About Rising Appalachia

Founded by sisters Leah and Chloe Smith, the band established an international fan base due to relentless touring, tireless activism, and no small degree of stubborn independence. However, for the first time, they opted to bring in a producer for the new album, teaming up with the legendary Joe Henry on the sessions. These were also their first recording sessions outside of the South. For 10 days, all six band members lived and recorded in a castle-like studio in Marin County, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As a result, a sense of unity and immediacy can be heard throughout their seventh album, Leylines.

“As far as recording goes, we’re open creatively, but we’ve often preferred elements of live recording. I mean, we’re folk musicians at our core,” Leah explains. “The experience of playing music together in one room, looking at each other, is the bedrock of what we do and how we’ve grown up with music. I think Joe very much felt that way as well. He was very clear at the beginning that he was going to encourage us to have as many elements of a live recording as possible.”

Although Leah and Chloe Smith consider their voices as their primary instrument, Leah also plays banjo and bodhran on the album, while Chloe plays guitar, fiddle, and banjo. They are joined on Leylines by longtime members David Brown (stand-up bass, baritone guitar) and Biko Casini (world percussion, n’goni), as well as two new members: West African musician Arouna Diarra (n’goni, talking drum) and Irish musician Duncan Wickel (fiddle, cello). The sonic textures of these two cultures are woven into Leylines, enhancing the stunning blend of folk, world, and urban music that has become Rising Appalachia’s calling card.

“Our songwriting ties into those traditions as well,” Chloe says. “With some of our original songs, it’s a reflection of the times. We’re folk singers and we consider this a folk album, so there’s a lot in there. There’s word of politics, of being women in the music industry, as well as a lot about our lives on the road.”

Indeed, Rising Appalachia has toured British Columbia by sailboat, traversed the U.S. and Europe by train, and engaged in immersive cultural exchange programs in Bulgaria, Ireland, Southern Italy, Central and South America – not to mention the countless miles in a van. Tour highlights include: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco; Music Hall Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York; Boulder Theatre in Boulder, Colorado; and the Showbox in Seattle, Washington. The band consistently sells between 400 and 1500 tickets wherever they play, a testament to their loyal fan base.

Leah and Chloe grew up in urban Atlanta as the city’s hip hop scene began to flourish. They absorbed those rhythms through the music they heard at school, then traveled with their family to fiddle camps all across the Southeast on the weekends. The young girls weren’t all that interested in the old-time playing, but their parents were incredibly devout in their study and practice of Appalachian music.

After high school, Leah decided to postpone college and travel internationally. Feeling homesick while living in Southern Mexico, she looked for a connection to her past and taught herself how to play banjo. “I realized that I wanted something from home that I could share, something that would tell people a bit more of the story of where I came from, other than the news,” she recalls.

A few years later, when Chloe came to visit her abroad, Leah offered some clawhammer banjo lessons. They didn’t necessarily realize it at the time but a musical partnership had been established. Upon their return to the United States, they recorded an album, which they considered an art project, to sell whenever they sang at farmer’s markets. They printed 500 copies, figuring that would last them a lifetime. However, when a local college professor heard them singing at a Christmas party, he booked them as part of a Celtic holiday concert in Atlanta. After two performances, every CD had been sold.

Surprised and overwhelmed, they mulled over a career as full-time musicians, then realized that performing could be just one component of a greater overall vision – one that includes advocating for social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights.

“We’re able to filter in so many of our passions into this project,” Chloe says. “We do a lot of activism work. We do a lot of outreach. Leah is a visual artist and she can funnel her visual eye into the project. I love to write, so that comes in. There’s a big container and canvas for our life’s work here. Music is part of it, but there are a lot of other creative vehicles that are driving Rising Appalachia.”

Special guests on Leylines include folk hero Ani DiFranco, soulful songwriter Trevor Hall, and jazz trumpeter Maurice Turner. The album title alludes to the concept of invisible lines believed to stretch around the world between sacred spaces, bonded by a spiritual and magnetic presence. That deep sense of connection is key to understanding Rising Appalachia as a whole. “Rising Appalachia has come out of this idea that we can take these traditions of southern music – that we’ve been born and raised with – and we can rise out of them, creating all these different bridges between cultures and stories to make them feel alive,” Leah says. “Our music has its foundation in heritage and tradition, but we’re creating music that also feels reflective of the times right now. That’s always been our work.”

Reviews of Rising Appalachia

Rising Appalachia's music is amoebic, in the sense that it is heavily influenced by situation, location, and circumstance. Aside from the Smith sisters, the band is often changing iterations, incorporating different artists and instruments through each tour. Much of their music is influenced by folk, soul, and world music, composed around relevant traveling experiences.

Rising Appalachia Videos

Rising Appalachia - Sunny Days (Static Video)

Rising Appalachia - Cuckoo (Live Acoustic Performance Video)

The Making of Harmonize

Rising Appalachia on Instagram

“Sunny Days came as a mantra, a melody and a loop that held over and over again in my head. I would wake up with the chorus running across my morning for months. Chloe wrote the framework of the song and gave it to me and said “find your verses”...and we sat with it for a while, changing its rhythm, trying out different melody lines, leaning into its tempo. Nothing really quite stuck. But that easeful line “oh sunny days you rest my soul, you make it easy to see the gold” stuck with me...I could never shake it. 
We workshopped our verses, added nuance and depth and poetry, and had tons of material to work with. We tried adding instruments and we put it in a verse/chorus/verse structure... but in the end it wanted to stay simple. 
Streamlined. 
Wanted to hold onto you. 
When we went into the studio I tried to break the cadence to get the song moving ... I just started singing it in a way we had never tried before. Chloe couldn’t see me but she could hear me. We had not planned this version but i knew if I just kept singing that riff over and over again that she would start to add her pieces onto it. And then all of the sudden it became a very different song. It held a new magic that was less tame. It got looser, wilder, weirder, more spacious. Music is like that sometimes, you have to break out of your own framework to make space for the muses to find their way. We tracked it twice with very little dialog about what we were doing, and just let it be an improv.
We kept the second take. 
It settled into its own moment.
.
.
You know, I have always wanted to write music that situates itself in that place that the soul recognizes as ancient. The bones of our music traditions are so rich and primordial, but often the words no longer feel relevant to the world around us, or to the world that we want to call forward. I want to make music that feels deeply familiar but gives us a new vernacular to take claim of and and call home. A vocabulary for our joys and our sorrows and our hopes to be sung out loud.”
- Leah 
@leahsongmusic .
.
.
Hear the brand new single “Sunny Days”. Produced by the legendary @joehenrymusic 
Link in bio. 
Photo📷 @cometolifemusic
“Sunny Days came as a mantra, a melody and a loop that held over and over again in my head. I would wake up with the chorus running across my morning for months. Chloe wrote the framework of the song and gave it to me and said “find your verses”...and we sat with it for a while, changing its rhythm, trying out different melody lines, leaning into its tempo. Nothing really quite stuck. But that easeful line “oh sunny days you rest my soul, you make it easy to see the gold” stuck with me...I could never shake it. We workshopped our verses, added nuance and depth and poetry, and had tons of material to work with. We tried adding instruments and we put it in a verse/chorus/verse structure... but in the end it wanted to stay simple. Streamlined. Wanted to hold onto you. When we went into the studio I tried to break the cadence to get the song moving ... I just started singing it in a way we had never tried before. Chloe couldn’t see me but she could hear me. We had not planned this version but i knew if I just kept singing that riff over and over again that she would start to add her pieces onto it. And then all of the sudden it became a very different song. It held a new magic that was less tame. It got looser, wilder, weirder, more spacious. Music is like that sometimes, you have to break out of your own framework to make space for the muses to find their way. We tracked it twice with very little dialog about what we were doing, and just let it be an improv. We kept the second take. It settled into its own moment. . . You know, I have always wanted to write music that situates itself in that place that the soul recognizes as ancient. The bones of our music traditions are so rich and primordial, but often the words no longer feel relevant to the world around us, or to the world that we want to call forward. I want to make music that feels deeply familiar but gives us a new vernacular to take claim of and and call home. A vocabulary for our joys and our sorrows and our hopes to be sung out loud.” - Leah @leahsongmusic . . . Hear the brand new single “Sunny Days”. Produced by the legendary @joehenrymusic Link in bio. Photo📷 @cometolifemusic
Travel is a privilege.
And it’s an honor 
and one of the deepest educations you can possibly embark on (if done right.)
Our mother was a flight attendant and our father stayed home to take care of us girls. 
We were a one salary family.
Instead of buying things or stuff , our mother used her delta employment to expose us to the wider world. 
Temples. Churches. 
Languages. Food. 
Slower ways of living. Functional trains. 
Snowy peaked mountains. 
The awkwardness of not being “from” a place, but loving it immensely as a guest.
Our father told us stories of making maps in Alaska, working on lemon farm in Mexico, and trekking across Nepal (where he met our mother). Now, as we craft home from the road and offer song as a form of currency... I see both the slippery slope of tourism as well as the massive embrace this wide world has to offer when we leave our harbor and lean out into it. 
I am reminded of things I want to let go of, 
Things I aspire towards. 
I am reminded of our nations discontent, and worship of the individual (and the cell phone).
I become the observer, 
And listen. 
I always find myself in greater relation to this living planet and it’s people,
And for that,
It’s always worth it. 
Muchisimas gracias South America, 
It’s been real. 
You have taught us so much about deep and real kindness. 
May I carry this home.
May it rub off.
-Chloe .
.
.
.
.
.
Enormous thanks to 
@cometolifemusic @guayaki @laberintopatagonia @feminamusica @lacharo.oficial @reviveolution @perota_chingo 
and every one of you that showed up night after night 💫
#risingappalachia
Travel is a privilege. And it’s an honor and one of the deepest educations you can possibly embark on (if done right.) Our mother was a flight attendant and our father stayed home to take care of us girls. We were a one salary family. Instead of buying things or stuff , our mother used her delta employment to expose us to the wider world. Temples. Churches. Languages. Food. Slower ways of living. Functional trains. Snowy peaked mountains. The awkwardness of not being “from” a place, but loving it immensely as a guest. Our father told us stories of making maps in Alaska, working on lemon farm in Mexico, and trekking across Nepal (where he met our mother). Now, as we craft home from the road and offer song as a form of currency... I see both the slippery slope of tourism as well as the massive embrace this wide world has to offer when we leave our harbor and lean out into it. I am reminded of things I want to let go of, Things I aspire towards. I am reminded of our nations discontent, and worship of the individual (and the cell phone). I become the observer, And listen. I always find myself in greater relation to this living planet and it’s people, And for that, It’s always worth it. Muchisimas gracias South America, It’s been real. You have taught us so much about deep and real kindness. May I carry this home. May it rub off. -Chloe . . . . . . Enormous thanks to @cometolifemusic @guayaki @laberintopatagonia @feminamusica @lacharo.oficial @reviveolution @perota_chingo and every one of you that showed up night after night 💫 #risingappalachia

Hometown

New Orleans, Louisiana

Website

https://www.risingappalachia.com/

Social

Highlights

Rising Appalachia On Facebook

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