INTERVIEW: Erin and the Wildfire Talk About the Stories Behind "Thirst" and Their Growth as a Band
Six piece soul/funk band Erin and the Wildfire have been through quite a few changes since their inception in 2012, when the band began by reworking vocalist Erin Lunsford's solo material into something inspired by bluegrass and folk. Flash forward five years, and the band has truly grown into their sound with their new effort, Thirst, which dropped back in September. The album finds Erin and the Wildfire diving deeper into funk and soul, further expanding their dynamic sound and really creating a brand all their own.
We recently caught up with Lunsford to dive a little deeper into the album, the band's background and their plans for the future. Thirst, the product of years of hard work and dedication from the band is out now and can be heard now below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Erin and the Wildfire for any readers who might not be familiar?
E&tW is a funk/soul outfit from the heart of VA. We love to have fun on stage and we are passionate about performance. For this interview I asked my band mates to list 1 word to describe us and in response one person said hungry and two people said human. So there’s that.
How do you feel the music scene in Charlottesville has shaped you as musicians?
Charlottesville, Va and the UVa community were super influential in our bands origin and growth. Cville is full of some really top-notch musicians who are always pushing us to better ourselves. Charlottesville has some excellent venues including The Ante Room, The Southern (our personal favourite), and a couple larger venues we’ve been lucky enough to play a few times each – The Jefferson Theater and The Pavilion. Cville’s scene is growing and we are excited to be a part of it!
Is there anything you’d like to bring to your local scene?
Cville's music scene is vibrant and growing. I think I'd like to bring more diversity in genre and in gender! We love the front-women of Cville including Sally Rose, Adar, Lauren Hoffman, Ships In The Night, Annabeth McNamara, and Genna Matthew, but we'd love to see more! It's still a man's world out there in terms of the music industry, so we'd love to inspire local women to pursue music and art and we want women to feel accepted and welcome in live music venues as well!
Last month, you released your new album, Thirst. Did you have any major goals in mind when you started working on it?
We really wanted to make a fun, dynamic album that represented OUR sound. We feel very good about Thirst. We were pretty selective about what songs went on the album so that we could make a cohesive piece. The writing process took several years of trial and error/getting closer to our sound, but we feel like we are firing on all cylinders now.
How do you feel you’ve grown or challenged yourselves on Thirst?
We’ve grown SO much putting together this album. I’d say our musicality and our songwriting ability are both miles ahead of where we started. Our genre/style has also evolved quite a bit. The biggest challenge of this record was trying to write within the genre we wanted to live in. Our quest for genre clarity has been long and difficult. We began by working with my solo singer/songwriter material. I wrote songs on acoustic guitar and sang and I came from a bluegrass/blues/folk background with a SERIOUS affection for r&b and soul singing/gospel music. Our older releases definitely leaned more towards Americana and Folk. (I used to play banjo with the band!) It took us a few years of evolving our writing to get away from my original folk/blues roots and use my voice in the more soulful way we were wanting. We feel like we’ve finally arrived with ‘Thirst’ and we may be headed towards a heavier r&b/funk feel after this…
What was the highlight of working on the album?
The highlight of this record was finally being able to enjoy the luxury of time during the recording process. Every release we've done up to this point had been recorded in two days or less due to financial constraints, which made for a very rushed environment in the studio as we scrambled to get all the necessary parts in place. This time we were able to spend an entire week at the lovely Montrose Studio in Richmond, Virginia, and the difference was like night and day. We had the opportunity to dive deeper into each song, to experiment and take chances, and it was this freedom that really helped bring these songs to life.
Before the album dropped, you released your single, "Great Love." What inspired the song?
"Great Love" was the last tune we wrote before recording the album, but it has one of the oldest origin stories. When I was a 4th year at UVA, I got dumped, hard. It was devastating and unexpected and everything you might find after a first love heartbreak. At the time, I was doing an independent music study at the time with my favorite professor/teacher (ever), Dr. Ted Coffey. I confided in him/ugly cried through our meeting about my hurting heart and he shared a story with me about one of his breakups. He said he'd been dumped on Christmas Day by the person he saw his entire future with and that he felt like he'd never love again in the same way. BUT He said he never knew the greatness a love could have until his most recent relationship: "the love I have now is a Great love." I have held those words in my heart since then and call on them when I've felt hopeless about romance. Dr. Coffey also told me in the same meeting that this would not be my last serious heartbreak (lol). #wisdom
Is there anything that you’re particularly excited for listeners to hear on the album?
Every song is special in a unique way to us, from the back-story to its evolution into a fully developed piece of music, but there are some really fun moments on the records beyond the songs themselves. Top 3 for me are: 1. Nick’s laugh at the end of “Hot Slice” because it’s so authentic and I think it’s a nice snapshot of our mood during recording (silly). 2. My Dad’s voicemail from 2007 hidden somewhere in the album… oooooooo. It’s very sentimental for me and I hope other people relate to having memorable dad voicemails on your phone from 10+ years ago? 3. Rodell Toliver’s funky voiceover in “Every Single Song On My CD Is Gonna Be A Hit Pt. 1.” Yes, that’s the full title. Rodell is a talented guy and he made that song complete when he added his voiceover. Took him 2 tries? He’s the man. Not to mention he had the stomach flu while he recorded it!!
With Thirst out now, do you have any other big plans in the works? Any shows you’re excited about?
We are stoked to play our hometown release show on 10/13/17(FREAKY FRIDAY) at The Southern Café and Music Hall and we can’t wait to get back up to D.C. on 10/20 at The Velvet Lounge with our friends Feel Free. We will be touring this fall to promote the album, releasing a video or two to accompany some of the tracks for your viewing pleasure and we are thinkinggg of recording another full length in 2018. Too soon? Yeah probs but we can't help but dream. Also, by the end of the year we are gonna be selling some baller t-shirts. Small goal, but very exciting for us.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank YOU. I’d say stay funky Prelude <3