by Jake Navarro
Folk-inspired music in Austin is something I’ve learned is not in danger of going away anytime soon. With that in mind and the urge to find great talent, I went to Mohawk to see what The Cover Letter was all about. Knowing that Chelsea Barbo was on guitar, keys and vocals, I had a feeling The Cover Letter was a band that was able to produce something special live.
I attended their show with an open mind and heart. I didn’t know what to expect when Chelsea told me their five-member band was essentially a seven or eight piece group. Weaving through chords and juking around stage to change out instruments between songs, The Cover Letter puts on a show that isn’t only pleasing to the ears and soul, but fun to watch as well.
With a true "we-met-at-a-house-party" welcoming spirit, Jacob, Jarrod, Chelsea, Johnni and Trevor took me backstage before the show to tell me a little more about who they are and what they plan to accomplish while on the Austin scene.
"You're name is pretty interesting. How did it come to be?"
Chelsea: "At the time of us getting together, we were all transitioning jobs. We talked about resumes and all that kind of stuff. Jarrod came up with The Resumes. We were all thinking it just wasn't flowing well enough, so we brainstormed a bit more and that eventually turned into The Cover Letter."
"Playing multiple instruments is something that you guys do live. How hectic does it get on stage trying to switch them out? What inspired that?"
Jarrod: "It's fun. It wasn't overly intended. We play multiple instruments and would want to play that instrument live because we wrote that song on it. The logistics of it is a nightmare!"
Chelsea: "Writing the setlist is probably the bane of our existence at this point because we have to know how much change is happening between songs and keep time short."
"I bet it can be pretty hectic! I was reading that some of your influences range from Fleetwood Mac to Arcade Fire. Where would you say you hear that in the music?"
Jarrod: "You'll get five different answers!"
Chelsea: "That's the thing about us, all five of us come from completely different musical backgrounds. I was raised on Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and Aerosmith, so that's why I think I go towards the more lighter stuff."
Trevor: "I was in band in highschool. I get some of my influences from my classical and jazz pieces, more than anything else. One of my biggest band influences is City and Colour. He's a great songwriter."
Jacob: "I've been all over the place! When I started getting into songwriting, I was into Modest Mouse. I really liked how they arranged the music. I don't think we can say as individuals that we would be supreme solo musicians. It's all about how we make the song and arrange things. I think that's what a lot of people like about us. We're always wanting to change things and push it a little bit."
Johnni: "It's nice to see people of all ages like our music--young and old. It's nice because it lets us communicate to such a bigger spectrum of people.
"With all of these sounds and influences, how does it all come together to create a unique The Cover Letter sound?"
Chelsea: "I think that's where the switching of all the instruments comes in, for me, at least. Our writing process is really fun. It depends on who brings the song to the table. We each bring our own influences in."
Jarrod: "We handle things very democratically."
Jacob: "Short answer--be open to change and comfortable getting outside of your comfort zone."
Where do you think The Cover Letter sound won't go?
Trevor: "Death Metal!"
Jarrod: "Chopped and screwed!"
Chelsea: "I don't think we'll ever go anymore country than we are at the moment. We're heading to more of the alternative, rock-pop scene. It'll still have a homey, folk-feel behind it all, but we're stepping it up and pushing our boundaries."
Since there is a bit more of a folk feel to your music, how is The Cover Letter different than any other band on the Austin scene?
Chelsea: "I've heard we give off a very family-vibe on stage. We're very inviting and welcoming. We want to be a part of our fans' lives as much as they want to be a part of ours. It's a mutual relationship. I think that's very special with us."
Jacob: "It's doesn't matter what happens in front of the stage for us. What matters is that we're having a good time because we're loving what we're doing."
It definitely pays off. The connection the group has with the audience is fun, energetic and makes you want to get involved. Being able to have their music reach as many fans as possible is the goal. Whether is on the "side of the river" or at Mohawk, these guys plan on making a mark on the Austin music scene through their forever changing style.
In between laughs and some quirky inside jokes, the band continues on to explain how they played five shows in four days during South by Southwest and hopeful plans to be an official artist for festival next year. Their plan is to hopefully be on the festival circuit and play as many shows as they can next year to connect with as many new fans as possible. When asked about music streaming services that will affect their business, they simply replied, "TAKE IT! If you want the music, take it!"
Be sure to catch the next show here in Austin at the Colorado River Ramble on June 28th!