DREAMING BIG: Onward, Soldiers will debut a new EP at the Carolina Pine Music Festival

Carolina Pine Music Productions continues to grow its biannual music festival this weekend, with more than three dozen bands playing at five venues from November 4 through the 6. Folk, rock, Americana, blues, acoustic jams, pop, country, and everything in between is represented on the expansive lineup this season. Often in the “everything-in-between” column are local favorites Onward, Soldiers—who will n close out the festival’s opening night at the Brooklyn Arts Center in the release of their first EP, in almost four years: “Daydreamer.”

“We felt a festival showcasing local/regional original artists was the best way to celebrate the release of our new album,”  says Onward’s Sean Thomas Gerard (vocals, guitars, keys). “We have played with and have so much respect for many of the artists performing in the festival and thought it would be a fun way to get some buzz going about the album.”

The album release party will follow performances by Happy Abandon, Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands, and Massive Grass, while Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern across town will host festival talents like Lionized, monkeyknifefight, Years Till Now, and more. The rest of the Carolina Pine Music Festival will see artists at Waterline Brewing Company and back at Reggie’s on Nov. 5, then it will wrap up at Palate and Satellite Bar & Lounge on Nov. 6.

Gerard, along with Lincoln Morris (electric guitars, vocals), Tripp Cox (bass), and Brian Mason (drums, percussion), will play “Daydreamer” all the way through on Friday night. Plus, they will premiere more new originals. Since they’ve been playing the EP’s tracks for few years at live shows, Gerard says it’s definitely time to get them in the hands of fans.
“At our last show I noticed someone singing along to the new stuff, and I knew it was time to release the record,” he notes. “I’m happy to say we’ve been working on new recordings for a follow-up release.”

encore caught up with Gerard to talk more about the road to releasing “Daydreamer.”

encore (e): Tell readers about the time and process put into “Daydreamer.”

Sean Thomas Gerard (STG): There is some serious irony in the way this album has transpired. Three years ago Lincoln, Tripp and myself drove up to Sound of Music Studios in Richmond, VA, to work with the great Alan Weatherhead (Sparklehorse, Hotel Lights) on a six-track EP. At the time, we were in a transitional phase of the band and hired Miguel to play drums on the record. We had played a few festival shows with him prior to these sessions and knew he would be a perfect fit for the songs. Conveniently, he also ran the studio.

We spent a couple hours rehearsing and then proceeded to live-track the entire album in four days—overdubbing lead guitar, keys and vocals. We slept in the studio, and fully immersed ourselves in the recordings. We then sent the stems to our friend Matt Ross-Spang for mixing at Sun Studio in Memphis.

Life then happened for three years. We seemed to be waiting for the right opportunity to put out the record. In the meantime, I was making new music; we all had other side projects going, too. Tripp had a baby and I got married. But a few months ago Lincoln asked if we could put out the record for the festival—to give us a deadline to make something happen, something to work toward. So, we got it mastered, pressed some CDs and that’s where we’re at today.

Thankfully, this record is a timeless piece of music. It sounds as fresh today as it did three years ago. It’s a collection of our best stuff—a little rock, a little Americana and a lot of soul. I’m still amazed that what we made in four days took three years to release, but I can speak for everyone in the band when I say we’ve never been more inspired to release new music.

e: Why dub it “Daydreamer”?

STG: I’ve always had big dreams. I quit college in my third year to play music. What a mistake, kids. But I know I made the right choice. Music has taken me all over the country. I met my wife at an Onward show. I’ve made lifelong friends and brothers playing music. I owe everything I have to my music career.

We’re all dreamers in this industry. The likelihood of any of us “making it” isn’t realistic, but I’ve discovered over the years that “making it” is all subjective. Thus, the concept of the daydreamer: The person who wakes up and knows that, despite the odds, anything is possible. It’s been an ongoing theme in the band: to carry on despite the odds.

We lost our brother and keyboard player Ben [Privott] six months ago. I saw a community come together like I’ve never seen. It was heartbreaking but immensely inspiring. What I took from the experience is that life is beautiful and very short, and you need to dream big, work hard, be a good person and love those close to you. We could live in a better world if we all dreamt a little bigger.

e: Why choose “Gentle Man” as your first single to release?

STG: “Gentle Man” is the best representation of our current sound. It’s light, airy, melodic,  and powerful all at the same time. It’s my favorite piece of music we’ve released and a great preview of what the whole record is like.

e: Who is the gentle man in this song and who’s the villain? Tell us a little more about the inspiration behind the storyline.

STG: This song is a love letter to my wife, almost a biography. We moved in together two months after our first date and had the odds stacked against us. We moved six or seven times in the first few years; hence the line “drifting all around the neighborhood.” It was a lot to put on a new relationship. I was always gone, playing shows. In some ways, I was both the villain and the gentle man, and she stuck by me regardless. She showed me loyalty and love in a time I needed it most. So this song is a “thank you” for making me a better person.

e: This album seems to dig into a few genres: rock, instrumental jams and softer pop-rock in songs like “Wandering Aimlessly.” How did you guys collectively develop these songs to ebb and flow despite stylistic changes?

STG: We’ve always prided ourselves on not sticking to a certain genre or sound. It’s been a common theme on our records. A musician has to evolve over time, both in sound and ability. I always write songs in sets, usually two or three at a time in the same style. But, like every songwriter, I go through phases. So what I like to bring to the band is a collection of songs that sound completely different, and then we hash them out in a way they sound cohesive on an album, or even on a live set list. No two of our live shows will ever sound the same, but this album is actually the most cohesive sounding piece of music we’ve released in my opinion. It jumps genres for sure, but there is an underlying sound and theme to the album. I think a lot of that has to do with the short amount of time we spent recording and how we captured the mood of those four days. We wanted the album to take you high and low, as every good album should. There is, hopefully, something for everybody on this record. Like our previous releases, everyone who has heard it seems to have a different favorite song, and that tells me our approach is working.

e: How else will you celebrate the record’s release party? Will there be special posters, vinyl or CDs at the festival?

STG: The album will be for sale at the festival for $10 in CD format. We’re hoping things go well with the release to eventually press vinyl. We’re self-releasing this record, so we’re hoping people love it and want to share it with their friends. This is truly an independent project in every sense of the word. It was self-funded by our guitarist/producer Lincoln, concert ticket sales and our generous friend Billy Mellon. It’s our way of fitting into an industry where most artists have to crowd-fund their records because album sales and concert-attendance numbers have been declining for years. We’ve got some amazing friends and family, so we are leaning on them and you to help spread the love around. It takes a village!

e: Is there anything you’d like to add about “Daydreamer” or the release party?

STG: We’re also debuting brand-new original songs. Drummer Brian Mason joined the band a couple months ago and we’ve been working on new material since then. This will be the first time we’ve performed brand new music in over three years!


A full schedule for the Carolina Pine Music Festival and tickets can be found at facebook.com/CarolinaPineProductions.


Onward, Soldiers EP Release Party
Carolina Pine Music Festival
Friday, Nov. 4, 10 p.m.
Brooklyn Arts Center • 516 N. 4th St.
Tickets: $15-$50

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