One of the emerging generation of Americana bands, The Barefoot Movement makes a return visit to MerleFest this year in advance of the release of its fourth music collection on May 13, 2016. The band, winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2014 Band of the Year Momentum Award, is a trio made up of singer-songwriter Noah Wall (fiddle), Tommy Norris (mandolin) and Alex Conerly (guitar). The band will be hanging out in N. Wilkesboro for the entire MerleFest weekend and are scheduled to perform twice on Saturday, April 30, at 9:45 a.m. on the Americana Stage and inside the Walker Center at 2 p.m.
Noah, the band’s frontwoman, will also contribute her powerful vocal and old-time fiddling talents to the popular Hillside Album Hour, hosted by The Waybacks, late Saturday afternoon. She recently took time to talk to AXS.com about MerleFest and what it means to her life and career.
Noah Wall: “The first time I came I was a freshman in high school as a spectator. It was the first time I had seen just how many people love and care about traditional American music. Getting to perform there in 2014 was a really nice moment for me because I had had my sights set on it for so long. Playing Merlefest makes you feel like you're a part of something bigger than yourself.
AXS: How does Merlefest compare with other festivals you've played?
NW: “Merlefest is the pinnacle event for our kind of music. The sheer size of it is hard to beat. But there's also a real spirit of love and joy that comes from people united in the music. They come from all over to gather for the weekend and that's exciting to see and be a part of. And it's easy for me to love because it's in my home state of North Carolina.
“Besides the fun, it's truly an honor to be listed in the same lineup with some of these musical pioneers.”
AXS: What are you most excited about?
NW: “I'm looking forward to our sets of course but I'm also really thrilled to be a part of The Waybacks Hillside Album Hour. It's a Merlefest tradition where they gather together some guests musicians and play through a classic album that's not revealed till the music starts. I've never been able to see it in person so I'm excited to not only see it but be a backup singer. It's going to be great fun!”
AXS: How do you feel your style fits into the tradition of Americana/roots music?
NW: “We draw a lot from the catalog of American music. We have blues and jazz influences and we play some straight up old time string band numbers. My songwriting style is more in the vein of the folk writers of the sixties and seventies. So you can't really make our music without digging into American roots. Our sound is like a cake and all the American styles that have preceded us are the ingredients. Oh boy. Now I want some cake.”
The band’s new recording, Live in LA, due out May 13, reaches the public through the encouragement of two of the veterans of the music industry. Producer Chuck Plotkin, known for his work with Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, and engineer Hank Linderman, who twisted knobs for The Eagles and America, were in the audience when The Barefoot Movement performed at an intimate music venue, Culver City’s Boulevard Music, in Los Angeles last year. The two were so impressed with the band’s performance that they suggested a live album of the untouched set, with no editing or electronic manipulation whatsoever.
The resulting release, Live in LA, includes several new songs plus some previously recorded songs from The Barefoot Movement’s three albums. The first, Footwork, in 2011, was followed by Figures of the Year (2013) and The High Road (2014).
Following its performances at MerleFest, the band will tour nationally with many stops at festivals across the country in 2016, including a return to Wilkesboro on Sept. 16 for a set at the town’s Third Friday Summer Festival. A full listing can be found on The Barefoot Movement website and Facebook page.