This world possesses a plethora of family bands, as pop culture history holds the lasting notes of the Osmonds along with the Carpenters and The Jackson 5. What people seldom here, however, is a sibling-driven band that preaching a dirty gospel of its own accord. Seldom, that is, until The Carmonas surfaced in the Nashville bluegrass/Americana scene.
Each moment The Carmonas and their backing band grace a stage with their presence produces one more symphonic note for the audience’s collective ears. Aaron, Allison and Chad have spent their lives traveling together as a tribe of gypsies. Every experience in their family’s life has led them to the world of music and a timeless platform for their lyrical and musical cohesion. The Carmonas are now embarking upon their third album and continue to leave listeners in awe of their resounding harmonies and melodic stories. To this day they are one of the most authentic bands in Nashville and prove the notion that they roll their bluegrass sound in the mud before they pass it out to the audience.
Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado I present The Carmonas...
The Repertoire: Where did you lay your musical roots?
Aaron: Well, we come from a large military family. Our dad was in the Army, and we spent a lot of time in our childhood driving from California where Chad and I were born to North Carolina, where Allison was born. We moved pretty often, and on those road trips we listened to country radio, classic rock and gospel music. For me at least, that is kind of where a lot of the love for music came from. Later on in life our oldest brothers got wilder with their musical choices. I remember them introducing me to Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. If my first singing experience wasn’t in church it was the Beatles. When I was twelve, I found Zeppelin’s IV in box of tapes at my parents’ house. I went to bed with that album every night for about two years. I really appreciated the guitar solos and of course Robert Plant’s voice; just the mystical nature of the songs.
How does the familial cultivation of your band members lend to your sound?
Aaron: I think some of our sound with The Carmonas does lend itself to the gospel sound we used to do when we were younger. I want to call our sound a dirty gospel. It’s like gospel that has been rolled around in mud for about 34 years.
Chad: The way Aaron just described our sound is such a great way to describe it. It’s really important for us to have our music be big and bold but melodic. A lot of people might think we want to be more subdued, but we want it to be bold. Maybe that takes it back to those gospel roots. We want to be very vocal and powerful.
Allison: When I first moved to Nashville I was singing on my own. When we started singing together and made that transition to singing harmonies, I was a little worried about it. I think being siblings helped that transition because we know each other’s voices so well. As for songwriting, we have a lot of the same, shared experiences, it is easier to see where they are coming from with some of the songs.
R: Let’s talk about any new projects. What’s on the pipeline for The Carmonas?
Aaron: We have been writing our third album for maybe a little too long, but there is still a plan to be recording it by the end of the year. We are aiming toward a potential spring release. We will probably record it here in town, though we don’t necessarily have a set producer that we work with. To me, finding a producer and an engineer—at least for the first two albums—has kind of been wherever the wind takes us, and what naturally fits at the time.
Allison: We actually debuted one of the songs from the upcoming album here at the Family Wash. We are working on a bunch more songs as well, which is exciting!
R: What is the one word or phrase you would want people to describe The Carmonas as?
The Carmonas: We would want people to say, “Not your average bluegrass!”
R: What word or lyric do you often use when writing songs?
Chad: We use “the” a lot.
Allison: [laughing] Yeah, “the” seems to pop up a lot! We actually do have a song called “home.”
Aaron: Yeah, but if were going to use the word “home,” it is not like we have some sort of beautiful little farm sitting somewhere. The word is more of a home that we do not have yet. Something that we are trying to obtain. There isn’t any real building. Don’t get me wrong, we had home and family. We had amazing parents too. But there was always the inevitability of getting up and going, sometimes with a week to do it.
Allison: Yeah, it is more nostalgia for something that we wanted but never had.
R: What would you have done professionally had you not gone into music?
Aaron: If I wouldn’t have been blinded by a vision to do music or have been filled with the necessity in my heart to do music, I maybe would have been a farmer. I actually have to change that. I have always wanted to be a baseball player. I always wanted to throw a no-hitter. When I was a boy I threw a no-hitter against a team that was sponsored by Mazzio’s Pizza. I just remember the roar of the crowd, and that roar of the crowd was part of what lead me to playing music in front of a crowd.
Chad: I would have been a Formula One racer.
Allison: I would have been a professional ballerina. I danced for a long time when I was growing up. If we had stayed in California, I would have done that instead of music. I was very involved in ballet when we lived there. Secondly, I would have been a boutique owner. I used to have a little vintage resale store in Green Hills, so I would probably do that.
R: Which album(s) could you play on repeat without getting tired of it?
Aaron: Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Also, Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs. I also love The Gun Club’s Miami and Roberta Flack’s First Take. Lastly, Van Morrison’s Veedon Fleece.
Allison: For me, there is a live album that Patsy Cline did, which is called Live at the Cimarron Ballroom. I think she recorded it in 1960 or 1961. I have loved Patsy Cline ever since I was a kid. On the album you can hear her talking and having a conversation with the audience. She was just so witty and awesome.
Chad: Right now I am listening to Tony Rice’s Church Street Blues. He is a guitar player, and (to me) maybe the greatest player in the world. I am also listening to Black Sabbath’s Live Evil.
R: What is your favorite movie/ movie soundtrack?
Chad: I have a great one for this question. Pulp fiction. Both the movie and the soundtrack. You are not going to come up with a better answer.
Aaron: I like The Million Dollar Hotel, which is a great movie/soundtrack combo. U2 did the soundtrack, and Milla Jovovich is singing on Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” It is very bluesy but also ethereal.
Allison: I would say the Wizard of Oz. There is also this movie, Midnight in Paris. It is a Woody Allen movie that I really love, mostly because of the Paris location and the idea of travel.
R: Where do you love to hang out in Nashville?
Aaron: I hang out and go canoeing on the Harpeth river, and I will hang out anywhere my friends can get me free food.
Allison: I hang out at Fontanel, which has a lot of great hiking trails. I also like Red Bicycle in Germantown. I am addicted to Red Bicycle’s macaroon coffee.
Chad: I hang out in my room a lot, and sometimes I will go to Kroger.
R: What is your go-to word in the English Dictionary?
Aaron: “F***”. I use that word a lot. I also yell out my dog’s name, which is Butters. I am out in the country yelling, “Butters!”
Allison: I have been saying, “stellar” too much. My husband said I needed to stop!
Chad: I have been saying, “Okie Dokie” a lot lately, and I am being totally serious. I say, “Alrighty” a lot too.
R: How wrong have you been about a famous song lyric before?
Aaron: There is a Bruce Springsteen song called “Downbound Train,” in which I thought he was literally blabbering in the song, and that’s how I would sing it. He is actually saying, “Now I swing a sledge hammer on a railroad gang.” There is an INXS song called “Suicide Blonde.” The chorus lyric is, “You want to make her suicide blonde,” but I thought the lyric was “You want to make a soup and salad bar.”
Chad: There is “The Weight.” Everyone always says “Take a load off, Annie,” but really it says, “Take a load off, Fanny.” When we harmonize that song, I am the only one with the “f” sound on that verse. It should be Annie, and maybe it can be. We have look up the lyrics now.