Rising Appalachia might be one of the most unique acts in the music industry right now.
While sisters Leah and Chloe captivate listeners with their angelic harmonies, their surrounding bandmates dazzle fans with their genre-blending style rooted in southern folk music. I had the chance to speak with Leah and Chloe prior to their show at The Fox Theater in Boulder, Colorado, where they kicked off their most recent tour last week.
How do you feel your sound has evolved over the years?
Chloe: Rising Appalachia has been lucky to have a multitude of collaborators and band members throughout the years, and each person on our team has brought out a unique sound that we have explored. Leah and I started out playing pretty traditional old time Appalachian music on our first album, and then we began to merge it more and more with some jazz and hip hop styles. After that we met different drummers and bassists whom brought their own flavor and backgrounds to the project. David Brown and Biko Casini now have gelled with us as “the dream team” and we have a real sweet artistic charisma with one another that incorporates all our many loves of sound: West African, Appalachian, urban soul, honky tonk, spoken word, Irish, bass groove, etc. It’s been a treat to see the project evolve throughout the years in both our sound as well as our movings throughout this world.
What’s been the most personal song for each of you?
Chloe: Oh there are many. One of the most poignant for me was “Filthy Dirty South”, which I wrote when I was living in New Orleans. The song came to life after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and was written in a time of great emotional and environmental pain as well as a sort of feeling of helplessness that happens when such massive disasters take place. Writing can be that great relief, and that song still lives very strongly in our sets when we travel and see so many communities speaking about their own anti-fracking movements or Standing Rock protectors or other such oil related struggles.
Leah: There are many for me too, but I have become deeply enamored with “Wider Circles”. It just really does something to me. Chloe and I co-wrote the song, and it came together days before we went to the studio, changing rhythm, finding the instrumental parts, etc. But every time it hits it takes me there. I get lost in that song .
What’s been the biggest obstacle you two have had to overcome?
Chloe: For a long time, I had pretty massive stage fright. As anyone with stage fright knows, it can be very debilitating… especially to your voice. Performing was something I had to learn to do and train hard to get comfortable with, and honestly it still takes pretty deep personal work at times. I’ve pushed through it for the most part, but on occasion it rears its head and bites again. Breath work and the sense of the “bigger picture” helps ease it away.
Leah: I think for me it has been honestly coming to terms with a life on the road. I have always been a traveler, but I have usually traveled alone, and for long periods of time I have lived abroad, making myself part of different communities, and creating a quiet but engaged life for myself. To learn how to be on the road with a team of 4-6 people non-stop, and then to be in a different place every few days has been a hard adjustment for me. I miss my autonomy often. I think I believe in our work enough that it keeps me focused, but it has its challenges most definitely.
Do you feel artists have a certain responsibility to use their platforms for social activism?
Chloe: I think that people whom use their platform to speak to some larger issues or passions are far more interesting and on point than people whom don’t. It doesn’t have to be social activism, but I imagine that every single human has a sense of justice or equality or of the sacred, and when you acquire a large audience then perhaps those passions should be expressed and heard and motivated into action. Art is a powerful gathering tool…. and the “party” is just the first step.
Beyond their infectious music the girls from Rising Appalachia are making a concentrated effort to raise awareness about the issues they care strongly about. Their newest initiative , known as “The Slow Music Movement” is an effort focused on promoting more sustainable touring for the band. Through local outreach, reducing waste at each show and promoting more sustainable touring practices these lovely ladies are bringing more than just a party to your local concert venue. At a time where it may feel like we as a people are more decided than ever, Chloe and Leah are doing their part in bringing communities together through the power of music. If you’re interested in checking them out on their current tour (and honestly why wouldn’t you be?), you can find when they’ll be in your neck of the woods here. In the meantime, you can stream Rising Appalachia’s newest album “Wider Circles” in its entirety below.