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RISE: Use the stage as an avenue for speaking out against wrong-doings

May 29, 2010 by · 2 comments

Interview by Yana Radilova with the music band RISE


How did you get involved with music?

Chloe: We got involved in music in many different ways. Firstly, our parents are folk musicians and brought us up with old time Appalachian music and dance since we were little girls. We spent many weekends in the mountains at various music festivals, often sleeping in our father’s guitar case in the back of dance halls across the south of the US.

Our mother is a fine fiddle, banjo and piano player, and our father champions folk blues guitar. When we were little children, our father would sing us to sleep every night and our mother would often take us out to concerts and sing the harmony parts in our ears so that we would be able to hear the different layers of the voice.

In addition to family influence, Leah and I grew up with a large love for the Atlanta-based hip hop and urban jazz that we were exposed to through high school and friends. Through attending various clubs and underground dance spots in our teenage years, we developed a deep appreciation for the beat and rhythms of these styles of music.

What is the influence of Appalachian folklore on your songs?

Leah: Appalachia has a large influence on our music. Many of our songs are written with prominent banjo melodies that are played in a “clawhammer” style, which is one of the oldest forms of banjo playing in America. This rings true to traditional Appalachian music.

In addition, Chloe’s fiddle playing is a sparse rhythmic drone style of playing in a low cross tuning that also hails from the deep southern styles of fiddle. We perform vocal ballads as well that focus on the strong power of double harmony as well as a single voice. In Appalachia, the ballad is most known for its storyline, often carrying a strong message or story from way back that someone personally experienced. Tragedy, love, and loss, are all themes of life in the mountains.


What is your main source of inspiration?

It would be too difficult to claim ONE main source of inspiration for our music and work. However, we consistently gain triumph and energy from the collaborative work we so often do, and hold dear to the fact that music is our tool to cross cultures and empower people across the globe.

Thus, our inspiration is that music is our gift to give… and we visually and energetically see it reaching into the far corners of people’s minds and hearts to engage the listener of the fact that we are all connected. We are all united through sound and creativity and ART is our tool to lessen the divide.

What was the greatest difficulty at the beginning of your career? How did you manage to deal with the problems?

One of the greatest difficulties of being a professional musician is the amount of time we have to spend detached from home and our community, often on the road and on computers working for ourselves. Anyone who has a business or is self-employed knows that there is no TIME OFF, and that you have to be a jack of all trades/juggler to really keep things afloat.

Although we love playing music and traveling, the hardest thing has been staying grounded and connected to ourselves and our community while touring and traveling all over the world. Yet, in the same sense, this is also the biggest reward. A double edged sword ! We consistently practice detachment so as to help with the troubles of touring.

Also, and most importantly, we deal with all this through yoga, circus arts, jumping jacks and hand stands, and lots of stops on the road to hike and swim and generally enjoy the places that we are brought to!


What about your last album? Tell us about its main theme.

Our latest album, THE SAILS OF SELF, has just been released this March. It was recorded in New Orleans and has a lot of that spirit in it. Having spent so much time in the city throughout the past 3 years, we wanted to do a recording project down there to really try to capture the influence of New Orleans jazz and the general magic of that place in our work.

The title of the album represents the idea that we must soar and sail with the wings of our own bodies in order to prosper in the world. That our own unique, individual experiences are beautiful pieces of the patchwork quilt of humanity, our common experience.

Another main theme of the album is the connection to foreign languages and global rhythms that we are so drawn to due to our journeys around the world. At once you hear a traditional Appalachian banjo riff in conjunction with an African kalimba and classical cello. These sounds remind us all that we are strongly similar and connected in more ways than we even realize.

the sails of safe
The Sales of Safe

One of the most impressive features of your work is your philanthropy. Do you think art should elevate humankind?

Yes! As many of our mentors say, “ Beware of art for arts sake”…… meaning… although art in and of itself is an important avenue for creative expression, artists must realize that they have a profound impact on society and begin to use their gifts to elevate humankind. To uplift their own communities. To spread messages and tell stories and connect to each other.

The variety of the instruments being used in your performances is incredible! Can you associate any musical instrument with your own personalities?

These are comments from our band…. Abram is our bass player and Imhotep is one of our drummers.

Chloe: I suppose I would associate myself with the voice because its my strongest musical instrument. The voice is natural, portable, harmonic, and multi-layered, like I am.
Abram: I am like a flugal-horn because its so smooth.
Imhotep: I associate myself with the bass drum because it holds down the rhythm for the whole soul. For the entire universe.

Is it difficult to be a colleague with your sister? Do you have arguments sometimes?

Sure, it can be difficult to perform, travel, live, and work with your family…. For sure. There are many assumed roles and habits that we get into that effect our music and our relationship. We have to constantly make room for the fact that we are unique individuals who are always changing and growing and need to be honored and given space to reinvent ourselves.

That just because we are sisters and have been together our whole lives doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot to learn from each other still. At the same time, there is SO much communication that is sort of telepathic and smooth in ways that only sisters could understand, which really works to our benefit in many different avenues.

chloe and leah

Now let’s talk about your forthcoming performance in Bulgaria! How did you come to this idea?

Our dear friend Georgi is Bulgarian and used to live in our neighborhood in Atlanta Georgia, USA. We became close and he supported our music and our vision in many ways. After moving back to Bulgaria to go to school, Georgi was very proactive in wanting to set us up a tour in his country to do a musical exchange.

Rising Appalachia is always reaching out to people and places with deep musical traditions so that we can continue to work towards cross connecting cultures and building bridges through sound, so we immediately wanted to help make this tour happen. My sister and I are very taken aback by the women’s choirs of Bulgaria and the beautiful multi-layered harmonies of traditional singing and have wanted to learn more about this style of song for many years.


What place would you most like to visit in Bulgaria?

We have been told that Plovdiv is a beautiful place and is good for playing music on the streets, so we look forward to visiting there. Our favorite places are usually smaller towns and villages where we can get a chance to really connect with local culture and life.

Give some advice to all beginners in the music career who would also like to create authentic music with a global mission.

Stay strong to the core of what inspires you, what drives you, and what you feel deeply connected to. There are so many ways to get distracted in the industry and loose sight of the absolute beauty of music as a tool to heal and empower.

Connect to your own community and be a voice for the voiceless. Use the stage as an avenue for speaking out against wrong-doings. Be a spark, a light, a vessel of truth and creativity and people will react to your work in more positive ways than you ever even imagined.


For more information about RISE visit their site:

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