The holidays are built around traditions. When this time of year comes, we tend to think of the unshakable jingles blaring through the speakers on every station. North Carolina’s folk troubadours Chatham County Line (CCL) is back with their annual Electric Holiday Tour to warm audiences up with their fanciful acoustics before turning up the amps halfway through their set.
An Americana band from Raleigh, NC, since 1999 CCL been touring the East Coast and Europe to spread the love for traditional bluegrass. Arguably more popular in the Netherlands than they are in their home country (two Grammy nominations in Norway, by the way), the band consists of Dave Wilson (guitar/harmonica/vocal), Chandler Holt (banjo/guitar/vocal), John Teer (mandolin/fiddle/vocal), and Greg Readling (bass/pedal steel/piano/vocal). Recently, they finished a tour in the Netherlands, just in time to kick off their annual Electric Holiday Tour, making four stops only in Vienna, VA, Raleigh, Wilmington and Saxapahaw, NC.
As in past years, the acoustic set will be performed by the band in their true one-mic fashion. After a short intermission, the band will bring onstage friends and fellow musicians Jay Brown (bass), Zeke Hutchins (drums), and Johnny Irion (guitar/piano) to turn on the electricity. Well-known songs will get a rock ‘n’ roll edge, and favorites that have influenced them over the years can be enjoyed, too. In true holiday fashion, there will be a few surprises. Encore chatted with Dave Wilson and Chandler Holt about the tour, as well as their recent experiences in the Netherlands.
encore (e): You’ve been around since 1999. Has the lineup been the same throughout the band’s history?
Dave Wilson (D): We had a different bass player on our first record—Ned Durant—but once Ned left, Greg Readling joined on bass and it’s been the same.
e: Who are your influences?
DW: Too many to name but a few are The Band, Clarence White, Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Nick Lowe, and The Beach Boys.
e: I saw that you recently were in the Norway. How was it performing over there as opposed to in the states? Do you have a favorite memory from that tour?
DW: Quite different. Sound is amazing every night and the Norwegians are very attentive listeners. They’re very kind and appreciative people as well. Playing the beautiful Drammen Theater and Oslo Konserthus were highlights for sure. [The] last dinner of the tour was an actual boiled sheep head. Eyeballs and all—very salty.
e: I read that you seem to be more popular outside of the U.S. True? How is playing in outside of the U.S. different?
(D): We have fans everywhere. We have a nice collaboration with Jonas Fjeld in Norway, and that has been very helpful for us. We also do well in the UK.
I think people really enjoy the style of music we play and love the show we put on. We travel overseas quite often and Norway has become sort of a second home for us. We’ve been going overseas since 2004 and have just built up a great following. [There are] very appreciative people over there and we love going.
e: You’ve released six albums—the latest being “Sight & Sound.” Has your process of making music changed at all throughout the years?
Chandler Holt (CH): We have a seventh record that will be out in late spring of next year. We like to be creative and don’t try to pigeonhole ourselves to one particular genre. Dave brings the songs to the table and we all add our creative energy and input to them. Dave writes amazing songs and I knew when I first heard him work his magic that I was going to be part of something special. I was a believer from the start..
e: Tell me about the electric show. There will be an opening band, then you guys do an acoustic set and then an electric version?
DW: We do this every Christmas where we do a CCL acoustic set [and] then have our good friends Jay Brown, Johnny Irion and Zeke Hutchins join us. We each choose a cool cover to do and might plug-in a couple instruments. We also take a few CCL tunes and give them the electric treatment. I look forward to it every year!
e: What inspired you to do an Electric Holiday Tour?
DW: Years ago, when we started doing an annual Christmas show, we decided to mess around and bring some electric fun into the mix. We all secretly enjoy plugging in and rocking out, so this gave us an excuse to do just that.
e: The live show seems to be very important to Americana and bluegrass music; why is it personally important to you?
CH: We happen to fit so where in between Americana and bluegrass. Dave writes the songs and we play traditional instruments to accompany them. I guess we appeal to a broad range because of that and fans like that we stick to our guns and play true original music. We let people interpret it the way the want and as long as we enjoy it and believe in it, the music should speak for itself.
e: You recently did a collaboration with Jonas, Western Harmonies. Tell me what it was like working with him and what were you trying to accomplish?
CH: We’ve done three collaborations with Jonas and have been recording and touring with him since 2005. He’s become a great and close friend and is probably one of the greatest guys on the planet! He has incredible melodies that Dave writes lyrics to. He calls them “La-La’s” He sends us the melodies with him singing nonsensical lyrics so Dave can come up with words to match the cadence of his vocal and instrumental ideas.
He’s a legend in Norway and it’s an honor to have crossed paths and make wonderful music with such a great musician. We have a platinum and gold record with him and were nominated for a Norwegian Grammy (Spellemann) for Brother of Song. And just found out yesterday that we are nominated again for our newest record, Western Harmonies. Fingers crossed. Check out his early recordings from the 70’s with Jonas Fjeld Rock N’ Rolf band. The pictures say it all. Awesome stuff!
Chatham County Line with Zeke Hutchins, Johnny Irion and Jay Brown
Brooklyn Arts Center • 516 N 4th St.
Tickets: $17 adv, $25 balcony / $19 day of show
Doors: 7 p.m., show: 8 p.m.