Nashville’s The Barefoot Movement plays bluegrass the way it’s meant to be played—with precision, spirit, and joy. The band has been steadily touring and releasing albums for several years now, garnering critical acclaim in the process.
Led by fiddle player and vocalist Noah Wall, the band also features mandolin player Tommy Norris, guitarist Alex Conerly, and bassist Katie Blomarz.
The band is set to play Randy Wood’s Pickin’ Parlor in Bloomingdale, and we caught up with vocalist and fiddle player Noah Wall ahead of the gig.
How did you all get together? What were some of your more prominent musical influences when the band first started?
Wall: Tommy and I met in high school and we got to know each other in our senior English class. I heard him play guitar one day and I knew I wanted to play music with him. I’m sure even then I had big dreams, but it’s pretty amazing to me that we’re still here and still working together. After we graduated we went to separate schools, but we kept the band going and had various members come and go. We met Alex through a friend of a friend in 2013, and we met Katie in 2015 after we posted a Facebook ad. This lineup feels like the one we were trying to build all along.
As far as our influences, I remember when I first wanted to join forces with Tommy, he wasn’t really familiar with the kind of acoustic music I wanted to make. I made him a CD, and it had everything on it from acoustic Led Zeppelin songs to Nickel Creek and New Grass Revival. I always loved rock and roll but as a fiddler and lover of traditional music, I knew there had to be a way to utilize all those ideas, and that’s what we set out to do.
What is it about bluegrass that resonates with the band on a musical level?
Wall: I love bluegrass music because it feels like home. Like a family reunion; like cooking a meal in my grandmother’s kitchen. It’s music that was played on back porches for generations, and that’s where it takes me when I hear it. I should say that I don’t think our music counts as traditional bluegrass and to some people, it isn’t bluegrass at all. But it’s certainly influenced by it in many ways and I’m proud of that.
I love that bluegrass is a truly American creation, coming into existence through the amalgamation of various styles brought to our continent by a great number of immigrants. Bill Monroe took all of those genres and made his own sound. And while I don’t consider us nearly as innovative as him, I do feel like we’re doing the same thing. Taking a large selection of all the music that has inspired us and creating our own new identity.
Nowadays, what does the writing process look like for y’all? Has it evolved as time has progressed?
Wall: One of us will write a song, the basic melody, lyrics, and chords, and then we bring it to the band where it gets a facelift. The chords might change, the dynamics, the harmonies—all these things evolve. That’s when it goes from being a song one of us wrote, to being a “Barefoot Movement” song. Going forward I think we’d like to do more cowriting, but we haven’t worked out our process yet.
If you could pick one song from any of your record that stands out as a particularly proud or defining moment, what would it be and why?
Wall: I am really proud of “Martha’s Song.” I wrote that one after I was involved in a college play about women who served in Vietnam in various ways. Martha was the name of a character in the show who was a nurse. The play was based on true stories of actual veterans. I’ve had a lot of veterans or family members of veterans tell me that the song meant a lot to them. That is the biggest compliment I can ever imagine receiving. To offer some kind of peace to people who have experienced such trauma, it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.
What’s next for you guys, and what does your vision for the band look going forward?
Wall: We just signed with Bonfire Management and we’re super excited about teaming with them as we work our way through our upcoming releases. We have a 45 coming out in the fall with two cover songs, followed by a 5 song EP that’ll land sometime in early 2020 on the Bonfire label. We have some fun gigs coming up and we always do a holiday tour in December, playing all the tunes from our Christmas album.
Our vision is just to keep building on each little success and keep finding opportunities to introduce our music to new audiences. We already love what we do, we just want to find ways to do it better and more effectively.