Creation Stories: Erin & The Wildfire

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Erin & The Wildfire is a six-piece soul/rock/funk band lead by the incredibly dynamic vocalist, Erin Lunsford. The Charlottesville-based band has been steadily carving out a reputation for themselves in recent years as one of the most captivating live acts to come out of Central Virginia since their formation in 2012.

Their new album, Thirst, will be out this Friday, September 29, and we talked with Erin about the band’s formation, and what inspired their sound, and their favorite artists. Check it out below!

How did the band come together?

Nick, Matt, Ryan and I met in 2011 at University of Virginia in a student recording group called ORecords. I was the president at the time and I had to pick people to play on various songs we performed at the end-of-semester showcases. We gelled from the beginning and all had a shared passion for performance and dad jokes. Saxophonist and pianist, Garen Dorsey, joined the band in 2016 after we played together in a Jazz-Opera in Charlottesville written by John D’Earth. And the most recent addition is trumpet player, background vocalist, flautist, and pianist Austin who we heard would be a great addition through the grapevine.

Who or what has inspired your sound and upcoming album, Thirst?

Thematically, Thirst was inspired by my quest for (romantic) love. Epitome of unrequited love. I’d say a quarter of the songs are about one person in particular who I chased for a few years. The genre/feeling for the album was inspired by our collective love of a bunch of musicians including Alabama Shakes, Vulfpeck, Funkadelic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lake Street Dive, and Stevie Wonder. We wanted to write funk/soul music that was fresh and expressive while still being true to our sound.

Is there a story behind your band name?

Originally we were billed as Erin Lunsford & The Smokey Bandits, which we quickly realized was a mouthful and needed to be more succinct. Many brainstorming methods were exhausted in a frantic attempt to squeeze our “mind grapes” for a replacement moniker (drum circles, word association, vision quests, etc), but the muses eluded even our most concerted efforts. Inspiration finally struck when hopes of a snappy new identity were at their nadir, in the form of a Smokey The Bear PSA that appeared on television during an awkward breakfast at a local diner. “Only you can prevent wildfires,” said the ursine sage, and he was absolutely right. The only thing stopping us from adopting this befitting summation of the contagious energy and raging passion that we bring to the stage every night, was ourselves. So we sparked the match and never looked back.

What is your favorite show memory?

I think our favorite show in recent memory was our 2015 set at Floydfest. We played in a covered stage area called The Speakeasy and the whole set was just electric. I felt like the audience would have followed us anywhere we went with the set that night–they were so on board and eager to hear our songs. We did an impromptu call and response at one point that was so fun, we nailed our newest cover rendition that night (“Signed Sealed Delivered”), and we gained a ton of fans from that play. It was such a high and such a humbling, heartwarming experience.

What would be your dream tour and why?

Dream tour would be an opening spot for Vulfpeck and then they would surprise everyone and do a string of shows with Lake Street Dive and we would still get to open up every night. We haven’t been to the west coast yet; ideally in this situation Vulfpeck would hold our hand and tenderly introduce us to Cali and beyond.️

Tell us about your writing process; any unusual quirks?

I usually find inspiration when I’m on long drives. I have a huge ‘note’ in my phone that I keep adding lyrics to as they come, but I mostly record on my phone voice memo app. I can’t say it’s the safest process – I’m usually driving 75mph on the interstate when a hook hits me and I have to get to voice memos on my phone before it’s gone from my brain forever. I usually write the melody, chords, and lyrics for the songs and then we arrange and add parts as a group to bring it to life.

What’s your favorite song to cover?

We love to cover Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” It’s so real and so applicable to every audience. I always feel more intimately connected and comfortable with the audience after singing that tune.

If you were to create a “soundtrack to your life,” what songs would be on it?

Funny you should ask! We just created a Spotify playlist with our top 10 songs, but we plan to keep adding to it and letting it evolve because we loved this idea!

Something – Laylah Hathaway & Snarky Puppy
Atomic Bomb – William Onyeabor
Don’t Huzzle for Love- The Apostales
In My Room- Jacob Collier
Pray For Rain- Pure Bathing Culture
Only Girl In The World- Rihanna
I Try – Macy Gray
What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes
Sunday Morning – No Doubt
Back Pocket – Vulfpeck

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