For Old Salt Union, ringing in the new year means hitting the road, writing and returning to the Grey Eagle in Asheville on Saturday just a few short months after an October stop. But bassist Jesse Farrar wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We love the Southeast, and Asheville is honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It’s good to get back on tour and out of the cold of the Midwest, and it’s inspiring to me,” says Farrar.
“The last time through, we did the North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida run and we wrote two or three songs, so obviously it does something for our psyche,” he says. “There’s something homey about it; it satisfies our need to be vulnerable and write.
Farrar and his bandmates – Ryan Murphey, Dustin Eiskant, John Brighton and Justin Wallace – have become intimately familiar with touring since they decided to give Old Salt Union a full go starting in 2014, just a year after the crew came together.
“For me, it felt like the right thing to do. A couple of guys had full-time jobs that they gave up,” Farrar says. “You have to be really confident in the direction and the product, but even then, there are times when you second-guess.”
But Farrar said being on the road gives him a certain perspective on life, as well as a certain inspiration as a songwriter. “It fuels the writing,” Farrar says. “It’s where the inspiration comes from.”
The sound of the Belleville, Ill.,-based band echoes found in music from Danny Elfman to the Punch Brothers. The music is catchy with a strong pop influence, all rooted in the bluegrass tradition.
“It’s cool to see what everybody’s twist on bluegrass music is,” says Farrar, adding that “for every action there is a reaction to the overproduced pop culture we’ve been fed over the past decade. With all these string bands, whether it is pop bluegrass or alternative blue grass, it’s a process of taking what to me is the most American of music and mixing it up.”
The Old Salt Union sound is tinged with a blue collar sensibility that’s “more traditionally set,” says Farrar, adding that regional influences such Chuck Berry also factor into the St.Louis bluegrass scene. (It’s also worth noting that Farrar’s uncle, Jay Farrar, founded Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt.)
That Old Salt Union sound will be solidified with a new EP the band just recorded and is planning to release at the end of March. With the six songs, the band is “kind of putting our foot down and saying this is our style,” Farrar says.
“Our first album was five guys weaving their own sounds and points of view together, and we still do that, but we’re all pretty much on the same page,” he says. “Overall, it’s intricate and there are really nice compositions.”
The name of the EP? Farrar says, “We don’t have a name yet. We just started playing the songs live. Who knows. Maybe we’ll name it while we’re in Asheville.”
Old Salt Union and Gallows Bound, a six-piece Appalachian folk-punk/bluegrass band from Winchester, Va., play the Grey Eagle on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show. Click here for tickets to Old Salt Union and Gallows Bound at the Grey Eagle.