The metro Detroit Americana duo of Taylor Haring (vocals) and Nate Jones (vocals, guitar) proudly reflects on that introspective odyssey nearly a year after releasing their debut EP.
“Our original plan was to write a full album, and we wrote down on paper the ideas we had for it. The ideas that were there mostly came from that paper, which captured what we wanted to write over the next year. Unknowingly, we didn’t realize other things were going to come up,” Jones said.
“Right now, we still have a sense of pride about it. We’re glad we got through it and did it, despite the fact that it took a year and half for us to release it. It was worth it.”
Released last August, The Road Home beautifully documents Athens Creek’s original destinations of professional and spiritual growth, yet refreshingly chronicles the unexpected detours of divorce, nostalgia and sobriety across six tracks. It’s a realistic, relatable portrayal of life’s ups and downs zigzagging from one point of uncertainty to the next, especially in a pandemic.
“When everything first started to happen, we didn’t know how long it was going to last. First, it was only going to be a couple of weeks, and now it’s been nearly a year and a half later. We all had our own struggles and learning curves, but it allowed us to create and share in ways that we didn’t before as far as recording and having live meetings with each other,” Haring said.
The Road Home
Shortly into The Road Home journey, Haring and Jones contemplate life’s unexpected moments on “We Fell Apart,” a wistful ode to finding peace and closure after heartbreak. Vivid, succinct electric guitars, placid drums, thoughtful bass and tingling cymbals request permission to move forward.
Jones reveals, “Wake me up when this is over/I don’t wanna leave this bed/Last night when you came over/Your words still ring out in my head/I can’t offer more than I’ve got/This world ain’t tied upon my string/If you know that I’m not what you want/We found the ending of this ring.”
“If we had everything firing on all cylinders, every song would sound like ‘We Fell Apart.’ It has big live moments, and our voices were well-crafted. That song resonates with me; it’s an emotionally real song,” said Jones, who wrote the track about his divorce.
While “We Fell Apart” closes one Athens Creek chapter, “The Road Home” title track revisits familiar memories from a bygone era. Jubilant acoustic strums, peppy electric guitars, steady drums, energetic bass and crashing cymbals celebrate the warm soundtrack of times past.
Haring sings, “I heard your voice/Calling out from the speaker/Singing songs/Saying child come on home/I grabbed the dial/Turned it up to eleven/At the top of my lungs/We sang memories all night long/Songs like Country Roads/American Pie/Hey, Hey Jude/Sweet Caroline/Don’t Stop Believin’ in a simpler time/At a Hotel in California/In the Summer of ’69.”
“We wanted to make an original concept with these elements that are familiar to people, so we could get them singing along with that nostalgic feeling. ‘The Road Home’ carried on that concept with the ‘Summer of ’69,’ and I started it with the guitar, but we also did ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ The pieces kind of just fell into place, and the only line we ended up altering was to put ‘Hotel California’ into the song,” Jones said.
Athens Creek also shares a comforting sense of familiarity on “Little Lights,” which takes inspiration from the hymn, “This Little Light of Mine.” Churning acoustic strums, delicate cymbal taps, majestic electric guitars, gentle drums and deep bass offer hope, strength and guidance for the future.
Jones sings, “There’s a stage filled with music and dancing/A stage that’s grown empty and dark/A stage that’s just waiting for you to be playing/What are you waiting for/Tell me what are you waiting for.”
“I started writing ‘Little Lights’ in early 2018 when I was on a drunken trip in Nashville by myself, and I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was in a cheap Airbnb, and I wanted to just go home, but I couldn’t at that point yet. That song just kind of spawned there, and then I was battling with sobriety,” Jones said.
For The Road Home, Jones and Haring worked with engineer-producer Tom Rice to record the project at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Recording Studio from late 2018 to early 2020. Rice also played bass and percussion on the EP while Oscar Sosa and John Russell lent their guitar chops and Barry Schigelone contributed bass.
“Tom helped us get out of our shell a little bit, and he tried some different things vocally and instrumentally. On the song, ‘Don’t Hold Back,’ some of the percussion is actually sugar packets, and that was his idea,” Haring said.
Open Mics and Epiphanies
The initial idea for Athens Creek started in 2014 when Haring and Jones met at an open mic in Trenton. Jones hosted the open mic at TV’s Grand Event while Haring performed with Sosa and was invited to come back. At the time, Sosa approached Jones about joining his new band with Haring.
“I have a pretty strong faith in my creator and know that He has a plan for me. I’m sitting at another open mic watching a duo and realized I really wanted to play with other people. Within two to three minutes, I get a text from Oscar, and he was like, ‘We need some extra help. Would you want to play with Taylor and me?’ It felt like a focused, godsend moment,” said Jones, who’s inspired by Our Lady Peace and Dashboard Confessional.
The trio performed Jones’ solo material and added a variety of folk-rock-country covers before Sosa opted to pursue other musical projects. At the time, Jones and Haring decided to continue as a duo and started writing original songs to expand their setlist, including “Don’t Hold Back.”
“I was driving down the freeway with my mom, and she said, ‘What do you think of the name Athens Creek?’ And I was like, ‘I hadn’t really heard of it before or anything like it, but it sounds super cool.’ I proposed the idea to the guys, and they ended up really liking it, too,” said Haring, who’s inspired by Carrie Underwood.
“It has more of a spiritual meaning since ‘Athens’ represents the world and ‘Creek’ represents the Holy Spirit. We want our music to be a way to share His love and His message even though we’re technically not a Christian band. We just want it to be in how we act and in the underlining message through some of our music.”
Together, Haring and Jones demonstrated that powerful spirituality and inspiration through a popular blended acoustic cover of “House of The Rising Sun/Amazing Grace.” The duo sought inspiration for the mash-up after watching a video of The Blind Boys of Alabama singing “Amazing Grace” to the medley of “House of The Rising Sun.”
In 2016, Athens Creek recorded a video of their “House of The Rising Sun/Amazing Grace” rendition and have amassed more than 11 million views on YouTube over the past five years.
“When things started to shut down last year in March, all of a sudden the views on that video skyrocketed. Everybody was watching it, commenting on it and sharing it, and it gave us a little hope and light during a really unfortunate time,” said Haring, who also recorded a studio version with Jones on The Road Home.
The Road Ahead
Athens Creek is ready to reconnect with fans through a series of upcoming live shows, including a free performance Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Southgate’s Market Center Park. Haring and Jones will join Sosa (lead guitar), Schigelone (bass), Dennis Hanselman (percussion), Wolfgang Chuck (violin) and Jason O’Dea (guitar, bass) for their full band set.
“It feels really good to be out and performing live, and it gives us a fresh perspective on the songs. We’ll be bringing some new ideas, whether it’s different guitar or vocals parts, and that’s exciting to do in the moment. We’ll be driving home with smiles on our faces,” Haring said.
Haring and Jones also will head to Mount Carmel, Illinois, on July 16 for a free 6 p.m. live show at Merchants Park. They will be accompanied by a full band once again.
“I had made a comment after we received applause from some people at a previous live show. And Nate was like, ‘You have no idea how much that actually means to us,’ because we hadn’t had that in a year and a half,” Haring said.
In addition to live shows, Athens Creek will start recording their second EP soon. The project will include a new track called “Sober,” which will feature a fun, upbeat summer sound.
“We put it on paper as coming out early spring next year because we have an intention of touring at some point. We didn’t get to tour with The Road Home much. We still have to write one more song and hope to finish recording by the end of this year. We will slow release along the way, including a single that’s so bare bones and has so much vision,” Jones said.
Athens Creek | 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 1
Market Center Park in Southgate | Free show