FREE SHOW @ Joshua Tree Saloon (indoor stage), Saturday August 25 9-12 pm
FREE SHOW @ Big Rock Pub, Indio, CA Sunday August 26, 6-8pm (Dancing from 8-10 pm)
By Lisa Morgan
Carolina Story is a love story: Ben and Emily – two star crossed lovers who discovered the magic in blending their voices (and their lives) during a camping trip ten years ago. The union gave birth to their first “child,” Carolina Story, a name Emily thought would be beautiful for a daughter, but Ben (head over heels but only 21 at the time) suggested would be a great name for a band. The magic of their union solidified, the couple now have two (actual) children together but admit that Carolina Story has quite possibly been the higher maintenance of the three. Nurtured for a decade, this ensemble has developed into a beautiful blend of melodic, well-crafted story telling with pristinely developed harmonies. From the sacred circle of the Grand Ol’ Opry, to stages along the west coast, Carolina Story has been touring their new album, Lay Your Head Down for the better part of a month. This Sunday, the good people of the Coachella Valley, will be treated to an impromptu free Carolina Story evening at Big Rock Pub, in Indio, California.
Carolina Story’s self-penned, harmony-laden Americana is captured on their latest album release, Lay Your Head Down, their debut on Black River Records. The 12-song journal captures two people’s moving, relatable journey from childhood to parenthood, independence to partnership, and from despondency to hope. They’ve graced the Grand Ole Opry stage many times, won over critics, and inked a decent record deal. But the album ought to come with a warning label: Listening to it will incite an intense craving to hear their magic live.
They’ve come a long way and logged in a lot of miles and shows, but getting to the Opry and on a label almost didn’t happen:
“We’d just gotten off the road, and I was thinking, ‘Let’s just give up,’” Emily remembers. “I thought he’d be the positive one, but Ben said, ‘No, I agree.’” They went to the grocery store, defeated and lost. That’s when a woman approached them to tell them she’d seen them in a coffee shop in town and loved their music.
“She was very kind, but even though we heard it as a compliment, we were thinking, ‘This woman has no idea we’ve written our last song,’” Ben says, then laughs.
“We started to go down the next aisle,” Emily chimes in. “Then, she grabbed our attention once more and said, ‘Hey, I just really feel like I’m supposed to tell you guys to never give up.’ Well, that sent chills up our spines.” Emily pauses, reliving the moment.
“She had no idea,” Ben says. “She didn’t know us from Adam…Every time there was a nudge from the universe… We’ve always done our own booking: been the tour manger, merch person; we wore all the hats. I think doing everything DIY for so many years, it’s solidified some resilience in us. We got lucky, and made our debut on the Opry 4 years ago when Emily was pregnant with our son…”
“There’s a part of that story I love the most,” interjects Emily. “We had been touring relentlessly. But when our family came into town, we wanted to show them around. We brought them to see the Opry and did the whole back stage tour. At the end of the tour, you can stand in ‘the Circle.’ Well, my mom wanted to take a picture of us standing in it, but Ben politely said, ‘No.’”
“I wanted to wait until we are actually playing on that stage. There’s no way I would stand in that circle uninvited,” contributed Ben.
“It was magical to actually stand in that sacred circle,” Emily shares, the magic of it still living in her voice. “All those memories flooded in when we got to stand in it. We tell our son that he got to stand in it before he was even born.”
Both sets of grandparents are enjoying time with the grandkids as mom and dad tour the new record. The couple are anxious to get home to the kids but are also looking forward to recording new songs as well. Perhaps it is a little bit of that hard-earned magic that seems to live in their bones these days that puts Big Rock Pub in their path, as their tour heads them eastward and home. Mark my words – Carolina Story could read the warning labels of a new pharmaceutical drug, and make it sound like a good time.
“It was a process and still is,” admits Ben, regarding the mastery the two have over their vocal blend and delivery that defines them.
“We felt the magic from the very beginning – we were in love,” Emily adds. “For the first 7 years, it was just us… we really got to grow dynamically over that time. It means a lot to hear that others can feel it too.”
“This album is really the first album that we’ve finally started to define our sound a bit,” Ben continues. “Just when you think the gig’s up and it’s all changing––that all your hopes and dreams of doing what’s inside you are gone, as they say, the only one that matters is the last card you turn over. You just keep going.”
Joshua Tree Saloon is located at 61836 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA. They will be performing on the indoor stage from 9-11:55 pm. www.joshuatreesaloon.com.
Big Rock Pub is located at Jefferson Avenue and Westward Ho in Indio, California. This free show starts at 6 pm. Plan on arriving early as seating is first come, first served. A Cowboy and a Dancer will be on hand afterward to fulfill all your dancing and country video desires. Visit www.thebigrockpub.com for more information and details.