Erin & The Wildfire
THE intrepid and pioneering clan of Erin & The Wildfire…
is led by the soulfulness and beguiling allure of Erin Lunsford. The band is based out of Charlottesville, Virginia – an area which, for the wrong reasons, has been in the news lately. I ask the guys about the recent terrorist/hate attack and what their response is. I was more eager to know about their new album, Thirst – and what we can expect from it. The latest single, Great Love, has a fascinating backstory – one Lunsford describes with great clarity and richness of language!
The band selects songs and albums that mean a lot to them and I get a great window into a group that both unique and relatable – and ask where their music will take them in the next couple of months.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Our week has been v. productive so far.
We had a vocal sectional practice and a horn sectional last night. We’ve got three shows later this week that are part of our album release tour - and we are enjoying the September weather in Virginia!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello, Music Lovers! Erin & The Wildfire is an energetic, goofy; Funk/Soul band from Charlottesville, Virginia - and we cannot wait for you to listen to our first full-length album!
How did you all come together? The band has a great chemistry. Was that an instant thing?
Nick, Matt; Ryan and I met in 2011 at UVA in a student recording group called ORecords, and the musical chemistry was there from the start. I was the President at the time and I had to pick people to play on various songs we performed at the end-of-semester showcases. We jelled from the beginning and all had a shared passion for performance (and dad jokes).
Saxophonist and pianist Garen Dorsey joined the band in 2016 after we played together in a Jazz-Opera in Charlottesville - written by local trumpet prodigy, John D'Earth.
The most recent addition is the magnificent trumpet player, background vocalist; flautist and pianist Austin - who we heard would be a great addition through the grapevine.
Great Love is your new track. What is the song all about and can you reveal a bit about its creation?
Great Love was the last tune we wrote before recording the album - but it has one of the oldest origin stories.
When I was a fourth year at UVA, I got dumped…hard. It was devastating and unexpected and everything you might find after a first love heartbreak. At the time, I was doing an independent music study at the time with my favorite professor/teacher (ever), Dr. Ted Coffey. I confided in him/ugly-cried through our meeting about my hurting heart - and he shared a story with me about one of his breakups. He said he'd been dumped on Christmas Day by the person he saw his entire future with and that he felt like he'd never love again in the same way. BUT, he said he never knew the greatness a love could have until his most recent relationship: "The love I have now is a Great love."
I have held those words in my heart since then and call on them when I've felt hopeless about romance. Dr. Coffey also told me in the same meeting that this would not be my last serious heartbreak (L.o.L.). #wisdom.
It is taken from the forthcoming album, Thirst. What kind of themes and experienced inspired the tracks? Was it an easy album to put together?!
Thirst is about my quest for love: but this leg of the journey turned up all misses; the epitome of unrequited love. I'd say a quarter of the songs are about one person in particular who I chased for a couple/few years. The song, Thirsty, was the first in the series of longing songs followed by Nothing Drowns You Out; Meant for Me, One Woman Show and, finally, Great Love. Longing turns to obsession turns to insecurity - turns to anger turns, in the end, to a surrender of sorts with Great Love.
This album wasn’t exactly easy to put together - it took us several years. The last recording we put out was in 2014 - and we have been mulling over our songs and writing new things since then.
Is there a song from the album that is particularly memorable and important?
Every song is special in a unique way to us: from the backstory to its evolution into a fully developed piece of music; but there are some really fun moments on the records beyond the songs themselves. Top-three for me are: 1) Nick’s laugh at the end of Hot Slice - because it’s so authentic and I think it’s a nice snapshot of our mood during recording (silly). 2) My dad’s voicemail from 2007 hidden somewhere in the album… oooooooo. It’s very sentimental for me and I hope other people relate to having memorable dad voicemails on your phone from ten-plus years ago? 3) Rodell Toliver’s funky voiceover in Every Single Song on My CD Is Gonna Be a Hit Pt. 1. (Yes, that’s the full title). Rodell is a talented guy and he made that song complete when he added his voiceover. Took him two tries?! He’s the man.
Not to mention he had the stomach flu while he recorded it!
How does Erin & The Wildfire write the songs? Do you all pitch in or will each member take a different song?
Our songwriting process usually starts with me - I generate the melody, chords and lyrics for a song and then we arrange and fill in the song as a group. It’s a challenging but fulfilling process. I usually find inspiration when I'm on long drives. I have a huge 'note' in my phone that I keep adding lyrics to as they come - but I mostly record on my phone voice memo app. I can't say it's the safest process - I'm usually driving 75 M.P.H. on the interstate when a hook hits me and I have to get to voice memos on my phone - before it's gone from my brain forever.
Recently, we’ve been doing sectionals for horns and vocals to try to write and practice more carefully - and it’s going swimmingly!
PHOTO CREDIT: G. Milo Farineau
It is quite a long and ambitious track. Was it hard putting it all together or did it flow quite naturally?
I assume you’re talking about our single, Great Love, that we just dropped. This tune was definitely out of our comfort-zone when we first tried it out but, at the same time, it was one of the most intuitive writing sessions we’ve had recently.
The thick rhythm change at the end of the tune was a new idea for us but it came together easily - and it’s one of the most fun moments of our live set for me.
Charlottesville is where you are based. What is the music scene like there? Are there a lot of opportunities and cool places to play?
Charlottesville, VA is great and the music scene is lovely here. It's home. But, dang, the dating-pool is small! (see: One Woman Show, Great Love). Charlottesville has some excellent venues including The Ante Room, The Southern (our personal favourite) and a couple larger venues we’ve been lucky enough to play a few times each – The Jefferson Theater and The Pavilion.
Charlottesville’s scene is growing and we are excited to be a part of it!
How did the band react after the riots that took place in Charlottesville a few weeks back? Was that a shocking thing for you all to see?
A12 was an incredibly sad day for all of us...
Unfortunately, we had a show about four-hours away from home with almost no cell reception - so we were frantically trying to get in touch with our friends and family who were on the ground at the terrorist attack (and our van broke down that same day so we were scrambling to get home/find a mechanic/be near wifi to make calls etc.).
It was shocking and upsetting for us but we cannot imagine the distress and the heartbreak that the black community of Charlottesville must feel after such an ugly display of racism by Nazis and K.K.K. in their own backyard. However, we are especially proud of the resilience and grace with which our fellow C-villians and Charlottesville musicians have handled the trauma.
One week after the attack, I participated in a Come Together Charlottesville Concert that was put together by Charlottesville all-star musicians Jay Pun and Jamal Milner - hosted by The Jefferson Theater. The concert featured local musicians from a variety of genres and backgrounds and even one of the A12 victims, Micah Washington, who was brave enough to share her voice on the stage that night. We raised $7000 for the victims of the terrorist attacks but more money is needed to help get these people back on their feet.
You can donate and learn more here.
What tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we come and see you play?
Oooooh girl; we got some shows comin’ - and more to be announced soon:
9/21: The Camel, Richmond, VA
9/22: Chiles Peach Orchard, Crozet, VA
9/23: Starr Hill Brewery, Roanoke, VA
10/1: Jibberjazz Fest, Summit Station, PA
10/12: 622 North, Blacksburg, VA
10/13: The Southern, Charlottesville, VA
10/14: Boone Saloon, Boone, N.C.
10/20: Velvet Lounge, Washington D.C.
11/24: Rives Theater, Martinsville, VA
PHOTO CREDIT: Rick Krajnyak
Are there any plans coming to the U.K.? Have you played over here before?
WE WISH!!!! ALL CAPS, O.M.G.
We would love to do a European tour and come to the U.K.! I’ve done a radio interview for a station there in London - when we released our last recording in 2014. Can we hang out with you guys if we tour over there?!
IN THIS PHOTO: Anna Ash/PHOTO CREDIT: Brandon Jones
If you each had to select the album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Ryan: Strange Mercy by St. Vincent
It pulled me out of a rut of appreciating only older music and revitalized my interest in trying new things - especially with guitar tones and technique.
Garen: Voodoo by D'Angelo
The album is flawless. The vocals, the instrumentation; the horn arrangements and the production.... absolutely nothing on the record is out of place - and the grooves are, somehow, ahead of and behind the beat at the same time. Never been out of my rotation for longer than a few weeks.
Nick: Mine's Brother, Sister by MewithoutYou
It was the first time I realized how powerful a coherent record could be. Each song goes perfectly into the next and there’s a consistent sound without anything feeling like the same song. Listening to the drums on that album was also the first time I realized you don’t need crazy chops to have a powerful sound.
Matt: Outkast's The Love Below (one-half of a double-album: the other record is Speaxerboxxx)
It's a masterclass in thematic unity. Few albums that I know of do as good a job of exploring/employing such a wide range of styles and influences while still maintaining complete artistic cohesion throughout the work.
Austin: Earth Wind & Fire - Greatest Hits
Because catchy leads equally good backups.
Erin: Little Sparrow by Dolly Parton
It still brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of my first experiences with music. This album was my first glimpse into the soul of a truly masterful songwriter - and an expressive and unique singer. Dolly Parton's spirit inspires me to spread joy. Little Sparrow was the first album I really studied and learned with my mom growing up. The first tune I ever learned by myself for voice and guitar at age eleven was Marry Me.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I’d say just keep swimming.
We’ve been at it for six years now and it’s tiring, not gonna lie. Music performance is a constant series of highs and lows but, if you dig it, you dig it. I feel at my most alive when I’m performing with my friends and connecting with an audience - I crave it, actually. I’d tell them Fame is not the goal: being in the moment is the goal.
I’d also tell them: don’t listen to me because I’m a nobody - go ask someone more successful who knows what they’re doing.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
We have been using this playlist to keep track of some of our favs recently. (Thanks so much for talking with us!).
• Something - Lalah Hathaway & Snarky Puppy
• Atomic Bomb - William Onyeabor
• Don’t Huzzle for Love - The Apostles
• In My Room - Jacob Collier
• Pray for Rain - Pure Bathing Culture
• Only Girl (In the World) – Rihanna
• I Try - Macy Gray
• What’s Up - 4 Non Blondes
• Sunday Morning - No Doubt
• Back Pocket – Vulfpeck
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