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BGS 5+5: Upstate

Nov 29, 2018

BGS 5+5: Upstate

Artist: Upstate
Hometown: Hudson Valley, New York
Latest Album: Healing
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): Honeyoye, Loudmouth, June Bug Flew, Upstate Rubdown

Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?

We all listen to a broad range of music, but the biggest point of overlap for us has always been the Wood Brothers. We really struggle to make music that’s both emotionally and intellectually compelling, and I think the Wood Brothers really demonstrate how to achieve that balance. All of their songs feel earnest and groove hard, but they’re also very musically sophisticated. That sort of writing and arranging is a big influence for us. — Harry D’Agostino

What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?

Our whole band huddles and takes a collective breath before every live performance. It’s a nice way to bring ourselves into the present moment before we play, since load-ins and soundcheck and life in general can be a bit disorienting. It gets us centered and connected to one another at least a little so we don’t phone in on our interactions on stage. — HD

If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?

I think everyone has a desire to do useful and meaningful work in their lives, and I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways that music can fit that description. I love making music that people can dance to, and writing songs that people can connect with and that can help reflect the world around them. A journalist for Al-Jazeera once asked the Iraqi cellist Karim Wasfi if music was really just an indulgence given the shortage of basic necessities. He replied that “It is needed as much as food, as much as oxygen, as much as water because it refines and cultivates. Because it inspires people.” I think that’s a good enough reason to dedicate your energy and time to something. — HD

Since food and music go so well together, what is your dream pairing of a meal and a musician?

I think the big thing that food and music have in common I the way that different cultural styles and recipes collide and evolve together. I think the richest music and food comes from places where that process has happened the most. I’d probably like to pair a meal like gumbo or paella that mixes lots of flavors with music from New Orleans or Cuba that does the same. — HD

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?

Both of our albums have one song written in the second person that takes the form of advice, like the reassuring voice inside your head. In both those cases I really wrote the song as a way to talk to myself, but also with the expectation that the doubts or challenges I was confronting weren’t unique and that others would appreciate it. That so many people have listened to “Old Advice” sort of validates that sentiment. — HD

Editor’s Note: Look for Upstate at the upcoming Winter WonderGrass Festival in Stratton, Vermont, on Dec. 14-16.

Photo credit: Jennifer Elrod

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BGS 5+5: Upstate
BGS 5+5: Upstate