Philadelphia area retro pop, rock, Americana and jam quintet Chestnut Grove recently released their debut, studio-recorded LP, “The Album.” Recorded at BarnSound by producer Derek Chafin, “The Album” features 11 original songs alternating lead vocals by singers James Daniels and Dee Gerhart.
The members of Chestnut Grove have been together since high school and are nearing their 30th birthdays, and the sonic themes on “The Album” reflect this period of growth with lyrics that discuss how difficult it is to cope with getting older, the pain of losing friends and the sting of romantic breakups. Initially scheduled for release in 2020, “The Album” was pushed back to this spring following the release of the first single, “Golden Age.”
Chestnut Grove was formed by John Tyler, James Daniels, Sean Murray and Dee Gerhart in 2011 during their senior year of high school. The band’s name was chosen in memory of would-be member and guitar player Matt Barber, who passed away in a car accident on Chestnut Grove Road. Current members include Gerhart – guitar/piano/vocals; Daniels – drums, vocals; Tyler – guitar/keys; Gary Geers – guitar; and Zach Winkler – bass.
Chestnut Grove toured the U.S. relentlessly as a part of The Nimbleslick Entertainment roster from 2018-2020 until sidelined by the pandemic. They have shared bills and stages with The Hooters, Turkuaz, Ron Gallo (Toy Soldiers), Cyril Neville & the R.S.B., The Felice Brothers, Ryan Montbleau, Wilderado, People’s Blues Of Richmond, Hoots & Hellmouth, Wild Adriatic, and others while touring the East Coast from 2015 to 2017.
Chestnut Grove has headlined the Trocadero, World Cafe Live and Ardmore Music Hall while gathering large crowds at festivals including Mile of Music in Appleton, WI.
PW recently caught up with Daniels and Gerhart to talk about the band’s music and the new album.
Chestnut Grove has been together since its members were in high school in 2011. How did you first come together to form a band, and how have you managed to stay together all of these years?
James: Actually, John and I have been playing together since 2006 when we were in seventh grade. We were best friends and we jammed around with tons of people until senior year in 2011. That’s when the band became Chestnut Grove. It was John, Dee and myself until 2012 and then Gary and Zach joined the band.
We grew up together and we all are lucky enough to be best friends who had a love for bands like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Raconteurs. We have stayed together because we are family. We drive each other nuts for sure but we actually love each other and we love what we do.
Dee: From my perspective, luckily. I’ve always dreamed of performing in front of people. James and John had been playing together for a bit with a group, but by senior year, they were looking for a new roster. I had been playing open mics acoustically and sort of singer-songwriting my way around. I hadn’t actually thought a band was even possible at that point. I never considered myself a singer or a musician of any kind, but I really wanted to be both! So we had a day at school where I was playing guitar and singing, with Zach actually, I somehow convinced him to join me so I had the guts to even do it. James saw it and immediately asked me to come to practice. Gary and Zach shortly joined after we graduated and we really started to click into our own garage rock animal. Some of us come from some sort of “broken” home, so we have become a family. We spend holidays together, eat dinners, and some of us live together. We just got along in a way that was more than just about the music.
Has the band’s sound or approach to making music changed over the years?
James: If we go all the way back to 2011 it’s outrageous how much we have grown. We went from being a guitar rock Zeppelin/Janis lookalike band. Now flash forward to 2020 and we are working more like a Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and The Band. We are a vocal group with multiple songwriters, and I think that’s the type of band we really love and want to be.
Dee: We were a disorganized mess, as any young person is. We had big dreams and no real way of reaching them. Just play, play, play. We toured relentlessly since 2015, and I think the break from the pandemic really allowed us to take an important step back and sort of, catch up? But also come together in a new way. Musically, emotionally, as a band and a business. We have a much more level head these days. We are able to collaborate much easier and communicate while songwriting, in a way that we really hadn’t two years ago. It’s refreshing and I can’t wait to see what else comes out of us.
Talk a little about “The Album.” How did it come together? How are people able to hear it?
James: “The Album” is a product of getting to learn how to be a band for 10 years while pretty much flying under the radar. We have finally hit our stride as a band. Our producer, Derek Chafin, really professionalized our product and sound. It’s a rock n roll record with a lot of New Orleans and Philly soul influences. People can find “The Album” on Spotify and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and our website Chestnutgrove.band.
Dee: Actually a few songs have been around for a few years, and others had been worked out in 2018-19. We had general ideas but not a great direction. We had the privilege of working with a great producer, Derek Chafin. He was able to pull out the good, and get rid of what didn’t need to be there. It was great having “outside” ears to help us along. We trusted him and I think together we did a great job.
You can purchase a physical copy from us! We have an online store – store.chestnutgrove.band. We would LOVE to mail you one. Or even deliver it if you’re close. But you can also find it on all the major streaming platforms (Spotify, iTunes…).
Chestnut Grove has toured and performed at a lot of Philly venues. How excited are you for the pandemic restrictions to ease and to get back on a stage before a live crowd?
James: After touring and playing shows so often since 2015 I definitely had a hard time mentally during the pandemic. That being said, when I wasn’t having a mental breakdown we were trying to take advantage of all the time off we were granted, as hard as it was to put our music career on hold right after we were finally getting noticed. We did our best to just focus on getting better. I said early on, we get an entire year off to re-learn music. It was kind of like starting over. Maybe we should have called “The Album” Born Again.
Dee: So incredibly excited. Being on stage and performing is a huge emotional release for me, and I have been struggling a bit because of it. I’m ready to get back to the place I’m most comfortable. We have all been working overtime to make sure we are tight as a band and I know our live show is ready to really grab some attention.
While you’ve shared bills and stages with a lot of artists. Is there anyone you’d like to perform or collaborate with in the future?
James: We love touring with our friends in Wild Adriatic. They are The Godfather’s of Chestnut Grove. Mateo has helped us get on festival bills, got us our first booking agent and has guided me and the band in a way that I hope to properly thank him for someday. We will be making a split release with Wild Adriatic this summer. Hopefully we have it out by winter 2022.
I would be happy to tour with any national touring act as an opener. I think we are very much ready for an opportunity to tour with some of our biggest influences, Dr. Dog, Jack White, Ron Gallo and maybe even the Foo Fighters. If anyone can give us their phone numbers that would be greatly appreciated, But in all seriousness, we just want to be able to play music for our fans and continue to grow our brand.
Hopefully “The Album” helps put us in the rock n roll history books. We started this band as teenagers with aspirations of making it big. Hopefully we never have to give up on that dream.
Dee: Oh so many… I can’t wait to record with our buddies Wild Adriatic this summer. It will be our first time collaborating with another band while recording. It would be great to run into Ron Gallo again, he’s been really hitting his stride. We opened for the Toy Soldiers once, and I won’t forget it. Genuinely nice dudes, so it’s awesome to see him still pluggin’ away. Really anyone striving to create good music. If anyone needs backing vocals or some extra hands, hit ya girl up. But honestly.
My big outer space dream is to meet Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. I just for some reason think he would really dig our story, love that kids are still getting together and making noise and jamming with him would probably kill me, in the best way. So, Dave, if you can hear me, man, let’s get together. Your place preferably.
What are the best ways for your fans to stay current with what you’re doing?
James: Fans can sign up for our mailing list at Chestnutgrove.band. We can be found on Instagram, Facebook, Spotify and almost all streaming platforms. You can also follow us on Patreon. For exclusive content.Dee: Follow us on Instagram, Facebook. We have a Patreon, subscribe to that for secret cool fun Chestnut Grove stuff. We release videos and demos on there. If you can find our personal profiles on Instagram, and you REALLY wanna know us, check those out. We would love to engage with you. Come on out to a show to really find out what it’s all about. That is the BEST way. We would love to meet you.