You left your lonely: Charles Humphrey of Songs From The Road Band
Within this modern realm of bluegrass music, there’s a particular sonic revolution occurring — one where once-fringe elements of progressive styles and artistic experimentation have now become the center of the acoustic landscape.
When you speak of this omnipresent sea change, names like Billy Strings, Greensky Bluegrass and The Infamous Stringdusters immediately come to mind. So, too, does the whirlwind sound and attitude that is Songs From The Road Band.
The Western North Carolina quintet is this band of melodic pirates, roaring down the highways and backroads of Southern Appalachia in search of a stage to play, perhaps another kindred spirit to collaborate with in the sacred art of songwriting and creating something (beautiful and permanent) from nothing (thin air and momentary inspiration).
At the core of SFTRB is acclaimed songwriter/bassist Charles Humphrey III. A Grammy-winner and former co-founder of the Steep Canyon Rangers, Humphrey launched SFTRB in 2006.
What started out as a side-project for Humphrey has now become his main gig and intense focus with SFTRB. And, over the years, he’s applied his immense talent (musically and lyrically) into this acoustic bastion of scope and purpose — one currently overtaking a live music scene in need of a kick in the ass.
Smoky Mountain News: Aside from being a professional musician, you also guide fly-fishing excursions around this area. What do you see as some of the similarities between those two careers?
Charles Humphrey: I love teaching. I love meeting new people, being outdoors and on the water. With music and fly-fishing, you’re definitely putting on a show.
When you’re out there [onstage or in the river], you’ve got them right there with you. You’re offering a service. You’re entertaining people. You’re making them happy. They’re there to have fun — spreading joy through music, spreading joy through fishing.
Just like live music, with fishing you’re out there thinking about nothing except what you’re doing right at the moment. You’re not worried about bills or anything else going in your life — it’s an escape.
SMN: And I would surmise that there’s a lot to be said about the patience needed to catch a fish and the patience needed to write a song.
CH: Right. You’re dedicating that time. You’re spending that time. You’re intentional with the time you’ve put towards that activity and passion.
SMN: Whether it’s songwriting or fishing, you’re pursuing something. And then, all of a sudden, something hits the line.
CH: Yep. And I love co-writing. I like working with other people, too. I think it’s a lot of fun and it’s creative. You’re making something out of nothing. And, if all goes well, you’ve created a song that’s going to go out into the world and hopefully find a home.
Whether it’s with Songs From The Road Band or if it goes somewhere else, it’s the act of creating. I enjoy doing it with other people and then having a song that people enjoy.
SMN: And one of the things I’ve always admired about Songs From The Road Band is how you’re very independent — in how you conduct yourself, in how you do business.
CH: Well, a lot of that comes from necessity, where if you want something done right, you’re got to do it yourself. [With my background], it’s rewarding because I’ve seen everything [in this industry].
I know what’s out there and that you can’t take for granted your opportunities to create music with a professional band. I can kind of try and help to open doors for the others and run the business as much as I can. So, it’s nice to have that [previous] experience to draw upon.
But, with that, we’re definitely growing our team and value our team members, whether it’s a new booking agent or a publicist. By having those key people in our lives, it allows the band to focus on the creative side of things more.
SMN: That’s a big part of the ethos of the band, having this family dynamic.
CH: Yeah. Most of us have been longtime friends. We’re very lucky with the chemistry of this band. When we get together, we’re excited to see other, which means we’re going to put on the best show possible.
We don’t take this for granted. It’s always been about making it fun for everybody. And when we’re having fun, that’s going to transfer over into the audience and into the music.
Want to go?
Songs From The Road Band will once again host its annual “Asheville Winter Grass” showcase at One World Brewing in West Asheville.
Aside from two performances from SFTRB, special guests will include legendary singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, and Americana/honky-tonk sensation Andy Buckner from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5.