Unspoken Tradition: Looking back on 2012
So we’re a few days late on this, I know. This post would have been better suited for about two weeks ago, but we’re awfully busy. I have been thinking a lot about how much we’ve grown as a band in the last year. UT has been in existence since 2008, and we’ve grown every year in some way, shape, or form. However, the changes we’ve undergone in the last year or so have been more rapid and profound than ever before. The Unspoken Tradition family has grown in size, as well as in music and spirit. Here is how it all went down…
A little over a year ago, UT’s original bass player left the band to pursue a career in music in Nashville, TN. Until this point, we’d been a four piece band that cut it’s teeth at local festivals, bars, and restaurants At the time, it seemed as if the band was coming to an end for some of us. Two of the guys got married, the bassist was gone, and the wind was out of our sails. All of us went to the same high school, ate breakfast in the same down town diner on Saturdays, and partied in the same fields. Cherryville (and the lifestyle surrounding it) had become a comfortable snow globe for us, and without our hometown schoolmate playing bass, it just didn’t feel right anymore.
Out of nowhere one day, Zane comes home from work telling us about a guy named Matt Warren who works with him. Matt plays bass and loves our music. The next thing you know, Matt is the newest member of UT. Suddenly, playing music is fun again, and things are looking up. We play our first gig with Matt at Darin and Brooke Aldridge’s CD release party at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds. That night, I met Ty Gilpin for the first time.
That night, Darin Aldridge tells me, “I’ve got this guy I want you to meet, he’s a mandolin player and it’d do you some good to get together with him.” It was Ty. Ty comes down to Cherryville a few weeks later and picks with the band, but the timing of the whole thing was off. We had hit a lull in bookings, the band starting deflating again, and then the holidays came. Family meals, trips across the state to visit with in-laws, and Christmas parties took the place of practices and gigs. I suppose poor old Ty thought we’d forgotten about him altogether. He told me once months later, “I just thought y’all didn’t like me!”
In February of 2012, the band registers to compete in the SPBGMA bluegrass competition in Nashville, TN. The by-laws in the contest say that any group with four people MUST have a mandolin. After much deliberation on who we should ask to come along, Ty comes to mind. He travels down the mountain from Asheville, NC for rehearsals, and before you know it, we are on the stage in Nashville. Our showing wasn’t spectacular at SPBGMA, but we certainly learned a lot about playing in front of lots of people who are uber-critical. As stressful as music as a form of competition can be for some people, we couldn’t get enough of the opportunity to jam. Each night in Nashville was spent jamming in the hallways and hotel rooms where the competition was held. After all of the headache of the competition, we still wanted more. The comment was made that if we could live in a hotel room all weekend without killing each other, we should do this more often. Shortly thereafter, Ty was in the band, and we were trudging forward once again.
Over the summer of 2012, I moved to Charlotte, NC. Almost an hour in the wrong direction for bluegrass, I don’t mind the weekly commute for band practice and gigs. However, had the changes that had come about not happened before I moved, this would have likely been the end of UT. The new members, new songs, and new gigs with new audiences kept me excited enough to keep going. Along with me, three other members of the band moved into new homes over the summer. Two children were concieved, one of which was born in December (the other is due in April)…the family is growing in more ways than one!
In the fall of 2012, the band locks themselves in Tim Gardner’s (of High Windy, Coyote Ridge Audio) home studio and begins work on their first legitimate album. The difference between what we are hearing come out of these speakers and the finished product from our past recordings is tremendous. Tim works hard for us, and even does fiddle work on several of the tracks. The CD is shaping up nicely. For now, a balanced diet of recording, gigging, and writing keep us satisfied.
At the beginning of 2012, I sat down and listed some goals that I wanted the band to try to accomplish that year. At the time, I thought that completing close to half of my dreams for the band would be a stretch. By the closing of the year, we had gotten so busy as a group that I actually forgot to keep track of whether the goals were getting accomplished (which means that most of them were). I’ve long since lost the list, but I know this… above all my goal was to be happier in 2012 with our progress than I had been in the past. As it turns out, I’ve never been happier making music in my entire life. I feel like UT has finally broken into a new realm of music and activity. We’re more alive than ever, and it is only going to get better. Who knows what 2013 will hold for us!!!