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All in the family: The Brothers Gillespie to play hometown album release show

The Brothers Gillespie (from left) are Davis Gillespie, Max Pollifrone, Aaron Gillespie and Clay Gillespie. The Brothers Gillespie (from left) are Davis Gillespie, Max Pollifrone, Aaron Gillespie and Clay Gillespie.

In a leap of faith move last summer, Americana/indie act The Brothers Gillespie left its native Waynesville and took off over the state line to Johnson City, Tennessee. 

Comprised of three Gillespie siblings — Davis (singer/rhythm guitar), Clay (drums), Aaron (lead guitar) — and longtime friend Max Pollifrone (bass), the quartet chose Johnson City to create and perform its music as Clay finished up college at nearby East Tennessee State University (where he’s currently studying Appalachian music). 

With his graduation next month, The Brothers Gillespie will once again relocate back to Haywood County, this time returning to Western North Carolina with a debut full-length album, “Love & Death.” 

Captured by producers Garrett Derhofer and Tom Osmunson at Studio-412 in Candler, the record is a seamless blend of Americana, psychedelic rock and honky-tonk stylings, gliding across the musical spectrum, all while making additional stops in the realms of country and folk music. 

It’s an impressive release from a young band, one that pushes The Brothers Gillespie across the threshold between weekend warriors playing the real-time soundtrack to another wild Saturday night and an actual touring act with the potential to genuinely go the distance. 

Smoky Mountain News: Though three of y’all are brothers, how did it all come together musically?  

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Aaron Gillespie: I came home from college one weekend during my senior year. Davis and Clay were upstairs jamming on a song Davis had recently written. It shocked me because I had never heard Davis sing or play guitar and it was a really good tune, which would eventually become “Wake Up.” Right there, I knew that we had to get some songs together and play — it was too good not to share.

SMN: At what point did you decide to make a go at it, something you feel is worth all the blood, sweat and tears to try and make it?

AG: I worked in an office in Charlotte before all this and it was the worst. I love creating and playing music, so I had to ask myself why was I wasting my time building a career in something I don’t care about when I could put all that effort towards something I love?

Clay Gillespie: I’ve always wanted to pursue music. I think about cruising with my dad on fishing trips listening to The Beatles, Kiss, David Bowie, and thinking that I would do that one day. As I got older, my musical taste became more refined where, eventually, I got educated in music by the good folks of the bluegrass, old-time and country music program at ETSU. As a student there, I realized that this could be a reality — you’re being educated by seasoned veterans of the industry, who not only round out your skills, but teach you a little bit about the life.

SMN: What does the live setting spark within you, and also within your band?

Davis Gillespie: One of the things we’ve learned — the energy and emotion in the audience is directly proportional to ours. If you’re nervous while you’re playing or maybe you’re not completely invested, they can feel that, and they’ll respond accordingly. I really pay attention to what my favorite bands and singers do during their live performances, as far as dancing, yelling and really getting into the performance, and I try to draw from that.

CG: The live setting is where I thrive. Sitting behind the drum kit doesn’t get all the glory, but engaging with the live audience is a joy of mine. Performing in front of people has never really been a difficulty of mine, being the youngest of three you’re constantly searching for attention — anyone who knew me as a child will tell you.  

SMN: What is it that keeps you going and inspired to push ahead and overcome the tough financial and professional challenges of being an independent act in the digital age? 

CG: Personally, I believe that we’re currently living in one of the greatest generations of music. We live in a time where an unsigned artist such as Chance the Rapper can release universally acclaimed albums, where grassroots artists resonate more than the over-produced, over-played artists that are crammed down our throats. We live in an age that’s not reliant on radio play — even though it’s welcomed, it’s not essential. What keeps me inspired is the outpouring of support from a generation yearning for something different. 

AG: You just kind of come in when you come in, and you have to make the best of it. That being said, I think we’re very fortunate to live in a time that makes music production and distribution so accessible. We produced our [self-titled debut] EP from my bedroom and just recently surpassed a combined 10,000 streams on all platforms. I think it’s great that you don’t have to be in Los Angeles or New York City or somewhere huge to make music — some of the best music comes from these little pockets across the world doing their own thing in their communities.


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Want to go?

The Brothers Gillespie will host an album release party as part of the “Brews & News” music series at 9 p.m. Friday, April 12, in The Gem downstairs taproom at Boojum Brewing Company in Waynesville. 

The series is a monthly collaboration between Boojum Brewing Company and The Smoky Mountain News. For more information about The Brothers Gillespie and the “Love & Death” album, visit

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