The Urban Pioneers are bringing that fast pickin' hillbilly swing to the Westport Roots Festival this Memorial Day Weekend. It's going to be an awesome festival. I had the opportunity to ask Jarad some questions about the band and what makes them tick. I also asked two people who love the Urban Pioneers to submit questions for the interview. Here's what I found out.
I started off with a few fun questions.
Kimmy: What was for breakfast today?
Urban Pioneers (UP) Asian fusion buffet in Lansing, MI
Kimmy: When flying would you rather have the isle or the window (I mean does anyone want the middle)?
UP: Window definitely.
From a fan: What are your thoughts on sweet pickles?
UP: I love sweet pickles. I pretty much love all pickles.
And now more regular questions.
Kimmy: Introduce yourself- what do you play? How long have you played? What drew you to the instrument(s)?
UP: My name is Jared, I play banjo. I've been playing banjo for 4 or 5 years. Joe Perez and Jayke Orvis were my biggest influences starting out. Jayke gave me some direction and I ran with it. Then of course stringbean and grandpa jones are also huge influences.
Kimmy: In addition to you, the Urban Pioneers is made of Liz Sloan and Martin Sargent.
Kimmy: You and Liz met two bands back in Bob Wayne's Outlaw Carnie and then played together in Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band. How did you meet Martin Sargent?
UP: We played a show with a band Martin was playing with in Fort Worth and we stayed at his house and had a good time. When we were looking for a new bass player Martin hit us up. We were living in TN at the time and pretty much moved to Texas to be closer to Martin.
Kimmy: You've been playing as a band together for some time, but what was it like transitioning from Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band to Urban Pioneers?
UP: It was pretty weird. We had always been backing players and never really had to be up front and lead everyone. On top of that, I was playing a new instrument and trying to write as many songs as I could so we had stuff to play. We kinda felt like Bambi slipping on an icy pond for a little while, but we eventually found ourselves and we feel a lot more comfortable with our roles.
Kimmy: The first time I saw you was at the Westport Roots Festival doing the reunion show. What was that experience like?
UP: It was incredible. It brought back a lot of great old feelings playing those songs. I wasn't sure if it would ever happen again so I really cherished looking over at my friends while we were getting down. We had also all grown as musicians over the time we'd been apart so everyones playing was sharp.
Kimmy: You just put out your album Hillbilly Swing Music this year. What are you most proud of with the album?
UP: What I'm most proud of is the progress this band has made in the short time we've been together. I think you can hear drastic improvements overall through all our albums and this is no exception. This has been our best effort so far and I'm excited to see how the next one turns out, because surely there is more progress to be made.
Kimmy: What is your creative process like? How do you divide the creative duties?
UP: I've been asked this question a number of times now and I never really know how to answer it. I don't see myself as a song writer as much as I do a song fisherman. Songs just come to me out of nowhere a lot of times. It mostly comes when I'm driving. Writing a song is kind of like a word game to me. The english language holds all the puzzle pieces and life paints the picture. Its weird.
Kimmy: Two of my favorite songs are your more quirky songs- Kitty's Favorite Day and Never Had a Waffle at the Waffle House. Could you tell me the story behind one (or both)?
UP: They are both very silly but theyre also both very literal and true.
For Kitty's Favorite Day I was folding laundry and our kitten Smokey messing it up and playing in it. I started to get frustrated, but couldn't help but laugh at her. The 2nd verse is about a trip we took to Erik, Ok to see the Roger Miller museum. Silly little town made a silly Miller man just rolls off the tongue haha.
The waffle house song popped into my head one day when I was driving and I have to admit, I got excited. I kinda halfway write 3 more waffle house tunes that were silly too, but I didn't pursue them.
Kimmy: What music has been playing in tour van/vehicle lately?
UP: We're playing a cowboy church in our hometown in April and we're trying to learn a bunch of gospel tunes so thats pretty constant right now. Louvin Brothers, Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Hank Williams, etc.
I never paid too much attention to the gospel songs so now I have to go back and learn a bunch of words.
Kimmy: You're on the road a pretty big part of the year seeing lots of the country. How do you think this affects the way you see the America or understand the world? How does this affect your music?
UP: It changed my perspective drastically. Traveling and seeing how other people live humbles you and makes you feel more like a part of a bigger picture instead of being a big fish in a small pond. Going out of your comfort zone and being vulnerable can make you a much more compassionate person.
From a Fan: You're a really hard working touring act traveling much of the year and also working hard at home. What kind of self care do you do? What are somethings you do on the road?
UP: Not nearly enough self care haha. I really need to start taking better care of myself. I don't have any kind of insurance and I have been very fortunate to not have needed medical attention over the years. I think the biggest form of self care is not doing dangerous stuff. I don't skateboard or ski or jump off anything too big. I trap hogs but thats a different story. We've been really fortunate.
Kimmy; How do you see your role on this planet as both a musician and a citizen of this world?
UP: Heeeeeeavy haha. When we play music people seem to enjoy it and it makes a lot of people smile. Thats all I'm setting out to do. I want to give people a release for a couple hours where they can forget their worries. If I can slip a few things in there that actually touch people then thats a huge bonus. Sometimes I get into my own head and "you could really make a difference, write a political song that will rally the people" or something like that. Then I snap out of it and realize that isn't my job. Everyone plays a role and I feel our role is to get people tapping their toes and smiling.
Kimmy: Is there anything I didn't ask you wish I had?
UP: Liz and I are getting married at walk this earth music festival next month and our website is www.urbanpioneersmusic.com
Take a listen to them here: https://youtu.be/co_XmYY2scc
Catch them on tour in a city near you:
3/21 - Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill - Grand Rapids, MI
3/22 - Darcy's Pub & Grub / "The Local" - Erie, PA
3/23 - The Grove - Strongstown, PA
3/24 - Stagger Lee Presents 4th Annual Evening of Sin - Morgantown, WV
3/25 - Evening of Sin After Party: Urban Pioneers, Dusty Rust, Lrgatm - Beckley, WV
3/26 - Rolling Hills Radio with Ken Hardley - Jamestown, NY
3/27 - The Southgate House Revival - Newport, KY
3/28 - The Nashville Palace - Nashville, TN
3/29 - The White Water Tavern - Little Rock, AR
3/30 - Kings Live Music - Conway, AR
3/31 - The Continental Club, Houston, TX - Houston, TX
4/20 - Walk This Earth Music Festival - Albany, TX
Urban Pioneers with special guest Chad Graves on Dobro.