When violinist/fiddler Erin Slaver picked up her instrument at the tender age of three, she had no idea of the places it would take her. Her passion for music would lead her to Stony Brook University, where she spent her college years immersed in classical music, festivals and performing in orchestral concerts. Along the way, she participated in Jazz, Baroque, and Quartet ensembles, contributing to her versatility as a musician and instrumentalist. She studied with such renown pedagogues as Phil Setzer (from the Emerson Quartet) and Soovin Kim. In 2010, she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelors in Music and went on to complete a year of graduate school (also in classical violin performance) but took a leave of absence to move to Tennessee. The move to Nashville ignited her passion for songwriting. With her deep-rooted love of music and performance, Erin has continued to carve out her own niche in Music City. She has toured with Martina McBride, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Sam Palladio, and Katie Armiger playing fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar and singing background vocals. Additionally, she has played back-up for artists including Rod Stewart, Rascal Flatts, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Jennifer Nettles, Il Divo, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina among others.
As a member of JD & The Straight Shot, Erin Slaver continues expand her creative palette and explore new musical territory. The band recently finished pouring their heart and soul into the making of their vibrant sixth studio album, ‘Good Luck and Good Night.’ The band is an absolute powerhouse, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Jim Dolan, guitarist Marc Copely (B.B. King, Rosanne Cash), bassist Byron House (Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton), drummer/percussionist Shawn Pelton (Sheryl Crow, Levon Helm, Saturday Night Live band) and violinist/fiddler Erin Slaver. ‘Good Luck and Good Night,’ an all-acoustic record, was produced and mixed by Copely (Toby Lightman, Owen Danoff, Upright Man) and engineered by Chuck Ainley (Mark Knopfler, George Strait, Lee Ann Womack) at Soundstage Studios in Nashville. Influenced by artists like The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and The Beatles along with traditional Irish folk music and classical music, ‘Good Luck and Good Night’ delivers a huge sound, steeped in the quiet fire of American roots, music, and the swagger of rock n’ roll.
The sparkling title track featuring a child chorus crescendo, is a thoughtful commentary on the divisive state of news reporting today, and the scorching lead single, ‘Run For Me,’ showcases unbridled energy, galloping rhythms and expansive sonic layers. ‘Moonlight’ entrances with soaring melodies, while the banjo-and-fiddle-driven burner ‘Ballad of Jacob Marley’ re-tells the tale of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Story about greed and the ability to change. The beauty of Maya Angelou’s words shines in the contemplative ‘Never Alone’ based on her poem ‘Alone,’ the gospel-infused, foot-stomping ‘Redemption Train’ sings of salvation, the melancholy, moving ‘Tonight’ touches on the terrors of domestic abuse and the graceful ballad ‘I Know, You Know, I Know’ addresses the secret passions of love that cannot be.
JD & The Straight Shot is currently roaming the nation in support of ‘Good Luck and Good Night’ and continues to dazzle crowds along the way. No stranger to touring, the band has hit the road in the past with luminaries such as The Eagles, Keith Urban, Don Henley, Dixie Chicks, Jewel, Joe Walsh, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and more.
Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Erin Slaver to discuss her journey as an artist, the making of JD & The Straight Shot’s ‘Good Luck & Good Night’ and the challenges she has faced along the way!
How did music first come into your life and what went into finding your creative voice as an artist?
My mother enrolled me in a Suzuki music program for violin when I was three years old and I loved it, training classically from the time I was a child throughout my college years. I also grew up playing music (country/bluegrass/jazz) with my father (a guitarist). As a father-daughter duo we’d perform on weekends and give concerts throughout our community. Because of my mixed musical upbringing, my creative voice as an artist was influenced by a vast array of genres and musicians. I’d say I truly discovered who I was as a creative artist when I also began songwriting.
Who has had the biggest impact on you and your work as musician?
From jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli to bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Connor and classical composers (Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky) I’ve been influenced by performers and music all across the spectrum. But the people who had the greatest impact on me were my music teachers. I idolized them, and still do. Without their encouragement and guidance, I don’t know where I’d be.
What made you want to pursue your passion professionally and did you have any reservations about taking the plunge?
I had spent my childhood and early adult life performing with my father, playing in bands and making music. After 5 years of music school and a lifetime of experience performing, the transition into music as my career seemed like the most natural next step. I may have had reservations, but I couldn’t imagine any other way!
You’ve come a long way from the early years as a musician. Looking back, what are your fondest memories of your leaner years as a professional musician and how did these experiences impact the artist we see today?
I’m 29 this year. Is it okay that I still consider these my ‘early’ years? ;) But yes, starting out in the music industry (in Nashville) is terrifying, and also amazingly exciting all at once. They say ‘half the fun is getting there’ and it’s true, the unpredictable, spontaneous life of young musician in a city like Nashville can bring you all kinds of opportunities. You find yourself in the middle of a world you thought only existed in movies.
What got the ball rolling for ‘Good Luck And Good Night’ and made now the right time for a new record?
We had the songs! We were selfishly hoarding a great collection of new music we really loved, and it became clear it was time to put it out for the rest of the world to enjoy!
For those haven’t heard this record, how does it compare and contrast to the work JD & The Straight Shot has done in the past?
We have all been touring and cowriting together now for several years and this is our second album to capture our strictly acoustic sound and arrangements. It’s groovy in a way that reflects our vibe together as a live band. Marc (our music director and lead guitar player) was behind the board producing, so there was a very intimate and familiar ear guiding the sound. We also spent some time touring and playing a lot of these new songs live before we took them into the studio; we wanted the music to feel “lived in”… By the time we were making the record, we all had a pretty good sense of what what was going to work and what wasn’t.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for the album and gathering the right mix of tunes?
We write together during our time spent on the road and in rehearsal. If someone has an idea for a new song they’ll bring it in to the rest of us and usually we all finish it together. For this particular record, we drew a ton of songwriting inspiration from our time spent touring in Europe (Ireland/the UK to be exact).
What were the biggest challenges the band encountered while bringing the album to life?
Collaboration isn’t always easy. Since we were all working together and everyone shared equally in the process, it was easy for conflicting opinions and ideas to arise. Of course we had our producer, Marc, to help guide our direction, but the end result still required a lot of patience from everyone involved and willingness to not only try many different ideas, but also make compromises.
They say you learn something from each album you put out? Is does that hold true with this one?
I agree! The lesson I believe we all learned this time? Don’t rush. Take time, enjoy the process, re-do things if they don’t come out sounding how you envisioned them, and then re-do them again. If you don’t get it right the first time, that’s okay. It’s all part of the learning process, and leads you to eventually find what it is you’re looking for. I can’t believe the difference from the first takes of our single “Run for Me” to the final track we released. We didn’t give up until it was exactly what we all knew it could be!
You have lived with the songs on this new album for a while now. Which ones resonate with you the most at this point in time?
I have a soft spot for “The Ballad of Jacob Marley”. I love the energy of the track and the gang vocals on the chorus. It makes you want to stomp your feet. Plus, our bassist / multi-instrumentalist Byron House plays the tastiest lick on banjo that sucks you right down into purgatory. You can feel the weight of the chains and the heat of the fire. I also just love our cover of Three Dog Night’s “Shambala.” The harmonies are strong and full, and the song is just so….. happy.
You have worked with the other members of JD & The Straight Shot for years now. What do you bring out in each other creatively?
We have been working together for quite some time, and we all know each other’s strengths. We encourage one another to focus on these strengths when collaborating, setting up an environment that allows each of us to truly shine creatively.
You have worked with some amazing artists through the years, as well as the players in JD & The Straight Shot. What do you consider the keys to a successful collaboration?
I believe the key to a successful collaboration is a willingness to share your best ideas, but still be willing to make compromises.
JD & The Straight Shot will be touring throughout the Fall and Winter. What can we expect from the live show?
We take our performances very seriously and always strive to sound our best. Before we go on stage we like to stand in a circle and sing through our harmonies, just to make sure everything is sounding good! You can expect to have a lot of fun. Oh, and there will be some foot-stomping, hand-clapping, down-home old-fashioned good-time MUSIC.
You welcomed a new child last year. Congratulations! How has motherhood impacted you creatively and professionally? I’m sure there is a true art to the balance!
Thank you! Motherhood is the most wonderful experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But yes, there is definitely a new balance I’m having to find — not so sure I’ve mastered yet either. But it does make you more efficient. My time is limited, so when I practice, I make it count.
You have a lot of productive years ahead of you. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?
I’d like to continue to develop as a songwriter and musician. I still feel I’ve only skimmed the surface and I know there’s a much deeper place I’d like to reach within my music and myself.
You can serve as a great inspiration for so many aspiring artists and young people. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
Never give up! It’s true what they say about those who persevere. It’s not easy and rejection is hard, but belief and hard work will always pay off, and the cream will always rise to the top.
Connect with JD & The Straight Shot on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit their official site, www.jdandthestraightshot.com, for the latest news and tour dates! Visit www.erinslaver.com to learn more about her journey as an artist!
JD & The Straight Shot on Tour:
9/16 Cherokee, NC @Harrah’s Cherokee (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/17 Wilmington, NC @Cape Fear Community College Humanities & Fine Arts Center (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/19 Richmond, KY @EKU Center for the Arts (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/21 Frederick, MD @Fair (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/22 Northfield, OH @Hard Rock Rocksino (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/23 Huber Heights, OH @Rose Music Center at The Heights (w/ The Doobie Brothers)
9/27 Bloomsburg, PA @Bloomsburg Fair (w/ Chicago)
9/28 Stamford, CT @The Palace Theatre (w/ Chicago)
9/30 Gilford, NH @Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion (w/ Chicago)
*more dates to be announced