Bluegrass. Soul. Jazz. Indie. Rock. Roots. Americana’s magical melting pot allows for bands to bend with and sometimes against their individual talents and instincts to create sounds unique to their collective. Members of Wilmington’s Tumbleweed come from various spaces and backgrounds but have found harmony in more ways than one.
They started as a trio of prolific songwriters in 2015: Jordan Sutherland (banjo, guitar), Amanda King (mandolin) and McKay Glasgow (banjo, guitar, mandolin). Sutherland mostly came from bluegrass influences, while King wrote soulful/jazzy tunes, and Glasgow came down from the mountains with an indie-rock music vibe. “We all appreciated good lyrics and roots music, and we all considered ourselves to be primarily songwriters,” Glasgow notes.
After they learned more about their sound and process of song arrangement and writing instrumental parts, Tumbleweed picked up Ross Page (percussion), Peter Boscaljon (bass) and Sam Bowman (electric guitar, piano). They played together for a year before releasing their first album, “Little Yellow House,” in August 2018.
“We had to decide if we were going to do our own thing individually or find a sound that could work as a band with three different writers,” Glasgow says. “We decided we liked each other enough to find common ground and make a cohesive album. . . . It was helpful to add the backbone of Ross, Pete and Sam to our live shows to let us focus more on singing harmonies, which is a big part of what we do now.”
Glasgow and company worked on “Little Yellow House” with producer Holt Evans, whom they credit for developing the record’s overall folk-rock sounds. Evans, along with Bob Russell, Wes Chappell and Jason Bell, added various instrumentals, too. Tumbleweed’s upcoming show at Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern will feature these varied sounds.
“This is more of a rock show,” Glasgow points out, “so we will be cutting out some of our slower songs or speeding them up a bit. It’s gonna be fun. . . . These are the type of shows we want to play. Shows that we would go to even if we weren’t playing.”
Slower moodier songs like “Fairweather” will perk up with Bowman on electric guitar. Tumbleweed also will debut a new song, “Rocket Man,” by King. It likely will appear on their next record, too.
“[‘Rocket Man’] has this ethereal breakdown and buildup that feels a little outer spacey,” Glasgow says. “I really dig that song and we are looking forward to trying it on live. . . . We selected these new guys because we were excited about what they could play live, as well as ideas they would have as writers. I also see Jordan, Amanda and I cowriting songs more in the future. As a whole, we want to experiment more and use the different creative abilities of each member to make the songs more cohesive and well rounded.”
“Little Yellow House” represents home for Tumbleweed. Quite literally, the cover artwork by Josh Rivenbark shows a yellow house on empty landscape with rolling hilltops as a backdrop. The illustration is partially based on where the original three first played songs together: an old yellow house where Sutherland lived on the northside of downtown Wilmington.
“Symbolically, it represents a place where there is room to contemplate the finer points of life,” Glasgow muses, “which is what we are trying to do through songwriting on this album. . . . Somehow, it felt like we compromised with each other without compromising the album. It isn’t easy to do that with three songwriters driving the bus.”
While they plan to cowrite more on the next project, King, Glasgow and Sutherland brought several songs they each wrote solo to the table to be featured among the 11 tracks. They kept tunes that reflected variety and often poignant themes. Take, for example, “The Place I’m Going,” written by King. Spiritual in ways, it’s a tune about King’s deep-seated childhood fear that she would die at a young age. It was Glasgow’s first introduction to King’s songwriting.
“It is written from the perspective of having accepted that [fear,] and it’s an attempt to comfort those she will leave behind,” Glasgow tells. “I knew when I heard it there was a lot to her as a person and songwriter. Her straightforward lyrics and sincere voice really moved me. . . .
Obviously, we are hoping (and believing) she is going to live a long and happy life [laughs]. But it is a great song and one of the more serious ones on the album.”
Glasgow penned “Fool for You,” about falling for someone a little too hard. No matter how badly it might go, or mistakes made along the way, or even distance put between two people, Glasgow says those fuzzy feelings can be hard to shake. “As much as we might want to deny it,” Glasgow says, “we are all a fool for someone.”
Aside from heading back into the studio with Evans, Tumbleweed are already applying for summer festivals while planning more statewide touring and music videos for “Little Yellow House.” “We feel like our songwriting has matured and we are more comfortable with each other and the process,” Glasgow adds. “So, we are excited to see what direction the music takes on this next one.”