Ballroom Thieves dance into Park City for an acoustic concert
The Ballroom Thieves, who will play at Newpark on Thursday, July 17, have evolved from an acoustic duo into a trio over the past four years.
Guitarist Martin Early said the group is still evolving.
"When we first started out, it as just Devin Mauch and me and we just played guitar and organic percussion while signing harmonies," Early told The Park Record during a phone interview from western New York. "We started going different directions and after we recorded our first extended-play album in 2010 we wondered how we could develop our sound and where we could head with it."
The duo decided to add some cello. After parting with their first cellist, Early and Mauch recruited Calin Peters nine months ago.
"Anytime something like that happens, the music is affected and so is the band," Early said. "Bu I would say we’re just now just hitting our stride and getting into the sound that we’ve been looking for. So, we’re pretty excited."
Early’s musical influences started with his dad, who taught his son a couple of chords.
"In high school I played drums, but there was only so much you could do with the drum, so I picked up the guitar again," Early said. "In addition to my dad, I would say Bob Dylan was a major influence, but like the other two in the band, we all have many influences."
The folk sound was something that touched Early’s soul more than other genres.
"I really like the lyricism," he said. "I’m a fan of creative freedom that you can have in terms of the lyrics. When you look at the folk world, the lyrics are all over the place and there is a lot of opportunity to write different types of songs including narrative songs or more abstract songs where the meaning isn’t laid out."
During the early days, Early and Mauch would adjust their instruments to fit the situations.
"Devin built his own drum set in college out of necessity, because we couldn’t have a full drum set in the dorm," Early said. "He began whacking the djembe with an orchestral mallet and started sticking together other acoustic instruments to see what we could do with them."
When it came time to add the cello, the two were on the same track.
"We both think the cello is the most beautiful instrument in the world," Early said. "It’s so versatile and you can really do a lot of things with it.
"We’ve always hoped to have a cello in the band and we’re fortunate that Cali puts up with us," he said with a laugh. "It can serve as the bass or it can take a lead role, almost like a lead guitar."
Working in a trio suits the bandmembers, according to Early.
"First off, we produce a lot of sound for just three people," he said. "All of us sing, and three voices are essentially three additional instruments."
There is also a logistical benefit.
"The fact that there is only three of us helps us out because it’s a lot easier for us to go out and tour and to spend time on the road," Early explained. "We don’t need a huge vehicle and trailer to lug around our gear. All of our crew members hang with us.
"The only thing that’s hard is driving long distances," he said. "It would be nice to have another person to split up the driving more evenly."
Furthermore, the songwriting process is easier with only three people.
"It’s pretty democratic," Early said. "I usually write the base of the songs — the guitar part, the melody and lyrics — and I’ll bring that in and we all sit down, including our manager, and get involved in the creative process.
"We all have a hand in composing and arranging and we all do our part to make the song sound like a song," he said. "Any crazy idea that we have never gets shot down. We have a policy that we have to try everything at least once and that has worked for us so far."
The Ballroom Thieves’ future plans include touring on a bigger scale.
"We have been fortunate to travel the country and get to the West Coast and your neck of the words," he said. "We love what we do and it’s not lost on us that we’re pretty lucky to call this our occupation, but I think the next step would maybe join a national headliner or put together a full national tour.
"We’re looking forward to coming to Park City because we’re psyched to come back to Utah," Early said. "We’ve spent some time with our friends in Salt Lake City, but we haven’t been able to play there, yet. So we’re looking forward to spend time in Park City."
The Newpark Concert Series, at the Newpark Amphitheater at Kimball Junction, will continue with the Ballroom Thieves on Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m. The concert series is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.mountaintownmusic.org .
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