The Black Lillies August 10
Four men. Four friends. Four artists, each of whom could rightly put out a solo record tomorrow, tied together by a bond to something that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
“Paring down the lineup has given these guys space to shine and grow and evolve, and the chemistry is incredible,” says Contreras, who in another life was the mandolin-shredding bandleader of Robinella and the CCstringband, once signed to both the Columbia and Dualtone labels. “The guys have become not just sidemen or guns for hire; they’re invested. Their opinions count, and their creativity is as much a part of this record as mine. There are songs that I wrote; that Sam (a veteran of the Americana group The Everybodyfields) wrote; that we wrote in any combination and all of us together.
“It’s pretty simple, when you get down to that romantic notion of having a band. We rehearse together, we travel together, we hang out together because we’re dedicated, and I think the music is really showing that now. For me, it’s been years of learning to set your ego aside, but experience teaches you that you have to.”
Making room for other voices in the band was vital in rekindling Quinn’s creative fires. The winner of the 2006 Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and a respected solo artist after The Everybodyfields folded, the well had dried up for him back home in Knoxville until a spot opened in The Black Lillies. Working with Contreras, Townsend and then Schaefer, Quinn says, was akin to tossing gasoline on the smoldering embers of his songwriting chops.