by Andi Bricklin
When you break down the DNA of successful bands, you can usually find the key ingredients that create their genetic make-up. You have your sibling bands, your husband/wife acts, but most of the time at the heart of a great band, are great friends.
The Steep Canyon Rangers are waist deep into their extensive 2013 calendar of tour dates, and will be in Philly this week with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, but were happy to take a break for That Mag to talk about everything going on with the band.
Lead singer, Woody Platt, sounds tired but excited to talk to me at 3:15 in the afternoon, as I bring up the subject of college. Platt took me back to where it all began. Aside from Mike Guggino, who is a childhood friend, most of the band attended the University of North Carolina. Not a single one was a music major, but if you need some info on environmental studies hit them up at a show. With promising careers ahead of them in their prospective studies, why pursue music?
“We were having too much fun to stop!” Platt says. “We had a lot of friends who came out to shows, that’s what really gave us the confidence to work on it [the band] and give it a shot.” Shortly after, they signed with Yep Roc records in North Carolina, and then with bluegrass label, Rebel Records.
Every band needs a secret weapon, and after juggling fiddle players for a while, here comes San Francisco native Nicky Sanders fresh out of college emailing the band a new-fangled MP3 audition and offers to drive down from Berkeley to try out! “He just blew us away, and has been with us ever since.” I had to ask… “Do you guys give him a hard time about being from the west coast?” Platt’s response, “We give Nicky a hard time about everything. Even though he’s been with us going on nine years now, he’s still the new guy so you kind of have to.”
The Steep Canyon Rangers have dates booked well into 2014. So how does being on the road effect their songwriting and creativity? “It fuels it,” Platt says, adding that those long rides between shows are when the band does a lot of their writing and rehearsing. That writing and rehearsing paid off last year when they were awarded the Grammy for Bluegrass Record of the Year. “Nobody moved,” recalls Platt. “We never thought we were gonna win, and we sat way in the back. It took us a while to get on stage.”
So what’s next for The Steep Canyon Rangers? How about a new record?! Tell the One I Love is set to be released on September 10th, 2013. Produced by Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm) in Levon Helm’s Barn, the band believes that this album is suited for more mainstream appeal. Personally, I can’t wait to see these guys take their place amongst the current reigning banjo rockers. Until then you can catch them Thursday night at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia with Edie Brickell and Steve Martin, and be on the look-out for them sometime in November, too.