Rising Appalachia wants you to know, everything is going to be ok.
“Despair is very real and we live in a volatile, scary time,” says Leah Smith who, along with her sister, Chloe, founded the group in 2005. “At the same time, I truly believe there are tremendous acts of kindness, goodness and empowerment happening on a daily basis that we are not being told about.”
These words of hope are exactly what anyone familiar with the world-folk band would expect. Since their beginning–a homemade CD of music called Leah and Chloe that was originally intended as a Christmas gift for friends and family–Rising Appalachia (which has now grown to a full band of musicians) has preached a message of love, compassion and environmentally conscious sustainability. More than just words, Rising Appalachia practices what they preach.
Smith explains as part of their core foundation, Rising Appalachia believes in partiipating in resistance movements on a daily basis. Whether it’s travelling to protests at Standing Rock–which they did last November–or connecting with the people in the places they tour to create an open space of solidarity, they strive to create the changes they want to see in the world.
In 2015 they launched their self-described, Slow Music Movement, which strives to provide an alternative touring lifestyle to the fast-paced world of mass media entertainment. Instead of giving venues a rider of store bought goods, they request local farmers provide the food, not only bolstering the local community but as a way to connect with nature’s cultivators and the greater communities they visit.
“We’re a women run group and I think the archetype of the feminine is to nurture and tend to things, which is how we handle our own creativity,” she says. “It’s less about production and being fast and more about creating softer spaces for us to find our songs and stories.”
The band switches between touring by small caravans of cars or by train,–which they will be using for their upcoming West Coast Tour that kicks off October 5 at the Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz–compared to the massive tour buses often used by music acts. Earlier this year, the band took it one step further and toured for 2 and a half weeks around the Gulf Islands, off the coast of British Columbia, in a 3 mile per hour sailboat. They played nightly shows throughout the farming communities, playing for crowds that ranged anywhere from 30 to 100 people.
“It was a life-changing and fascinating study on the different ways people live,” says Smith. “And touring by sailboat is now on our top list of rad ways to move in the whole world.”
This year also featured the release of their 7th full-length that doubles as their first live album. Alive was recorded at different performances throughout the previous year of touring and features the band’s favorite renditions of songs that have evolved over the years of playing. Smith says it captures the spirit of their live shows with audience participation and guest musicians.
“It’s a really cool project for us and carries the energy we’ve never been able to possess in a studio recording,” she explains. “It’s exciting to have it.”
As a special treat to fans, this tour also features the option to have a “conversation” with the band. Like many meet and greets, audiences will have to pay a little extra, but unlike meeting your favorite artist for a 3 minute picture and signing, Rising Appalachia stays true to their root ideas in building community.
“It’s a pre-show event where we’ll play a few acoustic songs and talk about our work outside of Rising Appalachia. But then we’ll open it up for questions and conversations with the audience so we get to better know the people who go to our concerts,” Smith says with enthusiasm. “We’re super excited about the conversations.”
With so much love and compassion emanating from one group, do they ever fight? After all, the front women are sisters and siblings will be siblings.
“I would say we both might answer that question differently,” she laughs. “We didn’t have much rivalry as kids because we’re four years apart. And by nature, we’re very different from one another. At the same time, of course there are moments of bickering or disagreements. But really I consider us in the lucky category because our dynamic is mostly supportive. It’s good to experience.”
San Francisco Bay Area residents can catch Rising Appalachia at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Oct 5 and at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park on Oct. 7th. To find out where they will be playing in a city near you, go to: