New Music Monday “Homegrown in the 831”, Carolyn Sills Combo
This weeks edition of New Music Monday is part of our “Homegrown in the 831” series, and an interview with Carolyn Sills of the Carolyn Sills Combo. We have an upcoming 831 Presents show with the Carolyn Sills Combo at Cibo on Friday April 25th, so whet your appetite a bit and get to know the Carolyn Sills Combo.
● What is the name of your band? Tell us the brief history of your band and what inspired you to make music together? ●
We are The Carolyn Sills Combo.
My name is Carolyn Sills, and I have a combo. I sing and play bass, with Gerard Egan on vocals and guitars, Charlie Joe Wallace on steel guitar, Jimmy Norris on drums and Sunshine Jackson on harmony vocals. Amazing people and musicians, I am lucky to have met up with them all when Gerard and I moved out here four years ago... we just finished recording our first album, which now available for sale on our website, CD Baby and iTunes.
● What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?●
We play country western music. Our writing and playing styles are influenced by western swing, classic country, rockabilly and 50s rock and roll... Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, Merle Travis, Sun Records...
● Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? ●
Gerard and I write the music together... I primarily write the lyrics. We like to write songs for spaghetti western movies that don't exist, and stories about people we have been before. We want to create a mood for our audience that transports them for the evening.
● Can you tell us about the instruments you play? How did you decide to play that particular instrument and what do you love about it? ●
We love talking guitars. Gerard built his two acoustics, a dreadnought and a parlor size, through his job at Santa Cruz Guitar Company... his main electric guitar is his Gretsch 6120 and he moonlights on his Danelectro baritone. Charlie plays a vintage Fender Custom Triple 8 steel guitar and an ancient National Tricone on the album, but also plays a variety of non-pedal steel guitars for live shows. I play a Fender 1962 re-issue Jazz Bass.
● What are your favorite and least favorite venues to play and why? ●
Our favorite venues are those with people in it. We appreciate a good PA, competent sound men and a generous bar tab... but as long as there are people to play for, we will have ourselves a time. We always assumed the west coast would be the perfect setting for our style of music, and so far we're thrilled with the rooms we've played and the people we've played for.
● What are your favorite songs to play, why? Do you play covers? ●
We simply love to play. Nothing's more satisfying than writing a song that people can connect to, either through the lyrics or on the dance floor. The musicians I play with are some of the finest in the area.. seeing them live is like stepping into a 1940s honky tonk. They are the real deal with the real sound, and it's an honor to call them my combo. We do a variety of western swing, classic country, instrumentals and jazz covers.. stuff that might be lesser known, but fits right in with our original material. There's so much good music out there that shouldn't be forgotten.
● Where do you find your inspiration? Who or what inspires you? ●
We're heavily influenced by our vinyl record collection. We've been buying records for years, and its introduced us to whole genres of music that we would never have found otherwise. And vinyl demands your attention... you have to stick around, press play, flip it over... it can't just be put on and relegated to background music. We love researching the influences of artists we admire.. it always takes you back to the real gems. Through Junior Brown we found Red Simpson, through Marty Robbins we found The Sons of the Pioneers.
● Could you briefly describe your music making process? ●
Gerard and I like to play for our dog in our living room, usually with me on upright bass and him on acoustic. We just mess around and have some fun... usually a song finds its way out of that. I also like giving myself an assignment, like 'write a song about a broken record' and see what comes of it.
● How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together? ●
Gerard and I have been playing music together for many, many years. How you evolve as a musician, in my opinion, is totally dependent on how you evolve as a person. As you mature, so does your music.. when you learn to breath more, to let your guard down... when you realize that nothing is a big deal, you play with more ease.. and that's when you find the space in the songs to open up and have some fun.
● What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how? ●
We are lucky, this band has been anything but challenging. These guys are pros, and always bring it to every show. We look forward to trying out new songs at the Santa Cruz Rehearsal Studio where we practice... our songs truly come together once everyone puts their individual stamp on it. Charlie and Jimmy respect 'the song' and come up parts that do it the most justice. Sunshine can pull harmonies out of thin air, and totally gets my vocal style and phrasing. Have I mentioned I love playing with these folks?
I should play harder to get...
● What is your most memorable experience as a band? ● How would you define the word “success”? ●
Recording our new album last year was a phenomenal experience. Spending a full week with these guys in a barn up in the Redwoods was the perfect setting for recording these songs. We couldn't be happier with how it all came out, and, to me, being completely proud to hand someone your album is a success.
● What are your goals and dreams, where do you see yourselves in 10 years? ●
I want to play with this group for as long as possible, exploring new songs and hopefully traveling a bit in support of our recordings. In my dreams, Gerard and I establish a weekly residency at an out-of-the-way honky tonk. We play every Taco Tuesday, and bands traveling through sit in with us. Then we spontaneously combust at 103.
● What advice do you have for other bands? ●
Trust yourself, trust your instincts. Stay humble and learn from others. Don't write songs to please other people, please yourself. But of course the only way to truly learn all this is to do everything wrong first, and with gusto. We've followed our own trail, done what's felt most natural, and it hasn't let us down.
● Where can you be found? Last words...●
Much love to our friends at SkyHaus Studios in Sunny Carmel Valley for making New Music Monday possible.