New to the country music scene, The Washboard Union has been having quite the success — from getting their first top 10 hit on country radio to playing for 30,000 people with the well-known country group, Zac Brown Band. As a result, there’s never been a dull moment for this old time country ensemble.
The band consists of Aaron Grain, Chris ‘Dunner’ Duncombe and David Roberts, all who will make their first appearance at Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to perform.
In a recent phone interview with the PNR, Dunner talked about the band’s success, their first album and how they came to be The Washboard Union.
Dunner and Grain grew up in the Okanagan Valley, while Roberts is originally from the Toronto area. The three friends all met up in Vancouver, where they are based today.
“Aaron and I actually grew up together. It’s a bit of a strange kind of Brady Bunch story, but when we were 14 years old, my dad started dating Aaron’s mom,” said Dunner. “So we’ve been playing music together since we were kids, we got our drivers’ licenses together, we went to college together; Aaron and I have been sort of inseparable since we met.”
The two later met Roberts who was playing in another band when they moved to Vancouver years later and then they all started playing music together.
“Originally we were playing sort of old trucker tunes and old bluegrass just ‘cause we all had this common love for those story teller songs and the gun slingers and the truck driving kind of tunes…” said Dunner.
The group later began writing together and realized that they had three distinct voices, all sharing a common love for songwriting, so they began as songwriters before they were a band. The Washboard Union then grew out of that.
“The part that probably separates us from a lot of country artists in Canada is we’re really focussed on that three piece harmony that makes us kind of different from others,” he said.
Dunner said the band’s instrumentation has everything from banjos and mandolins to washboards to the full big country band rock set up.
“We pride ourselves on the live show and our summer has us touring a lot of places we’ve never been before.”
They will be heading off to Europe for the first time, opening for Zac Brown again in Toronto, playing most of the major Canadian country festivals, all while in the midst of recording a new album too. They will also be headlining the Calgary Stampede’s Nashville North for the first time.
Their record In My Bones, Dunner said, has been well received.
“We had our first top 10 hit on Country Radio which was thrilling for us for Maybe It’s the Moonshine and our brand new single’s just been released and it’s already doing really well….” he said.
“So there’s never a dull moment for Washboard Union.”
Their big hit, Maybe It’s The Moonshine was written in the kitchen of an old house outside of Nashville, Tennessee where a couple of their friends lived.
“It was the last song written for the record and it was written 24 hours before we started recording the album,” said Dunner.
He said it will always stand out as the last song that went in.
“You never know with a song until it’s recorded and people hear it and either love it or don’t love it but it felt special … It’s just a song about those things that matter to you and getting away, getting out of the city and being with your friends. And you can count on one hand those things that really matter in your world and work’s probably not on that list for most people.”
They recorded the whole album in RCA Studio A in Nashville, which was built in 1954 for Chet Atkins and Elvis’s band to record in.
“It’s this sort of legendary place with these haunting halls and we did the whole record in there.
“And the record ended up being called In My Bones inadvertently because of all those country stars that have gone before us, walked those same halls, recorded in those same rooms,” he said, which found its way into their record.
Some of the highlights of this band’s career have been winning a B.C Country Music Association award this year, having a top 10 hit, and playing to 30,000 people with Zac Brown Band, all firsts for the band.
Having a top 10 song.
“We never knew that Country Radio would embrace us the way they have and that has now given a voice to the band across the country that we just simply didn’t have before,” said Dunner
The band was recently in Tennessee for a week, writing for their new record, and Dunner said writing is something they always do, never having that off switch.
“So we’re always thinking about what’s going to come out next year and we just write feverishly. I think in the last couple weeks, we’ve written 10 songs.”
The band will perform at the Mary Winspear Centre on June 16 at 7:30 p.m. For ticket information visit marywinspearcentre.ca or call 250-656-0275.