the everybodyfields…hard to let go
This past holiday weekend Kyla and Kim took a much needed break from their No Depression responsibilities, and I had the pleasure of watching over the website and Facebook page for a few days. As I have been consumed with my new day job since early April, it was a great chance to hang out again in the community…dig deep into the blogs y’all post, the videos you share, the comments you write and to read through the magazine archives. Somewhere along the line on Sunday I discovered that a band I really have enjoyed, but who split up almost four years ago this week, got together in April to play at Knoxville’s Rhythm N Bloom festival. And if that wasn’t enough, they did a session for the website recording project Live and BREATHING, that I’d like to share as sort of a mini-concert throughout this post.
But before I get to those videos, let me take you back to 2008 and a performance that I think might be one of the most outstanding and moving I’ve ever heard.
While I had originally thought that everybody knew about the everybodyfields (one word, small e), I was quite surprised that within the pages of No Depression there was only one small Town and Country article back in 2007. Allow me to share the story: Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews met at Camp Wesley Woods in Blount County, Tennessee back in 1999 where they worked as counselors. “It turned out that at different times we had been in the same band, in Johnson City,” says Quinn. “When Jill was in high school she sang with a group I played with in college. So we knew a bunch of the same songs. The first song we sang together was ‘We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning’ — the Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris duet. Right from the start our voices sounded really well together.”
Along with dobro player David Richey they began as a trio and released two albums: Halfway There: Electricity and The South in 2004 and a year or so later, Plague of Dreams. Quinn’s track “T.V.A.” from the latter album won first place in 2005 at the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. Richey left the band in the Spring of 2005 and it was the addition of electric guitar and pedal steel that proved most important to retooling the everybodyfields’ sound. “We really wanted to try something new,” Andrews explains. “Things turned around when we ran into Megan McCormick, who started playing electric guitar with us. When she introduced the electric lead instrument to the band, that changed the dynamic — or increased the dynamic. Having that instead of an acoustic dobro opened up our songwriting. We no longer felt boxed into being a bluegrass trio, or whatever we were before.” (No Dep/Issue #71)
By the time their last album Nothing Is OK was released in August of 2007, the band was an alt-country favorite especially in East Tennessee, featuring local multi-instumentalist Josh Oliver, along with drummer Jamie Cook and pedal steel ace Tom Pryor. The buzz was getting louder in 2008 when they played Bonnaroo, Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion and Twangfest. But as the album title indicated, there was trouble in what should have been a long awaited achievement. Sam and Jill were in a relationship over the years, and fell out of it. One can only imagine the stress and tensions when two ex-lovers try to keep playing and touring, and as they were recording their next album, they decided to let it go. On June 5, 2009 the band released a statement that the band was breaking up and Sam and Jill were going off to work on solo projects.
Writing in Blount County’s The Daily Times in 2011 as the band prepared what was their first reunion show at that year’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Steve Wildsmith recounted the tone of the times as they split: “
It was more of an evaporation, a gradual extinguishing of the flickering flames of musical and personal chemistry that had bound Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews together since they bonded at Camp Wesley Woods in Blount County.
Since working together that summer, the two managed to build a respectable career and a loyal following as purveyors of pure American heartache — gentle, languid and rootsy songs, most of them ballads, built around Quinn’s high lonesome warble and Andrews’ honey-sweet alto.
But their personal relationship was often fraught with storms, and by the time they gathered in the studio in 2009 to work on the follow-up to 2007’s “Nothing Is OK,” the turbulence overshadowed the brilliance.
And so the plug was pulled. The recordings were shelved. And Quinn and Andrews went their separate ways.
The September 2011 concert came off well…Josh Oliver, who now plays and records at times with both Jill and Sam, and has mentioned in interviews he sometimes feels as if he is the son of divorced parents, described playing again as a band to Wildsmith like this:
“The past couple of weeks with Sam and Jill have kind of made me think back to when we all played together and how we were just so tight,” he said. “I think we’re getting back to that point, and I’m just remembering how special it was. It makes me miss it a lot. The show in Bristol, I kind of had chills the whole show. I literally almost started crying because it was such a special show.”
Sam Quinn explains how they got to the decision of doing the gig (along with some warm-ups):
“I didn’t want to screw that up just because we were trying to do one show,” he added. “Jill and I, we’ve had issues in the past, but at this point, it’s been long enough, so when Leah and Eric put the bug in our ear, it didn’t sound like a terrible idea like it would have two years ago.
“At that point, I’d been talking to her and had reestablished a rapport. I was hanging out with her and her kid (Andrews has a son, Nico). So I asked her what she thought, and she said, ‘I’m not opposed to it … are you?’ And I said, ‘No, and it might even be a little bit of fun.”
Since 2009 Sam and Jill have been working on their solo careers. Jill put out two outstanding efforts, a self-titled EP in 2009 and The Mirror, a well crafted full-length release in mid-2011. She is now living in Nashville and this month put out a new single “Rust Or Gold” that was featured on Grey’s Anatomy earlier this month. Sam released Fake That Sunk A Thousand Ships in May 2010 with the Japan Ten, dropped a cassette-only release a year later with The Lonetones and Josh Oliver and lately has been playing billed as Sam Quinn and Taiwan Twin.
On You Tube there are some audience videos from the April 2013 show, and also you’ll find others from Sam and Jill solo, as well as with the band. All three of the band’s albums can be found online at your e-tailer of choice, like this one for example.
If you’re wondering why I’ve chosen to write about the everybodyfields now, besides these videos that they’ve done and the show, I’ll share something embarrassing with you. On April 1, 2012, someone named Clementine Cox posted an interview with Jill Andrews here on the website. Click here to read it. As I was puttering around this weekend, I re-read it and to my horror I saw that I had posted a comment that was, to be blatantly honest, a confession of an..um…inappropriate attraction to Jill that was a bit over the top. What the hell was I thinking? So using my super-administrative powers, I promptly deleted it and for the past several days it has left me troubled. I don’t know if she’d ever seen it (I hope not), but at least 784 other people have.
So Jill (and the other 784 people I may have offended)…if you’re out there…I’m sorry. (But I do love your songs, voice and talent…and think you’re awfully cute. Oh man…save me from myself.)