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Carbon Leaf is on tour in support of their new release, Gathering 2: The Hunting Ground.
“We are champing at the bit to perform live again, after being off the road so much the previous year. The Hunting Ground Tour is going to be something special to us, to make an in-person connection again with a live audience,” says Carbon Leaf lyricist and frontman, Barry Privett.
A touring mainstay and an indie folk rock staple, this Virginia quintet’s live show and musical style drift between Americana, indie rock, folk, bluegrass, Celtic and pop traditions using an array of instruments - acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, cello, bass, drums, accordion, penny whistle and rich vocal harmonies – to define the band’s lively stage presence and sonic landscape.“We call it ether-electrified porch music,” says Privett, using a phrase nicked from an earlier album of the same name when describing the band’s expansive sound.
“It’s the sweet spot between the earnest roots music we grew up with and the textured electric rock side that gives us different places to go musically during the course of an evening.”
Whether they are plugged in to amplifiers or huddled around a single ‘Grand Ole Opry’ style microphone, Carbon Leaf radiates a warm, magnetic onstage presence that pulls the audience closer. Lyrically poetic with a wide range of musical styles, the band’s live charm is its ability to make the concert feel as much of an electrifying event as it would be an intimate gathering of just family and friends.
“Being both a folk band and rock band allows each song to breathe a little differently and creates an arc that keeps things interesting for the band and the fans.” Privett said. Performing live truly is a symbiotic relationship between the 5 band members and the audience.”
With a history spanning 27 years, 20 albums and 3,000 live shows, Carbon Leaf’s independent music and spirit continue to resonate with its fans.
Carbon Leaf debuted as an independent college band in
1993, gaining a strong regional following playing small clubs and campuses in surrounding Virginia.The band spent 5 years establishing their roots in the mid- Atlantic region, picking up weekend shows where they could and putting the funds into four self-released albums between 1995-2000.
In 2001 the band received national attention with their song “The Boxer” which gained key support at a handful of AAA radio stations across the country, a unique accomplishment considering the group was still an unsigned band at the time with no formal representation.
Carbon Leaf’s momentum continued into 2002, becoming the first unsigned act to ever win an American Music Award in the show’s 46-year history, and the first to perform live at the AMAs to a globally televised audience as an independent artist.
“It was an intense, surreal couple of years,” Privett said. “We were ready for a break, but then things started catching fire. It was a good jolt at the right time.”
Carbon Leaf spent 2003 in the studio writing and recording their seminal album, Indian Summer, the group’s 5th independently produced record.
This series of breakouts gained the band some buzz, attracting the attention of Vanguard Records, who expressed interest in licensing the new album. In 2004, the band signed a 3-album recording contract with the venerable label, ending their 11-year run as a fully autonomous act, and laying the foundation for Carbon Leaf’s next chapter.
The band’s new single, “Life Less Ordinary”, received considerable airplay and reached a broader audience nationwide, peaking at #5 on AAA radio and #28 at HotAC. The increased exposure put the band on the road for 250+ days a year supporting Indian Summer throughout 2004 and 2005.
Two subsequent albums, Love Loss Hope Repeat (2006) and Nothing Rhymes With Woman (2009), were released through Vanguard while the band focused heavily on touring in support of the albums’ singles “Learn To Fly” and “Miss Hollywood” respectively.
“We survived those early days as an independent band and gained a healthy perspective on how to adapt between the highs and lows that define a career artist’s path. Learning to manage between those wide frequencies is the difference between resilience and collapsing. What has befallen many an artist is becoming too top heavy in those dips. You have to see it coming.”
Missing the autonomous flexibility of those earlier years, the band decided not to extend its contract for a 4th release under the label, and as 2009 came to a close, Carbon Leaf once again embraced it’s independent roots.
Between 2007-2009, the band collected a series of songwriting awards, including the International Songwriting Competition’s first prize honor for ‘The War Was In Color”. In 2010, Universal Studios tapped the band to write the soundtrack for the animated film, Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey.
Energized by the renewed freedom, Carbon Leaf built it’s own recording space, Two-Car Studio, and began writing and releasing on their own again. The band’s creativity accelerated in this new environment and 6 independent projects were released between 2010-2013, including two EPs (How The West Was vol. One and Christmas Child); alive album and acoustic concert film (Live, Acoustic…and in Cinemascope!); two full-length albums (Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle and Constellation Prize) and the soundtrack for Universal’s Curious George 2.
From 2014-2016 the band focused their efforts on re- recording the three albums released through Vanguard, which hold the rights to those master recordings, but not to the songs themselves. Fans eagerly supported the three re- recordings, and with the newly completed versions (Indian Summer Revisited, Love Loss Hope Repeat Reneaux and Nothing Rhymes With Woman 16), Carbon Leaf regained the publishing rights to 100% its song catalogue.
After taking a much-needed break from touring in 2016 to focus on things back home and in the studio, the band returned to the road heavily in 2017 behind Gathering Vol. 1, the first of four acoustic EPs released under the ‘Gathering’ banner.
In 2018, the band celebrated its 25th Anniversary with extensive U.S. touring.
2019 was spent writing and recording songs for a new EP (Gathering 2: The Hunting Ground) and a 27-song video project filmed on location at a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean (Carbon Leaf Cottage: Songs By The Sea).
In 2020, Carbon Leaf announced they have begun writing songs for a planned full-length album set for a July 2021 release.
"We’ve been gifted an opportunity to write and perform in front of a live audience,” said Barry Privett, while reflecting on the band’s 27 years. "We are lucky to have fans on the other end of that long road, receiving what wecreate. Our audience has been what sustains us. And what compels us forward. It’s not something we take for granted."
Carbon Leaf is Barry Privett (lyrics, vocals), Terry Clark (guitars, vocals), Carter Gravatt (guitars, strings, vocals), Jon Markel (bass, vocals) and Jesse Humphrey (drums, vocals).