While we were at Newport Folk Festival, we had the opportunity to talk with Martin Earley of Boston band The Ballroom Thieves. Following the release of their debut full-length album A Wolf in the Doorway, this was the band’s first time performing at the festival. They played a stellar set on Sunday to open up the Quad Stage – making more than a few new fans in the process, we’re sure.
Inyourspeakers: "So how is Newport Folk going for you?"
Martin Earley: "We’re reveling in the festivities…really excited to be here. It’s a personal and professional dream to be here in an artist capacity."
IYS: "You’ve come before as attendees then? Are you all local?"
ME: "Yeah, we’re all from around New England. I’m from Maine, Calin [Peters] is from Boston, and Devin [Mauch] is from New York.
As was revealed during their set on Sunday, Devin and Martin actually came up with the band’s name at Newport Folk Festival. That, and they used to sneak in alcohol in sunscreen bottles (though they don’t advocate the practice).
IYS: "That’s awesome, to be able to play at your local festival. I know last year Paul Janeway from St Paul and the Broken Bones was psyched to be at Bonnaroo as an artist, after previously volunteering there."
ME: "Newport Folk Festival is doing more and more with supporting local musicians. Like the Rubber Tracks Contest, a couple of our friends are here because of that – The Ghost of Paul Revere, and Grey Season* . Also, Haunt the House and Joe Fletcher, they’re [both] from Rhode Island."
*Actually Honeysuckle, of which Grey Season's Benjamin Burns is also a member.
IYS: Who are some of your must-sees for Newport this year?
ME: "I’ll definitely be checking out The Tallest Man On Earth, Sturgill Simpson, and the Barr Brothers."
As we mentioned earlier, The Ballroom Thieves released their debut full-length back in April. You can listen to "Archers" off of A Wolf in the Doorway at the top of the page, and we definitely recommend checking out the full album. The band had previously released a couple of EPs back in 2012 and 2013, but this release has resulted in far greater recognition.
IYS: "What has the response to the new album been like?"
ME: "It’s been great. We’ve toured pretty heavily with it in the Midwest, and on the East Coast. It’s one of our first real tours, and there has been a real change in audience attendance and excitement."
IYS: "How would you describe The Ballroom Thieves’ sound?"
ME: "We’re a rock band in a folk suit. We glean off of folk influences – lyrically, the folk world has a big bearing on what we’re doing. But we’re not really just a straight up folk band. Folk has a lot of rules; we’re a little out of pocket for a folk band."
IYS: "Folk rock is a pretty crowded field right now. What sets you guys apart?"
ME: "We don’t adhere to many rules. We’re having a good time exploring how to bend and break the rules, and come up with our own sound. Folk has become so broad, as evidenced by the lineup here."
IYS: "What is your writing process like? Who does the writing?"
ME: "I do all the writing, for now. The other two [Devin and Calin] are starting to write as well; we’re constantly trying to explore. I’m inspired by all sorts of things – personal things, friends’ things, and reading. On tour there is a lot of time to read in the van on the road."
IYS: "What are you reading these days?"
IYS: "Thanks for talking with us today! One final question – how did you end up in music, is it what you always thought you'd be doing?"
ME: "I worked a job for two years after college doing social media for an online retailer, and realized that sitting in an office wasn’t for me. When I was laid off from that job, I starting taking music more seriously. I can’t imagine not doing it now."
The Ballroom Thieves will continue touring through this fall, check out dates here to see if they’re headed your way. We definitely recommend checking them out if you have the chance!
Check out the links below for more from the band, along with some shots of their Newport Folk set.