Interview with the Loose Strings Band
By: Dennis M. Kelly
Dennis: Hey everyone! How are you all doing today?
The Loose Strings Band: We are wonderful and hope you are as well!
Dennis: Yes, indeed; doing great, thanks! Thank you all so much for taking the time to chat with me today! I really appreciate it! When I first heard your song, ‘Knee Deep in Loving You’, I knew I had to feature the band. Such catchy music that makes you want to move with harmonies that can only be described as angelic. So, the band formed roughly 12 years ago, how did you all come to know one another and decide to form The Loose Strings Band?
The Loose Strings Band: We appreciate the kind words so much! Ashley (banjo) and Lindsey (mandolin) are the sisters of the group. Channing (guitar), Grace (bass), and Ashley (banjo) were in the same grade at school and have grown up together playing music, sports, and attending church activities, etc. Our most recent addition to the band, Mary-Claire Hooper (fiddle), was a friend we made attending bluegrass festivals!
Dennis: Prior to the formation of the band, what was each of your musical backgrounds?
The Loose Strings Band: Ashley and Lindsey grew up learning to play piano before they started playing bluegrass. Their mom, Teresa (The Loose Strings Band Manager) taught them piano and helped with vocal training when they were younger. She is a certified music therapist and current chorus teacher at Grayson County High School. Channing has a strong musical background from her grandfather, Guy Russell, who sang in a quartet. Channing was influenced by his singing and grew up singing in her church. She took up playing guitar when Ashley and Lindsey began lessons at a store in Galax called Barr’s Fiddle Shop. Grace was richly immersed in bluegrass at a young age. Her father, Terry Wilson played mandolin. She actually started on the fiddle at the age of 4 before she switched to bass around 10 years old. She is very talented and can play any instrument you put in her hands. Mary-Claire comes from a musical family as well. She played with her mother, Robin Hooper (vocalist) and father, Ken Hooper (mandolin) who were major influences in her life as well. Ken is also a luthier and is known for his amazing guitars. Mary-Claire started playing fiddle when she was 9 years old and after several years of playing with her family and friends in a band called, Beyond the Blue, she joined the LSB.
Dennis: Has anyone had any music lessons at all?
The Loose Strings Band: Yes. We have all taken lessons at some point in our lives, but it was mainly when we first started playing. After a couple of years (once we learned the basics) we began coming up with our own breaks, arrangements, etc.
Dennis: Impressive! Now, everyone has managed to maintain a balanced lifestyle with school, family and your career; I have to ask… how?
The Loose Strings Band: Being able to play together has been a blessing for all of us. There are several shows/gigs that we have had to turn down, but for the most part we have been able to make things work. It hasn’t been easy, but we always have a good time traveling and playing together, and that makes it worth it to us. We occasionally will have a fill-in if one person can’t make a show and every one else can; but most of the time we are able to make our shows work out!
Dennis: How often does the band rehearse per week/month?
The Loose Strings Band: We try to get together as much as we can. During the summer months we get together more because of festivals and vacation time. We would say we meet at least 4-5 times a month; depending on how many shows we have.
Dennis: How do you all work together? Is there a leader or collectively managed?
The Loose Strings Band: We are definitely collectively managed. We know this has been one of the main reasons that we’ve been together so long. No one is the “leader” per say, but we try to make group decisions and go with the majority vote. Teresa Nale books/manages our group, so we are able to stay in touch with each other very easily.
Dennis: Do you each write the music or is there a main songwriter in the band?
The Loose Strings Band: Lindsey Nale has done most of the writing for our band, but there are a couple of songs that were written by Grace, Channing, and Ashley as well. You can find most of our original material on our CD, “Journey With No End.”
Dennis: Where do your lyrical inspirations come from? Are any of your songs about personal experiences?
The Loose Strings Band: I think most of the material we write comes from things that we feel are relatable to our listeners. Some lines come from personal experience, but most are to reach our audience.
Dennis: Now, you’ve got four albums under your belt, the last one being ‘As We Travel’ in 2016, looking over your progress with your albums, how would you say the band has developed over those years?
The Loose Strings Band: We definitely feel that we have matured in our voices and playing throughout the years. We can tell a major difference from some of our earlier albums, as well as the material that we have chosen to include on our most recent album, “As We Travel.” We hope that our music speaks to our listeners.
Dennis: How have you marketed your music so far and what has proven to be the most successful for you?
The Loose Strings Band: Social media has been a big factor that we use to promote our music. Being able to add videos for our listeners to watch is a great way for people who haven’t seen us live to become familiar with our music as well.
Dennis: Has the band gotten much radio airplay?
The Loose Strings Band: We have received radio airplay from our local radio station, WBRF and are so appreciative of the support they have shown us. We hope to continue to broaden our airplay as we continue our musical journey.
Dennis: Tell me about some of each of your favorite (Loose Strings Band) songs, which songs are each of you most proud of, what were the songs about and why are you so proud of them?
The Loose Strings Band: Two of our favorite songs on our new album include, “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away,” and “Angeline the Baker”. We feel that both of these songs reflect the diversity of material we enjoy playing. We love the “swing” feel that we got out of our cover “Heaven’s Just A Sin Away,” compared to our instrumental, “Angeline the Baker,” where we were able to pull from our roots.
Dennis: How would you describe the live music scene in Virginia?
The Loose Strings Band: Virginia is very rich in bluegrass music, especially in the SWVA region and our hometown of Galax, VA. Virginia is For Lovers/Virginia Tourism has done an amazing job of promoting live music and keeping the bluegrass tradition alive. Our hometown holds the world’s largest fiddler’s convention where thousands of people come to enjoy live music annually. We are blessed to live where this music has so much support.
Dennis: Given your ages, has it been hard to get booked in places you’ve wanted to play?
The Loose Strings Band: Thankfully, we haven’t had any obstacles based on our ages thus far.
Dennis: That is good to hear! And still on the topic of your ages, has the band discussed band goals after everyone is out of college?
The Loose Strings Band: As of this year, 4/5 of the band members have graduated college. At this point, everyone is on same page as far as traveling and playing music goes. We want to play as much as our professions/schooling will allow. A new album is in the works as well.
Dennis: Of the shows the band has played already, what have been some memorable shows that made a connection for you, or stood out in some way?
The Loose Strings Band: We have been blessed to play at many memorable and exciting places. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) showcases have always seemed to stand out to us because we get to meet and connect with people that enjoy the bluegrass industry as much as we do! We always love playing for people who are also immersed in this genre of music.
Dennis: Where are some places the band would like to perform at?
The Loose Strings Band: We would love to be able to play at historic venues such as the Grand Ole Opry, and The Station Inn in Nashville.
Dennis: What is the band’s idea of success? Where would each of you like to see the band one day where you would feel you’ve achieved your goals?
The Loose Strings Band: Playing bluegrass, making memories, meeting new people, and getting to travel are a few of the wonderful successes that we’ve achieved so far, and continue to do. Achieving our band goals would probably be having the opportunity to play at places like the ones mentioned above.
Dennis: Is there a new album in the works for you this year? The Loose Strings Band: Yes! We have recently been discussing working on our next album this year! We are super excited to release new material!
Dennis: If so, is there a title for it yet? The Loose Strings Band: We have not decided on a title at this point, but it is in the works!
Dennis: Of the different facets of the life of a musician, which do each of you like the most? writing? performing? Or recording?
The Loose Strings Band: We would probably say performing is our favorite! We always have so much fun playing/singing together and entertaining is the best thing to do with your friends. Although, we must say that we do love writing and recording as well. It’s a wonderful feeling to accomplish recording a new original song.
Dennis: What does the band have planned for the rest of 2018?
The Loose Strings Band: We have quite a few shows lined up for 2018. Our website has an updated list of our upcoming events, so please visit our site! http://www.theloosestringsband.com/
Dennis: What is the best way for people to connect with the band?
The Loose Strings Band: The best way to connect with us is our Facebook page or website!
Dennis: Well, I want to thank you very much once again for your time today, I am so happy you’re keeping Bluegrass alive and well and doing the genre justice, great work and I wish you all the best success in your career!
The Loose Strings Band: Thank you for your time and well wishes! We have enjoyed it and hope to see everyone down the road!
Biography: The Loose Strings Band (LSB) is an all women band, five members ranging in age from fifteen to twenty three years of age from Galax, Virginia. The band has been together for nine years, playing at bluegrass conventions, special events, ceremonies, and festivals. They are well known in the Blue Ridge Mountains and beyond for their nice blend of tight vocal harmonies and sweet rhythms. They are also unique in their style since they all play an instrument and sing. The band has been well supported and embraced by many through the years.
They have traveled throughout Virginia and beyond playing for many different types of events. They were honored to have been able to perform at Merlefest in 2015, in North Wilksboro N.C. They have also been recognized in Ohio, as the “best entertainment” of the entire travel expo in Columbus. They were also honored to play at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 2016, in Raleigh N.C. They have played in Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, and of course their home state of Virginia.
The ladies are excited for the special PBS televised show “Song of the Mountains” at the famous Lincoln Theater to air this year, where they performed a live show last year. They all have gone through their early years; high school years, and now three of them are in college! There is a fine balance in their music career, with studies, family and extra curricular activities. Somehow through their love of music, determination, and very busy lives, they have continued to perform and completed three albums. They have just released their new album titled: “As We Travel” at the end of 2016.
Their love for the timeless music and each other will help them prevail through obstacles that may come their way. They have certainly been blessed wonderful talents, fans, friends, and family! They could not do it without everyone’s support, and hope their listener’s leave with enjoyment and pleasure from each performance.