will happen or not, but he seems to like us and
Do you have any radio station type preference?
I really like the Americana stations, but there aren't too
many of those.
Now that I've already asked you about your CDs radio play, Do you have a band CD and if so, where do you sell it?
Yes, we have two. The first is a 5 song EP (Intentions
of Mine), self produced at UNC-Asheville Recording Studios; the
second (When a Woman) was also produced locally by Chris Rosser
at Hollow Reed Arts Studio. We sell most of our
merchandise at live shows (and we average about 200 shows per
year), but we also try to retail them with small, mostly
independent music stores (ie. Record Exchange). Online the
CD is available at CDBaby.com and CDStreet.com. Or call
ISG Records as
When I listen to music, I generally listen to the words first, but later I find myself absentmindedly humming what the bass player was playing. How about you, what do you listen to first in a song, and which part sticks with you in the long run?
Definitely the lyrics- and if they're great lyrics, that's
usually what sticks in my head (Like right now I've been hung up
on Patty Griffin- she's an amazing artist and songwriter, and I
love the way she puts the words together, her imagery, her
What about the dayjob?
My day job for the past year and a half has been booking
agent/promoter/marketer for the Laura Blackley Band- it has
meant eating a lot of ramen and beans and rice, and making
sacrifices, but I'm happy to be doing it. That I'll know
how things on the business end should be run should there ever
come a time that I can give some of that stuff up...