Phoebe Cryar on Songwriting, Nashville, and Jam-Session-Campfire-Cookout-Things
By Dacey Orr
Not many kids get the opportunity to sing background vocals and hanging around studios in Music City, but for sisters Callie and Phoebe Cryar of family folk band The Vespers, it was just a part of growing up.
“It’s crazy because when you grow up in Nashville as a kid, you don’t really realize how blessed you are to be so close to all this music and stuff,” said Phoebe. “We would sing in sessions all over downtown Nashville and Music Row, So we learned to sing together really young.”
The two sisters were already immersed in writing and performing music when they met brothers Taylor and Bruno Jones, now their band mates and songwriting collaborators. As fate would have it, the two sets of sibling musicians attended a cookout at the home of a mutual friend.
“We were at their house at like a jam-session, campfire type cookout thing and they had a bunch of friends over and Taylor and Bruno were two of them,” Phoebe described. “We found out that they played bass and drums, so we asked them to back us up some time and it kind of went from there.”
It certainly did – the foursome seems to have been constantly touring, appearing everywhere from festivals to college campuses and continuing to create new music. Their most recent album, The Fourth Wall, was released on April 3, and features a distinctly different feel from their first album.
“It has more of a live feel to it, even though we didn’t record it live,” explained Phoebe. “We did a whole lot of pre-production for it, and most of it was done on the road. We kind of tested all the songs by playing them for live audiences and figured out what worked and didn’t work.”
The Fourth Wall was a collaborative album between the four musicians, particularly in the songwriting process. One member might start writing a song, but often by the time it was finished they’d all had a part in it. A large factor in their group dynamic is the fact that they work with their brothers or sisters.
“I would say that we’re very loyal to each other, and there’s this certain honesty that just comes with the territory of playing with your family,” said Phoebe. “If you don’t like something, you feel free to say it because they’re your family, and you’re not afraid of what they’re going to think. At the same time, you’re loyal to them and you’re not going to just throw them under the bus or anything.”
This chemistry translates well on-stage, and their love for live performance even influenced the title of their most recent album.
“Well, we wanted to kind of bring in some element of a live show into the album, even though it wasn’t a live album, just because it was inspired by that so much,” said Phoebe. “The term [the fourth wall] means the invisible wall between the audience and the performers, and that’s what we try to do is break that wall down. It was really significant to us.”
It seems as if that significance has come across splendidly – amid several beaming reviews for the album, the Vespers are on the road this summer. If this tour yields the kind of musical innovation of their last tour, fans have plenty to look forward to.