Bluegrass-country band New Reveille can boast 2,500 Facebook fans from across the country and 11,300 YouTube hits on its music video.
But until last month, the Raleigh-based group had never played a live show. Thanks to months of online buzz surrounding the band’s Cannonball album, their Jan. 31 debut at Deep South The Bar quickly sold out.
“People were singing along,” said cellist Kaitlin Grady, who’s also in local bands Saints Apollo and Once and Future Kings. “It was one of the best live experiences we’ve ever had.”
New Reveille didn’t set out to build an online following. When the project began last year, Daniel Cook’s endeavors with songwriting and a banjo could hardly be called a band.
“I started playing around with bluegrass,” he said, pointing to the influence of relatives in the genre. “I told my friends, when I turn 30, I’m going to pick up the banjo.”
The songs had potential, but needed a good vocalist. That’s when Cook turned to Craiglist, the online classifieds where a used dishwasher is much easier to find than a talented singer.
The last response the ad received was from Amy Kamm, a nurse from Rolesville who’d never performed outside church choirs.
Cook was blown away by her demo tape with her powerful voice that’s drawn comparisons to Alison Krauss.
“It was so good, I was like ‘this can’t be a person from Craiglist,’” he recalled.
The two started recording demos of Cook’s songs and enlisted recording engineer Mark McKee, who helped find a string section: Grady and her Saints Apollo bandmate Autumn Rose Brand. George Hage, the Jack The Radio frontman, also joined. Before long, they had a nine-song album but still no plans to perform it for a crowd.
“I was under the impression it was a project” to record and license music for commercials and the like, Grady said. “All along I was hoping we would form a band.”
The evolution toward a formal band was pushed along further when Cook’s day job at Myriad Media in downtown Raleigh helped New Reveille film a professional-quality music video.
After a 17-hour shoot at Lake Gaston, the video for the song “Babylon” hit YouTube to immediate success. It won two gold ADDY Awards from the American Advertising Federation.
Making a live debut – even in the casual, intimate setting of Deep South – created another challenge, and it took setting a date to put the pieces together. Band members had to rearrange songs to work outside the recording studio environment.
Kamm said her first experience played before a packed bar was a bit nerve-wracking. “The thing that helped was I couldn’t really see people,” she said.
The success of the Deep South show will land New Reveille at a much bigger venue tonight, as they open for Charlotte indie folk band Matrimony at the Lincoln Theatre. The band will also perform at Brewgaloo and Oak City 7 downtown later this year.
From there, a regional tour and another CD are in the works, and the band members see plenty of possibilities ahead.
“I see so much potential in it,” Grady said. “I’m focused more on this than any other endeavor.”