Sometimes you just feel it in your bones or maybe it’s in your ears or in your head or in your heart….but The Barefoot Movement is one of those bands that you believe will continue to make ever-loving music for a long, long time. This is no fly-by-night band. The Barefoot Movement is in it for the duration and from what we’ve seen…their fans are continuing to embrace them at every juncture in their career.
The band consists of Noah Wall and Tommy Norris from North Carolina, Katie Blomarz of Illinois and Alex Conerly of Mississippi. What a great sound they make together!
Learn more about them at their website and sign up for their mailing list as they requested in this interview!
Here’s a video of The Barefoot Movement singing “Anywhere I Plant My Feet.”
And because I just couldn’t resist…here’s a video of them singing A Carcapella version of “Stayin’ Alive.”
The Barefoot Movement will be appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, March 22, 2019.
It appears that the band was formed by Noah and Tommy in high school. Did you both feel that your sound as a duo was what you were aiming for at the time or did you actually have a fuller sound in mind (which took longer to actualize)?
We definitely had a fuller sound in mind but we didn’t know any other like-minded musicians. But I always knew I would go to East Tennessee State University and join the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music program, and I was sure we’d expand once I had the chance to meet some new people. That did happen, but we also met some other musicians in the meantime. I was doing a transfer program at a community college when I met Andrew Marlin, who went on to found Mandolin Orange. He was the first guitarist in The Barefoot Movement.
How did the name of the band come about?
The words literally popped into my head one day and I felt like it happened for a reason, because not only did the shoes frequently come off at shows, but our hope for our audience is for them to feel at home, and who doesn’t love to kick off their shoes after a long day?
Did you begin writing together and did you do gigs together despite the fact that you were in college in two different states?
We’ve done a little co-writing, but that has been the exception, not the rule. Mostly we’ve played songs that I’ve written. But while we were in different states, we were both getting better at our instrument, and I was figuring out how to build a band from the ground up.
Who were you influenced by in your early years?
Nickel Creek was a huge gateway band for us. Even though I grew up listening to traditional music, it took me a while to think it was “cool.” Nickel Creek was definitely cool to me and I used them as a lure to get Tommy to play with me! He’d never heard them or even knew anything about traditional music.
Have you leaned toward the traditional sound of bluegrass or have you been more contemporary? Is it possible to be both and please the hardcore bluegrass fans?
As far as traditional goes, what I actually studied was Old-Time music. We do have some bluegrass influences and during our set we do throw in an old-time tune here and there, but I would say we’ve leaned contemporary because those are just the types of songs I write. It wasn’t intentional, it was just the sound that came out. We are not considered bluegrass at all by traditionalists, and I don’t really either. But for the most part, what we do is close enough that we seem to do well at even traditional festivals. There may be some disappointed folks in the crowd, but we don’t hear about it too much.
Tell us the story about adding Alex and Katie to the band.
Our early years, we went through a lot of line-up changes. I think that goes with the territory when you’re in college and everyone is figuring out who they are and what they’re going to do with their lives. So one of our guitarists had just quit and we were about to go on tour. We decided to do it as a trio, with Tommy and I sharing the guitar duties, but we had one show in Nashville, and we wanted to make a good impression there. So we asked around with some Nashville friends and we heard about Alex. He played that show with us and then slowly over the summer he started playing more and more with us. By the fall, he was a full-time member. We met Katie on Facebook after another line-up change. We posted that we were looking for a girl who could sing and play the bass and she answered the ad! We’re really happy she did.
You’ve been touring all over the country for several years. Do you still enjoy it? What’s the wackiest tour story you have experienced?
We definitely enjoy it. Mostly we enjoy performing. As Alex says often, “we get paid to travel, we do the show for free.” Traveling is great but it gets tougher when you start to have families and are trying to balance your tour life and your home life. There are so many wacky road stories, but the first thing that comes to mind is that recently Katie and I stumbled onto a “fire festival” one night this past December in Telluride. There were these big artistic pyres that they were lighting up on top of a mountain and people were yelling “burn it up!!” People had come from all over to celebrate fire. It was bizarre at the time, we were thinking, “where ARE we??” But it was a glimpse into a subculture we’d never seen before, which is a really beautiful thing about traveling, all the interesting things you get to see. Really cool actually.
We’d love to learn about your U.S State Department expedition to Burkina Faso in Africa. Can you tell us about your musical mission was what you learned while there.
That trip was a once in a lifetime experience that we are so grateful we were able to take. Musical diplomacy was our mission and so the embassy had us play at local schools, orphanages, homes for women and the like. Music and dance are such a huge part of their culture and so every time we performed for them, they performed for us too. So it was truly a cultural exchange.
What kind of long-term goals do you have? How can we help spread the word?
We want to be able to play music for the rest of our lives, so we need all the fans we can to help make that happen. We love having people sign up for our mailing list because that shows that they really enjoy what we do. You can sign up at the show or on our website!