When it comes to embodying the classic, no-frills attitude of independent rock, Carbon Leaf is a living legend. Having experienced lineup changes, more than a dozen albums, record deals and thousands of shows across the country, their evergreen brand of folk, blues and celtic-infused rock has persevered through it all. Now, the band is celebrating its 25th anniversary at Levitt Pavilion Denver tonight at 6PM, alongside Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart, whose lead singer is the Associate Director of Levitt Denver, Andy Thomas himself! Read on to learn more about the legacy of Carbon Leaf’s “ether-electrified porch music” that’ll thrill audiences in Denver.
The story of Carbon Leaf began where many bands gain their first footing––in college, among the youthful energy of backyard parties and house shows at Randolph-Macon college in Ashland, Va. Soon after graduation, the band moved together to Richmond, Va., and began self-releasing albums. Despite no label affiliation, the band saw successes during these early years––they sold over 10,000 copies of their 1999 album Ether Electrified Porch Music, solely from intensive touring and live performances. Echo Echo (2001) brought them to an even wider spotlight, with their breakout track “The Boxer” winning the New Music Award at the American Music Awards in 2002. These achievements didn’t come easy––in an interview with the Huffington Post, lead singer Barry Privet recounts working regular jobs alongside music and driving through sleepless nights to get from gig to gig.
It wasn’t long before their hard work paid off and they captured industry attention––in 2004, the band signed with Vanguard Records, which has brought on artists ranging from John Fogerty and Joan Baez to Bruce Hornsby and Barenaked Ladies. Their lilting blend of acoustic guitars and infectious vocal melodies resonating with warmth gradually became a staple presence in the national alternative rock scene. Their partnership with Vanguard produced chart-topping singles, placement in top albums lists, widespread critical acclaim and even movie and TV placements, like Curious George 2 and ABC’s What About Brian. Throughout the mid to late 2000s, Carbon Leaf shared the stage with the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz and The Avett Brothers.
Their prolonged presence in the limelight, however, only served as a reminder of the independent efforts that brought them there. In 2010, the band announced its departure from Vanguard, citing frustration with a record label’s strict release schedule, lack of flexibility and other growing pains. Oftentimes, the record label would pressure the band to record, despite a lack of written material, solely driven by their business plan. “Things like that (make you) stop and think about the art” said Privet, in an interview with Between The Notes. “We learned a lot of lessons about being able to have your own voice and say “No.”” They followed up their emphatic return to independence with Indian Summer Revisited. Produced with crowdfunding through PledgeMusic, it gave Carbon Leaf fans a unique opportunity to play a part in helping the band succeed.
Their 25 year-long journey has undoubtedly been a tumultuous one, but the band’s core mission––staying good friends and making good music––has never faltered. Their undying spirit has imbued their music with a timeless quality. Denver, make sure you head over to Ruby Hill Park tonight at 6PM to join in on this super special celebration!