How many new bands would dare to test fate and release their debut album on Friday the 13th?
Roanoke, for one. And the Nashville-based outfit named for a horse and fronted by Joey Beesley and Taylor Dupuis, a loving couple of 25-year-old singer-songwriters who are children of divorced parents, isn't the least bit scared about what today will bring.
"I feel so lucky!" exclaimed Dupuis (left, with Beesley) in reply this week to a series of email questions from The Huffington Post. "Which is weird because I actually am very superstitious (lol)."
"We've been incredibly lucky this whole time," added Kyle Breese, who plays drums, banjo, and harmonica for Roanoke, a band confident enough to name the first record after itself. "What's the worst that could happen?"
When you're lucky and good, not much. Especially when you lead off this sumptuous 11-track Americana/folk collection with "Jordan," a powerful Dupuis-penned song about the search for forgiveness, redemption and salvation that suggests faith in yourself -- and not necessarily a higher power -- is the key to finding true happiness.
Brimming with optimism, youthful exuberance and creative energy, Roanoke also is pleased today to present the video premiere of "Jordan" in a 24-hour exclusive at The Huffington Post, saying in a group statement:
"We wanted to create a music video that helped listeners really delve into the content of the song. It is a heavy song and we thought it was important for the imagery to capture that heaviness. We wanted something shot outdoors, with an old-timey feel to it. The team really helped us grasp the concept and imagery and make it into something dark and beautiful."
Filmed over two days in March in the Nashville area, first near Percy Priest Lake, then "a crazy old cabin" at Leiper's Fork, the project with Liquid Crystal Productions was directed by Casey Cross, and includes "a beautiful riverside sunset for the baptism scene," Beesley said. He was dunked in the cold water by a preacher played by Rick McDonough, a friend of the band's who appropriately brought an icy stare to the occasion.
Roanoke points out that the concept of the video is "not meant as a critique of religion, but uses that imagery (of Beesley's dirty hands) to address that we oftentimes seek out superficial solutions to deeper-rooted problems in our lives."
Added Cross: "In our initial conversations, Taylor described the song as being a commentary on the way certain people tend to use religion as a sort of self-medication for their soul -- a temporary fix to their deep-rooted problems. ...
"I think this is a fairly universal problem that people run into. One person might be unhealthy and think that switching to diet soda will solve all their problems. One person might turn to alcohol to cope with something like a job loss. Everyone finds themselves in a version of this behavior at some point in their lives."
Dupuis, who was working as a hostess at B.B. King's Blues Club in Nashville, was moved to write "Jordan" after seeing Alison Krauss there perform a gospel song with an a cappella section, and borrowed the idea of including the angelic harmonies that open Roanoke's song.
So while watching the video, feel free to join in for the stunning chorus, then return to learn more about this promising band that's definitely on the rise.
Jordan won't you save me
I'm barely holding on
Jordan can't you hear me
Take my faith and bring me home
PLEASED TO INTRODUCE THEMSELVES
Five of the six current band members live under the same roof, in a house in the Inglewood area of East Nashville. And Dupuis feels comfortable with the arrangement -- her mom is the landlord.
"She believes in me so much and, like any mother, wants to see me succeed," Dupuis said, "so she bought a house for us, and we rent from her. ... We have a great backyard, a beautiful home and a practice room, so we definitely don't have plans to move out anytime soon."
The tenants, some of whom agreed to share details about themselves, include:
Taylor Dupuis (lead vocals): "I was born in Darmstadt, Germany, on Halloween in 1990. My dad was in the Army, so my mom and dad were stationed there for a little while. I am the oldest of three children (with a brother Jayce and sister Mackenzie). ... Even before I started taking (guitar and voice) lessons, I was always writing songs, singing and putting on shows for my family, with my siblings as the background dancers.
"My family still lives back in Michigan, which is where I grew up. I went to Freeland High School in Freeland, a small town in the Mitten. Freeland is your typical small town where everyone knows everyone, where the annual Walleye Fest is everyone's favorite time of year. ... I grew up in typical northern fashion, riding horses, going up north on the weekends, boating, fishing, sitting around the campfire, going to barn parties. I absolutely love my hometown."
After earning a communications degree at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., Dupuis met the touring members of Foreigner while working as a hostess. "They told me that Nashville was where I needed to be, and I packed up and moved about a month later, just me and my cat Sneakers, and that was about two years ago," she said.
Joey Beesley (lead vocals, guitar): "I was born Sept. 23, 1990, in West Palm Beach, Fla. I have a younger brother Matt. ... I grew up surfing, fishing, four-wheeling, snorkeling, scuba diving and playing roller hockey (like most kids in South Florida). I graduated from Palm Beach Central High School in 2009. My grandmother on my mom's side was a church singer, my father's parents were both artists, and my great grandmother has an unpublished book of poetry that my father gave to me upon leaving home and moving to Nashville. I began playing guitar at 15 and dropped out of community college after ending up in the ER and realizing how little control we have over life. ... I studied voice privately for three years under south Florida gospel recording artist Anthony Talton. One day I was sitting in my room just staring at a map of the U.S. and just decided to move to Nashville."
Zach Nowak (mandolin, vocals): "Born July 11, 1985, in New Haven, Conn. My dad is a guitarist, and taught me my first chords. I was always involved in music, whether choir or musical theater, and segued that into a bachelor's in music degree from Florida State University. After graduating, I moved to Rochester, N.Y., and started playing with a harpist, Lacey Lee, in a folk duo. I discovered a mandolin in my friend's closet and got to picking. Honestly, in 2012, I moved to Nashville on a whim. I'd never been to the city, but I figured if there was a place to make music, Nashville was it. In retrospect, it was the best decision I've ever made."
Kyle Breese, 25 (drums, banjo, harmonica): "Born in West Palm Beach, Fla., (I) grew up on Singer Island, a small island right off the coast. I started playing drums and writing songs around the age of 8 and have been working ever since. My family is incredibly supportive, yet in my grandfather's words, 'Can barely play the radio.' I went to Cardinal Newman Catholic High School, and played in the drum line. Joey and I moved to Nashville together in the summer of 2013 and haven't looked back."
John Fiorentino (bass): "John grew up with Kyle and moved to Nashville about a little over a year ago," Dupuis and Beesley said. "He planned to stay with us while he looked for a place to live and ended up living with us. We were in need of a bass player. John is a great musician and guitar player, and one day he picked up the bass and started playing with us. He went on a short tour with us and joined the band soon after."
Asked how difficult it is for a band to lead a 24/7 existence, Dupuis said, "It's always hard to live with someone but I think we do a pretty good job of communicating and talking things out. It also helps that we are all such good friends. We really are like a family, and families have their own issues, but in the end, we love each other and no issue is bigger than that. I like to tell people about how we spend hours and hours in the van together on the road and we get home and are like 'Well, you guys wanna hang out?' We are super lucky to be so close."
Added Breese: "We were a bit reluctant at first to move in together (we were also almost all working together at that time), but it has definitely brought us closer than we could have even imagined. Luckily, our house has enough space where everyone can kind of do their thing."
The other full-time member, who lives just down the road from her bandmates, is:
Jo Cleary (violin): "We met Jo through some mutual friends," Dupuis and Beesley said of the musician from Boston who studied voice, songwriting, violin and performance at Berklee College of Music. "We wanted her to play on a few songs and she came in the studio and just amazed us and soon had violin on just about every song on the album. We all got along so well, and her violin playing is something to be reckoned with, and she officially joined the band soon after recording."
Current band members in Roanoke include (from left): Kyle Breese, Zach Nowak, Taylor Dupuis and Joe Beesley. Brooks Daugherty (right) played bass on the album. Not pictured: John Fiorentino and Jo Cleary.
HOW THE BAND CAME TOGETHER
Dupuis first met Breese, then his friend Beesley while they all worked at B.B. King's, and the three began writing and playing songs.
"One day Joey came to me and said that he had written a song he wanted to show me," Dupuis said. "I told him I was going to be brutally honest and tell him if I didn't like it. And he played me 'This Love,' which is now on the album. Needless to say, I loved it and added harmonies to it. That was really the first time the notion of a duet came to mind."
Horseback rides, listening to Jason Isbell's Southeastern album and dinners Beesley made for Dupuis strengthened their bond that formed the first night they spent together, which "was like two old souls celebrating a reconnection," he said. "It's like we already knew each other and I knew that I wanted this girl in my life forever."
The planned duo became a trio as Breese added harmonica to some of the songs they demoed, including "Without You," the first of many co-writes for Dupuis and Beesley, whose personal and professional relationships by then had coalesced.
" 'Without You' was the first time I had ever tried to tell someone something through song," Beesley said. "I was stuttering and sweating the first time I sang to her 'you may belong to someone but your heart is mine.' I believe 'Without You' brought us both to such a connecting place in beautiful vulnerability and I'm taken back there every time we sing to each other."
Dupuis agreed, adding, "It said things that we hadn't yet said aloud to each other."
This isn't an icky-sweet batch of confection, though. While the love songs reveal a true romance, Roanoke also includes tales of heartbreak ("Heavy Goodbyes," "Losing You"), forgiveness ("Make Up," co-written with Layne Oliver) and outright belligerence on "Trouble," where Dupuis belts out, "If there's trouble you want, then it's trouble you've got till you're gone."
NOT HORSING AROUND
When Nowak, his mandolin and third-part harmony came aboard after a couple of jam sessions, Dupuis said, "We really started to sound like a band." Even before they made a name for themselves, the group played its first gig at Charlie Bob's, a neighborhood restaurant in Nashville.
The group's birth name, Dupuis revealed, had everything to do with her love of history and horses and folklore, and nothing to do with the Virginia city. She discovered the story of a seized rebel warhorse that George Custer intended to ride into battle, and was enthralled with the tale that reminded her of the horse she rode "who I absolutely adored" as a youngster. Roanoke became her runaway choice to call the band.
In the fall of 2014, Roanoke's members, still with regular day jobs, started recording and producing the album in a hollowed-out church, on a 24-track console, to 2-inch tape, then finished more than a year later with "Jordan" at the Sound Emporium, where they were assisted by engineer Mike Stankiewicz (Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Merle Haggard).
They raised more than $10,000 through their #fundthefolk campaign on Indiegogo, funding 120 percent of their goal on Feb. 1.
Guided by the wraparound vocals of Dupuis and Beesley, Roanoke has been compared to prominent roots artists such as the Civil Wars and the Head and the Heart. They consider that a compliment, while mentioning other powerhouse performers.
"The Civil Wars mean a lot to me because I was listening to them a lot when I first began to really delve into folk music," Dupuis said. "They have also paved the way for folk/Americana artists. Jason Isbell is a huge influence for me. I've never known an artist with more honest songwriting. Since moving to Nashville, he has been a huge inspiration to my writing and musicianship. To me, he really was the staple in the Americana movement."
While referencing Isbell and fellow Nashville-based musicians Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson "(and clearly producer Dave Cobb)," Breese said, "We also have been incredibly influenced by Fleetwood Mac. Rumours is cited by pretty much everyone in the band as one of their favorite records. Also, Taylor's first performance growing up was of 'Landslide.' "
Avoiding drama and obstacles over the long haul might seem like an insurmountable task, as many artists who haven't beaten the odds can attest. Right now, that doesn't seem to concern Beesley and Dupuis, who characterized their love connection as "a beautiful accident."
With their first album release show scheduled Saturday (May 14) at The 5 Spot in Nashville before a crowd that will include about 20 friends and family members, thoughts of an engagement, marriage or babies aren't at the top of their priority list.
"Being partners and business partners is really hard, but we are also a lot luckier than a lot of people," said Dupuis, mentioning that the band is still seeking representation and hoping to land on a label while making plans for its second album. "We get to share the stage together, travel together and write together, which is such a blessing. Having a family is something we both want one day, but we are hell-bent on making sure that Roanoke finds its place in the music industry before we take the next step in our relationship."
Beesley, likely to finish second in the marriage race to his newly engaged younger brother Matt, offered, "I love Taylor very much and would consider myself a blessed man to give her my last name. That being said, we both understand that a music career takes a lot of work and we are both still young. We are happy where we are and for now that's good enough."
As their date with destiny arrives, even a betting man might think they've already hit the jackpot.
Roanoke photos courtesy of the artist.