STORY WRITTEN BY CRAIG OSTROFF
For 21st Century Media
Harpeth Rising was scheduled to make their debut at Chaplin’s on Feb. 13. But a snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow throughout the area resulted in the oft-touring band’s first snow-related cancellation in its five-year history.
“That had never happened to us before,” said Jordana Greenberg during a recent telephone interview. “We had a gig scheduled. We were all willing to go through six feet of snow, but they shut the town down.”
The band is ready to prove that the seven-month delay will be well worth the wait. And while there’s little chance of seeing any of the white stuff when Harpeth Rising finally makes their debut at Chaplin’s on Sept. 18, those who head out to the Spring City music café on this late summer evening can expect a unique and engaging night of music.
While the band has its roots in Americana and folk sounds, the diverse backgrounds of the band members make for music that straddles numerous genres, thanks to creative, unique instrument work and lush harmonies of Greenberg (violin, vocals), Maria Di Meglio (cello, vocals) and Rebecca Reed-Lunn (banjo-vocals).
Greenberg, a native of Ontario, Canada, spent much of her childhood learning violin in Indiana and has performed as a soloist around the world. Reed-Lunn hails from Davis, Calif. She met and began performing with Greenberg while both were at Indiana University. A self-taught banjo player, Reed-Lunn is also an accomplished viola player, and has developed a method of banjo that “integrates her classical viola training with her left hand and traditional frailing with her right,” according to the band’s website (www.HarpethRising.com). The Brooklyn-born Di Meglio has performed throughout the United States and Europe, and served as Associate Cello Instructor at the Jacobs School at Indiana University.
For Greenberg, the band dynamic proved to be an especially challenging one, since she needed to learn how to sing while holding a violin against her chin.
“It was definitely quite difficult at first,” she said. “I was homeschooled in order to focus on violin. I had a very intense violin upbringing.
“Singing was relatively new to me when we started the band. After 15 years of violin, I decided to start doing this wacky thing where I’m singing and playing. At times I thought I was attempting the impossible. I had to adjust to it physically and mentally, but once it happened, it became so ingrained that now it’s hard to do one without the other.”
The three joined forces in 2009 and have toured extensively ever since, winning new fans across the country and around with world — the band performed a dozen shows in the United Kingdom in 2012 and returned for 12 more shows in a 15-day span in May — with their passionate, introspective lyrics and energetic, genre-hopping performances.
“I think we’re in a better place now than we’ve ever been,” Greenberg said. “We have such diverse influences between the three of us. The more we play together, the better we get to understand each other and to write for each of our voices and instruments.”
Continual, collaborative songwriting is a trademark of Harpeth Rising, resulting in tunes that highlight the considerable strengths of each musician and lyrics that touch on everything from love to politics to nature and so much more.
“We are constantly writing, and I think a big reason is that we always feel compelled to be coming up with new material,” Greenberg said. “Our inspirations for particular songs are so incredibly varied. We write some political or protest songs, I’ve written about a car I loved. And everything in between.
“We’re at a point in our lives where everything is inspiring in some way or another. And I think that’s because we feel like we’re still working toward something still. We’re not at a point where we’ve arrived anywhere. We’re still writing our way to wherever it is we’re going.”
Exactly where Harpeth Rising is going, that’s anyone’s guess. The band’s only definite goal for the future is to remain self-sustaining, Greenberg said. There’s also another album in the works. The band hopes to get into the studio later this year for a CD to be released in the early 2015.
“We’re really excited about the new songs,” Greenberg said. “It’s going to be really special. We’ve been in a really cohesive place in terms of the writing lately and it’s a group of songs that are really different from each other. We’re excited to get it recorded and out there.”
Those who come out to Chaplin’s will likely get a sneak peek of some of those songs, along with songs from Harpeth Rising’s four previously released CDs, and maybe even an innovative cover of a classic rock song or two.
“Our live show is very interactive,” Greenberg said. “We love communicating with the audience. A large variety of what we do from most lyrical music to a range of covers from Beatles to Blue Öyster Cult. Our shows are high-energy and a lot of fun. We love to perform and we hope that people can feel that.”
IF YOU GO
Harpeth Rising, With Savannah King opening, perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at Chaplin’s, 66 N. Main St., Spring City. Tickets: $12 online; $15 at the door; $15.75 reserved seating in the main listening room. For information, check www.chaplinslive.com or call (610) 792-4110.