If you’re a fan of local country music, odds are you’ve heard of Staci Stork and Scarlett. They’ve grown a following by playing the usual regional venues like the Neon Armadillo in addition to feature shows like Down the Country Line at The Embassy earlier this year. The band has kind of dropped off the radar since that show, but instead of taking a break or enjoying some downtime, front woman Staci Stork, bassist Andrew Teeple, and drummer Mike Grant actually have been pretty busy.
Staci Stork and Scarlett have signed with Unboxed Records, a fledgling music label that is pioneering a new way for bands to get their songs out. Unboxed is guiding the band’s success with proven strategies and a lot of creative freedom. The label has also been helping Staci Stork and Scarlett prepare for their first full-length EP release, slated to drop in the spring of 2013.
I caught up with the band at Jam Crib during one of numerous rehearsals that week. They were working on songs for their next EP recording session with longtime friend of the band Jon Durnell. Durnell was asked to support on lead guitar during the rehearsal/recording process due to his history with the band and familiarity with their sound.
The band was working on two cover songs suggested by their label: “Your Love Is a Song” by Switchfoot and “Stars” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. This was their first time practicing these two popular songs together, yet the flow was that of a seasoned band. They took cues from each other on timing and made the songs their own almost immediately.
“This is a rock song,” Grant told his band mates during an intermission on the Switchfoot number. “We have to put country in and give it the Scarlett sound.”
That signature Scarlett sound is a balance of rock, pop, and country, genre influences all three band members share, some to stronger degrees than others.
“It’s kind of weird because Andrew and I came from rock bands. That’s where we really got our start,” explained Grant. “We brought the rock element to Staci’s country sound, and it just worked.”
Stork added, “I grew up on Rush, REO Speedwagon and other classic rock bands, but when I sing, I naturally have a country, gravelly sound. Since I like country music, I just decided to go with that. When you combine my vocal style with the rock-influenced sound of Mike and Andrew, it makes this cool mixture that is unique to us.”
Sometimes obtaining that Scarlett sound means rewriting or omitting parts of a song. The band toyed with making several adjustments to “Your Love is a Song” to make the pacing fit the band’s style and momentum. Choruses were dropped and picked up again, verses were truncated, alternate endings were created. Reworking cover songs like this harkens back to the band’s beginning days in early 2011.
“Mike was playing with a country band, and so was I. He heard some of my original stuff at singer/songwriter night at the Neon Armadillo. He liked what he heard, so he and Andrew approached me about forming a new project,” remembered Stork. “I was all for it! So we all quit our respective projects to start something original and fresh.”
They started out playing a lot of covers because that’s how young bands build a following: playing the songs people know and love. But the members of Staci Stork and Scarlett were bitten by the songwriting bug along the way.
“The more we played covers, we started thinking of all the time we were spending playing other people’s music,” Grant said. “When we began opening for national artists, we wanted to play our own tunes. That’s where we really got our feet wet with songwriting. From that success we changed our focus to go more in that direction.
“You can go down to Nashville and buy songs, but to have a label come to us and say that they really liked our songs and wanted to pay us money to record them, that was so cool!”
The three original tracks they worked on at Jam Crib were “Give It Up”, “Bring the Rain” and one with the working title “Letter from Dad.” Stork does the majority of the band’s songwriting, penning tracks that run the gamut of human emotion.
“Give It Up” is an infectious tune. Staci Stork and Scarlett clearly have fun playing this one, and I wager that they could play it in their sleep. “Bring the Rain” is a bluesy, done-her-wrong melody that will speak to anyone who has experienced the anger and pain of a love gone sour. “Letter from Dad” rounds out the mix as a sentimental ballad describing a father’s emotions on his daughter’s wedding day.
The amount of emotion and passion for performance can be felt in all three songs – even in the practice sessions. And that’s just a sampling of Staci Stork and Scarlett’s repertoire.
“For the last six months or so we have been focusing almost solely on songwriting,” Stork said. “We’ve been working on our lineup of original songs like these in preparation of going into the studio and then hitting the live music scene hard to promote the EP when we’re done.”
Stork is very active on the band’s Facebook profile, keeping fans current on what’s going on with all things Staci Stork and Scarlett. But what can’t adequately be reflected, she says, is the elbow grease they are putting into their first EP.
“We’re not out every weekend at a bunch of different shows, but that’s because we are working so hard to get this album out for our fans. You can’t really show that kind of stuff on Facebook,” she said, “but being out in the music scene on a regular basis is the end goal. That’s why we’re making this album. I can’t wait for the day when playing music is all we do because that means that we’re giving that much back to our fans after all of their incredible support.”