When you think of music that comes out of California, country music probably isn’t one of the first genres you think of… but Nashville converts Fairground Saints have roots there, and also roots on the internet.
One member of the trio, guitarist and singer Mason Van Valin, recently spoke with the Metro Spirit. He and singer/multi-instrumentalist Elijah Edwards and singer/guitarist Meg McAllister will be supporting Sara Evans at her Christmas-themed concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at the Miller Theater.
Evans has a heavenly voice, and, depending on what you’re going through, listening to her renditions of the classic Christmas hymns “O Holy Night” or “Silent Night” just might bring you to tears. Those songs appear on her 2014 holiday release, “At Christmas,” which her tour is supporting.
Fairground Saints have toured with Evans before, and their sounds just mesh well.
A little pop, a little country, a news release from the band describes their new song “Somewhere Down The Line” with these words: “Percussive handclaps, banjo twang and sun-kissed male-female harmonies cruise towards an upbeat road-trip worthy hook: ‘I’ve got a full tank of gas and some money. Let’s leave this small town and small dreams behind.’”
Van Valin said the band’s songwriting process changes day by day, but the band members (who met through Facebook and Craigslist and instantly clicked) collaborate well together.
“Typically, we get in a room and we find a piece of music that feels like something that feels inspiring. And it’s hard to explain; you just kind of know it when you know it, it just moves something in you,” Van Valin said. “And then we start finding vowels that sound right in different places, and then we start applying those things. We create a syllabic structure for the lyric with the melody that’s going over the music that’s happening. And then we add lyrics into that. And then we kind of polish it up and make adjustments.”
He said any of the band members can get in at any spot and take over.
“I think Eli’s really, really strong in the area of being a multi-instrumentalist. He can jump on the piano or the mandolin or the dobro or a guitar, or whatever he needs to jump on,” Van Valin said. “And so, that’s really valuable from the perspective that it keeps things really fresh, because he’s jumping around a bunch of different instruments. But other than that, I think we’re all pretty equal players on the field, which is really nice.”
All in their 20s, the band members have a wide range of artists they love. Some of them include Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, the Dixie Chicks, the Eagles, John Mayer and Alec Benjamin.
Despite traveling through Augusta before, this will be the Fairground Saints’ first-ever show in the city. Van Valin said the band, who anticipate more new music coming out in 2019, welcome anyone to come meet them at their merch table during intermission and after the show.
“We love to talk to people,” Van Valin said. “We love to hang out with the people who watched the show and hear what they thought.”
This is the rest of the interview with Van Valin:
Metro Spirit: What’s the weirdest part about touring?
Mason Van Valin: The weirdest part about touring… (laughs) Um, I think for me, it’s the like, half-awake feeling that you have all the time, because you’re just kind of always on the go. So to some degree, it feels like a very lucid experience, because you’re getting off of working very late, and then you’re getting up very early to drive to the next place. So I’m always in kind of a half-sort of dream state, which is really fun because it makes you think less when you’re on stage. It just kind of relaxes you a little bit and makes you a little more fluid. But I think that’s kind of the strangest thing for me.”
Spirit: Yeah? Well, I’ve experienced sleep deprivation before… it wasn’t healthy, and I’ve never done drugs, but if I had, I would think, OK, that’s kind of like what drugs are, like when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
Van Valin: Yeah, right. Well, thankfully we get just enough, but sometimes it’s a little on the edge.”
Spirit: Well, what was your musical background before you joined the band?
Van Valin: I was listening to a lot of stuff like, my dad is super into soft rock from the ’70s, and he plays guitar, too, so he was always playing music around me and playing these songs as long as I can remember. And we used to listen to some of his vinyl records, like he had Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor. … I started playing the trumpet when I was in, I think fourth grade, and I played that for years and years and years, and then when I was 12, I asked him if he would teach me how to play guitar, and he showed me some cowboy chords. I was just kind of enthralled by it, because it was like having six trumpets at the same time and you could sing over top of it, you could create a symphony if you wanted to. So just logically, you could play the guitar for a lot longer than you could play the trumpet, because your lips aren’t getting sore while you’re playing guitar. And I just loved music so much that I wanted to play it for a lot longer than I had the dexterity to. So, that’s kind of how I got into guitar and writing songs. There was a person named Peter Lewis from a band called Moby Grape, who told me that I should start writing my own songs. And I went ‘OK!’ I went home and listened to a few Bob Dylan records, just to kind of see how the structure worked. And then I sat down and tried to create my own, was kind of how it started.
Spirit: OK, cool. I know you don’t have much time left, so I’ll wrap it up soon. What do you do when you need to clear your head?”
Van Valin: I’ve recently gotten into working out, which has been amazing for me, because I have so much excess energy, and I didn’t realize that. Because I would stay up so late, and I would just kind of keep moving around in my mind or I would think about stuff that I didn’t need to be thinking about, and obviously there’s a lot of stress related to this job in particular. A lot of things that are just completely out of your control, and it’s nice to be able to go into the gym and put that energy somewhere else, so you don’t have to deal with it when you’re back home. So that, for me, that’s how I deal.
Sara Evans “At Christmas Tour” with Fairground Saints
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15
$42-$215. Visit millertheateraugusta.com or call 800-514-3849.