Introducing Tough Old Bird

Over the last few month’s my music world has been changed after discovering the musical talents of Dave Van Ronk, so much so that I shared my joy of his music on the post Introducing Dave Van Ronk. Since then, I have noticed bands who have been influenced by this artist, but for me not many have been able to capture the soul that he delivered in his music. However, I was recently introduced to the band Tough Old Bird who for me have captured the essence of this man within their music. Yes, I am giving big praise here, but when you listen to this bands music you can understand why.

So, who are Tough Old Bird? They are the brothers Matthew and Nathan Corrigan who together create a sound that they describe perfectly as ‘a potent blend of authentic folk and blues that reflects the rural landscape it comes from, a place where the last train just pulled out and the carnival is always on its way to the next town’. Matthew brings a captivating guitar style while the amazing vocal talents are delivered by Nathan who also plays the harmonica. I find it crazy that these guys have only formed this collaboration in 2013 as their sound feels like they have been around for a while as they sound so comfortable with each others musical talents.

In April 2014, the guys released their album ‘Never to Return’ which has a wonderful retro soul. The album delivers a stripped down sound that you would expect from their live performances and is also filled with some delicate vocals and intricate guitar playing with a nice use of the harmonica. It’s such an impressive EP, and I recommend you check out my favourite songs ‘By the Morning Sun’ and ‘Goodbye Rag’. Check out this release at their Bandcamp site (click HERE). The brothers have recently released their new EP ‘The Barn Sessions’ which I will talk about later in the post.

I had the opportunity to catch up with the brothers and ask them a few questions to find out a little more about Tough Old Bird. This is what they had to say:

WHAT INSPIRED YOU BOTH TO BECOME MUSICIANS AND TO WORK TOGETHER TO CREATE TOUGH OLD BIRD?

MC: We both grew up listening and sharing the same music, and our musical tastes are very much in line with the each other’s. I started playing guitar towards the end of high school but didn’t perform much. Nate started playing harmonica around the same time and we started playing at a few open mics in the area, doing Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash covers, stuff like that. I started writing my own songs when I went to college and met people who were into the same music as I was and wrote their own. I was encouraged by that. Tough Old Bird came about pretty naturally. We both had started writing songs and liked what the other was doing and enjoyed performing together. It just took a while to find a name.

NC: Yea, music has always been a big thing for me, but it took me a long time to come around to the idea that it was something I could do. Once we started playing together it became pretty obvious that it was the right thing to do. It also helps not to have a lot of other options. I’ve got a pretty useless degree in literature, but other than that it’s either be in this band or get a job shoveling crap somewhere.

YOU HAVE RECENTLY RELEASED YOU SECOND ALBUM. WHAT WERE YOUR PLANS WHEN YOU BEGAN WORKING ON IT AND HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM YOUR DEBUT RELEASE?

MC: Our debut “Never To Return” was written almost entirely by e-mail. I was in school, Nate was living in Syracuse and we would send songs we had written back and forth and polish them up whenever we got together for a holiday or camping trip. There’s ten songs on that album and that’s pretty much all we had finished at that point. When we were getting ready to record “The Barn Sessions,” we had been writing and playing together much more and we were able to look at the songs we had and pick ones that would go together for an EP.

NC: Another big difference is that the new EP was all recorded live in one room. We just went in and worked it out in a few hours, which is really fun and I think you end up with more energy in the songs. Almost everything on there is a first take. Our first album was a little more pieced-together.

WHAT IS FAVORITE SONG FROM ‘THE BARN SESSIONS’ AND WHY?

MC: I would pick “Soon, My Son.” It’s the most collaborative song on there lyrically, and it’s a blast to play live. Nate’s harmonica solo is diesel.

NC: I’m pretty proud of “Rushford, NY 1927.” We don’t write a lot of historical songs or songs that are based on a true story, but that one is about an actual lake near where we grew up. They built Rushford Lake in 1927, and the towns that were in the valley ended up at the bottom of the lake.

END OF THE WORLD IS ALMOST UPON YOU AND YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO LISTEN TO ONE SONG. WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

MC: “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine might be the most perfect, beautiful thing ever written. It completely captures that sweet nostalgic feeling of looking back and passing time. “Don’t Look Down” written on Heaven’s gates, I mean, you just can’t beat that.

NC: “Come On Up To the House” by Tom Waits. That’ll get you ready for the ever-after.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS AND GOALS FOR TOUGH OLD BIRD?

MC: We’re going to be doing some traveling this summer and are excited to take TOB to new places. We’ll be going through Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York City for the first time, not to mention shows at some of our favorite local places around Buffalo and Rochester.

NC: I just want to keep writing better songs and play them for more people. If we could ever get this thing to a point where we can do it full-time and not have to have other jobs, that would be amazing. I think when you start a band, you kind of have to go into it knowing that, as far as odds go, you’re not going to make it. There’s just no way. And than you have to want to do it badly enough that you don’t care about that. That’s about where we’re at right now.

‘The Barn Sessions’ EP is a genuine audio delight. During the time between releases it sounds like they have fined tuned their song writing ability as well as bringing an improved sound. Like their previous release, they have delivered another stripped down performance that is no frills, and just focuses on letting their musical talent shine.

Choosing a favourite element to their music is difficult as the brothers bring their own musical talents which effortlessly blend together to deliver their amazing sound. I never get tired of their combination of sublime vocals and guitar style with some cool harmonica playing in support which can be heard of my favourite song ‘Busted up Blues’. This is my type of song which is a great mix of folk and blues. You should also check out my other highlight called ‘Rushford, NY 1927’ which is another example of their impressive song writing abilities.

‘The Barn Sessions’ is such a wonderful release and is such a pleasure to listen to. I will be shocked if this does not feature in my top 10 releases on my end of year post. All I can say is that you need to give this EP a listen even if it is not your usual type of sound. This is music written in an honest and grounded fashion that it is so easy to connect to. Go on, head over to their Bandcamp page (click HERE) and give ‘The Barn Sessions’ a listen. If you enjoy this release as much as me then you can grab a copy while you are there.

I am a huge fan of the music created by Tough Old Bird and after hearing their music I hope you are too. I am already eager to hear new music from the brothers as even though their song writing is very impressive, I feel they will get even stronger. If you want to keep up to date with their musical journey then you can head over to their website at ToughOldBird.com or their social media pages at Facebook and Twitter.

When music sounds as good as this it is our duty as fans to help spread the word. By doing so musicians can continue to do what they love by creating more new music which is a win win situation. So go on, support the music that matters to you today and hopefully this will include the wonderful music created by Tough Old Bird.