We’ve reached out to the artists we followed as part of “The 12” to have the last word on our project. We asked for words, a video or something out of left field. The Civil Wars sent a quick note of appreciation from the road.
“It’s been an honor to be a part of “The 12” with Operation Every Band. Their consistent support of our ever-winding journey of making music has been a part of building the story of what we do. Thanks for the love, and hope this next chapter for you yields even bigger and better things…”
Given all the work I put in on SXSW bands earlier this year, I was at peak excitement when I walked into Paste’s annual party in the early afternoon to catch my first band of the conference.John Paul White and Joy Williams stepped up to their mics amongst a pretty packed crowd for two in the afternoon.By the end of the first song, my wife whispered to me that we were witnessing something special.I couldn’t help but agree.Six months later, The Civil Wars have legitimately created one of the biggest musical success stories of 2011.
There’s no doubt that The Civil Wars’ success is based in their songwriting, talent and chemistry, but what interested me the most throughout “The 12” project is how the band achieved so much simply by working their tails off.Constant touring combined with smart and extensive self-promotion became the band’s mantra in every corner of the country and beyond.In essence, the band was discovered by most through word-of-mouth, whether it be from a small-time blog or some of the most followed artists of the last decade in Adele and Taylor Swift.The real story is what the band did with the buzz surrounding their unique sound.They focused on venues they knew they could sell out, knowing they would revisit the same market a few months later on a larger stage.In my home territory of Dallas-Fort Worth, The Civil Wars moved from a couple nights at a coffee house in March to a 1,000+ theater in July.Their next show early next year will be at the House of Blues, one of the largest indoor venues in the area.That story has been repeated in markets throughout the country, creating endless potential for the still-buzzing act.
Their tale becomes even more impressive given the perspective that they’ve done it completely on their own.The major label approach has been put into question increasingly throughout the last few years, but the angle has been mostly from top acts like Radiohead and Wilco who had already built up a sizeable and dedicated fanbase.From releasing one of their earliest live shows for free online to putting out their debut LP independently, The Civil Wars haven’t wavered from their dedication of doing it on their own.As they approach 200,000 copies of Barton Hollow being sold, the band has become a benchmark for a new business model in the Internet age.If you make great music and dedicate yourself to your art and the business side of playing music, the sky is the limit.
I’ve watched countless videos and read through interview after interview from The Civil Wars in the last half year.One word comes to mind when I’ve been mapping out this last post: consistency.Their setlist has remained mostly unchanged and the banter both on stage and in print always combines stories of heart, humor and appreciation.Hell, they even wear the same outfits night to night.With a band that focuses so much on dichotomy through their lyrics, it’s fitting that the band in many ways mirrors a canned act put together with the pure goal of selling tickets and records (think the boy band boom of the early 2000’s), but at the same time they couldn’t be more opposite.The Civil Wars bleed honesty.While watching them live, each time they glance at each other seems to carry so much meaning even though they do it every night.It’s both real and manufactured at the same time, like an actor and actress in a theater pouring their hearts out on a nightly basis even though they are reading off a script.Though in the case of The Civil Wars, they also play the role of producer, director and writer.
The Civil Wars are indeed special, a band that breaks music down to it’s core translating their hearts to their voices in a way that cannot be underestimated.Given their recent recording sessions with Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett, Operation Every Band has merely written some early chapters in what I imagine will be a long tome.It’s been a true pleasure following White and Williams and I’ve personally learned so much about what’s possible when you realize that dreams can come true with hard work and constant commitment to your craft, whether it be playing music, or in my case, writing about music.Inspiration is the cornerstone of happiness, so Joy and JP can continue along “the road that has no end” knowing that they’ve given that gift to hundreds of thousands new fans.Every tweet, article and standing ovation is our thank you note back to The Civil Wars – our appreciation for defining the ability of song to truly move us.
Our original intention for our final Tour Report from The Civil Wars was to cover the first half of their US fall tour, encompassing fourteen headlining shows alongside Milo Greene and a couple of one-off appearances over the course of the month.Unfortunately, illness befell both White and Williams throughout the month forcing the band to cancel over half of their scheduled appearances (rescheduled dates have already been set for December).Nevertheless, we do have a few shows that did go off and judging by the reviews The Civil Wars were in perfect voice.
Since the band had to cancel their appearance at San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival to accommodate for an appearance on Later with Jools Holland in London, the first domestic appearance was in White’s home state for a performance at Birmingham’s Alabama Theater.This show saw the first appearance of a new song set to appear on next year “Hunger Games” soundtrack.Shortly after their set, the band announced the cancelled dates over the next five days. The only performance in mid-October was one song at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.The Civil Wars ran through “Barton Hollow” during the ceremony for the AMA Awards.
After another string of four cancelled shows, The Civil Wars restarted their tour in Washington DC at the Lincoln Theater.The week continued at mid-sized theaters in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston before closing out the month at Montreal’s Gesu.Our coverage wraps up here, but The Civil Wars Fall Tour continues as the band currently is wrapping their way around the Midwest before heading to the West Coast later this month.
OEB Video Diary:
New Song – 10/7/11 – Alabama Theater – Birmingham, AL
Earlier this month, ASCAP announced that The Civil Wars will be presented with this year’s Vanguard Award at the 49th Annual ASCAP Country Music Awards. The ceremony will be held this weekend at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland.The Civil Wars have a concert scheduled that evening in Chicago, so it seems like they won’t have the opportunity to pick up the award in person.The Vanguard Award is a great accomplishment for the band as it recognizes the band’s songwriting ability specifically, one of the band’s greatest strengths.
The Civil Wars stopped by the Rolling Stone offices last month to play a couple tracks (“Barton Hollow” and “Poison & Wine”) and sit down for a short interview.The intimate session catches the duo in a relaxed demeanor that translates quite well to video.
Back in August, The Civil Wars played a one-off show in Boulder, Colorado that just saw its release a couple weeks ago.The audio and video have both been archived to eTown’s website and it contains a few highlights.In addition to performances of “Tip of My Tongue”, “From This Valley”, “Barton Hollow”, “Billie Jean” and “Poison & Wine”, The Civil Wars teamed up with Sarah Jarosz for a performance of Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House” which is embedded below.
On Wednesday, The Civil Wars made their first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman for a performance of “Poison & Wine”.This isn’t the first late night appearance for the band, but Letterman is always a pretty big deal for any emerging band.
In the great words of Loretta Lynn, “We’ve come a long way, baby.”This week, two of our bands, The Civil Wars and The Head and the Heart, will grace the Ed Sullivan Theater stage for Late Night with David Letterman.
Earlier this year, The Civil Wars started a Tour Diary series to accompany their photo coverage from their Tumblr page.Shot and edited by band photographer Allister Ann, these behind-the-scenes peeks into the band’s activity allow fans to join up on their journeys throughout this marquee year for the duo.The first video focuses on the band’s recent recording sessions with Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett including thirty seconds of the band laying down “Oh Henry” toward the tail end of the recording.The second comes from Europe focused around the band’s appearance at the hallowed Royal Albert Hall in London.You can really feel the band’s starry-eyed excitement as they enter the Hall for the first time, hugging and smiling at how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time.
UBR stands for “The Unsigned Band Review” and unsurprisingly focuses on up-and-coming bands both from the UK and international locales.The ten-minute interview focuses on memorable performances (including their appreciation for Adele), the pros of being independent artists and advice for new bands entering the industry.It’s easy to forget how much The Civil Wars have accomplished without major label support given their rise to prominence in the past few months.The band and their management at Sensibility Music have truly set a new standard of how artists can run the business side to their music independently in the Internet age.
Déjà vu from the prior story, though this particular performance of “Barton Hollow” exudes the duos power and chemistry as well as any other video online.The light-hearted interview (yes, they are talking about murdering drifters) is tacked on at the end of the performance.
We’ve already shared The Civil War’s heavily buzzed performance of “Barton Hollow” from Later with Jools Holland, but they added on a couple more tunes onto their setlist that saw their release a few days later.Below we’ve embedded the band taking on “I’ve Got This Friend” and “Billie Jean” for UK audiences.
One of our favorite aspects of covering The Civil Wars is how well their understated sound comes across on amateur videos. YouTuber kristianlw captured thirteen videos of the The Civil Wars’ performance at London’s Union Chapel with quality sound and video. We’ve assembled it in our best guess on order based on previous setlists. Be on the lookout for a rare performance of Elliott Smith’s “Between the Bars” towards the end of the band’s set.
The Civil Wars - 9/27/11 - Union Chapel - London, UK
Tip of My Tongue, From This Valley, 20 Years, Barton Hollow, Falling, I Want You Back (Jackson 5), Birds of a Feather, Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins), My Father’s Father, Poison and Wine, Between the Bars (Elliott Smith), Billie Jean (Michael Jackson), Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen)
Back in May, The Civil Wars caught one of the biggest breaks in their career when Adele, the top-selling artists of the year, invited the rising duo to open up a run of shows on the East Coast.Adele bestowed the upmost praise on the band throughout the short tour, so it’s no surprise that White and Williams picked up the supporting slot for Adele’s run through the UK last month.Comprised of fifteen shows over three weeks, the tour reached all corners of island from Plymouth to Glasgow.The gigs were a great opportunity for the young band as they are relatively unknown across the Atlantic.Their debut LP isn’t set for release in Europe until early 2012 and their first UK single for “Barton Hollow” was actually just released today.It’s a pretty interesting scenario in this global music market to see the band’s “slow burn” approach to building a European fan base, but it’s not surprising given The Civil Wars’ DIY mentality and overall strategy in the US this year.You can’t blame them either.Given how they’re approaching 200,000 albums sold completely independent of a major label, their approach has set a new standard for success for any emerging artists.
Specific to working with Adele, the band knew that this particular tour presented a special opportunity compared to most opening gigs. In speaking with AOL’s The Bootvia CMT, White expanded on this distinction.“You know she’s going to have packed houses at all these places, lots of cities that we’ve never even been to.It won’t be a typical Top 40 crowd that are just there to see the headliner.I think it will be a really good, knowledgeable audience, and it’s up to us whether we can make fans out of them.”Interestingly, the band also noted in the piece that there’s possibly some collaboration between the artists being planned for the future, but right now it looks like that’s still in the early brainstorming stages.Aside from building an audience, the tour gave the band an opportunity to play some beautiful, albeit cavernous, venues including Manchester’s Apollo, Glasgow’s O2 Academy and London’s hallowed Royal Albert Hall.In a recent Tour Diary, the duo are shown keeping their sights towards the future, adding “another one to the bucket list” with the goal of coming back to Europe to headline the famed venue next time around.
Even though their European trip was anchored by their shows with Adele, The Civil Wars did prove that they have some drawing power already on their own overseas.They bookended the tour with shows in Dublin, Manchester and London as well as a halftime stop in Paris as part of the Eldorado Festival. Though the venue sizes were dramatically smaller than Adele’s shows, all four of these shows were completely sold out.Additionally, they drew strong reviews from publications such as Goldenplec (“Going on the crowds and the performance, next time round they will need a venue that has a lot bigger capacity.”) and Mancunian Matters (“There can be no reservations about the duo’s bright future.”).The Civil Wars’ European trip concluded with the ultimate UK icing on the cake, an appearance on Later with Jools Holland.After their performance of “Barton Hollow” aired, The Civil Wars were on the tip of the worldwide Internet tongue for just a couple minutes, as they became a “Top 10” global trending topic on Twitter.It’s been a little over six months since we first started tracking The Civil Wars after seeing an early afternoon set amongst a crowd of about 100 at SXSW.The goal of “The 12” was to capture the stories of rising young bands and for a couple brief moments The Civil Wars were the most talked about musicians on the planet.With just a couple voices and a guitar, The Civil Wars have already proven their ability to conquer the musical world and the future is still unwritten.
We’ll pick up our last tour report from The Civil Wars with their headlining tour that will carry them all the way to Thanksgiving across every corner of the United States.
OEB Video Diary:
C’est La Mort – 9/1/11 – The Sugar Club – Dublin, Ireland
Barton Hollow – 9/15/11 – Cafe de la Danse – Paris, France
You Are My Sunshine – 9/26/11 – Night and Day – Manchester, UK
Dance Me to the End of Love – 9/27/11 – Union Chapel – London, UK
Last week in Birmingham, The Civil Wars premiered a new song (judging from the lyrics, I bet it is called “Someday”, but no confirmation yet) which is slated to appear on The Hunger Games soundtrack set to be released next spring. The audio and video is a little rough, but this is the first time this emotional ballad has appeared on the web.