Connor Christian & The Southern Gothic:
“We don’t like to box ourselves in,” says Connor. “But we hear from fans all the time that our blend of sounds and influences is one of the things they love. When we get on a stage, it just clicks. It’s seamless. And based on the way people are reacting, it must be working.” It’s working indeed. From the fiddle-driven and harmony-rich opener “Sheets Down”, to the country-ballad swoon of “Only Need You”, “(She’s) My Salvation” or “Back in Dixie”, to the unapologetic, raunchy swagger of “When I’m Gone”, or the instrumental twin-fiddle blast of the aptly-named “Fiddler”, New Hometown is an 18 song joyride. Produced by Connor and John Briglevich (Goo Goo Dolls, Edwin McCain), this is roots music crafted by a restlessness of spirit, born from the travels of a true troubadour.
Connor was born in Los Angeles, but before he was a teenager, had lived in South Korea, Indonesia and Belgium. At the age of 14, he left home with a guitar and a backpack, and continued his travel and musical growth in Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, South America and even Africa. By the time he settled in Atlanta, GA in 1996, his life and his music were steeped in culture and influence from his well-traveled youth, and a tradition of diversity. And it was in that tradition that he began crafting what would become The Southern Gothic, or as fans call them "SoGo".
Connor met drummer Shawn Thacker in 2004. Thacker, a Rome, GA native, was raised as many rural Southerners were – surrounded by guitars, fiddles, mandolins and banjos. And, of course, KISS. “Hearing ‘Detroit Rock City’ by the flashing lights of my uncle’s 8-track player was a life-changer,” says Thacker. Suburban Washington, DC native and bass player Joe Abramson, who cut his teeth on ‘60s British blues and “pretty much anything with loud guitars,” rounded out what initially began as a trio, the first incarnation of what would later become SoGo
Continuing in the spirit of New Hometown, next came classically trained violinist (turned fiddler) Elena Martin, born and raised deep in Soviet Siberia. Aside from her fiddle work, Martin is beloved among fans for her huge smile and infectious on-stage energy. Multi-instrumentalist and Syracuse, NY native Jeff Spirko completed the lineup, joining in 2010. Spirko moves with ease between guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and piano, but he’s not alone in his multi-instrumental talent. Christian, in addition to his vocal duties, plays guitar, piano and mandolin, and Martin plays piano and mandolin when not blistering the neck of her fiddle. The band’s ability to move between so many instruments adds not only a great dynamic to the music, but a level of excitement to their live show as well.
“Live, there are definitely some moments that might look like a fire drill. We have a song or two where some of us change instruments mid-song, so to the uninitiated, it looks chaotic. But it adds to the excitement. And it gives us so much flexibility on stage to do different things, and change the texture of the show from song to song.”
The SoGo has spent the better part of the past three years on the road. When not headlining, they’ve shared stages with such artists as Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Corey Smith, Big & Rich, Uncle Kracker, Gloriana, STYX, ZZ Top, Heart, Foreigner, and more. The diverse nature of the artists with whom they’ve toured again reflects the diversity of the band’s sound. “It works,” says Christian in regard to the varying nature of the audiences. “We’ve played to country crowds, rock crowds, young crowds, old crowds. We’ve played to jam band audiences and we’ve played bluegrass festivals. The response with all of them has been fantastic.”
Fantastic enough for Billboard Magazine to notice. SoGo was named “Artist on the Verge” in Billboard’s Best Bets of 2012 issue. “It’s pretty crazy,” says Connor of the accolade. “I hope it’s a harbinger of things to come.”
And if the momentum gained in the past year is any indication, The Southern Gothic indeed has big things to come. The release of New Hometown in February '13 was be preceeded by the release of the video for “Sheets Down”, directed by Mil Cannon (Usher, Pink, John Mayer, Collective Soul), and supported by the band’s continued “never-stop” approach to touring.
“We’ve traveled the world,” says Connor. “We find the people, the stories - there’s always something familiar, no matter where we go. So when we get to play songs that are shaped by those people and those places, somehow it always feels like we are home, no matter where we are.”
Addition: in late 2013 The Southern Gothic welcome Atlanta's Rashad Abu-Azzam on bass (known to some SoGo fans as Shad Adams). At the end of 2014 Elena Martin retired from touring and the multi-talented Fiddlin' Faye Petree of Winston-Salem NC took over fiddle duties.
All frontmen of previous bands, Brendon Thomas, James Downes and Trevor Leonard met on tour in 2005. They went on to form a trio that highlights their vocal chemistry and captures the raw honesty of their performances. TEOA recently wrapped the recording of their debut LP, a follow-up to their previous EPs, Shakey and Steep Bay.
The new album was written in the wake of a series of close calls: one involving a van accident on tour, and the other when drummer Jarrod Pedone was involved in a hit-and-run that left him in a coma for months. Fortunately the band walked away unscathed, and Jarrod made a stunning recovery. The following winter all members relocated to Philadelphia to write and hone their new sound. Joining forces with longtime friend and engineer Dave Downham in the producer’s chair, the band tracked 11 new songs at nearby Gradwell House Recordings in Haddon Heights, NJ.
With the album released, the band is gearing up for a full year of touring. Anyone who has seen TEOA can attest to their powerful harmonies and stage presence.
The End of America has performed at SXSW, Savannah Stopover and the Baltimore Folk Fest. They have shared the stage with Larry Campbell, David Bromberg, Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Simone Felice (The Felice Brothers) and joined Beck in Los Angeles to perform for his Song Reader sheet music release show. The trio's appearance at the show aired live on KCRW and received praise from Spin, Filter and The Hollywood Reporter.
The Southern Gothic W/ The End of AmericaFriday, February 07, 2020 9:00 PM