Check out a new interview with Tommy Chesebro, vocalist & guitar player of indie folk outfit ElisaRay below. The band is currently raising funds via Kickstarter to do a physical release of their new album, All Creatures, & you can help get them to their goal (they need $400 currently). While you’re here don’t forget to check out the free download of the title track, “All Creatures”.
First off, since you’ll be new to most of our readers, can you give a short back story of the band?
It all started in 2009, when Christina and I started getting together to work out some of the songs I had been writing at the time. We worked so well together that we decided to start writing and playing shows as a band. After getting our feet on the ground and recording our first 2 Ep’s, David and Hayden started playing with us in 2010. With the group growing and changing, we wrote our first full length album, and went into studio late last year.
Who are the various members of the band and what instruments do they play?
Christina plays cello, David plays banjo and fiddle, Hayden plays bass, and I play guitar and we all sing.
ElisaRay is an interesting name for a band. Is there any significance to it or just something you guys all liked?
Yeah, we get a lot of people wondering what it means, or how to pronounce it, haha. It’s a name me and Christina came up with in the beginning. It doesn’t really have any interesting meaning to it, but it is significant to us.
You guys are from Charlotte, NC. North Carolina has produced some great bands over the years. How are the music scenes there currently? Have you had good experience with your style
The music scene in NC is really diverse, there doesn’t seem to be one genre that really stands out, it used to be a predominantly hardcore/metal scene, but now everyone kind of has their own thing. We play all over North Carolina and everywhere we go people really seem to enjoy it.
Describe ElisaRay’s musical style & sound.
I’d say we’re a folky acoustic rock group, with a little bit of classical music and bluegrass thrown in.
Who are your biggest influences musically ?
I grew up listening to Classic Country and Folk groups like Johnny Cash and Simon & Garfunkel, and when I first started writing music I was listening to a lot of early Bright Eyes and Pedro the Lion, and those things have always stuck with me. Lately we’ve been listening to a lot of Gregory Alan Isakov and Rocky Votolato, and they have definitely been inspiring as well. We all have different influences that we bring to the table. Christina was classically trained on the cello so she brings a lot of orchestral ideas to the group.
You have a bunch of tracks up on Facebook. Have you released any albums prior to your upcoming release? Where were those songs recorded? Are they available for purchase anywhere?
Yeah, in 2010 we recorded a Two-Ep set, with five songs on each. We recorded both in the same week. The first one (For the Creator of Music…) was recorded with Stephen Price at Pearl St. Studios, and the second (…on our stringed instruments) was recorded with David when he was working out of his home studio. We have them up for download on our bandcamp (elisaray.bandcamp.com). They were also both recorded before David and Hayden started playing with us.
On your Kickstarter page you stated that “after the expense of recording and mastering, we are at a place where [releasing the album is] basically impossible without your help”. What made you guys decide to go with Kickstarter to raise funds to help release the new album?
We have friends who have used it and have been successful, and currently we’re not really making much money as a band, so its hard to fund something like this ourselves.
Do you feel this is the new wave of how band’s will record or just another option out there?
A lot of people are doing it these days, and it’s working well for a lot of them. I think it’s a smart idea and it gives the fans and family a chance to get involved. So yeah, I think it’s something that will continue to be used,
If you’re unable to raise the funds to do a physical release will you be putting out the album via digital outlets in 2012?
We don’t have a set release date yet, but we will be releasing more songs on our Facebook, and it will be available for purchase on our Bandcamp, and Itunes in the near future.
Share a bit more about the album. Do you have an album title yet? Are there any themes that run throughout?
The new album will be titled ‘All Creatures’. There are a lots of references to nature and finding God’s beauty throughout it. A lot of the songs deal with my struggles, doubts, and the difficulties I, and I think most people, face in our day to day lives, but also rejoicing in the beauty we are surrounded by and seeing that God is still good and faithful. Maybe He doesn’t work according to my expectations or timelines, but I’m learning to let go and find comfort in that, and a lot of these songs are the product of my learning and growing.
Have you released any songs from the album yet for your fans to hear or will this be the first real listen?
About a month ago we released a song called ‘Brother Caleb’. We felt like it was one of the songs that really brought together the different sounds and feelings of the album as a whole.
Let’s talk about your songwriting process. Is there a main songwriter or is it a group effort? What about the lyrics?
I don’t really have a song writing process, there’s not one thing that always comes before the other, but what usually happens is I write the base of the songs on my guitar, and the lyrics develop through that. And then I bring the songs to the rest of the group, and we work together to flesh them out. I’m incredibly lucky to have 3 of the best musicians I know working with me, and that’s not an exaggeration. I could write the most boring song and they would make it beautiful.
I would assume that ElisaRay is a part-time thing for you right now. Are you guys currently working, at school, etc? Are you interested in being full-time musicians & a touring band?
Yeah, we’re all working; also me and Christina are getting married in October so we have a lot going on with that. We are moving to Greensboro, NC really soon, which is where David and Hayden both live. And they are both in another band that they do a bit more full time called ‘The Collection’. I think eventually, once we get settled into a new home and jobs that would allow it, we would love to make it more of a full time thing.
Any upcoming tour dates we should take note of?
No tour dates right now, we have been taking some time off from playing shows to work on the new album, and deal with all the other big changes going on in our lives. But we should have some new dates up really soon.
Who are some current bands that you’d really like to tour with.
I think our dream band to tour with would be Brand New, we wouldn’t really fit in with them, but they’re incredible, and it would be awesome to get to watch them play every night for a month or so. I think on a more realistic scale, we would really love to tour with either Rocky Votolato or Gregory Alan Isakov, they’re both really great songwriters, and if you’ve never listened to them you should check them out.
Do you consider ElisaRay to be a ministry or just a band made up of Christians?
That’s something I’ve thought about myself, it’s not that we’re just Christians in a band, we know that any talents and gifts we have are blessings from the Lord, and it only feels right to use them to bless him back. But we also have never set out to be a ‘worship band’. When I write I’m not thinking about how it might affect others, I write what I am honestly feeling and thinking. A lot of times, the songs are ways for me to approach God with better sorted out thoughts. Sometimes it’s worship, sometimes it’s frustration. We have heard that God has used our songs in really cool ways, people have found hope and encouragement, and churches and small groups have even used them for worship.
Looking forward to the next year, what are some goals that you have for the band?
After we get this new album out, we’re excited to see what kind of doors will open. We will be playing out as often as our schedules will allow us to, and we would love to get a short winter tour together. We’re always writing and working on new music as well.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
We are super grateful to be able to do this interview and give you a chance to get to know us a little bit. It would be really cool if you took a listen to the rest of our songs on our Facebook page and Kickstarter page, and hopefully the new album will be ready to go in a month or so. Thanks again.