Asheville, NC based roots band The Honeycutters are set to debut their third album, Me Oh My, on April 21st via Organic Records. The album contains fourteen songs dealing with the themes of life, love, and growth. The songs are honestly told and fueled by pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and Amanda Anne Platt's timeless vocals. Ahead of the release, front woman Platt took some time to talk about the album, the writing process, and more
Being that some people might be new to your music, can you tell us when The Honeycutters formed and whether you are all original members?
At this point there are very few original members. I moved to Asheville in 2007 and founded the band with Peter James, who played guitar and is no longer with us, and Tal Taylor, who plays mandolin. Currently with us are Matt Smith, who played guitar and dobro on the first two albums, but wasn’t a touring member until later, and Rick Cooper [bass] and Josh Milligan [drums], who hopped on board in 2012. It’s been a rotating cast of characters, but we have had the current lineup for about two years now.
Originally you are from New York, so when you decided to pursue music why did you gravitate to Asheville instead of say, Austin or Nashville?
Well that’s an excellent question. I was in Austin last week and then Nashville and now I am on the way back to North Carolina. I love both of those cities and I did think about moving to them, but I felt like I was going to be overwhelmed in either one. I have family in Austin, so that felt nice and safe, but it was already becoming a big city, and Nashville has a lot of competition. Another reason that brought me to Asheville was that I wanted to study guitar building, I wanted to be a luthier. There was a big school in Austin with a good program, but I didn’t feel it would be as personal, so I found a guy in Asheville to apprentice with and that was kind of the final sign for me, like okay, I’ll go there to study.
Asheville, like Austin and Nashville, seems to have a vibrant music scene.
Definitely…. and it’s growing fast. I’m glad that I got in when I did because it’s getting easier to get lost in it. When I moved there it was a very organic scene, and it still is; everyone is supportive, likes one another and hangs out, but it is growing fast.
Congratulations on the new record, Me Oh My, which releases on April 21st. The album has a lovely balance of tempos and a real variety. Is that something you knew you wanted to do going into it?
Yeah, you know, I think I have an advantage in that I write a lot. I am a very prolific songwriter; in fact the pace at which we have made albums has been very slow for my taste! So by the time we got around to this record, which is our third, I had like, five to six albums worth of material. It wasn’t like “ok I have to write for this album” and needed to get into a headspace. It was more like “ok well, what songs that I’ve written over the past four to five years do I wanna put here, what do I wanna say and how can I give it some variety.” I could have made this a break up album because I had a pretty big breakup before it was recorded, but as it was I kinda reached back to some older stuff to make it more of a mix.
Given that you write so prolifically, talk about your writing process a little bit. Do you write from experience, observations, friend’s stories or a combination?
It’s definitely a combination. I think this album has a lot more honesty and less story songs or fictionalized things. My pattern, which I think maybe a lot of other writers do, is, well a good example of it is a song on the new record, “Texas 81.” A friend of mine told me a story about his parents when they split up. I was going through a break up at that time as well, so I wrote it about them, but I kind of framed a lot of my own emotions into the story. I feel like I do that a lot. I think you have to write what you know to some extent, to make it authentic, but it doesn’t mean that what you know can’t be told in a different way. I think it makes it a little bit more fun to write, as well as accessible [to the listener].
The record contains fourteen tracks, which in this day and age is a large number of songs for a release. Having had so much material to choose from was it difficult narrowing it down?
Yeah definitely! I had a few people trying to have me pull a couple tracks from it, but I was like “no I can’t narrow it down anymore (laughing)!” I mean, I think I wanted it to be something like seventeen, so this was sort of a compromise.
You have said that you were in the driver’s seat more for this record, which forced you to do a lot of growing up. Can you explain how so?
Well, this was the first record where I was the only producer. On the others, I produced with Pete [James]. He’s super talented, and he did great job, but I ended up being not as hands on. This one was just me and there was a lot of learning to be done because I had to think about a lot of different things. Plus, the record was fan funded, so I felt like I had a responsibility to our Kickstarter backers and wondered, since Pete wasn’t producing, whether they would like it or hate it.
I felt like there was a lot of pressure, so I think a lot of the growing up was a) like stepping up to the plate and making decisions and b) letting go of some of that concern over whether everyone is gonna love it. I realized it doesn’t have to be perfect, doesn’t have to be a Grammy winning album, I mean obviously that would be great, but you know, not what I’m expecting. So there was kind of a two sided coin of just that--learning to be more hands on and also learning to let go, if that makes sense.
It actually makes complete sense. So looking back, did you enjoy the process?
I did, I really did. We went into the studio in 2013, so it’s been a long process. There have been ups and downs, some emotional stuff and a learning curve, but overall it has been a really great and joyful experience. I love my band, they’re fantastic and l feel like the process of making the record and the transitions we’ve been through have brought us a lot closer.
With so many potential possibilities for a title, why did you call the record Me Oh My?
Um, I don’t know (laughing). I’m not a very creative album namer, I just kinda grab a song from the album and use that. At one point I was trying to get really creative, thinking of ways I could take lyrics from a song and play with them and then Ty Gilpin, who is head of label, was like ‘You know what? I think Me Oh My is a great album title.’ He just said it with such confidence that I was like, it is a great album title, we’re gonna do that (laughing). He made that decision easy.
The album as you mentioned, was Kickstarter funded. When did you sign with Organic Records?
We signed with them in November or December. The album was actually done last spring, like a year ago, and we were hoping to find a label, which is why it has taken so long to get the album out. A label can just give you a lot more exposure and help to push an album further. So even though we had raised the money as far as recording and publicity and all that, we knew it would be good if we could get on a label. We were talking to two different ones and some friends who were on Organic mentioned them. I wondered if they’d be interested and thankfully they were open to it. It's been working out really well.
Having had some wonderful opportunities, including performing alongside musicians like Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, and Ray Wylie Hubbard, what’s ahead for this year?
Right now we have the album release and then we can kinda chill for a while, which feels interesting and good. What’s funny is that usually in the summer we do a west coast tour and open for bigger names, but right now this summer is looking low key. We’re still booking though, so I’m sure there will be cool things we’ll get involved in.
Finally, I always like to know, is there one recent release that you cannot stop listening to?
Let’s see, what do we listen to a lot in the car? Well, we all love Tom Petty, George Strait and Dwight Yoakam. In terms of recent releases, gosh I feel like I’m out of the loop. The last new thing we all got behind was Jason Isbell’s Southeastern. We listen to a lot of old stuff I guess is the bottom line (laughing).
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