The Vespers are one of those lucky young bands that have built an extensive underground following simply through word of mouth and heavy touring. The band is uniquely made up of two sibling duos; the Cryar sisters, and the Jones brothers. The four have distinguished their sound with an arsenal of acoustic instruments and harmonies only siblings can create. Their showmanship generates a roller coaster of sight, sound, and emotion and their inherent chemistry and instrumental versatility continues to set them apart.
The band has independently released two full-length records and left a reputable impression on both Americana and Christian audiences. They have toured over 30 states in their short 3 years, playing all different environments from colleges and festivals to listening rooms and theaters. The Vespers will make their first venture to the west coast this fall.
Callie Cryar - Vocals and assorted instruments
Phoebe Cryar - Vocals and assorted instruments
Bruno Jones - Upright Bass and assorted instruments
Taylor Jones - Percussion and Mandolin
That line of advice tends to get stated with a lot more frequency than it’s actually followed. In Gabriel Kelley’s case, though, it’s something he’s never needed to think about: It’s the way he’s always done things.
The talented 27-year-old raised most of the funds for his debut album with a Kickstarter campaign, but his manner of conducting his life and music runs deeper. The saga of how IT DON’T COME EASY came to be is one of steadfast determination and self-sufficiency and a commitment to doing the right thing—often against challenging odds. And, as Kelley himself notes, there’s a corollary: Even when the creative process isn’t a walk in the park, it’s worth the effort when the work is honest.
And it is. IT DON’T COME EASY is an uncompromising and heartfelt debut that, if it requires a category, would fit comfortably under “singer-songwriter.” In the best sense of that tradition, it doesn’t trifle with extraneous anythings: no wasted lines or unnecessary instrumental flourishes, just a communal effort from Kelley and his fellow musicians to, as he puts it, “serve the songs.”
The album was a long time coming—Kelley reckons “I waited six years to make my first album”—largely because its ten songs express a pretty expansive range of life experience. That includes a rural, working-class boyhood in Georgia, a total immersion living-abroad adolescence and an early adulthood spent—and subsequently walked away from—as a professional songwriter on Nashville’s Music Row.
“The first music I remember,” says the affable Kelley, “is what my folks played at home: Neil Young, John Prine, Cat Stevens, even early Santana and Leon Russell. I soaked all that up. And my folks were members of a community about 20 miles north of Athens, where people played old-time, pre-bluegrass music. I learned to play guitar at these pickings, in a big circle around a fire.” (The man who taught Kelley to play, Pat Shields, wrote the powerful lament “These Old Green Hills” on IT DON’T COME EASY.)
“I literally grew up in a log cabin,” says Kelley, who chopped wood to keep the house warm in winter. “We lived off the land, raised our own food, my folks were vegetarians. Man, I didn’t taste refined sugar till I was like 13 or 14.” He also recalls performing at open-mic nights in Athens, palling around with the Widespread Panic crew and attending a rural school that taught “the poorest white kids and the poorest black kids in Madison County.”
At 16, Kelley got the chance to study in Sweden. “It was straight-up immersion,” he says, in the language and culture of a strange land, which didn’t come easy: “There was a lot of solitude and isolation.” There was also an inspiring music teacher, in whose class Kelley’s future path became clear: “I thought, ’OK, this is it. Music’s what I’m gonna do with my life.’” Returning to Georgia, Kelley completed his senior year, then did a few months at the University of Georgia before lighting out, once again, on his own.
He bought a Chevy Astro van, built a bed frame in the back and took off across the country, trading his music for a place to stay (“If I had money to get to the next town, I’d put it in the gas tank; if I didn’t, I’d stay in the town until I did”). After two years of vagabonding, he returned to Athens and formed a band. Kelley’s material got around, and before long he was signed as a staff writer for a Nashville country music publishing company.
That opportunity, which might have appeared golden to other young musicians, didn’t suit Kelley’s style. “Nashville was kinda like cowboy hats and belt buckles, and I was more the long-haired granola kid,” he says. “The routine was ’OK, it’s 10:30: Let’s grab some coffee and go into a room with somebody I’ve never met and write a song.’” The experience, though, pointed directly toward IT DON’T COME EASY.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep at night,” says Kelley. “If I had to write a song called ’Trick My Tractor’ that’s an R&B/country mash-up because that’s the demographic that’s happening now, I was gonna kill myself. I would come off a session, go home and write another song on my own, just to feel good about myself.” Kelley finally decided to chuck it all. He walked out of the publishing gig and traveled to Guatemala, where he helped raise funds and created a music education program for orphans, before returning to the States. In short order, he traded his suburban digs for a 1977 Dodge Mobile Traveler RV (“It had the orange shag and wood paneling everywhere, man!”) and sat down to write. “Once I left publishing,” he explains, “my life went from comfort in the physical and material to just bare-bones. My food and nourishment became what I was creating in this music. In a way, I’d jumped off a cliff; my overhead for a month was probably 50 bucks, but it bought me freedom.”
Woodshedding, Kelley began, as he says, “digging in”: writing, refining and shaping songs from the considerable experience he’d amassed in his 20-something years. And, miraculously, the musicians who would help him put it all into the grooves came forward, three generations of them. They include engineer/producer Neal Cappellino, whose credits include a Grammy® for engineering on Alison Krauss’ 2011 album Paper Airplane and work with Joan Osborne and Del McCoury; legendary Memphis picker Reggie Young (Elvis, Dusty Springfield); background vocalist Bekka Bramlett (Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac); Brad Pemberton (The Cardinals, Brendan Benson); Jon Graboff (The Cardinals, Noel Gallagher); Dave Jacques (John Prine, Emmylou Harris) and fellow recording artist Gabe Dixon (Paul McCartney, Supertramp). Kelley supplies guitar and harmonica.
“We tracked all the songs in about four or five days,” recalls Kelley, “all together in a room. At most, we did five takes of a song, sometimes two.” Over the next several months, he and Cappellino brought in select musicians to add strings and various other instrumentation to augment and support the basic tracks captured live in the studio on such cuts as “How Come,” the stark ballad “When Is Enough,” the genuinely funky “Only Thing to Do” and the slightly Van Morrison-ish “Faith.”
IT DON’T COME EASY has now arrived, and it’s an authentic representation—and the logical culmination—of what Gabriel Kelley set out to do, on his own terms. Its organic feel proceeds directly from the autobiographical nature of the songs that comprise it and from Kelley and Cappellino’s observation that “There’s no point in writing or recording unless you mean what you’re saying.” Kelley’s close-to-the-land Georgia background and affinity for telling it like it is, simply and directly, inform both the music and sentiments throughout, especially on tunes like “See Ya Comin’” and “Goodbye Jesse.” The songs are all Kelley’s, with the sole exception of “These Old Green Hills”: “I was home a couple of years ago,” he says, “and Pat [Shields] played it for me, and I said, ’I’m gonna put that on the record.’ I never did anyone else’s song before, but I did that as kind of a tribute to Pat, because of his influence on me.”
Like its dramatic cover (by award-winning designer Buddy Jackson), the album reflects hard work and time well spent. “The whole idea of that one guy plowing that big-ass field,” says Kelley, “is about energy and intention and focus. The field is so open, and it’s actually yielding something, and there’s all this sense of possibility…”
Washington DC | Country
Americana Cow-Punk artist Adrian Krygowski is based out of DC, Nashville, & Chicago. He has added 140,000+ miles to his Toyota Corolla odometer, just breaking over 250+ shows in 38 states, and 3 countries. He usually plays live with upright bass, fiddle, and pedal-steel, although he tours primarily solo-acoustic.
A regular on the East coast music scene, Adrian has shared stages across the country with Dr. Dog's Scott McMicken, Johnny Corndawg, Derek Hoke, E-S Guthrie of The New Familiars, and even Joe Shade of the legendary CBGB's band The Sic Fucks. A veteran of the east-coast touring “The Nine” singer/songwriter showcase series, Adrian has performed at Arlington's own IOTA Club & Cafe, Nashville's The Basement and 5-Spot, The Elbo Room in Chicago, the legendary Bitter End in New York City, and Club Passim in Boston. Long-time fan of Winnipeg's Punk-Folk band, The Weakerthans, as well as childhood influences like Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles and Detroit's venerable Motown label.
The past year for Adrian Krygowski has been a whirlwind of tours, new songs, sounds, and recordings. New Nashville-born EP "Hope For Us" with start-studded lineup of Ed Pettersen (Song of America, Freedy Johnston, Otis Gibbs), Garrison Starr (Margaret Cho), Al Hill (Bettye Lavette), Brian Keating (Carter Twins), Washington DC staples Mike Smirnoff (Justin Jones), Alissa Taylor, Dayana Yochim, and tons of help from Freddy Holm (The Black Country, Nazca), Bob Ohlsson (Marvin Gaye, Jerry Garcia, Matt the Electrician.) Recorded over two days in July 2011 at Quad Studios Nashville.
Nashville TN | Country
Kenny Foster dabbles. He enjoys the free exchange of knowledge in the midst of titillating conversation. He believes people are generally good, and have desires waxing towards magnificent. He likes having his perspective destroyed and remade again by books, music, art, and travel. But most of all, he prefers writing songs to writing third-person bios.
Catawba NC | Singer-Songwriter
Jessica Campbell has garnered critical acclaim, awards, and plum synch placements for the warm candor of her distinctive roots pop. Her stunning new album, The Anchor & The Sail, traces romantic relationships from balmy beginnings to painfully complex ends with bold emotionality. “The album title represents life; there are things that hold us back and weigh us down, anchors…and things that let us move forward, sails. The music on this album represents a reflection on past relationships in light of my recent marriage,” the Nashville, Tennessee-based artist confides.
The Anchor & The Sail was carefully culled from a pool of songs birthed from a flood of creativity. The album refines the whimsical pop of her previous album but also adds elegantly essential acoustic songs reflective of her intimate live shows. Special guest, singer-songwriter Dave Barnes (Grammy-nominated for “God Gave Me You”), is featured on the song “Mississippi.” Throughout, Campbell’s vocals are pristinely expressive, angelic but deeply emotive as she guides us through the peaks and valleys of romance. On the sweetly spare “Gone” she comes to terms with a dead-end relationship singing: You had your reasons and I had my own/Something about you never felt like home/I was afraid that I’d be all alone/My skies are brighter now that you’ve moved on. “This is a song about post-relationship self-discovery and awareness, realizing you are better off moving on,” she says.
The upliftingly tumbling “Time” is about working through the difficulties of a shared life. It gently builds from a sweet plucked banjo pattern to sweeping strings—the lean beauty of the instrumentation reflects the authentic nature of Campbell’s live performance. The taut, new wave hooks on “My Patchwork Heart” are euphoric and charming. “It’s a song about being loved by someone unconditionally,” she says. “I’ve experienced this in the relationship I have with my parents, my husband, and some of my closest friends. They love me for who I am and see me as a beautiful person despite my faults and failures.” Campbell’s vocals flow delicately, rich with winsome vulnerability. She sings: You took the rough around the edges/the tattered and shredded/I don’t know how you did it/I just know when you were through/It all looked brand new.
In the midst of writing for the new album, in April 2012 Jessica signed a worldwide co-publishing agreement with Franklin-based The MWS Group, the publishing company owned by acclaimed artist Michael W. Smith. Campbell previously won “Best Song” in the esteemed USA Songwriting Competition. She’s had a self-penned song cut by Gordon Mote, the 2-time Academy of Country Music Awards’ Piano Player of the Year. She has had songs placed in ABC’s Ugly Betty, CW’s Hart of Dixie, CBC’s (Canada) Heartland, CMT’s Melissa & Tye, and VH-1’s Tough Love New Orleans. Her 2011 album Great Escape climbed to the number 5 spot on the iTunes singer-songwriter chart. She’s been profiled in USA Today, American Songwriter magazine, Nashville Scene, and Oklahoma Gazette. Brite Revolution says: “Campbell has the ability to turn the sentence of your day from ellipsis to exclamation point.”
Campbell was born and raised in the one-stoplight town of Catawba, North Carolina, where she grew up singing gospel, country, show tunes, and singing in competitions. Jessica recalls belting the National Anthem at ballparks, rodeos, gyms, football stadiums and anywhere else that would have her. “There weren’t many concert opportunities in my hometown, so I made the most out of what was around,” she says. She attended college and graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University outside of Nashville, while continuing her musical journey—writing songs, recording, performing at Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s theme park), singing song demos, leading music at church, and touring.
The Anchor & The Sail was produced by longtime creative collaborator Cason Cooley (Katie Herzig, Mat Kearney, Matthew Perryman Jones, Sixpence None The Richer, Andrew Peterson). Cooley worked with Campbell on her 2009 debut EP and the follow-up Great Escape LP. “Over the last two years, we’ve both grown immeasurably in our careers and it feels like our hard work is paying off on this album,” Campbell says. The two spent six weeks recording the album in Nashville, meticulously tailoring each song’s production aesthetic.
“All of these songs are reflective of my life, from past experiences of heartbreak to the happy hopeful songs reflecting my joy as a newlywed,” Campbell says pensively. “This project is a step forward for me as I continue to grow as an artist and songwriter.”