Finding a most unique sound within a lyricism of the soul and an instrumentation deemed one-of-a-kind, the band – stemmed out of the shared musical passion and friendship of Makenzie Willox (lead vocalist and guitar) and Zak Thrall (bango) – seeks to enrich themselves and their listeners through a soundful road trip rooted in Colorado peaks and ending in the diverse landscapes of Texas. But regardless of where the river flows, anyone can feel free to wade amongst life’s myriad of emotions, for Shovelin Stone makes it a priority to balance fun, foot-stomping jives with profoundly established reflections. In short, there’s something for everyone, and if you’re an avid fan of Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, you sure as hell can add these guys to your playlist.
The single acts as an introduction to the band’s sophomore album, which is said to be filled with songs dedicated to “longing, love, and the hunger to be heard in this big world.” Does this constitute an entirely new era? We have yet to find out, but “Summer Honey” does show us a rather suggestive side to them that we haven’t yet heard before. And it’s as addictive as it can get.
The track describes the naive excitement one endures in the midst of a summer fling, falling for a girl who’s way out of reach – untouchable – but overwhelmingly alluring enough to make the temporary affair more than worth it. It’s the type of rush one gets when tangled up with someone who lives solely in the here and now, never a moment to rest, never a moment to wait – making you feel the most alive you’ve ever been.
The video exposes to the viewer what one could expect from a live performance, giving prominence to each of the players’ talents in intimate close ups, and showing their clear enthusiasm for their craft. “Put your hands all over me/ give me some of your honey” Willox croons into the mic during the catchy chorus, playing a pattern of chords that mirror a sunkissed spirit, while the buoyant roll of a banjo, a bass’s deep groove (Russick Smith) and a lively drum beat (Brett Throgmorton) complete the song in all its smooth-swingin’ glory.
Shovelin Stone was kind enough to give us the 4-1-1 on all things music, their album, and much more.
So I was hoping you could share some background on how the band came together, and the overall evolution of Shovelin Stone.
The band’s origin begins with Zak having just graduated college began traveling the globe. Meanwhile, back in Colorado, Makenzie was writing and performing music as a solo artist. After a few years of travel, Zak found himself living in Austin, TX. With that Makenzie saw an opportunity to try his hand in the Austin music scene, and moved down there to sleep on Zak’s couch in a tiny studio apartment.
After a few months, Makenzie wrote the song “Austin,” and with Zak’s accompanying banjo the two began noticing that people were liking what was coming out. So the two decided to give it a name, and then founded the duo Shovelin Stone. Soon after deciding we wanted to pursue music more seriously, we thought moving back to Colorado would be the best home base for us because that is where we are from.
After cutting our teeth within the bar/brewery scene in the Denver area, we began seeing the following and the venues growing at an exciting rate. When the stages began getting bigger the sound began growing as well. With the addition of multi-talented Russick Smith playing electric bass, cello, and mandolin as well as Brett Throgmorton on drums, the sound grew exponentially. We then sat out to record our second record named Summer Honey in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia with Grammy-winning producer Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show as a four-piece full folk rock band.
How would you describe your dynamic as creatives regarding the ways in which you work together and balance out your ideas?
Mackenzie generally comes up with chords and lyrics. Once he thinks that he has something worth showing to the band, he brings it to us. Once we get our hands on it we collectively as a band come up with arrangement and creative ideas as to make the song full-bodied. Makenzie brings us a coloring book and we color it in.
What overall messages and feelings do you try to convey within your music?
I try to convey all that I have gone through and express myself through my words. The overall message is to treat others with kindness, all while living still truthfully and authentic to yourself. To overall spread a feeling of love and positivity. To make the listener think.
I’ve read that you, Makenzie, believe there to be an acoustic and folk ‘revolution’ in the midst. Can you share more of your thoughts on that? Why do you think that is, and how do you see it affecting music in the long-term?
I think that it is so easy nowadays to share art and expression that that is a catalyst for fueling Americana music, because Americana music traditionally was three chords and the truth. So with technology progressing these days, all you need is a guitar and something to say, and you can make folk/Americana music. Going forward, I think that we will see the elimination of genre because we have so much inspiration to draw from, and that it is a breeding ground for songwriters. We are already seeing a renaissance of this with names such as Tyler Childers, Charley Crockett, Leon Bridges and Sturgill Simpson to name a few.
When writing, how much are your lyrics/stories based on real events/people, and how much of them stem from fiction? And what process would your single “Summer Honey” fall under?
My songs are based on personal experiences, but the stories generally go on the side of fiction. “Summer Honey” is the perfect example of this. I have experienced all of the feelings I portray in this song, but the story and character are fiction.
In what ways does “Summer Honey” reveal how your music has evolved, and in what ways does it give an inside look into what to expect for the upcoming record?
The most prevalent way to see the evolution of our sound is within the full band. On the first record we hired musicians to make our sound more full. On this record every instrument is played by a member of the band. That comes with the unique emotion that we convey as four unique individuals. What you can expect on this upcoming record is a sound you would expect in a live setting. We tried to capture the same emotion and energy we put out during a live performance on this record. Our producer Chance McCoy really embodied this during the recording process.
Does this new album have an overarching motif and influence throughout, or do the songs each separately tackle concepts on their own? Based on your answer, was the outcome intentionally done?
The overall motive of this record is to take a step back and a deep breath to reevaluate life as you know it. The record being written during a global pandemic relates to how we all had to step back and reevaluate ourselves. It was all done very intentionally and was maybe the most intentional piece or art I have ever written.
Other than the album, what else might we expect from Shovelin Stone for the rest of 2021?
We are expanding our following to outside of our home state. Having recorded the song in West Virginia, we were able to experience a community outside of our own comfort zone and we noticed that as a full band we were able to thrive in it. We are taking the record and hitting the road. With dates already booked in Utah and Kentucky, the process is already underway. We have had a full European tour postponed twice already due to Covid. We are booked again for April/May of 2022 and with a second album under our belts, I think that will be the tour of a lifetime.
A massive thank you for having us here and we hope you all like it!