Roots in the Round – Creating a Thriving Music Community

Roots in the Round – Creating a Thriving Music Community

One of the great aspects being a part of Wordkrapht, is not only knowing that you are helping to give independent artists some love and a helping hand, but seeing others do the same. We’ve considered what we are doing to be pretty special. In a world where people call overly-sexualized lyrics and auto-tuned vocals music, to be able to find real musicians with passion and true knowledge of their craft is pretty spectacular. What’s even more beautiful is finding people who feel the same as us, and are really working at doing something to enrich their community and local independent music scenes. That being said, is your scene thriving or in need of a little TLC? Are you even aware of the scene in your city or town? Maybe this special article could serve as some inspiration not only for the musicians reading this, but the show goers as well.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Brian Carroll. Carroll is a folk musician out of Boston, Mass who really loves his town. Not only is he a fantastic musician, he is constantly helping out his music community. He was on the planning committee for The New England Americana Festival (In case you don’t remember, we featured them on our Indie-Funded), and now with the help of longtime friend, David Deluca (Highway Ghosts) the two have created a new series called, “Roots in the Round”. I had the pleasure of speaking with Carroll and Deluca and they told me all out this innovative and fun way to get local musicians playing together and sharing their love for music. This interview has a lot of great information, you don’t want to miss out!

“Dig a Little Deeper in the Well” original song by guest Steve Mayone, other special guest Mark Pinansky.

KC:    (To Brian Carroll) Not only are you a musician who is consistently working on new music, you spend a great deal of time trying to unite your community musically. From helping out with The New England Americana Festival to now “Roots in the Round”. How do you find the time to sleep? All jokes aside, how did you come up with the idea for “Roots in the Round”?

BC: I grew up learning to play music, really, by going to my buddy’s house and just jamming for hours. I truly think that improvisational aspect of music is where the most exciting and visceral facet lies. People tend to feed off each other’s energy in that environment and it’s exciting and things just tend to flow out that may not in a rehearsed kind of setting. I thought that bringing a bunch of different folks together for an “organized chaos” kind of gig would really showcase that and began to look around for a way to do so. Dave and I have been playing together for years and when I mentioned it to him one night he immediately wanted in on the idea. And I guess as they say, the rest is history.

KC:  How exactly does Roots in the Round work?

BC: The short story is “4 people, from 4 different musical projects, on 1 stage for 1 night”. The longer version is, Dave and I have developed a few standards that we play and a lot of folks know. Stuff like Johnny Cash, The Stones, a lot of traditional bluegrass and folk tunes, and a few of our originals that are easy to pick up (I-IV-V type stuff in major keys). We usually ease in with a few of those and tell the guests for that month to pick out a few tunes for us to check out beforehand. For the most part, I’d say 75% of the show is really spontaneous and happens right there on the stage. It’s pretty exciting for the musicians and the audience to see this stuff unfold in front of them. I think one of the things that really makes this work is that Dave and I are friends, but very different musicians and personalities. Dave is a bit more “rock n’ roll” in playing style and a forthright, friendly kind of guy. I tend to gear myself towards traditional roots/bluegrass stuff and am more subtle in my playing (and personality too I guess). It’s a good balance that allows for the other artists to kind of fall in place and feel out where they want to fit that night.

DD: Brian Carroll and I invite 2 musicians to join us each month.  The four of us form a “one night band”.  One person steps up to the microphone to lead a song, the other three musicians act as their backing band. Then the next person takes a turn as the singer/band leader.  We continue to go around the circle several times over the course of the night.  The night is a mix of original music as well as traditional Americana cover songs.

“Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor” traditional tune lead by guest Mark Whitaker on banjo. Other special guest Dinty Child on mandocello (with a RIPPING funky solo!)

KC: Is this open to all musicians of all musical backgrounds?

BC: Absolutely. In the Boston/Cambridge area we have a very rich roots/Americana community (of which Dave and I are deeply rooted within) so we have really been cherry picking folks from that scene who fit the bill and we know can hang – basically those who can just say “ok, this tunes in E minor, watch my hands for the changes…go” and can hold down a solo when pointed to on the fly. But, I think the most interesting nights have come when two artists are put together who are very different stylistically even though they may share an “umbrella genre” like Americana. Though it would be cool to get a metal guitarist and a banjo picker together one night just to see what plays out. We are really open to anything.

KC: If someone was interested in participating in the future, what would they need to do to make it happen?

BC: Just shoot Dave or myself an email, or message the Facebook page and we will try and make it happen. It’s tough being a “once a month” gig, but we try to change it up as much as possible and there’s always the potential of just sittin’ for a few tunes if other musicians are hanging around the bar that night. You always want to have everyone in on this, but Toad is a small bar and has a tiny stage!

KC: Any memorable moments that haven’t been captured on video that you wished could have been?

BC: There has definitely been a few. The beauty of this gig is, that even though Dave and I are a constant variable, the dynamics of the show are different every time. The last one that I played, Dave was actually away (sorry Deluca!), I did the show as a duo with a bluesy, rocker gal named Sarah Borrello. We did a bunch of “medley” type jams where she would lead an old blues tune, then we would morph it into another one that I would lead, and back and forth for like 20 minutes. We had never played together before, but it just kind of felt right and was one of those instances where the crowd kind of disappeared and it was just two people and their instruments making music together in a real organic, raw kind of way. I think that’s what I like most about the series. When you are up there playing with a bunch of other musicians who are really just feeling it, it doesn’t matter what the crowd is doing. It may sound cheesy, but there’s almost a room that you all are enclosed inside on stage and the audience just gets to take a peek into the magic that is playing out. It is really a matter of having an audience that wants to be a part of that.

DD: Fortunately, most of the series has been captured on video.  Some of my favorite nights include the pairing of: Mark Whitaker and Dinty Child, Jamie Walker and Jim Gambino, Ward Hayden/Jimmy Ryan.

“Where Did Our Love Go” original tune by guest Jimmy Ryan on mandolin, other special guest Ward Hayden

KC: You mentioned that you will be taking Roots in the Round to a new venue, the very well known, TOAD.  When will be the first show there, what does this mean for the series and future audience members?

BC: TOAD is constantly showcasing amazing music. They simply do not have bad artists play at this place, it’s unheard of. For that reason, there is always a crowd, 7 nights a week there hungry for exciting music and performances. For that reason, it’s a huge boost for the series. TOADs also a pretty small room, with a small stage (if a music venue could be a comfy blanket you wrap around yourself, TOAD would be it). I think that lends itself well to the whole “4 musicians coming together” aspect because we literally have to be really close together. As much as the previous venue was great, an audience that really appreciated and wanted this was typically lacking. The bar had a great atmosphere, the management there is absolutely wonderful and was like family, it’s just not a “music venue” where this idea really took with the crowd. TOAD is also in the city…where most of the “pool of musicians” tend to be. And there’s never a cover charge!

DD: Our first show at Toad is Sunday October 27th. TOAD will allow us to take the series to another level.  The venue is a true “music room”, people go there to hear bands, and expect a high level of talent to be on the stage.  It will also be easier for us to manage and promote, as the majority of our guests come from Cambridge and Somerville.

I believe audience members will find that the series has been relocated to a venue that is a perfect match for our style of music, which will enhance their listening experience.

KC: Are there any other details and information you would like to let the readers of Wordkrapht know?

BC: I think the most important thing is just to support local independent music. And if you are a local musician, get to know your fellow comrades in your town. Play gigs together, hell, make your own Roots in the Round night. I’d love to hear about it! For every mainstream band that is “ok musicianship wise and writes some catchy tunes” there’s 100 local acts who are likely just as good, if not better, but just not nationally known. Plus, you won’t have to pay 80 bucks for a ticket to their show.

DD: The series will repeat the last Sunday of every month at Toad.  We promise to maintain a high level of quality entertainment and continue to build a following of the series.

KC:  Lastly, what would you like to see for the future of not only Roots in the Round, but for the whole independent music community of Boston?

BC: For Roots, I would really love to take the show on the road and do a small tour in 4-5 different cities to start. As far as independent music in Boston: I think that Boston is really starting to make its mark on the map as a music city. Most people talk about NYC, Nashville, Austin, and LA for being music hot beds, but Boston has definitely been making some rumblings in the past couple years. That being said, I would really hope that the community keeps its humble roots. What makes this town different is that people are really close, supportive and on each other’s side here. There isn’t much hostile competition (not blatantly at least) in the music scene and I would really hope that we keep that as the spotlight turns this way.

DD: We are very fortunate in Boston, as we have a wide range of talent, and a strong music community.  I think the New England Americana Festival has helped strengthen this community.  I see Roots in the Round as an extension of the “community” mentality.  Our goals are to continue to grow and develop this series as a means of helping each other grow as performers, and for the enjoyment of the listening audience.

Once again, Roots in The Round will be at TOAD on October 27th. All those in the area are highly encouraged to attend (and let us know how awesome it is!)  Special thanks goes out to Brian Carroll and David Deluca for taking the time to tell us all about Roots in the Round, and finding your own unique way to reinvent indie. It just goes to show, all it takes is an idea and the passion to follow through. We all can do something great and make a change.

“I’ll Fly Away” traditional bluegrass standard with special guests Mark Kilianski (of The Moonshine Ramblers and Hoots and Holler), Dave Delaney (of The Whiskey Boys), and Dan Cody (of Highway Ghosts)

Roots in the Round Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RootsInTheRound

Brian Carroll Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brian-Carroll/119508004764920

Highway Ghosts Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/highwayghosts