Forlorn Strangers is a quintet based out of Nashville, Tennessee. The band is a collective of five songwriters, each having their own distinct styles that blend into one unmistakable voice. Their sound delves into all reaches of American roots music, driven by foot-stomping percussion and soaring family harmonies.
The band is comprised of sisters Abigail Dempsey (fiddle, percussion, vocals) and Hannah Leigh Lusk (mandolin, percussion, upright bass, vocals); Chris Banke (guitar, mandolin, vocals); Benjamin Lusk (banjo, guitar, vocals); and Jesse Thompson (upright bass, dobro, guitar, vocals). Since 2013, Forlorn Strangers has released two EPs (While the Grass Grows and American Magic Tricks) and has toured continuously across the United States, playing for an ever-increasing group of appreciative fans. In 2015, Forlorn Strangers played over 180 shows in over one hundred cities and more than thirty states nationwide.
The band is gearing up to release their self-titled, debut full-length album on Friday August, 5th. Forlorn Strangers was recorded at John Prine’s Nashville studio The Butcher Shoppe, and produced by Grammy winner Phil Madeira. The summer and fall of 2016 will see the band touring extensively coast to coast in support of the new record and celebrating over a year and a half of life on the road.
Glide Magazine is premiering (below) the the full self titled album below. Forlorn Strangers have nailed the Americana vibe with a unique twist that “serves the song”with a boisterous vision of rhythm, musicality and songwriting. Glide also had the chance to talk to the band about their musical vision..
Congratulations on your new album due out early next month – creatively what was the inspiration for these songs and which songs do you feel best represent your growth?
Thank you very much! The inspiration for the material is as varied as their timestamps. We have songs written years ago and songs written or overhauled within weeks of the recording session, covering everything from spiritual renewal to good old fashioned heartbreak. Leave It on the Ground changed most dramatically in the studio, and definitely represents a lot of what our path forward will be.
Can you talk about your relationship with American Roots music and where you first caught on? Were there any albums of artists that served as inspiration or life changing?
As individual members, we all grew up listening to the gamut of American music. We sang it in church and school, and we listened to it on the radio from young ages, and between the five of us we keep following a common thread of soul that spans genres and generations and ties it all together. Mountain music, bluegrass, Afro-American folk music, barbershop and gospel, jukebox country, delta blues, jazz, it all sings together in one giant song and that feeling grabbed us all early on in life. As a band, we’ve been inspired by the iterations that have come since the sixties and seventies with records like The Band’s self-titled, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s self-titled and Déja Vu. Those records are deep wells lyrically and instrumentally.
You recorded the album at John Prine’s Nashville studio, The Butcher Shoppe. What did that recording environment provide that might not have happened somewhere else? Anything magical or surprising?
We love John Prine’s music so much, and knowing that such good work had been done in that studio with musical luminaries made us feel a bit like we were on sacred ground. We were humbled and grateful to lend our energy to the vibe of that studio. Phil Madeira our producer was in his element there (although he’s an elemental dude anywhere), and Sean Sullivan engineered the project and is, in our modest opinion, one of the best engineers anywhere. Their dynamic at the Butcher Shoppe let us follow each song to its conclusion with as much room to explore as we needed.
Bands with guitars, banjos and mandolin and other acoustic folk instruments have become common place in the music scene. How would you say Forlorn Strangers are most unique?
At our foundation we’re a songwriting collective, so from the outset our mantra is “serve the song.” There’s a pulse that beats all the way from Appalachia to the Mississippi and out to Laurel Canyon, and we want to have a finger on that rhythm no matter what final form the song takes. We’re much more about storytelling than about serving a specific genre. The record is a good thesis statement for that.
How does a band of five songwriters democratically decide what songs make the album? What are the challenges of having so many voices and leaders?
I love this question! It gets at the heart of who we are as a creative family. Even though our decision-making takes more deliberation, we feel like we have a specific picture of what our refined will is. The de facto motto of the United States for almost two-hundred years was “e pluribus unum,” from many, one. That’s a beautiful picture of American Roots music. There’s an OM that comes from the ten-thousand-voiced river of the American songbook, and we want to be a microcosm of that. It can be difficult, but we’ve learned to give generously to each other and take seldom. That’s how the record was made. When a song was right, we all knew. When a song didn’t fit (as happened with three tracks), we knew.
You played your first official show last May – how much has your stage show changed over that period of time? What do you remember most about that first show?
The only thing you can ask from the touring process is that you learn and get better. Our show has become more exciting, more vibrant, and tighter over the past fifteen months. Our comfort level from venue to venue has increased, and when you feel comfortable and confident, you can pour yourself out for an audience and know that they’re getting the best version of you and your craft. That first show was sweet because you can feel in your heart that you’re at the beginning of something beautiful, like a trailhead leading off into the distance. It’s a mixture of nervous excitement and feeling like you’re about to experience a grand adventure. It’s certainly been all that and more.
What have been some of the other highlights of the past year?
Music is an incredible way to travel. We’ve seen more places and met more wonderful people through our touring than we ever would have otherwise. The primary highlight is a change of perspective. If all you do is watch the news, you’d think the world is going directly to hell in a hand- basket. But we’ve been fed, clothed, and sheltered by more strangers over the months than you’d believe, and it’s nice to know firsthand that love is alive and well. We get to be ambassadors for that nearly every night by sharing in that mystical exchange between a performer and an audience. That’s a highlight we’ll take!