I wish that I could channel Ed Sullivan’s enthusiasm (and television coverage) when he introduced “The Beatles,” because “Barefoot Movement,” featuring home town talent Hasee Ciaccio is to Americana what the “Fab Four” was/is to rock ‘n’ roll.
Music critic Art Menius declared them to be “among the very best of the emerging bands of the early 21st century.”
Ciaccio attributes her star billing homecoming to her musical family – local music luminaries, family members and orchestra teacher, Lynn Auman. Said support has taken her full circle.
“They introduced me to traditional music and Merlefest, and we’re playing there this year,” she said.
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Her musical family now includes band mates Tommy Norris, Noah Wall and Alex Conerly, and a chat with Wall proved that the band is as interesting off stage as on.
What can people expect from a Barefoot Movement performance?
Some lively and some softer songs. Music from our records and a few surprises. Good natured humor. Lots of fun!
How did you become the Barefoot Movement?
Tommy and I (Noah) started playing together in high school. Through the years we had different band lineups but we found Hasee at East Tennessee State University where she and I were studying bluegrass, old time and country music. Later on we met Alex Conerly through a mutual friend in Nashville and we’ve all been barefooted ever since.
Where did the name Barefoot Movement come from?
It somehow just dawned on me and I realized how perfect it was immediately. It fit, not only because we did in fact play barefooted already, but also because I wanted a name that drew people in and said, “when you come hear us live, our hope is that you’ll sit back, relax, and forget about the worries of the world for an evening.” Being barefoot signifies that kind of mentality.
What audience does your music typically appeal to?
I’m not really sure. We’ve been lucky that we’ve never played to an audience that has hated us! We definitely had a lot of early success in folk societies and house concert circles. Now we do a lot more festivals and traditional music venues than in times past, so I hope that means our music is pretty universal to anyone who likes acoustic music of some sort.
What television show would you love to have feature a Barefoot Movement song and why? Which song?
Right now I’m working on a song that I would kill to see on “The Walking Dead”! It’s not been released yet but it basically talks about surviving and not giving up, and for us that means navigating the music business, but it could so easily be related to the plight of those poor souls, sharing their world with flesh-eating zombies. Excuse me, walkers, I mean.
Please describe your sound.
We draw from all kinds of music and apply those influences to our acoustic instruments. There are definitely shades of bluegrass, old-time string band music, blues, rock and traditional country in our sound. The best way to say it is that we fall on the acoustic side of Americana.
Do any of you have day jobs to support your music careers? If so, what are they?
As of the moment we have one member who is still a student. She’ll be done in May but the rest of us are full-time musicians. We might play outside the Barefoot Movement in other side situations but all of our current endeavors are musical. I majored in broadcasting so I also do a radio show for WDVX called “Highway Companion” where I record and interview musicians I meet on the road, but it’s just for fun, not profit. It helps me have an opportunity to better acquaint myself with people I admire and have interesting conversations with those I already call friends.
What advice would you offer aspiring musicians?
You have to be self-motivated. Once you’ve been in it a while, you may find that you don’t know how to relax because there is literally always something to be done. You can never say you have practiced too much or sent too many emails. The job never ends so you have to accept that but also learn how to balance it so you don’t drive yourself crazy.
What are some of your biggest musical influences?
One neat thing about us is that we do share a lot of influences but we also go off in our different niches. I’m a huge songwriter buff, so I love Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Graham Nash, The Eagles, etc.
We all kind of come together in the classic rock arena. Hasee is a fan of funkier stuff like Sly and the Family Stone and the Grateful Dead, you can tell that in her bass playing. Alex loves the guitar playing of Tommy Emmanuel. And Tommy loves jazz guys like Miles Davis and Julian Lage.
Of course we all adore old-time string bands and traditional bluegrass. Some notables are Ralph Stanley, the Seldom Scene, The Dillards, The Skillet Lickers, and then some more modern groups like Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers.
What is your favorite place to a play a gig?
It’s not so much one particular place but more of a setting. Anywhere that the audience is really engaged and energetic makes for the best shows and we’ve had those all over the country. It makes our job so much easier and much more natural.
If you weren’t musicians, what career paths would you pursue?
That’s a scary question! It’s a choice we hope we never have to make, but for me, I also love theater, television and movies so if I had never picked up a fiddle I probably would have perused acting.
Hasee loves making things with her hands. She even did set building work for theater when she was in high school. So I’d imagine she’d go in that direction somehow. Alex could be a scientist. He almost majored in biology and he’s super smart. So he’d probably be Dr. Alex Conerly. And Tommy loves electronics, so he’d either pursue recording engineering something to do with video game creation!
If you could have anyone, living or dead, join your band who would it be?
I think there are tons of people we’d love to meet and learn from but I don’t think we’d want anyone to join us at the moment. It takes a long time to figure out band dynamics and once you have something that is working, you don’t want to shake it up with something new.
What is each band member’s unique contribution to the band?
I think my main contribution is songwriting, though we all are starting to do that more lately. Tommy fills in the spaces that need a little something extra. Alex and Hasee are the foundation that the rest of us build upon. We all contribute to arranging and we all have ideas that make our music uniquely ours.
Do you have a song that you play at every gig?
We always play “Shuckin the Brush,” a fiddle tune on our most recent album, “Figures of the Years.” It’s emotional but not in sad way. It’s uplifting and such a fun ride to take, for us and the audience.
Is there any music that you will not play?
We definitely want our shows and albums to be family-friendly. So we don’t do anything vulgar or inappropriate for those situations. As far as musical choices, there are plenty of styles we probably couldn’t pull off as an acoustic band. But I’ll leave it vague in case we change our minds one day and decided to play heavy metal bluegrass.
Do you have a pre-gig ritual?
Hasee, Alex and I like to sing together to tune our ears to each other’s voices. We also like to play a fiddle tune to warm up and to get our rhythm in sync.
I have never forgotten this Joni Mitchell riff on the life of a musician. Can you relate?
“That’s one thing that’s always, like, been a difference between, like, the performing arts, and being a painter, you know. A painter does a painting, and he paints it, and that’s it, you know. He has the joy of creating it, it hangs on a wall, and somebody buys it, and maybe somebody buys it again, or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft somewhere until he dies. But he never, you know, nobody ever, nobody ever said to Van Gogh, ‘Paint a Starry Night again, man!’ You know? He painted it and that was it.”
I think that’s an interesting observation. But that’s probably why I love the performing arts so much. Music is something that is alive. You can play it on a record but that is appreciating a nice recording as much as it is appreciating the performance. When you see a live show, there’s so much room for possibility and room for the artist to take the audience deeper into the song or in a different direction than how they’ve heard it before. That’s an exciting thing to experiment with.