The Easy Leaves is one of California’s hottest country bands and are coming down to play Café One2one on Ponsonby Road on 25 July.
How did you come to play music when you were younger?
Kevin: My family wasn't musical, but I remember always being the one who would take charge of the radio on family road trips and force everyone else to listen to the jazz or oldie stations we could find. I asked my parents if I could take up violin in the grade-school orchestra but that didn't really stick. I switched over to guitar and the upright bass came way later.
Sage: My dad was in a surf band called the Astronauts, in the 60s, before I was born. My mom often sang around the house and played her violin. We always had guitars and dulcimers around from my parents' Hare Krishna days as well. I finally learned some guitar chords when I was about 15 and began writing songs and recording them on a four-track recorder my dad helped me find.
How did you two meet and form the band?
Kevin: We kept running into each other at open mics and eventually decided we should try working out a few tunes together to perform at a show I had set up.
Did the band naturally align where it has fallen musically?
Sage: We started out doing more of a string band thing, with Kevin playing banjo, but it sort of morphed into more country over time, as our tastes and writing output shifted a bit.
Kevin: Funny how once I put down the banjo and picked up bass everything kind of fell into place musically.
What drew you to country and Americana music?
Kevin: I remember walking through the dirt parking lot [at a roadhouse called the Northgate Inn] that first night and heard a chorus of banjos, guitars, fiddles, and one dobro blaring through the screen door. It was a rough looking biker bar so I was nervous to go in, but it sounded so good!
Sage: I kind of fell in love with Hank Williams first, at some point, and then Gillian Welche's stuff. But also, I feel like traditional country music influences are all over classic rock, which is also a huge influence for me. CCR for sure. Little Feet. The Band. Bob Dylan's extensive catalogue of course.
Do you tour and play music full time? What does this look like in the States? It's hard to do in New Zealand so a lot of Kiwi musicians have to supplement with day jobs. Is that similar in the US?
Kevin: It's a long row to hoe, but we've been lucky to be in place where there's plenty of fertile ground to work. I think we've been full -timing it more or less for the past five years. Festivals are huge over there, and an important piece of the puzzle every spring, summer, and into fall.
What does a day of writing look like for you guys? Do you sit down together and write, do the ideas come on the road?
Sage: We write separately for the most part. I spend a lot of time working at it. Mostly I fail. I'm pretty superstitious about it actually, and I don't think of myself a religious. What I'm always looking for are wide open spaces where I can really dig in.
Six weeks in Australia! Crazy long tour when you add in your week here; have you been down to Australia before?
Kevin: Crazy indeed! But when Kasey Chambers reached out with the invite to open a chunk of her album release tour it seemed like a no brainer! We've done a handful of shows with her in the States and had a blast. Her and her fam and band, they're such a fun group. We've been here a week and I can't imagine a better introduction to the country. So far so good!
Is this your first visit to New Zealand? What are you expecting?
Kevin: First time! I saw a show about NZ cop dogs the other day, so I guess I'm expecting to definitely have my bags thoroughly sniffed at the customs checkpoint. Other than that, all the folks I know from New Zealand are great so I'm hoping to meet a few more great people and maybe an actual kiwi bird or two... that would be so cool. Can't wait to get acquainted with New Zealand!
On Wednesday 25 July you will find The Easy Leaves at Café One2one. Tickets can be purchased from www.eventfinda.co.nz or pop in to the cafe and enquire. (Finn McLennan-Elliott)