Listen to the sweet melodies and moving harmonies of Asheville, N.C.’s Underhill Rose with your eyes closed and you can practically see fireflies flitting along the tree line from your back porch and smell crisp mountain air gently blowing in through the branches.
Experience the conjuring magic of Underhill Rose’s “heartfelt country soul” when they perform June 29 at Tybee Post Theater.
Banjo player Eleanor Underhill and guitarist Molly Rose met at Warren Wilson College surrounded by a rich atmosphere of music.
“It was a great community to learn the banjo,” reminisces Underhill. “I was able to observe other people playing on the campus — even the staff were playing. The president of the school was part of the old-timey jam session every week. There was a great, nurturing music community there, even though it’s not a music school.”
Underhill encountered Rose sitting on the lawn playing guitar between classes. Underhill remembers thinking, “I bet that’s the Molly I keep hearing about.”
“I just sat down, we figured out a song we both knew, ‘Angel from Montgomery,’” Underhill says. “We knew Bonnie Raitt’s version of the song by John Prine. I thought her voice was beautiful and here we are 15 years later, still singing harmonies and making music together.”
Underhill and Rose complement each other so well that they are very often mistaken for sisters.
“We’ve lived our lives much like sisters the last 15 years,” Underhill says. “We’re very close with a working relationship, but also a personal relationship. We’ve been through a lot and grown up a lot. I think our influences are similar, musically, so we have some of the same musical instincts, but also, with years of playing together we’ve really honed in on matching each other’s harmonies and voices as best we can.”
Underhill and Rose have different textures to their voices, but are able to alternate between high and low harmonies to keep things interesting. Rose’s voice might best be described as soaring and joyful, while Underhill’s has a salty blues edge.
“I’m always surprised when people can’t tell our voices apart because I think they are dramatically different,” Underhill says.
In the last several years, Underhill Rose has recorded and self-released two acclaimed albums of original material thanks to a $50,000 crowd-funding campaign. “Something Real” reached No. 18 on the Americana Radio Albums chart and was one of AMA’s top 100 albums of the year. In 2015, they released “The Great Tomorrow,” which held the No. 1 spot on The Roots Music Report’s Progressive Bluegrass Album Chart for nine weeks.
Last year’s “Underhill Rose Live” stripped things down and showed the band’s best side, as a live act.
“Studio albums are very much the exception to the life of musicians — for us, anyway,” Underhill says. “The reality of our existence as musicians has been on the road touring as a trio. Not only do we want to capture that, the real essence of what we do, but also I feel like we have honed our sound over the years and have never sounded better, so it was time to capture and archive that.”
Underhill Rose recently returned from a U.K. tour with their mothers called the “Mums and Daughters Tour." Rose grew up jamming with her mother and father at family gatherings and Underhill gained an appreciation for music watching her mother sing ballads at taverns in Williamsburg, Va.
Although there is a mixture of country, folk and blues in Underhill Rose’s music, the melodies show a pop influence. They both grew up watching lots of MTV and the two wear their influences on their sleeves with recorded covers of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” and Kim Carnes’ “Betty Davis Eyes."
“I never had a real intention for what genre I was writing in,” Underhill says. “I had a banjo in my hand, but I just wrote what I felt was a good song. That’s always been the case; I think that has been the case for Molly as well. In my mind it’s all mashed up and a good song is a good song. Our instruments and voices deliver what they deliver and the result is Underhill Rose.”