My Inspiration: The Often Herd – Inner Peace | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Newcastle bluegrass outfit The Often Herd release their latest single, Inner Peace, the first single from their forthcoming debut album, Where the Big Lamp Shines (out 3 June 2022). The band draw influence from a variety of genres from old-time mountain music to folk-rock and psychedelia and during the pandemic performed a virtual showcase slot at 2021’s International Bluegrass Music Association conference.

Their latest offering explores themes of catharsis and liberation from the perpetual stress and mundanity of modern working life via a foot-stomping four and a half minutes of pacey guitar and mandolin, meandering fiddle and warm, engaging vocals.

Here composer and mandolinist, Evan Davies, tells us more about what inspired the single…

Inner Peace is about a much needed moment of tranquillity I experienced after being buried in the digital world, with expectation constantly weighing heavily on my mind. A spontaneous road trip led by a pair of nomadic musical acquaintances took me away from the feeling that I needed to be connected to everyone and everything and reminded me to embrace the simpler joys of life.

The origins of Inner Peace go back to 2018, when The Often Herd released our debut EP; it took a lot of work to produce but we took it out on the road and were thrilled by the reception! As music was turning from a passion into a career, I was beginning to feel drained by the amount of admin and organisation required to make a living from doing what I love. In August of that year, we found ourselves holding up the 1st place award at La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France – we had won the coveted band competition! But I still had that uneasy feeling of stress and expectation looming in the back of my mind.

With a week to kill and no plans, I fortuitously became part of someone else’s road trip. I jumped at the chance to join a couple of rogue buskers I had just met and we hit the road to Lac D’Annecy. Although to begin with, I was still stuck with my head buried in ‘the cloud’ (excuse the pun) I quickly realised that I was sitting with my feet in a lagoon-blue lake, sun bearing down, with no-one to answer to but my new companions. It was on our first night that I realised I couldn’t charge my phone; letting go of that need to be connected to everything and everyone was cathartic. I began to sleep naturally, without the bright light of my phone keeping me wired and was waking with the rise of the sun. There were no social media alerts or calendar reminders, just three wonderful people I had the pleasure of spending time with. It was a much needed moment of calmness after a hectic and uncertain time.

This song came soon after. I had ideas and imagery in my head along a ‘Joni Mitchell travelogue’ sort of route and a guitar riff and some chords which had been kicking around since earlier that year, influenced by playing the opening bars of ‘Michigan’ by the Milk Carton Kids. Ironically, the riff and chords were probably more inspired by the chaotic mindset from which I was seeking respite! 

After bringing it to the band, the arrangement quickly took shape; an insistent intro, some classic bluegrass-style vocal harmony work and a cosmic fiddle solo reminiscent of the extended interplay in ‘Midnight Moonlight’ by prog-bluegrassers Old and in the Way. 

We recorded the song with Tom Moore, with whom we have been working on our upcoming album Where the Big Lamp Shines and he added his own touch of psychedelia in there. The recent work of Billy Strings certainly had an influence on the production of ‘Inner Peace’; the use of echo and reverb effects, particularly on the fiddle, seemed to mirror the chaotic tension created by the chords. Our good friend Noel Dashwood laid down a gorgeous Dobro (resophonic slide guitar) part which was the finishing touch. 

Even though the song was written well before the onset of the pandemic, it’s definitely taken on a new meaning since – for many, isolation made it even more of a challenge to escape from the pressures and expectations of the digital world. Hopefully ‘Inner Peace’ will serve as a reminder to switch off for a few minutes every day and appreciate the simple things around us.

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