Soulive at Wormtown Music Festival

  • Soulive Contributed photo—

  • Staff Illustration/Andy Castillo

Published: 9/12/2019 7:00:18 AM

When the Wormtown Music Festival takes place at Camp Kee-Wanee in Greenfield this weekend, the headliner on Saturday night will be the jazz and funk trio Soulive. The band, which formed in the late 1990s, is comprised of drummer Alan Evans, his brother Neal on the keyboard and Eric Krasno playing guitar. Soulive has released 15 albums, toured the globe and opened for big acts including the Dave Matthews Band and the Rolling Stones. The band is a favorite on the jam-band scene thanks to its sharp improvisational skills and penchant for jamming with guest musicians.

The band will be a welcome addition to the already impressive lineup at Wormtown. It’s great to have the band playing here in Greenfield,  especially since its members have a connection to the local music scene. Drummer Alan Evans is a resident of Deerfield and also owns and operates Iron Wax recording studio in Erving.

Evans is looking forward to playing a show in his own backyard.

“I’m excited about Wormtown. It’s a great festival. I’ve played there before, but not with Soulive. I remember it was cold and raining but still fun, plus it’s like 10 minutes from my home and that never happens,” he said in a recent phone interview.

Evans was raised in Buffalo and grew up surrounded by music. He has played in various bands over the years but Soulive is by far the most well known and the most successful. He has done a lot of touring in his day, Evans says, noting that it was his work as a musician that introduced him to Western Massachusetts.

“I remember the first time I played in Northampton. It was probably 1992 and at the Bay State Motel. We eventually moved up the ranks through the town,” he said.

But he said he ended up living in Franklin County almost by accident. 

Back then, when Soulive was going full force, its band members lived in Vermont. Eventually, Krasno and Neil Evans decided to move back to Brooklyn. Alan Evans says he had lived in the city before and had no interest in moving back. His wife was expecting their first child so they started looking through the newspaper to find a new home in a more rural location.

“We first looked at a house in Greenfield, and then the second place we looked at ended up being the house we live in now. We had our son and hunkered down,” he said of living in Deerfield. “We soon discovered it’s a cool place to be.”

One big part of his life that has really flourished since living to the region is his interest in recording other musicians. Evans has worked as an engineer for almost 30 years, almost as long as he’s been playing music. 

He initially had a studio in his Deerfield home, but his services were so in demand that he ended up moving it to a space in Hatfield. 

The studio was a succes. But then it became too much and Evans ended up closing its doors. 

Business was so good that he closed up shop? “Yeah, something like that,” he said. “You see, when I opened the studio, Soulive was on a bit of a hiatus but then the guys came out here and we made a record and all of a sudden Soulive was back and I’m out touring.” 

Evans says he would get off the road to find a backlog of studio work waiting for him.

“I started to get bugged out,” he said of the overload that led to him having no time to record his own music, so he returned to recording at home.

But soon, musicians were knocking on his door. My brother, Neil, and Oteil and Kofi Burbridge wanted me to record them.  

“Next thing I know, I’m looking for a space for a studio,” he recalled. “I found this great spot in Erving. I was literally finishing up the wiring when Oteil, Kofi and Neal drove up.”

Evans loves being behind the soundboard and that’s where he spends a good deal of his time. 

“The thing I really dig about the studio most is working with other people,” he said  “I obviously record my own music, but it’s nice to be doing something that’s not about yourself. I just love meeting new bands and people and working with other artists.” 

 “I think I found a pretty good balance of being out on the road, and being in the studio for my own thing and working on other people’s music, he added. “It’s really enjoyable.”

He does, however, remain incredibly busy with his own music. This past year he released his first solo album, “Nothing to Say,” for which he was the main instrumentalist, writer, arranger, producer and singer. He recently released an album with his Alan Evans Trio (AE3) and has done some dates with Soulive including Bowlive, the band’s annual six-night guest-filled residency at the Brooklyn Bowl. 

 Like Evans, his bandmates have many other projects going. Krasno has won two Grammys from his work with Derek Trucks/Tedeschi Trucks and has released a solo album and produced a multitude of artists including Aaron Neville and 50 Cent. Neil Evans has worked with a variety of other musicians and most notable was a member of Jack White’s touring band last year. He has also played with Ashfield native Sonya Kitchell. However, Soulive still remains a priority for the three members. 

Last year, Soulive released the EP “Cinematics Vol. I,”  it was the band’s first recorded music in six years. As the title would suggest, the disc is inspired by its members love of film music. Overall, this disc is a bit of a departure for the band as it finds them shying away from its heavy use of individual solos and going for a more groove-oriented sound. 

“Cinematics Vol. I” is intended to be part of a series, but the band has not yet begun work on the second volume. 

Soulive recorded for Blue Note and Vanguard record labels in the past, but now the band is releasing its own material, which allows the members to create music whenever it feels right to do so. 

“We have also learned and are comfortable with not forcing anything,” said Evans about the band's current approach to recording. “When you feel those pressures from the outside or you put those pressures on yourself sometime you don’t do your best work.”

Evans remains optimistic that the group will begin working on “Cinematics Vol. II” sometime next year. Once the band’s members release new music, they don’t intend to embark on the kind of heavy touring of their early days. 

“Our heads not into that,” said Evans. “When you are young, you can go out on the road all the time and we did, but then life changes,” he said. “We are older, the music industry has changed and we are lucky that we don’t have to do it all the time.” 

He stressed that they still enjoy playing together but choose to tour smart and play the shows that they want to play like the Wormtown Festival. So do take advantage of this rare opportunity to see Soulive in Western Mass when they take the Wormtown stage at 10 p.m. on Saturday. For ticket information and detailed schedule of the entire festival, visit wormtownmusicfestival.com.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.




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