You field a ton of questions (if you’re lucky) when you play in a band. Some of those questions are interesting and thought provoking and some just make you want to pull out the rest of your hair. A few examples of the latter are “What kind of music do you play,” “who do you sound like,” and “are those real songs or did you make them up?” Now I know that at least the first two are fair game. I’ve asked my fair share of artists the same, but it’s a question that has always been failed by the answer. I think that question’s failure is true for all music creators, because we have many more influences than our music may suggest. I think that it’s especially true though when your solo artist career or band career comes on the heels of being a songwriter first.
Especially as a commercial songwriter, even in one obvious genre, you are required to write bucket loads of songs, in a lot of formats and covering a broad array of subject matter. Granted, that was probably more the case in the 1990’s than it is today, but that’s an argument for another blog. The point being, most of our songs, the good ones, in particular, fall between the cracks of static labels. For Runaway Home, the other obstacle in quickly defining a suitable genre is the varied lives and backgrounds each of us bring to it. Gary, Malinda and I have all wound our way through a mostly disparate musical melting pot of influences. It seems easier for others to describe us by the standard genres than it is for us to do the same. Folk, country, bluegrass, old-time, and the burgeoning default answer of Americana, leave us unsatisfied. It may be less a question of word choice and more of an issue with the three of us having significant authority complexes. We don’t like being pigeonholed, not because we think we’re better than any traditional music label, but because we don’t want to be limited by just one. We want to have the room to outgrow our musical pants, so to speak. Our response to this conundrum has been to define ourselves by a genre that doesn’t yet exist. Basically, we didn’t like the other labels, so we made up our own. No one said we couldn’t, and if someone had told us that, then we would have made it up earlier.
Panoramic-Americana is the kind of music we play, the style of life we lead, and the communion that we seek with others. We play acoustic music, on real instruments that go flat and sharp, that feel the difference between the temperatures, temperaments and traditions of every room in which we play. Sometimes the sensitivity of wood and wire plays right into our hands and other times, well, it doesn’t. We sing with voices that are well rehearsed, but far from perfect. Our genre does not allow us to hide our emotions, personality shortcomings or allergy-tinged viruses behind auto- tuners or ear-splitting stage volume. There have been many, many times that I wish it did. But it doesn’t. In fact, our genre demands uncomfortable degrees of honesty in our playing, singing, and songwriting and is quite unforgiving when we stray from that which is genuine. I both revel in and loathe that about our genre.
The lifestyle we lead and the meaningful moments and relationships that we seek through our music is in the end, more defining of the genre than the music itself. The blue highways, mountain vistas, towns large and small, flood our band van windshield with opportunities that seem hard to come by these days. Not only do we get to play some great rooms and beautiful old halls, we get soak up what’s special about the communities we play. We stay in fan’s houses, eat local, and tour the lesser-known sights of an out of the way burgh. We describe our perspective on towns we play in, and the music fans that live there, as being 360 degrees. We seek out what is special about the places we go and the people that we meet. And we go to great lengths to become a part of their community. These experiences are at the heart of the burgeoning definition of our newly minted genre.
We are releasing our new record “There’s A Paradise” at World Music Nashville on June 20th. In the weeks ahead, we will be talking more about what it means to be a Panoramic-Americana band. We may even have some guest bloggers joining us. If you’d like to weigh in on what you think defines Panoramic-Americana, we’d love to hear from you. We made it up, but that doesn’t mean that we know what it is yet. I suppose it will be revealed in the stages, friendships, and in the one-in-a-million towns that stretch out across tomorrow’s horizon.
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the music That Makes Us Smile.”