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Audie McGinnis of Unspoken Tradition Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Audie McGinnis of Unspoken Tradition Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Answer:  I think all of us feel a sense of pride and a strong connection to the mountains of North Carolina, and the music that originated there and neighboring areas.  We also appreciate progressive bluegrass, and what it has to offer in terms of moving the genre forward.  We try to focus our sound around striking a balance between the two, trying to keep one foot in the past and the other in the future. 

Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Answer:  Our first two albums were done independently, but this year we signed with Mountain Home Music Company, located in Arden, North Carolina.  They have a great team, a great vision, and we’ve been thrilled to work with some of the best in the business.   We’re currently working on a few singles, which will cumulate into an album to be released later in the year.  The folks at Mountain Home have certainly encouraged and inspired us to make every song and every recording as strong as possible.  So far, the process has been nothing short of amazing. 
We also returned to MerleFest for our second appearance on the main stage, and got to participate in their Midnight Jam, hosted by The Bluegrass Situation.  It’s always exciting to be at MerleFest.  It’s one of the largest bluegrass/Americana festivals in the United States, and it gives us an opportunity to connect with fans on a level that we rarely get.  It’s also nice to catch up with other musician friends we never get to see because we’re all so busy.

Lamitschka:  What is your latest CD and how's it doing?
Answer:  Our latest CD is technically still in the works, but it’s going to be titled Uncharted Territory.  The first single, titled Land, has done very well on Spotify, and is getting play on XM Radio’s Bluegrass Junction.  We have another single that will be released in late June.  I’m super excited to get this new material out to our fans; it’s the strongest stuff we’ve ever done.

Lamitschka:  How did you choose the title for the CD?  Is there a story behind the name?
Answer:  Paula Breedlove has been generous enough to offer some songs to us.  She wrote Point of Rocks Station, which was on our second album.  We’re really big fans of her writng style.  While we were in the early stages of preparing for our new album, she sent us a song called Uncharted Territory.  It’s an amazing song that we all went crazy for right away.  When we were throwing around ideas for an album title, Uncharted Territory came up.  It resonated with us, because right now we feel like we’re navigating uncharted territory for the band.  We’re doing things we’ve never done, and taking things to a new level.

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Answer:  We have had several song writers contribute songs to this album, but we also do the majority of writing ourselves.  Lee (bass), Ty (mandolin), and I do the majority of the writing. 

Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Answer:   Land is a song that discusses man’s connection to the earth, and provides a bit of a warning regarding how we treat the earth.  We can’t make more of it once we’ve ruined it.  We’ve got a murder ballad on the project titled Dark Side of the Mountain, that tells the story of the death of Molly Doogan at the hands of a rejected admirer.  There’s a song I wrote titled Lonesome’s Gonne Be Here, which is essentially a break up song.  Lee wrote a great tune titled I Say Let’s Go (Colorado), which is about a man and wife deciding to commit to a last minute roadtrip they’ve always wanted to take.  Ty wrote one called Cold Mountain Town that comments on the dichotomy of living in a city with a thriving cultural and tourist scene.  I could keep going, but I would rather leave some of the plans unrevealed for our listeners to enjoy.  However, I’d say that our song writing (and song selection from outside writers) has matured significantly.  Our first two albums were fairly dark in regards to subject matter.  Lots of death and heartbreak!  We still write about those lonesome topics, but I think we’re getting some of that out of our system now.  We’ve taken on new conversations with our story telling, and we’ve even written a few love songs for this project!

Lamitschka:  What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?
Answer:  Besides our more mature approach to song writing, I feel like we’ve all pushed ourselves to bring our instrumental capabilities to the next level.  It’s always great to hear a crowd cheer after a great to hear a crowd cheer after a great solo, and I think we’ve worked hard to incorporate that same energy into these new tracks.  We’ve really taken our time with arranging these songs, so they don’t seem like they just plow straight ahead.  There are plenty of rises, falls, syncopations, and unexpected surges to keep people listening intently.  This album should have plenty of texture. 

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?
Answer:  Well, as the writer I may be a little partial, but I just think it’s a great song! It has a great message, great instrument features, and the way the song is structured really allows the music to emphasize the lyrics and support the message.  The song just feels great, gets a great reaction wherever we play it, and just makes you say YEAH!!! 

Lamitschka:  What will your next single be?
Answer:  The next single will be Lonesome’s Gonne Be Here.  It’s scheduled to release sometime in late June.

Lamitschka:  What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Answer:  The rowdy, fast paced ones.  Those are the songs that I find myself gravitating toward as a listener, and I think that makes those more fun to record.

Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what's the story behind it?
Answer:  The recent stuff for this new project is really up there.  I really love all the new material.  Outside of that, I’d have to say Carolina Rain.  It was written and recorded by a band called Standing Ground, who only recorded one album as college age guys, I believe.  I ran across a copy of that album, and was amazed at their song writing skills.  We’d been playing the song out live for years, and when we recorded Simple Little Town, it was one of my first suggestions for album material.  It’s a fan favorite too, so I’m not alone in my feelings about it.

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have over your music?
Answer:  I’ve never felt like I didn’t have control.  Our song writing process is unique in that a song rarely makes it to a rehearsal in its fully mature state.  Sometimes, the writer has great lyrics, but wants help with the chords.  Sometimes, there’s just a melody.  Others, just an idea or topic.  As a band, we take the very rough draft ideas of the member who created it and start building a song.  In that respect, I’d say as a band, we have total autonomy over our creative process.  All the guys are willing to offer suggestions, and sometimes songs turn into things the writer never thought possible.

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Answer:  I have had a friend of ours tell me that he was nearly reduced to tears while running a marathon in Pittsburgh, because Carolina Rain shuffled into his playlist and it made him miss home so much!  Several people have approached us at shows and said that our music helped them through tough times.  It feels good to know that in some little way, we’ve helped a few people out.

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Answer:  Nearly everything inspires us in some way or another.  There’s a pretty diverse menu of musical tastes in our band.  We listen to everything under the sun.  Some of us stick to the traditional bluegrass classics, while others venture into trad plus and more progressive bluegrass.  We all love rock music, especially from the 60’s-90’s, and classic country, too.  Some of us are even into reggae, punk, and ska.  To say that we don’t draw from all of these sources when we enter our creative processes would be a lie. 

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's music scene versus its past and where do you see it going in the future?
Answer:  I’m really excited about what’s been happening in bluegrass lately.  Lots of new bands and new material out there, more than I can keep up with.  In my opinion, rock and country music don’t exist anymore.  There’s something there, but it doesn’t represent it’s predecessors.  I’m not completely dismissing recent contributions to those genres, but I feel like some of it is so removed from the genre that it might be mis-labeled as rock or country.  It’s just a sign that things are changing.  I’m not a purist who wants to fight that change.  I’m just commenting on its occurance. 

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today's music industry?
Answer:  The revolution of streaming music is changing everything.  I’m still learning the ropes, but I think that bands that can harness platforms like Spotify and Apple Music will see far more success in the coming years.  I hope not, but it could potentially be an adapt or die situation in the coming years. 

Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Answer:  I just play the songs.  I try not to worry too much about the industry.  As a band, I feel like we all have an immense appreciation for the art form.  That’s our primary focus.  The rest of it will happen as it may.

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what's your favorite activity? 
Answer:  Definitely live shows.  There’s nothing like playing in front of a crowd and knowing they are really into what you’re doing.  It’s so rewarding getting to meet them and talk with them after the show.

Lamitschka:  Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
Answer:  Yes and no.  Bluegrass is an interesting genre to work in, because it feels pretty polarized sometimes.  There are lots of people who have very staunch opinions about what is and isn’t bluegrass.  Other people have a looser definition of bluegrass in mind.  I’m happy to see bluegrass thriving, which I think is partly due to it’s evolutionary qualities.  At the same time, I never want to see that very traditional sound die out.  I think there’s a niche within the bluegrass world for everybody’s tastes. 

Lamitschka:  What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Answer:  Definitely having Darin Aldridge introduce us to Ty Gilpin, and having him join our band.  He has a vision that not many people possess. From there, it was a long series of cause and effect, but it honestly, we may have never recorded had it not been for Ty.
Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?
Answer:  I wish I had come great story for this, but I don’t.  Unspoken Tradition started out as just a group of guys just picking in a basement. 10 years later, here we are.  Our goal was to make some music, have some fun, and maybe make a little money.  Eventually we made the decision to take it as far as we could.  Things like this don’t happen overnight.  The gradual changes, combined with hard work and a few lucky breaks got us here. 

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Answer:  When I was young, I had the privelege of taking lessons from Darin Aldridge, who has definitely been a mentor to me.  I remember him pushing me to learn to sing and play.  He said,“everybody and their mother can play guitar.  If you ever want to do anything with this, you’ve gotta learn to sing.“  I took this to heart, and worked on it for a long time before I ever sang in front of anybody.  The songwriting came along after I found my voice.  My first attempts at songwriting were pretty silly, but I was really interested in creating songs that fit my voice. 

Lamitschka:  What drives you?
Answer:  More than anything, I’d say that touching and inspiring people with our music drives me.  It’s a great feeling when a father brings his two sons up to meet you after a show, and talks about how much the whole family loves our music.  Or when you notice that same couple that shows up at every local show you play, and one day they approach you to tell you what your music means to them. 

Lamitschka:  What's unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Answer:  We’re good at capturing the gritty sound that many bands can’t.  I feel that many of our songs require that gritty edge.  It comes from playing and singing with passion and emotion.

Lamitschka:  What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
Answer:  It was pretty great having multiple songs off both of our independent albums make bluegrass charts.  Playing Merlefest was incredible, both times.  Miles Between was voted #14 on WNCW radio’s 100 best albums of the year in 2016.  We’ve had the opportunity to play on stage with some true bluegrass icons, and travel to some parts of the world that I’d probably never had seen had it not been for our band.

Lamitschka:  Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Answer:  I definitely think we are our biggest critic.  It comes from being so driven to have the best live show possible.  A fellow musician once told me that the crowd thinks you’re playing your best when you feel like you’re performing the worst show of your career.  Sometimes it’s best to just remember that if you play with passion, the cumulative effect of the experience overrides a few tiny technical mistakes...and if people approach you and tell you that you killed it, the best thing to do is smile and say thank you!

Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
Answer:  I’m a baseball fan, so anytime I can catch a Braves game, I’m happy.  It’s great to spend time with family, too.  All of us have families that support and love what we do, so it’s important that we reciprocate that love and support when we’re off the road.
Lamitschka:  What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Answer:  Lots of energy.  We like to move around on stage quite a bit.  Over the years, we’ve built up quite a bit of stage banter that is pretty entertaining...or at least I think so.  You can expect some laughs along the way, for sure.

Lamitschka:  When you're on tour, do you have time to play tourist? 
Answer:  Sometimes.  Last summer we flew to the Yukon to play a festival in Whitehorse, YK.  It’s way up north in Canada.  There were several American bands there, The Boxcars, Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle, and Alan Bibey and Grasstowne.  We all got to go fishing on the Yukon, and they even flew us up to the top of Mt. Logan in a bush plane!  We got to walk around on a glacier and do some other really cool things while we were there.

Lamitschka:  Do fans mob you everywhere you go or do they respect your privacy?
Answer:  We’ve never been mobbed, so to speak, but there have been times where there were so many people wanting to meet us/get autographs that we had trouble getting to all of them.  We absolutely love meeting our fans though, so I doubt I’d ever look at it as being mobbed.  If you’re reading this, and you ever catch an Unspoken Tradition show, please come talk to us!  We love meeting new people!

Lamitschka:  Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Answer:  Yes.  You can visit unspokentradition.com to keep up with our latest news, upcoming shows, links to streaming platforms, videos, photos, and other media.  We’re also very active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and Spotify.

Lamitschka:  What's the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Answer:  That I have one of the most expressive right hands they’ve ever heard.  I take pride in my rhythm playing as much as (if not more) than my lead playing.  It meant a lot to earn a compliment like that.  You’ve heard people say your left hand is what you know, your right hand is WHO YOU ARE.  I have always felt that statement is very accurate, so a compliment like that really hit home.

Lamitschka:  What's your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?
Answer:  If parallel universes existed, and I had the ability to steal a song and record it as my own?  I’d have to say Jason Davis’s version of Bootleg John.  That version is an absolute monster.  We cover it live, but Jason’s recording is just amazing.

Lamitschka:  What message would you like to send your European fans?
Answer:  Thanks for listening, we appreciate your allegiance to bluegrass music more than you’ll ever know.  If you aren’t hearing Unspoken Tradition on your local radio stations, request us.  Who knows...with enough momentum, maybe a European tour could happen!!!

Lamitschka:  Fans are always hungry for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?
Answer:  I have a couple to share...
Last summer we were booked to play a festival in the Yukon territory of Canada.  Zane (banjo) had never been in a plane, and pretty much refused to fly with the rest of the band.  He paid for his own train ticket, and left 3 whole days before us, and we still beat him there.  He didn’t pay for a sleeper, so he basically rode 3 days with no shower, sleeping sitting up.  He looked pretty rough when he got to Canada!  On the first leg of his train trip, the train hit an 18-wheeler that was crossing the tracks.  Luckily nobody was hurt, but it did delay his trip by almost 5 hours.  We gave him such a hard time about it, he flew back after the festival!  He’s since become much more comfortable flying, which is good.

Lamitschka:  Describe what a perfect day is like for you.
Answer:  The morning consists of a good cup of coffee, a notebook, and a guitar.  By noon, I’m on the patio with my wife and dogs.  In the evening....well, we’re still on the patio, but we’ve switched from coffee to something stronger.  I’d accept a baseball game, or a great jam session as a possible back up plan.

Lamitschka:  Most careers don't last as long as yours.  What's given your career the staying power?
Answer:  It’s funny to think that Unspoken Tradition has been in existence for 10 years.  We’ve only been locally known for about 5 years...and we’re only just begining to get recognition on a wider scale.  But I think what has kept us going all these years, regardless of where we were in this journey, was our passion and enjoyment of the art.  All of us truly love what we’re doing, and the people we’re working with (both inside and outside of the band).  It’s been a long ride, but we’re really only just beginning!!!

Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de ) for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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