Here at The Young Folks, we’re always about listening to new music whether it be mainstream or just getting their start in the industry. Right now, we’re checking out Charlottesville-based band Erin & The Wildfire new album Thirst, out September 29. Consider us currently obsessed. If you’re into any soul/funk/rock genre, this may be for you. But don’t listen to us, give it a try for yourself and let us know what you think!
While we have you, check out our interview with front lady Erin Lunsford who you may notice is the striking vocals. We talked to Erin about working together as a six-piece band, performing on stage, and some behind the scene details of putting their album together! Cheers to Erin & The Wildfire for their hardwork!
The Young Folks: First off, for our readers who are just hearing about you now, can you tell us a bit about who you are and how you got your start in music?
Erin Lunsford: Hello Young Folks! 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!
TYF: How did Erin & The Wildfire come about?
Lunsford: Nick, Matt, Ryan and I met in 2011 at U.Va. in a student recording group called ORecords. 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. And 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.
TYF: How does the workflow work with a six-piece band? Do you all take turns in terms of putting new songs together or does that get handed off to one specific person?
Lunsford: Our songwriting process usually starts with [Erin] – 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 75mph 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!
TYF: What has been the feeling you get when you hop on stage to perform your music in front of people who have heard of you or who are just hearing about you for the first time?
Lunsford: Performing is such an awesome rush. We just did a little tour up to NYC and the crowd was sizzling with energy. Each show feels like it’s the next and last chance to explain ourselves –another chance to connect with the audience to speak our truth. We hope that people seeing us for the first time (and repeat viewers!) feel appreciated and comfortable and we hope they feel inspired by the tunes.
TYF: The music you create must sound absolutely amazing in a concert setting. How did you all come up and solidify the type of music you’ll be putting out into the world?
Lunsford: Our quest for genre clarity has been long and difficult. We began by working with my solo singer/songwriter material. I wrote songs on acoustic guitar and sang and I came from a bluegrass/blues/folk background with a SERIOUS affection for r&b and soul singing/gospel music. Our older releases definitely leaned more towards Americana and Folk. (I used to play banjo with the band!) It took us a few years of evolving our writing to get away from my original folk/blues roots and use my voice in the more soulful way we were wanting. We feel like we’ve finally arrived with ‘Thirst’ and we may be headed towards a heavier r&b/funk feel after this…
TYF: Who are the band’s influences? Who’d you love to perform with if given the chance?
Lunsford: We adore Alabama Shakes, Vulfpeck, Funkadelic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lake Street Dive, and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. We love Vulfpeck for their excellent musicianship and their funk style, but we also love how their entire show is about having fun, making jokes/not taking themselves too seriously. I’d say “Every Single Song On My CD Is Gonna Be A Hit” Pt. 1 and 2 were influenced by their comedy and their lightheartedness. We also adore Brittany Howard and The Alabama Shakes’ latest album Sound And Color. It was very influential in our writing/recording process. Their album is a complete picture and we tried to achieve that with Thirst. Given the chance, we’d love to play with Vulf, Stevie, Rachel Price.
TYF: As someone who has never been to Virginia, what’s the music atmosphere like in your area? What was the first concert you saw in Virginia?
Lunsford: Virginia’s music scene is diverse and sweet. Charlottesville’s feeling is very different from Richmond is very different from D.C.. Charlottesville has some EXCELLENT jazz (shout out to Charles Owens and John D’Earth), country, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and Americana. First concerts of the band include: Robert Plant, *NSYNC, Doobie Brothers, fiddle man Marc O’Connor, BB King, and John Jorgensen.
TYF: Congratulations on Thirst! How was the process of putting this album together? What was the hardest part through it all? The biggest lesson you learned?
Lunsford: We recorded this album at Montrose Studios in Richmond, VA and it was a dream. We prepped carefully and took time off from performing for a couple months to make sure we made efficient use of the studio time. Really the process of writing this album took a couple years. The last recording we put out was in 2014 and we have been mulling over our songs and writing new things since then.
Aside from trying to fit in all the different parts we wanted to record in the small amount of time we had, the hardest/scariest part was a virus that swept the camp. We had the stomach flu take out 2 of the 7 bandmates on day 4 and we went into panic mode. We were convinced that it was a matter of time before the rest of us were hugging the toilet too, but we somehow avoided more casualties. Otherwise, the recording process was silky smooth, filled with laughs, and overall a humbling musical experience.
TYF: With your album releasing at the end of this month, what are you feelings at this exact moment knowing that your debut album will be out to the masses?
Lunsford: I think I feel a little anxious to get our music out there and also nervous about what the critics will think. Thirst is our first full length album! We are stoked to have a cohesive, expressive recording that we are proud of and that’s representative of a sound that we’ve been working towards for years.
TYF: Is there a song you wish that did make the cut that didn’t? If so, what was that song about?
Lunsford: There was one tune that we kind of stopped playing last year called “Did I Miss Something,” and our audience seemed to really respond to it, but we never got it jelling like we wanted. It also didn’t fall into the genre we were aiming for, so we scrapped it. It was about a love sweeping over you, surprising you, and lifting you into a new level of adoration that you didn’t know possible. I wrote it about my dear friend who felt totally blindsided by the romance she found with her boyfriend.
TYF: What are your hopes/goals for Erin & The Wildfire that you’d like to accomplish before the year is over?
Lunsford: We will be touring this fall to promote the album, releasing a video or two to accompany some of the tracks for your viewing pleasure and we are thinking of recording another full length in 2018. Too soon? Yeah probs but we can’t help but dream. Also, by the end of the year we are gonna be selling some baller t-shirts. Small goal, but very exciting for us.