The clock is about to run out on 2017. But that doesn't mean CHIRP Radio is done celebrating the holiday season and an amazing year for the station. Not with Chicago band The Right Now ringing in the New Year in style with an "Up All Night" show on December 31st at The Hideout. We recently had a chance to talk to Brendan and Stef about the band and what they've got going on for the New Year...
First, an introduction for the CHIRP readers. Tell us something you want us to know.
Greetings! We’re a seven-piece soul/pop band from Chicago called The Right Now. We’re very excited to partner with CHIRP for an amazing New Year’s Eve show at the Hideout.
As we close out 2017, what do you see as the band’s big accomplishments for the past year?
Brendan (keys, guitar): We had a big year in 2017 since we released Starlight, our first album in five years. The band hit the road hard, playing fests and clubs all over the midwest and East Coast. The reception to the album was pretty incredible. We knew we had done something our fans would appreciate, but hearing NPR’s Sound Opinions rave about it (comparing Stef to Adele!) and getting spins on college radio all over the country knocked our socks off. We also had a tragedy this year that Stef will touch on.
Stef (lead vocals): 2017 will be the year that forever changed my life. Brendan touched on some of the incredible support the band received upon the release of our third album, Starlight. It was so amazing to release a product after five years and have it be so well received. We got to go back out on the road and tour following the release and had a packed summer with some really memorable moments.
Unfortunately, 2017 will leave me, my family, and this band with an immense loss. Tragedy struck my homefront early this year when I lost my very best friend and the father of my children tragically to suicide. Since then, this band has gotten much closer as family and as a creative team. We take our jobs very seriously as we realize that we have such a unique platform to connect and help people while we are here. We’ve partnered with Hope For The Day, an incredible organization that is on a fearless mission to make mental health a safe and comfortable topic to talk about. Founder Jonny Boucher and the rest of their team were there for my family when I needed their support the most and we are honored to give back where we can to this extremely important cause. Readers can visit this page for more information on our story.
Were there any records released in 2017 that caught your attention?
Stef: Moonchild - Voyager and Jessie Ware - Glasshouse have both been on steady rotation.
Brendan: I’ve been all over the place this year. Kesha’s Rainbows is a triumphant record, both personally and musically. Thundercat’s Drunk is so weird, and so good. But my album of the year was hands down A Deeper Understanding from The War on Drugs. I haven’t been so mesmerized by an album in years.
It seems like, thanks to bands like yours, younger people are discovering instrument-based Soul and R&B music. If a youngster who just bought your records asked you who else they should build their collection around, what would you tell them?
Brendan: I think the classics (Aretha, Stevie, Curtis) are obvious choices. But digging a little deeper, I would suggest Otis Clay’s Trying To Live My Life Without You for a heavy dose of great songwriting and Hi Records production. The pinnacle of soul music to me--that perfect combination of musicality, instrumental prowess, arrangement, and arresting vocals--would be Donny Hathaway’s catalogue. Just thinking about his version of “A Song For You” makes me tear up!
Stef: This band has paid serious mind to telling our stories. I would give advice to the younger generation to find those artists that connect the dots and are masters at crafting their story. I’ve been in love with Donny Hathaway for as long as I can remember and wish we had much more time with him. Chaka Khan and Jill Scott have been such inspirations to me as frontwomen and master storytellers on stage.
This New Year’s Eve show will be at the Hideout, one of Chicago’s fantastic music venues. Do you have any favorite performance spots in the Midwest you’ve come across in your travels?
Stef: I love playing intimate venues like Hideout, Lincoln Hall, and SPACE here in Chicago. They are always shows that I feel deserve that extra attention, because they are just filled with live music lovers. The Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis has a loyal built in crowd and is always an exciting show outside of the city. MOTR in Cincy is a party every time that we love to attend as well.
Brendan: Stef hit on a lot of the great ones. We’ve also loved playing Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, The Cedar in Minneapolis (amazing green room), and Founders in Grand Rapids.
Finish this statement: “When I’m not on stage, rehearsing, or traveling, you can usually find me….”
Stef: Cleaning spaghetti sauce off my three year old son’s face. Ha!
I love my role in life as mom to two incredible tiny humans, Ryan (3) and Angelene (9). So most of my time is centered around them and keeping them happy, healthy, and proving that their mom is the damn coolest. You can find me in PJs around a crock pot this time of year. I also like to make sure to get out and see live music as much as I can.
Brendan: Angrily texting Stef and asking her why she hasn’t replied to my email from earlier in the day, only to sheepishly realize that she’s busy cleaning spaghetti sauce off of her son’s face. In all seriousness, I’m a jack-of-all-trades like many musicians. I run a music lesson business, write songs for other artists, score TV, film, and podcasts, cook dinner for my family, and about fifty seven other things every day.
Where do you see The Right Now’s music evolving in the next few years? Are there places you haven’t been where you would like to go? Is there anyone in particular you’d like to work or tour with?
Brendan: Our journey started in the retro soul realm and we’ve been slowly evolving ever since, always searching for the best songs and most appropriate vehicle for Stef’s powerful, captivating voice. I think the next batch of songs will be some of our most emotionally charged and personal music. Songwriting and performing is a form of therapy, and that’s been at the forefront of our minds since losing David to suicide.
I love touring and hope that our music will bring us overseas. We’ve been blessed to tour with some great bands (Fitz & The Tantrums, Orgone, Lee Fields, George Clinton) but there are so many more on the list: Allen Stone, Mavis Staples, and more. And if we are talking pipe dreams, I want to work on an album with Daniel Lanois!
Stef: I have to agree with Brendan that these next few years may result in some of the most impassioned material we’ve created. I’m always excited to develop our live show and continue to grow as the frontwoman of this band. We recently worked hard on creating a killer soul bill including some of our favorite people/musicians. DeRobert & The Half-Truths (Nashville) and JC Brooks Band (Chicago) joined us on a few shows in the Midwest and it would be so thrilling to bring a show like that on the road for a string of dates in the US or overseas.
What are you looking forward to for 2018?
Brendan: We’ve got a bunch of great festivals lined up for next year and some plans to circle back to a lot of the cities we hit in 2017. We’ll also release a politically charged cover (how can you not in this day and age) and start working on our next release. TRN will celebrate our tenth year as a band and we’ve got a huge show lined up for April in Chicago to celebrate. As Stef mentioned before we’ve made talking about mental health and suicide awareness a big part of our lives. So we’ll continue to work with Hope For The Day and help folks as much as we can in 2018.
Stef: I look forward to taking some big strides with The Right Now this year. We are excited to lock ourselves in a room in early 2018 to start fleshing out a lot of new material we have been working on. Getting our next music video on deck is in the plan and that is always a crazy and exciting undertaking. There may also be some exciting collaborations in 2018.