Luray’s debut CD, "The Wilder" – out now – is a beautifully airy, sincere and unadorned modern Americana roots record that is the vision of singer, songwriter and banjo player Shannon Carey, who fronts the group that also includes her brothers Sean and Colin Carey.
The Careys – Sean plays with Bon Iver and S. Carey, too – hail from Lake Geneva and bring Luray to Milwaukee for a Sept. 21 gig at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (which will likely be Juniper Tar's last gig). And when they arrive, it will mark a homecoming for Shannon Carey, who is a UWM alum and her husband (the band’s guitarist) Gabriel Wisniewski, who graduated from Marquette.
We caught up with Shannon Carey recently to ask her about how she came to the banjo, her Milwaukee connections and about coming home.
Before you read on, however, listen to "The Wilder" here. You’ll fall in love.
OnMilwaukee.com: You're from Wisconsin and lived in Milwaukee, how does it feel to be coming back with a CD under your belt?
Shannon Carey: It feels amazing! We lived in Riverwest from about 2001 to 2004, about two blocks from Linneman's and I remember going to see my coworker play a solo set there, singer-songwriter style, and I remember thinking to myself – "Wow, she's a musician! I wonder if I could do that." I was 20! So, now I find myself launching my music career now more than 10 year later, and it took me that long to have the confidence and the faith in the universe to actually do it. It will absolutely feel surreal to be home in Milwaukee and sharing this album with family and friends.
OMC: Did you play in bands while you were here? Can you tell us a bit about your musical connections in Milwaukee?
SC: We are great friends with Juniper Tar and a few of us come from the same small town and actually sang together in high school – in choir and musicals, and late-night jam sessions in the basement. My husband Gabriel was in the Milwaukee band Fenway with Ryan Schleicher of Juniper Tar and Thomas Jones of The Thriftones. Thomas will actually be joining us on our midwest tour on drums, since our drummer, CJ Wolfe is unable to join us. We're also pals with Field Report, and some members of the band played on our record.
OMC: Let's go back a bit, too. How did you come to the banjo?
SC: I had a dream while I was living in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 2006, that I got a guitar for Christmas but I was disappointed because I actually wanted a banjo. I woke up and knew that I wanted to learn the banjo. I set out to find a teacher, and soon began playing bluegrass with other musicians, and eventually began to write songs myself. I was working as a social worker at the time. Whenever I hear banjo in a song, I feel instantly drawn to the texture it adds, and it’s percussive quality and striking timbre. Now it’s my songwriting "arm" and I couldn’t imagine my creative process without it.
OMC: You come from a musical family, right? Tell us about your brothers and about your background in music, even informally at home.
SC: My brothers Sean and Colin both played drums, and our basement was always filled with musical instruments, lots of percussion toys and African drums. My dad is an elementary school music teacher and also teaches piano and guitar in his free time. My mom is also a teacher, and loves music as well. I remember when I was in sixth grade, my mom and I took guitar lessons together. Music was just surrounding us, as I think about it.
I mostly played guitar and sang. I was also in band, jazz band, choir. I played clarinet in the marching band and electric bass in the jazz band. Voice lessons, you name it. Wow, I really was a music nerd! My brothers and I never really collaborated though, until Sean asked me to sing on his first album, "All We Grow" in 2009.
Singing on those songs really inspired me, and it felt natural to collaborate again "The Wilder." I also asked Colin, my youngest brother to play on a few songs. The time and energy that my family has put into this project has been probably the best gift anyone has ever given me, and I feel so much gratitude and love for them.
OMC: What's on your Milwaukee to-do list when you get here?
SC: Alterra, of course. Probably Beans and Barley if I have time, and enjoying seeing my friends and family.
OMC: Did you hear that Alterra has changed its name to Colectivo?
SC: Wow, no, I haven't heard! I think it's insanity, but I will still love them no matter their name.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.