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Rising Appalachia - Sisters Find Solace in Their Music, Each Other

Wednesday • July 31, 2019

Atlanta sisters Leah and Chloe Smith make up Rising Appalachia, a folk band with big heart. While they grew up in a musical family and were often playing music, they started performing together after graduating from high school. Both women are multi-instrumentalists, but Leah focuses on the vocals, the banjo and bodhran and Chloe plays the guitar, fiddle and banjo. 

While they've spent years traveling the world, for the first time ever, the duo will be performing in Telluride! For two nights, they'll be performing their own brand of folk and soul, including new songs off their latest album, "Leylines." During their busy year, Chloe took some time to chat with about the sisters' latest adventures. Where do you currently reside/call home?

Chloe Smith: I live in a small cabin on a farm North of Asheville North Carolina, but I also spend lots of time in my hometown of Atlanta Georgia where the rest of my family still resides.  They complement each other, the big city and the country.  I find solace in both. You have been traveling for forever... what are some of your favorite places you've been to and why?

Chloe Smith: Oh there are so many.  I love playing in Europe.  Some of our ancestors are from Scotland and Ireland, so it's always deep to return to those places and sing.  The lilt and hum of the accents there as well as the thriving folk music scene is a balm to our hearts on the road.  We also love the West Coast of both the US as well as Canada and find ourselves spending lots of time by the wild pacific. Have you ever performed in Telluride? What are you most looking forward to?

Chloe Smith: First time! We have heard so much about the Bluegrass Festival there, so all in all we are looking forward to checking out the high altitude town and getting an idea of the pulse that runs through it.  The Rockies own a piece of our hearts. Where'd you come up with the idea for the band name?

Chloe Smith: Leah dreamed it in a dream when we first began playing together.  We wanted to allude to the idea that we were rising up out of a tradition, bringing a newness to the old, while maintaining our roots.  There is so much power in the word "rising" and so much history to the word "Appalachia".  The combination felt just right. You two are sisters - we all know how that goes. Do you guys always get along on tour/while creating music?

Chloe Smith: Yes, for the most part, we are best friends. Its a service to our work that we know each other so deeply.  Of course, there are some struggles along the path... as in any deep relationship... we have to leave space to be surprised by one another and not fall into familiar patterns.  However, we have complimentary ( but very different ) strengths and know how to utilize them for the greater good. How do your parents feel about the two of you traveling and performing? Do they ever get to come see you?

Chloe Smith: After years of encouraging us to stay in college and get trained for more "professional" careers, they turned the corner a while back and jumped fully on the Rising Appalachia bandwagon.  Our mother is an incredible fiddle player herself ( her band is The Rosin Sisters ) and gives us some of the best musical advice and honest critique of our work we could ever ask for.  Our father is a dynamic genius of a folk sculptor and for yearssss mailed all our albums out for us from his basement studio.  I guess you could say its been a family-run, grassroots project since day one. How much of an influence did your parents have on your music?

Chloe Smith: Tons. What was it like working with a producer for Leylines? Did it impact your creativity at all?

Chloe Smith: Joe Henry was a dream and creative prophet to work with.  We were nervous, bringing in our first producer, but it proved to be just the ripening we needed at the time.  He was gentle handed but encouraging of certain directions to take, but never overly assertive.  Leah and I needed that sort of approach because we are VERY hands-on with our work and co-produce every thing we have ever done... from albums to videos to graphics to merchandise.  Jo made room for us to shine and make decisions together while stepping up the caliber of our recording experience quite a few notches with his story telling, musical encyclopedia of a mind, and genuine leadership. What's your favorite song of the new album and why?

Chloe Smith: Ha. That's like picking your favorite child. I like them all for different reasons.  One of my favorites is Harmonize, because I'm the love song slinger and my heart tends to be drawn to those sorts of lyrics.  I LOVE what our instrumentalist Arouna Diarra did on that track with the ngoni.... and love how the band carries the song along in such a tranquil but uplifting pace. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you?

Chloe Smith: Crunk folk, modern protest music, banjo-soul with an emphasis on poetry and bass. What's one thing you want people to take away from your music?

Chloe Smith: Our commonality. A call to action. And a harmony that can be found all amongst us. You both are big activists - what drives you? How does that coincide with your music?

Chloe Smith: The times drive us, the pulse of the people and the yearnings of our fellow women.  Folk music as a bugle call drives us, the thought that it has always been by and for the people, and much less about the glitz and glam of the individual.  We are driven by justice, equality, and diversity.  Driven by good stewardship of the land.  Driven by the small acts of mighty people. What's next for you? Where do you see yourselves/the band going/doing?

Chloe Smith: This year is full of sharing Leylines with the world, so we will be doing lots of full length tours this fall both up the east and west coast.  We will be producing more music videos for the songs as well as leaning in to the meanings of this work.  Mostly, we see ourselves continuing with pacing ourselves well with this career and learning how to do less but show up more.  That is the end goal.


For more information about Rising Appalachia's two shows at the Sheridan Opera House this fall, click here