Formed in 2010 by guitarist and vocalist Andrew Brown and violinist Brandon Smith, the Appleseed Collective was initially inspired by music that came from Europe and New Orleans in the years before World War II. Brown explains how he and his bandmates took that music as a template and updated it with more contemporary leanings.
“Django Reinhardt/Stephanne Grapelli, The Hot Club of Paris, that’s kind of like our Mozart," he says. "We’re not really attempting to be a gypsy jazz band. We’re kind of taking those influences and writing our own songs and running with it.”
Brown says that he’s not surprised that interest in roots music has grown as it has over the last two decades. Music lovers have been buying less recorded music but continuing to attend live shows, a place where traditional music thrives.
“Live music is very contextual and there’s a lot of context for the throwback to more traditional kind of Americana styles,” Brown offers. “What people like about that style of music they’ve always liked. And maybe some of the more antiquated instrumentation has come back into popularity but roots music at its deepest level is about songwriters sharing an experience that is incredibly human. I feel like that’s what people attach to.”
Brown adds that his band’s music continues to grow in the live setting, where songs can undergo important transformations on a nightly—or almost nightly—basis.
“A lot of the songs that are on our first album, we’ve been playing for so long now that when I hear them off the first album and then hear us playing them live I realize that now they’ve fully fleshed out. So it’s kind of cool to see things develop,” he says. "We write songs and have orchestrated parts but also some nights we decided to take a left turn. One person in the band decides to take a left turn and then everyone else has to follow. Sometimes you crash and burn when you do that but usually what you discover is that when it’s kind of fresh and you’re not just trying to recreate something that you’ve done in the past, it usually comes off as something more powerful.”
One of the earliest lessons that Brown learned about the live arena, he says, holds true to this day: That there has to be a bond between the audience, the performer, and the music itself.
“One of my guitar teachers once said that no one ever comes to a show to get into your music. They come to a show to see you get into your music, and I think that that is something that really holds true.”
You can catch The Appleseed Collective at Rock Island Live on Tuesday, February 25 at 8:30pm. The show is free and is 18 to enter, 21 to drink.