Q&A: Eleanor Underhill of Asheville Americana Band Underhill Rose

Underhill Rose Asheville Music

AskAsheville caught up with Eleanor Underhill, vocalist banjo and harmonica player for Underhill Rose, prior to her solo performance at 5 Walnut Wine Bar to discuss the band’s new record The Great Tomorrow, the struggles tied to the band doing it themselves and what the band would ultimately define as success.

AskAsheville: For someone that has never heard one note of your music could you describe your sound and what genre or genres of music Underhill Rose is attempting to play to?

Eleanor Underhill: We’ve pretty much settled on Americana as Americana is blues, rock, folk, country and R&B. All those are American styles of music and I think we bring all of that into what we do as musicians. We are folky, we are a little bit of bluegrass, a little bit county and a little bit soul. I listen to pop music, I love Motown but we don’t feel limited or try to tie ourselves into a single genre.

Ask: Underhill Rose has received critical acclaim locally, regionally nationally and even internationally. With that kind of recognition in your stable have any music labels approached the band?

Underhill: We’ve never had any serious conversations with a record label. When Molly {Rose Reed} and I started Underhill Rose in 2009 the music industry was changing as was the landscape of how music was being created and paid for and we found that we could just do it ourselves. So our record label is our fans and it’s a beautiful thing because we feel directly connected, inspired and supported to create something awesome for them. It’s incredibly difficult, stressful and it takes a lot of work and you have to shamelessly ask people for money and to trust that you are going to create something great but it’s been worthwhile and we’re very grateful.

Ask: Cruz Contreras, front man for Black Lillies, produced your second album Something Real and was brought in again to produce The Great Tomorrow. Could you talk to me a little about his involvement in the recording process and why the band chose to work with him a second time?

Underhill: Cruz’s mark was very clear on what we did with the last album and even more so on this new record. We wanted this record to have more of an arc, more of a fluid theme and we ended up working a lot longer in pre-production. When we brought in the musicians on this album to record Cruz really wanted it to be lively, so he pretty much let them go with their instincts and I think that created something spirited. It would be an entirely different album if Cruz weren’t a part of it.

Ask: Can you describe the evolution of your sound from your self-titled debut to The Great Tomorrow? How different musically or sonically?

Underhill: {Laughs. } I think this album is moodier, thicker, has more spirit and is dreamier than the last record. The lyrics are a little bit darker, more jaded but there is a thread of optimism throughout because that’s what we wanted to say and that’s the type of music we want to make.

Ask: Is Underhill Rose’s song writing a collaborative effort or are one or more of you the primary song writer(s) for the band?

Underhill: We have three songwriters in the band and I think that’s what makes us unique and allows us to be less genre specific, because the three of us all have different writing styles. So pretty much all of us will bring a song to the group and just figure out what needs to be done with it. The songs can come to the group 50% written or 120% written and together we’ll just make it a complete song.

Ask: You’ve already spoken a bit about some of your more well known influences, songwriters such as Bonnie Rait and Joni Mitchell. Could you share with me your thoughts on any local Asheville musicians or bands that inspire the group as well?

Underhill: Some of my favorite songwriters in Asheville are Pierce Edens, David Earle and Amanda Platt. They make me want to write and that’s a beautiful thing. My number one goal is to inspire others and there’s nothing more beautiful than that.

Ask: How would the band define success?

Underhill: Individually as band members we probably all feel differently about what success would mean. I don’t have any regrets. We put everything we have into these records and at least I can say I’ve done everything I could and we’ve made an awesome record that the world will hopefully like.

Ask: Could you give me any insight into your other band members Molly Rose Reed and Salley Williamson? Any pet peeves or quirks that make you scratch your head or laugh at?

Underhill: {Laughs.} How can I answer this without getting in trouble. Do not stick chewed gum on the dashboard of Salley’s car. Molly also has this habit of slapping her hands on her knees {Eleanor simulates it.} {Laughs.}

Ask: You and Molly founded Underhill Rose in 2009 two years before Salley (Williamson) came into the band. Any thoughts on changing on the name to the Williamson Underhill Rose Project or Underhill Rose Will?

Underhill: {Laughs}. The band name is a powerful thing but it never was specifically meant to just mean Molly and Eleanor but it is a brand. We felt the words that came from our names had good imagery. Salley is easy going and I think she understands it’s nothing personal. I like to think of “Salley” being like a silent “S” in the band’s name. Underhill Rose’s is Molly Rose Reed (vocals/guitar), Salley Williamson (upright base/vocals) and Eleanor Underhill (banjo/harmonica/vocals).

The Great Tomorrow CD Release party with the Tyler Nail Trio is set for this Saturday June 27th at the Grey Eagle in Asheville North Carolina.

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