Tag Archives: David Mayfield

Interview – Time Sawyer

timesawyer

“Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young, the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step. The locust-trees were in bloom, and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the village and above, it was green with vegetation, and it lay just far enough away to seem a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

There is something intriguing about the process of naming a band. While some musicians choose to use their surnames, others find inspiration in art, literature, or everyday events. Such is true for the up-and-coming band out of Elkin, North Carolina named Time Sawyer. This folk-rock band, which consists of Sam Tayloe (vocals, guitar), Kurt Layell (lead guitar), Houston Norris (banjo), and Clay Stirewalt (drums), came together a few years ago to make “real music” with a grassroots feel matched with high energy. It was out of this common mission that they started to lay a foundation and grow a loyal fan base. Beyond bringing their own music to the people, Time Sawyer founded Reevestock Music Festival. Now in its third year, Reevestock not only boasts a great line-up for a smaller, more intimate festival, but also remains true to its local roots by benefiting the restoration of Elkin’s last theater, The Reeves.

I recently caught up with Time Sawyer’s Sam Tayloe to learn a bit more about the band’s name, their story, songwriting, and how they are building a music empire in their rural hometown.

Evolution of a Fan: Can you give me a brief explanation of where the band name “Time Sawyer” came from?


ST: Kurt and I started the band in 2010 and we were looking for something to connect where we are from to where we are headed.

“Time Sawyer” let us do that by pulling from the character Tom Sawyer to represent the rural area that we came from (Elkin, NC) while also being used as a grassroots character, in touch with [his] craft.

We chose “Time” because, in songwriting, I don’t think there is anything you can write about that doesn’t have time involved. Truly in life I don’t think you can either. But in songwriting, you can be writing about how much you love how great something is and you want time to stop dead in its tracks, keeping you in the moment, or, you could be doing all you possibly can to escape from some hard times, relationship or otherwise, so you want time to move along. It just seemed to fit with time being such a constant with anything you are involved in.

EOAF: How did the current band come to be? How did you all meet?


ST: The current band is the only band, which has been really neat. Kurt and I started working together a bit earlier after being introduced by a mutual friend. It just kinda worked out that we got to add some really great supporting pieces without much work, as Houston was my best friend in high school and Clay, Kurt’s. We also have a 5th member that we love as an original–Mr. Bob Barone plays pedal steel with us anytime we can have him.

EOAF: It looks like you guys have turned out a lot of albums in a short amount of time. Who is the primary songwriter and what is the process like for the band? Is it a collaborative effort, or does the primary songwriter just come with the song and arrangements?


ST: Yeah, we try to keep our nose on the grindstone. Kurt and I are the primary songwriters. It’s been really fun to watch the operation grow as it has. Kurt is writing some amazing songs right now, and I’m really excited to work on this new record we are planning for later this year. Collectively we have written about 20 so far for it. When we write songs, usually Kurt or I will finish one entirely, show the other, get feedback, then bring it to the band to help with what else we should add to it, and form a direction for the song. Houston and Clay really bring a lot to helping with songs when they get to them. Recently however, Kurt and I have written some together, or had a song that was half way done but needed or chorus or bridge, etc and we would help the other. It really seems to be working well as we grow.

EOAF: What do you think makes a “real” song? 


ST: I think that is a very loaded question (haha). Real can be a lot of things, but I think genuine is the only thing that has to be constant. I feel like–and hope others see it the same way–being honest and genuine is something you can see/feel. There are times that you get duped, but those situations can be turned into genuine songs themselves.

EOAF: From where do you pull your musical inspiration (other artists, personal experiences, observing others)?

ST: Most of what gives us the fuel to write is our own experiences. I have begun some now to write a few “story” type songs where I don’t have to completely use all me, but usually am still personally connected to the song. Other musicians help to give us ideas as well. Kurt and I both have a few of the same favorite artist that help to inspire for sure.


EOAF: Talk a little bit about how the idea for Reevestock came about. I know you are in your third year and that it continues to grow. How did you come to decide to put on this festival, and why is it important to you/band?


ST: Reevestock is a festival that is really 3-fold. I started thinking about bringing some more music and activities to our hometown than I had when I lived there as a kid. Some of my favorite events to attend are music festivals so I figured I’d look into that option. After some research, it seemed like a feasible option. Choosing The Reeves Theater became more of a symbol than anything. The whole event is a benefit for The Reeves, but it’s also an event with purpose to benefit the whole town of Elkin and our musical needs. Maybe need is a bit far, but I’ll leave it. We do continue to grow and that really helps me to feel like we’re doing this right. We will continue to grow, have fun, and help benefit as many people as we can.

EOAF: What are you most excited about for this year’s Reevestock?

ST: All of it. Most (kinda) of the work is already done, so I’m eager to get the music going! It’s really a fun time.

EOAF: What does The Reeves Theater mean to you personally? Do you have childhood memories of going there to hear music/plays/movies? If so, would you share a few?


ST: Honestly, I don’t have any memories of the Reeves as a kid. I believe I was taken by my mom to see the Lion King and a few other movies there, but I have no recollection of it. As I said before, it helps to serve as a symbol of just keeping music alive.

EOAF: What do you think is special or unique about Yadkin Valley music. Why is its preservation so important?

ST: I think music is special. No matter what people go through, people find music to connect with. Our area is rich in bluegrass heritage and is really known for that. Besides our bluegrass though, we don’t have much of a musical touch, so that is what I’m looking to change.

EOAF: On your webpage, whoever writes the blog entries often says “Hootie Hoooo” or calls your fans “Owlets”…This made me laugh when I read it. Where did that come from? What’s the significance of the owl references?


ST: Kurt brought the owl into the Time Sawyer world and we’ve had a wooden figurine of one since our very early shows. Since then we have made it our power animal, ha. We started “hooting” at fans on Facebook post a while back, but Kurt’s brother, Justin Layell actually coined “Owlets” for us while writing for us on tour this past spring.

EOAF: How do your songs typically evolve from studio to stage?

ST: We build and play songs for a while before the studio, even play lots of them live, so most of what you hear on a record as been tested. We do find different ways to add some zest or change a song up here or there after we have played them for a long time post-record. It’s always fun to throw in a surprise.

EOAF: What is one or a few of your favorite things about performing live shows in different venues (coffee houses, house shows, clubs, festivals). How does the audience affect your performance?

ST: All of those places bring so much to the table if you’re willing to take what is given. House shows offer you a very intimate and open-eared crowd. Those are really fun because of that. Jody Mace puts on Common Chord House Concerts, in Charlotte, NC. It’s a really great group. Festivals and venues give you that crowd interaction that may talk through some of [your set], but also give you that “let’s dance” vibe, too. You can take something good from any show. We want to make friends that become our fans. We are really close with our growing fan base.

EOAF: Finally, what do you want to leave behind as your musical legacy? What do you think fans/listeners will remember about Time Sawyer in the future?


ST: We want to make sure people remember Time Sawyer first, but we are making large strides to do that. We feel very confident in our growth and what our music stands for. That being said, I think we’d like to be remembered for our honesty and ability to connect with fans. Being genuine like we talked about. Being remembered as the most badass band of all-time works, too.

owl

Time Sawyer will be performing at Reevestock along with The Dirty Guv’nahs, The David Mayfield Parade, Joe Pug, A Great Disaster, Owen Poteat, Luke Mears, and The Jon Linker Band. The festival runs from Friday, August 2nd (at The Liberty) through Saturday, August 3rd (at Elkin’s Hidden Amphitheater). Single and two-day tickets are still available, so get out there and check out some amazing musicians, all while supporting the restoration of a historical landmark that captures the essence of the good old days in a small country town. Does it get any better than that!?

“In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity!”

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

**Thank you to Sam Tayloe for his time and enthusiasm, and Jody Mace for constantly spreading the word about great music!**

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My Favorite Gifts – Christmas Album

I often measure music by its ability to transport me to another place, whether it be traveling back through my memories or somewhere I’ve never been.  By this measure, among others, the music on My Favorite Gifts – Christmas Album is some of the best I’ve heard in a long while.

Upon first listen I was transported from neighborhood streets once alive with song and spirit to the lonely muddy banks of the Mississippi, from an upbeat Mexican celebration to the birthplace of Jesus, and from a smokey Irish pub in New York City to the bedroom of a little boy too eager to sleep on Christmas Eve.  Lyrically, each song touches on different elements of the season, including introspective reflection on the past, jovial celebration of holiday traditions, hopefulness, goodwill to man, the blessings of Jesus Christ, and even the role of organized religion in the commercialization of Christmas.

Released last month, My Favorite Gifts brings together the musical talents and creativity of Overmountain Men, The Avett Brothers, The David Wax Museum, Jim Avett, siblings David and Jessica Lea Mayfield, Paleface, Nick and the Babes, Mark Crozer, and The Wood Brothers.  This compilation leaves behind the overdone holiday standards and treats our ears to unique interpretations of those not-so-well-known songs, in addition to a few original pieces.

The idea for this album was born from a conversation between Bob Crawford (The Avett Brothers) and Dolph Ramseur (Ramseur Records) on December 26, 2009.  Crawford, who shared his thoughts via email, recalled the conversation.

“I knew at some point we (The Avett Brothers) would be asked to be involved in a Christmas album.  I wanted us to do it ourselves and with our friends first.  Dolph immediately said that it needed to be a project for charity.  At the time, our good friend and Avett tour manager Dane Honeycutt’s mother Vickie was fighting breast cancer.  Sadly, a few months later Vickie passed away and we knew then that we were going to direct the charity towards some cancer fighting organization,” he wrote.

Musicians quickly signed on to the charitable project.  Crawford and Ramseur, who produced the album together, encouraged artists to choose songs that were special and intimate to them.  This approach fostered the creation of a purely eclectic and original collection of Christmas music.

When I first listened to the album in its entirety I was immediately taken by how different the songs were stylistically.  Instantly, I could hear the care that was taken to choose songs that expressed each artist’s or group’s feelings about Christmas.  I wondered how the artists came to choose or write their songs.  To my delight and appreciation, most of the contributing musicians shared thoughts about the creative process with me via email.

David Childers on his song Rambling Door to Door:   “The subject of Rambling Door To Door is the group of boys I used to get together with on Christmas Eve to go caroling.  We were not the most well behaved, but we all loved it.  The character singing in the song is looking back almost 50 years to his youth.  He sees what was then, and he sees what is now.  The now is not as nice a place, but he can still sing to himself if no one else wants it.  There’s a joy in singing, but even more so in singing those songs that are of a short season or time.”

David Mayfield on On Christmas Eve: “It was a real treat and an honor being invited to be a part of My Favorite Gifts.  I’ve always wanted to do something for the holidays, but was sure I couldn’t do a standard any better than Bing [Crosby], so I was floored when Bob Crawford suggested John Hartford’s On Christmas Eve.  I’ve always loved that song and never would have thought of recording it.”

David Wax on La Rama: “The David Wax Museum delves into American and Mexican folk traditions.  We thought it would be a great addition to the Christmas record to take an unknown Christmas song from Mexico and arrange a bi-lingual version of it.  There’s a centuries-old custom of musicians carrying a Christmas branch (“La Rama”) between houses and playing this particular song in exchange for food and tips.”

Nick Bailey on Christmas Time is Here“Bob approached me and said he would like to produce a track for Nick and the Babes on the album.  The arrangement of the song is actually for a bunch of little kids singing.  It’s really high-pitched, so we had to do a different arrangement, but I still wanted it to sound like the song and be recognizable.  I picked the song because it has always been one of my favorites.  It is more of a sad and lonely, reflective song.  I think that when people get older, Christmas takes on a different meaning.  Sometimes it becomes more reflective…thinking less about presents and more about family.”

Jim Avett on writing The Brightest Star:  “I wrote The Brightest Star because I thought everybody else was going to write an original!  I had not preconceived anything…it just sort of came out.  I have a lot of gospel in my background so naturally the song reflects my feelings that all gospel, including Christmas carols, should be theologically correct, which I think this one is.”

Paleface on Fairytale of New York “Bob Crawford called me when we were recording our album One Big Party and asked if I wanted to be a part of a Christmas compilation that he was putting together.  I said of course and in my mind flashed on the Pogues song, Fairytale of New York.  It’s always been one of the best and most under-appreciated Christmas songs I’ve ever heard.  He asked me to think about what song I might want to do and we hung up.  When we spoke for the second time about what song I remember [Crawford] saying, ‘Dolph and I thought it would be great if you did Fairytale,’ without me having mentioned it to him yet so that was all I needed.  We had Stuart from Bombadil join us and had a fun afternoon recording it.  I remember saying that everybody should just relax and have fun cause ‘this song is so good its hard to mess up’.”

Mark Crozer on writing Next Christmas“The song itself has quite a long history.  I came up with the melody for it when I was briefly living in New York just after Christmas 2008. Then it sat around for a year before I was sitting down one day thinking I’d really like to write a Christmas song.  It’s been a crazy fantasy since I was a kid to have a festive hit in the charts that gets brought out year after year and becomes part of the Christmas tradition.  In the UK, where I’m originally from, the Christmas single is quite a big dealSo, as I was sitting there I suddenly remembered the tune I’d written a year earlier and the words just came out in one go the way they do on occasion.  I wanted to write something that reflected the hope for better times ahead that I think everyone feels at this time of yearIt is a very hopeful song, but laced with a little of the irony that we Brits love so much.”

Crawford on I Thank God and more:  “Seth [Avett] heard it from a Sam Cooke recording. We had already kicked around the idea of other, more traditional songs.  I Thank God is very unique while maintaining one of the key themes of the Christmas season which is thankfulness for the blessings of God.  I am also honored to work with the Overmountain Men.  David Childers is one of the greatest song writers of our time. I think he and Jim Avett could write an album of Christmas songs that would redefine the genre.”

The creative process of writing or adapting, and recording holiday favorites for My Favorite Gifts was augmented by the fact that the album would contribute to a cause much larger than those involved.  Many of the artists tied to this project were close friends to Vickie Honeycutt and remain close to her family.  So it seemed only fitting when Crawford and Ramseur decided that all album profits would be donated directly to the Vickie Honeycutt Foundation.

The Vickie Honeycutt Foundation, which was formed shortly after her passing, honors “a woman who served as a beacon of compassion for so many.”  Honeycutt, a graduate of UNC-Greensboro, taught at Mt. Pleasant High School in her native Cabarrus County for 32 years, and was known for her caring nature and dedication to help others succeed.  According to the website, the foundation’s goal is to provide assistance to “teachers and educators battling cancer so that their sole focus can be on recovery.”  With charity at the forefront, several artists openly expressed what it meant to work on such a special project.

Mo, drummer for Paleface, responded, “It’s pretty awesome to get to be on the same album with so many greats, and it’s a true honor to get to celebrate with them the memory and life of a dear friend’s mom who was so sweet and caring to all.”

Suz Slezak of The David Wax Museum echoed Mo’s sentiments.

“It’s always special to have the opportunity to support causes we care about with our music. We were also touched to be included in such a stellar line-up of bands, many of whom we listen to on a regular basis,” she wrote.

Mark Crozer, who is likely a new name for fans of this grouping of artists, was also very moved by the direction and purpose of the album.

“When I learned that it was to be a charity album for such a good cause  I was even keener to be involved.  Teaching has been in my family for generations and I have dabbled myself.  I’ve also lost friends and family to cancer so I wanted to do something to help raise funds for projects that support people living with cancer.  I think the Vickie S. Honeycutt Foundation is a truly wonderful organization, and I’m so thrilled to be part of this project.  It’s also a thrill for me to be in such distinguished company as The Avett Brothers, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Wood Brothers and David [Childers] of course.  It’s a great album and pretty diverse which makes it even more interesting,” Crozer wrote.

As a “lifelong friend” of Vickie’s, Jim Avett was “honored to be a part of anything to do with her and her family” as well as “to be included in a compilation CD with such talented creative people.”

Collectively, My Favorite Gifts is a wonderful work of art that will please the senses, revive the true spirit of Christmas, and benefit those in need well into the future.  It is a Christmas album with far more substance than Santa, making it easy to enjoy all year-long.  It is a must-have so please visit your local record store or amazon.com/iTunes to purchase My Favorite Gifts for yourself and your loved ones.

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