Formed almost by happenstance, Fuzzy (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Joseph K. Renowden (guitar), Eric Adams (bass), Amanda Stoddard (vocals), and Joe Newton (drums) create this home-grown group, most who’ve come from different musical experiences and backgrounds. The band has quickly become one of the newest contributors to the swelling Americana scene– one filled with life and an insurgence of brand new stories to be told.
After releasing a full-length album, That Sweet Song, in 2019, Fuzzy & The Rustbelts are back with their newest single, “Long Lost Wind,” a song that reinforces the beauty of the adventure that’s encompassed in the Americana scene.
“Long Lost Wind” captures the essence of the empowering aspects of breaking free and starting fresh, which can sometimes be daunting. With country-western guitar solos and soulful harmonies, listeners can expect their heart rate to go up in excitement and maybe, just maybe, start thinking about starting a new life where the tumbleweed tumbles out west.
The release of “Long Lost Wind” follows a very successful last few years for Fuzzy & The Rustbelts. On top of sharing the stage with acts like Maddie & Tae and Willie Nelson (yes that Willie!), the band also accomplished quite a lot on their own accord– including winning the 106.5 WYRK Taste of Country Riser competition, as well as getting two of their music videos featured on DittyTv.
With “Long Lost Wind,” Fuzzy & The Rustbelts hope to only keep accomplishing more. We had the chance to discuss the single, pinnacle band moments, the relevance of radio, and more.
So how did Fuzzy & The Rustbelts come together?
It came together kinda by accident. I had taken a break from playing and writing for several years. It really wasn’t until my kids were born that I began feeling the urge to write again. I started playing small bars and coffee shops. By early 2018, I approached a friend of mine, Karl Maciag who ran sound production at my church, and I asked him to help me record an acoustic EP. Minimal overdubs, lo-fi. Sort of like an early sixties, Bob Dylan kind of thing.
As we got into pre-production, we realized that most of the songs were going to need a full band compliment. So I reached out to some folks who were on the worship team at my church. Eric Adams was my first choice for bass. The guy can play anything you throw at him, plus he’s a total theory junkie – which is great for someone like me, who can’t read music. It’s a win-win. On drums we pulled Jeff Pacer, who also ended up doing some of the organs on our 2019 release. Originally, we had Ross Brown on guitar – a real talented player but after a few rehearsals he took a gig out west. It was definitely disappointing, but it made me think of my cousin, Joe Renowden (Butch). I actually taught him his first guitar chords when we were kids. Butch got into the metal scene in Buffalo, so I wasn’t sure if he’d be up for a switch to the Americana genre. But he said he was looking to dig into something new, so he was on board.
Finally, I wanted a secondary vocal that could really add some depth to the music – and we got really lucky with Amanda Stoddard. She’s the best female vocalist that I’ve had the opportunity to sing with. She has a degree in music education, plays piano, and pulls harmonies out of thin air.
We rehearsed throughout that summer, and by August we recorded at Old Bear Records in Batavia, New York, just outside of Buffalo. It wasn’t really until after we made the first record (“That Sweet Song”) that I asked if they’d be interested in turning this whole thing into a band. Butch, Eric, and Amanda were in, but Jeff couldn’t commit the time, so that left us looking for a new drummer. Joe Newton – Newt, as I like to call him – was this killer punk rock drummer we all knew from church. When I called him up, he immediately said, “YES!” After that, we began rehearsing for our album release show that coming February (2019).
What have been a few pinnacle moments the band has seen so far?
Oh man, there’s been a lot. Selling out our album release show, which was our first show as a band. Sharing the stage with Maddie & Tae, Mitchell Tenpenny, and Rodney Atkins at the WYRK Spring Acoustic concert in Buffalo. Debuting two of our music videos, “That Sweet Song” and “Home (Away from Home)”, on DittyTv. Winning the local 106.5 WYRK Taste of Country Riser competition.
We were pretty busy playing various festivals and stages throughout Western New York. But the pinnacle moment of 2019 was being invited to perform at the Outlaw Music Festival with Alison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, and Willie Nelson. Twenty thousand people– that was surreal and we’ll never forget it. Well, at least I won’t. Plus, I got to go out on stage and sing the last song with Willie and all the supporting acts, so that was pretty cool. Which is probably an understatement.
How has the radio helped get y’all out on the scene?
Buffalo’s 106.5 WYRK – the local country station – has been a huge supporter of ours. Our relationship with them has allowed us to get in front of audiences that take years to grow. Now, 2020 has sucked due to COVID, but we’re still able to reach people through WYRK’s virtual concerts on Facebook and radio. Obviously, we haven’t been able to play many live shows this year, but WYRK has been in our corner, playing the singles we released this fall. But we’ve had other radio support, too – The Grey Eagle Radio Show out in Minnesota, Big Frog 104 in Central New York, Roots Rednecks & Radicals in Carson City, Nevada, Alt 101.7 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. All of that helps us with our growing online presence and connecting with new listeners. We’re really thankful.
How has the band’s sound changed over the years?
Since our inception, I would say it has changed quite a bit. When we recorded “That Sweet Song,” those songs were totally new to the band. Since then, we’ve had more opportunities to rehearse and perform those songs live as a group. So, that album has kind of marinated over time, going from this solo project with guest musicians to where the songs got molded by this new “thing” that became “Fuzzy & The Rustbelts.”
We finally started sounding like a group – and you can hear that in our most recent single, “Long Lost Wind.” You can clearly hear the maturity and group collaboration. And this was Newt’s first recording with everyone, so it’s great to finally get his style on a record so people can hear what his sound gives us. It’s just really fresh and contributes so much to who we’ve become as a band. “Long Lost Wind” was truly a collaborative effort. We all had something to say and it shows on the record. It’s our best work so far, in my opinion.
Who or what would you say has the most profound influence on your sound?
I would be lying if I didn’t credit Jason Isbell. Since I began listening to his music, I feel I’ve received a master’s education on what it means to be a true storyteller. But Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Shawn Mullins, John Moreland, Chris Stapleton, Ryan Adams – they’ve all influenced us as well.
What was the writing process like for “Long Lost Wind?”
“Long Lost Wind” was sort of a four-step process. The topic came to me when I was at a park. I had finished going for a run, and was resting on a bench when I noticed two kids playing on the playground. They were unsupervised, which I thought was sort of odd because it was getting dark outside. As I sat there, I began to think about some of the folks I knew as a kid who grew up in homes less fortunate than others. A melody came to me and I began to hum it as I walked to my car. I grabbed a pen and began scribbling the first couple of lines of the song on a napkin.
That night I went to my rehearsal studio and began working on a guitar part. Once all the pieces were in place, I met up with Butch and we nailed down his lead part fairly quick. We recorded a rough cut of the song so we wouldn’t forget anything and, at the next band rehearsal, we took the time to dissect the song verse by verse. It was the kind of song that you could really sink your teeth into because there is a lot going on, especially the run at the end of the bridge.
What makes “Long Lost Wind” special to you, and hopefully for listeners?
It wasn’t really that special to me at first. Like many songs, you just write it and put it in a box until it’s time to develop it. It wasn’t until I performed it live on WYRK during the first COVID wave that I realized how much of an impact the lyrics had on other people. Folks who were victims of neglect and abuse were reaching out to tell me how much of an imprint the words made on them. That may be surprising to some because of the track’s upbeat tempo. However, when you strip away the instrumentation and get to the core message of the song, you begin to appreciate the content. So while I absolutely love all of the performances on this track, the thing that makes it special to me are the lyrics.
Your sophomore album is due to come out next year. Can you spill any details about it?
That’s all in the beginning stages, but very much in the works. However, due to the pandemic, we’re pushing the release to 2022. The recent singles we just put out were originally going to be part of a larger album, but we didn’t want to wait another year for their release. So we decided to drop them now while we work on new material for the next album.
“Plus, I got to go out on stage and sing the last song with Willie and all the supporting acts, so that was pretty cool. Which is probably an understatement.”
How else have y’all been getting creative with the shortage of live performance opportunities?
Back Porch Sessions. On our YouTube channel, we put together three fifteen minute episodes of all of us getting goofy and playing tunes. It was a lot of fun, and seemed to work better than playing live on Facebook. We’re hoping to revive it again this winter under a new name, Fireside Sessions. Also, we are preparing to release three music videos, one for each single, starting in February. And we finally unveiled our online store this past summer with some new merch – t-shirts, hats, stickers – all that. It’s been busy.
What are some Buffalo establishments that are near and dear to your heart that folks should know about?
Hands down our favorite place to play is Babeville Buffalo. We have worked with them since our first show and they’ve been awesome. Any touring musicians coming through Buffalo should definitely check them out. We have a great relationship with Mohawk Place, which is kind of like Buffalo’s CBGB. SPoT Coffee, Live Edge Brewing Co. and Hamburg Brewing Co. – those are always good for a solo acoustic show.
Is there anything else in store for Fuzzy & The Rustbelts in closing out 2020?
Our third and final single, “Perfect,” is set to release on December 4th. After that, we are going to hunker down, enjoy the Christmas season, then get back to work on projects in 2021.