Stephen Evans and the True Grits revisit the past with a new EP

 

Twenty years ago, Stephen Evans wasn’t sure if he’d ever play with a band again. The breakup of Mean Season, the rock group with which he’d hoped to make it big, had driven the singer-songwriter from Atlanta to Asheville in search of a new start. Evans dove into hiking, classes at UNC Asheville and bartending work — music became a sporadic hobby of informal jams and open-mic nights.

That change didn’t last. “I got into some pretty serious depression because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, otherwise,” says Evans. “I needed something to get my juices flowing again, and I decided to give music another try.” At The Grey Eagle on Sunday, Sept. 24, Evans and his current band, the True Grits, release an EP claiming those troubles are (in the words of its title) under the bridge.

The new record revisits songs that Evans first crafted during his transition between cities. “After the band broke up, I played solo for a while, and I was writing a lot of songs during that time,” he says.

“I was in the middle of relationship stuff, as well, so I had a lot of material,” he adds with a laugh.

The music on Under the Bridge does show its roots in the middle of the 1990s. Although the instruments are mostly acoustic, the jangle of guitar and Evans’ expressive tenor evoke the era’s grunge aesthetic. The results on songs such as “Waiting” give a vibe not unlike Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged set, or the Foo Fighters’ Skin and Bones acoustic album.

Other tracks on the EP reveal how Asheville worked its way into Evans’ songwriting after his move. “I was just impressed with the surroundings here. When I got into hiking in the mountains, I found that it was very peaceful and relieved you of the stress of your day-to-day stuff,” he says.

“Cherokee Hills,” in particular, recounts the healing he found in his new home. Evans sings, “Mountain laurel, you glow like a pearl / how you open my eyes / Mountain laurel, your flowers unfurl / and take me to the sky,” as a heavy, folksy waltz backs up the sentiment.

Throughout the record, Evans’ bandmates in the True Grits pull the sound in the folk-rock direction they first explored in their 2005 debut, Something to BleedBrian Shoemaker (bass/lead guitar/backing vocals) and Sam Hess (drums) make a steady, unfussy rhythm section, while Woodstock (mandolin) fills out the music’s high end with tremolo lead lines and complementary chords.

For the EP, Evans also drew from two other bands. The first is The Floating Men, the Nashville-based indie group in which his older brother, Scot Evans, played bass. “My brother’s band influenced me a lot with their writing, especially through my younger years,” he says. In tribute to that early influence, the True Grits cover The Floating Men’s “A Rose for Emily,” based on the short story of the same name by William Faulkner.

The second band is Mean Season — the group whose breakup originally led Evans to make the Asheville move. Former Mean Season guitarist Shawn Duxbury is featured in the lead acoustic part on “Waiting,” contributing an intricate lick over his old bandmate’s strumming. “That’s kind of a salute to my past too because it led to where I am now,” says Evans. “Shawn was a big part of my musical growth, so I wanted to have him there.”

Reflecting on his development between when he first wrote the songs on Under the Bridge and now, Evans says the years have mellowed his approach. “Fame isn’t really the goal. We just want to keep making better and better records and having fun with it,” he explains.

That goes for the style of the music as well. When asked how his self of two decades ago would have responded to the new EP, Evans says, “I think he would be a little surprised that I went in this direction — he was definitely more of a rock guy.” But, he adds, “I think he would still like it.”

“Posted on October 18, 2015 by Alli Marshall Stephen Evans There are two main moods to Something to Bleed, the new 10-track album by local musician Stephen Evans — the energetic folk-rock found on lead offering “The Ghost” and the more wistful, lilting melodies of songs like “1000 Roses.” Evans’ tenor is emotive and more concerned with ache and character than with polish. His vocal is matched at many points by poignant violin. The local singer-songwriter does a nice job of crafting imagery and matching instrumentation to poetic temperament. That’s on recording, but what about the live act? Evans and his band, The True Grits, perform a free show at French Broad Brewery Saturday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m. frenchbroadbrewery.com.”

"Stephen Evans would have to be number three on my list of Top 5. His songs are melancholy soliloquies that speak of broken hearts, woes and unrequited love. The track that I liked the best was “The Ghost.” The vignette is about a scorned, disembodied soul that haunts the conscience of the woman who rejected him. These lyrics work either figuratively or literally. The track features violin as does “Lasting Lover’s Spell,” other recordings by Evans."...

"His songwriting style is a blend of darkness mixed with hopeful optimism. There is no denying the heart that shines through his powerful vocals and lyrics. Songs like ‘Bleed’ and ‘Shining Star’ are beacons of the human emotional experience expressed through his songs." - The Loafer, Johnson City TN

“After years of putting his music career on hold, Stephen Evans has finally released his debut CD, "Something to Bleed". This record is a sweet blend of dark, brooding rock and fun, uplifting grooves. With solid vocal melodies and delicious dancing counter melodies, one will find themselves humming these tunes long after the music has stopped playing. The lyrics are creative and pull you into dark, romantic scenarios then send you spiraling upward with hope.”

““I became somewhat disillusioned with the music biz,” says singer-songwriter Stephen Evans. “So music took a back seat to my relationship, school at UNCA and working as a bartender.” But in June 2015, after several years away from the industry, Evans released his debut album, “Something to Bleed.” On Tuesday, April 26, he will be performing songs from the album at Pulp in an intimate solo acoustic set. With solid vocals and dancing melodies, those in attendance can anticipate humming these tunes long after the final number. The show begins at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.”

"Local singer-songwriter Stephen Evans is preparing to reunite with his band, The True Grits, for the first time since last fall. The folk-rock group will perform new songs from its forthcoming EP during a show at The Town Pump Tavern in Black Mountain. You can expect Evans’ signature soulful guitar and roots-oriented accompaniment from the band. Evans is eager to share his new tunes but equally excited about the performance space. “So many great musicians have played there while passing through Western North Carolina. It will be a pleasure just to be on that stage,” he says."

 

Live Shows

  • Dec 12
    Pillar,  Asheville
     
  • Dec 14
    Aviator Tap House,  Fuquay Varina
     
  • Dec 28
    Unknown Brewing Co.,  Charlotte
     
  • Jan 11
    Primal Brewery,  Huntersville
     
  • Jan 18
    Unknown Brewing Co.,  Charlotte
     

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