Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith, better known as the art folk duo Oakes & Smith, first came together in 2007 when Smith assisted Oakes with his full-length record, Heart Broken Open. Happily, it ended up being more than a one-time collaboration, as the two were not only able to work together rather effortlessly, but they found they truly brought the best out of one another. Robert recalls it well: “Working with Kate really drew me out. She inspired me to get out there again and get back in touch with that magic of the moment, and this has brought me so much joy.”
Currently calling Tyringham, Massachusetts home, Oakes & Smith have developed quite the fan base, successfully funding their latest record through a Kickstarter campaign; the debut full-length album for the twosome, titled First Flight. The two told us all about it – they said, “Whereas our 2011 release, The School Session EP, was a hushed four-song, mostly live recording with guitar, piano and our two voices, First Flight is a fully produced, full-length album that features a backing band and a bigger, more polished sound. There are some quiet, meditative moments, for sure, but there are also some up-tempo tunes with very lively arrangements…Threaded through the album are themes of love and leap-taking, dreaming and wonder, connection with nature and spirit and hope for the future.” Click to www.oakesandsmith.net to sample some tunes off of First Flight and keep an eye out for a show in your area as Oakes & Smith hit the road in support. There’s still much more to get into, so read on for all the answers to the XXQs below.
XXQs: Oakes & Smith
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over others in your genre?
Oakes & Smith (OS): Soulful. Peaceful. Harmonious. Lyrical. The foundation of our act is the love and connection between us, as well as the connection we feel to nature and to spirit. It’s about looking for union. We try to express that in the closeness of our harmonies and the gentle longing in many of the lyrics. It’s also about a return to innocence and simplicity. We try to express that through organic, pure acoustic sounds and by letting our voices, melody and message shine through.
PEV: Calling Tyringham, MA (Western Massachusetts) home, what kind of music were you two into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
Robert Oakes (RO): We live in Western Massachusetts now, but we are both transplants. I am originally from New Jersey, and though I grew up during the days of 80s pop, hair metal, and then 90s grunge, I listened to a lot of 60s- and 70s-era rock and prog. My favorites were The Who, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Rush, Queen, King Crimson. I also loved artists like Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Joe Jackson, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, as well as traditional music from Ireland and the UK. The first big concert I remember going to was David Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour in 1987 with Squeeze as the opening act.
Katherine Smith (KS): I grew up in Northeastern Connecticut, which is known as “the Quiet Corner” of the state. My first loves were musical theater, classic rock and jazz vocalists. I could be found in my room most afternoons or evenings listening to the voices of Mandy Patinkin, Angela Lansbury, Donna McKechnie, Colm Wilkinson, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Roberta Flack and many more. My first concert was Nora Jones during the time when she was touring her first album Come Away With Me.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
OS: We’re fortunate to live in an area (the Berkshires) where there is a huge support system for fledgling artistic ventures. Many artists of various kinds live and work here, and it’s a very nurturing place for creative work. When we were first starting out, we would play our songs for friends at weekly music and art shares that we hosted at our apartment, and we were given lots of love and positive feedback. This encouraged us to keep at it. We then started making some small public appearances as a duo, including at a performance workshop led by singer/songwriter Joy Askew in New York City, which really helped grow our confidence in our act. Following this, we booked our first full show at a coffeehouse called Victoria Station in Putnam, Connecticut and invited lots of friends and family. We were a bit nervous at first; this was the first time we were really putting ourselves out there as an act doing a full show. But before long, we got into the groove and people really loved the music we were playing. We felt so uplifted and so excited to continue.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Oakes & Smith show?
OS: We aim to give our audiences a pure and authentic experience – it’s us onstage, singing our songs and sharing our love.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
RO: I say a little prayer to invite a guiding presence.
KS: I try not to over-think it. I open up and take in the moment.
PEV: How has playing in Oakes & Smith different from working with other artists or projects in the past?
RO: As a writer, I can sometimes become a bit too internal and cut off. But when I play live, I can tap into a powerful pulse and feel those amazing moments of mutual connection. When Kate came into my life, I was spending most of my time writing and recording songs but not venturing out to play live all that much. Working with Kate really drew me out. She inspired me to get out there again and get back in touch with that magic of the moment, and this has brought me so much joy.
KS: In the past, I performed other people’s music. In Oakes & Smith, I am one of the writers. I am able to pour myself completely into what we do. It makes me feel like I’m able to come from a very real place when I perform, because it’s very personal. And this makes me feel like I’m in the process of fulfilling my life’s path.
PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?
OS: Now and then, little moments of meaning or clarity come through. We get those brief chances to see into the soul of things. Whenever that happens, we try to say something about it in a song using language and sounds that evoke some of the qualities of this experience. Dreams and memories are big sources of inspiration, as are others’ music, writings or artwork. Time spent meditating or walking in the woods or standing by the ocean can be very fruitful. Often, in those quiet moments of reflection, melodies or phrases will come. Sometimes, though, ideas come at less convenient or romantic moments. And it can be hard to scribble down notes in the car or the shower.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
RO: I do retrace my steps and remember things I felt or experienced along the way. It’s one of the ways I find inspiration and it’s a way to take account of growth and change. Interestingly, since starting to play with Kate, I’ve felt inspired to pull out tunes I wrote many years ago, when I was just starting out as a singer/songwriter. It’s been so grounding to do this, to remember my roots and feel again some of the same things that moved me back then.
KS: Coming from a performance background mainly rooted in theater and choral groups, I never imagined myself being confident enough to sing and perform material that I helped compose and arrange. When I reflect on my past experience, my past self never had the slightest inkling that I would meet a musical partner and that we would embark on this adventure together. I see the formation of Oakes & Smith as the beginning of my career in music.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Oakes & Smith?
RO: I was obsessed with the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons when I was growing up. Many, many teenage nights were spent exploring imaginary dungeons and killing orcs and trolls with a roll of the dice.
KS: I hate movies and videos where things jump out at you unexpectedly – that’s the worst feeling. I try to stay away from slasher films.
PEV: Tell us about your release, First Flight. What can fans expect from this work?
OS: Whereas our 2011 release, The School Session EP, was a hushed four-song, mostly live recording with guitar, piano and our two voices, First Flight is a fully produced, full-length album that features a backing band and a bigger, more polished sound. There are some quiet, meditative moments, for sure, but there are also some up-tempo tunes with very lively arrangements. It features 10 of our songs and two traditional tunes – “Factory Girl” and “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” and performances by some excellent musicians, all beautifully mixed by engineer Oz Fritz. Threaded through the album are themes of love and leap-taking, dreaming and wonder, connection with nature and spirit and hope for the future.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete, and you can sit back and listen to it for the first time?
RO: It can actually make me feel pretty emotional. Anytime I start to work on something, I’m taking a leap of faith and putting my trust in a very mysterious process. Until something is seen all the way through to completion, the whole thing feels precarious and fragile. So, when it does finally come together and I can see it, I often get this wave of relief and reassurance in my faith that can really get me choked up. At the same time, I also usually get this feeling that there’s still more I could have said or some other way I could have said it. I guess this is the drive that keeps me wanting to write.
KS: Whenever a piece of artwork that I have made or have helped make has reached a point of completion, I first feel relieved that the tension in trying to bring forth what I see in my mind’s eye has finally made it to the other side for others to experience. Listening to one of our songs for the first time is exciting. I often get overwhelmed, thinking, “Hey, we just made something that was never there before.”
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
RO: When others can join me in performing or hearing a song I wrote and we can have a shared experience through that, it’s like no other feeling. It makes me feel such a deep sense of connection.
KS: I feel a lot of things at once, mostly pride and curiosity about how others will receive and experience the work.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
OS: We would love to take our music to Europe and have the experience of traveling through the different countries there, sharing our music, meeting people and seeing new places.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
OS: Our friends and family have been very supportive. We ran a campaign on Kickstarter to raise the money we needed to finish First Flight, and many family members and friends came out in support of the project. Robert’s high school class even created a Facebook page to help garner support for the campaign, which was so moving. Just recently, we played at the Pomfret School in Pomfret, Connecticut, where Kate performed many times in school productions. It was a beautiful experience to present this new work of ours on that same stage where Kate learned so much about performing. And to have so many family members and friends there to cheer us on was very heartwarming.
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
RO: I work on writing, editing and design projects and love to dabble in video production. I also love to read and take hikes with my Alaskan Malamute, Finn.
KS: Visual art is another one of my first loves, besides music. I also enjoy reading, hiking, entertaining friends and spending time with family.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
RO: Peter Gabriel. I love his flair for theatricality, his sensitivity to the inner experience of the artist, and his commitment to bringing deep soul and emotion to pop music. He’s been a real guiding light for me.
KS: I have, in recent years, become very moved by the music and interviews that I have seen of Joni Mitchell. I think that she is a mystic artist, someone who is very close to her soul and the pulse of the universe. I think she channels something very beautiful through her lyrics and performance, and I would love to learn from her.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
OS: Many people already know about the band HuDost. They’ve been out touring and recording together for more than a decade now. But for those who don’t know them, we definitely encourage people to check out their music. Jemal and Moksha have been good friends to us and are very inspiring in their commitment to their work and in the beautiful music they create.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?
RO: I would write books and teach. Or I would be a filmmaker.
KS: I would most likely teach or become an art therapist. I want to do something with my life that helps people and inspires them to lead their lives fully.
PEV: So, what is next for Oakes & Smith?
OS: We’re now booking shows for 2014 and working to get the word out about First Flight. We want to bring this music out into the world and reach as many people as possible.
Rain covered sidewalks, dim lighting, bar stools, and a local brew sound like a great night-add to that the harmonious and ultra mellow tunes of the duo, Oakes & Smith and the night is now complete . Intimate, genuine thoughts have been brought out into the open on Oakes & Smith’s debut album, First Flight. Whether they are playing an outdoor festival or inside a noisy bar, Oakes & Smith have the ability to bring a sense of calm and ease to the air.
Katherine Smith and Robert Oakes are compliments of each other as much whip cream is to homemade pumpkin pie. Smith, who contributes to the duo with her mesmerizing vocals and fretted dulcimer explains, “We were drawn together primarily because we understood each other’s artistic vision, and we’re lucky that we also found love. We’re only beginning to scratch the surface.” There is something so beautiful and real about Oakes & Smith-something that only explainable after truly feeling and listening to the music. Many art folk bands exist; yet, Oakes & Smith are one of the few that can actually change the vibe in the air.
Since getting their start in 2010-Oakes & Smith have been playing gigs and shows in cafes, bars, festivals and art centers. Oakes & Smith have opened and toured with HuDost, The Yoga Jubilee Festival, and the Made in the Berkshires Festival and many others. First Flight is just the beginning for this duo-who currently lives in Tyringham, MA-which has been a musical inspiration for both Oakes, (whose talents include his soothing vocals, guitar, percussion, bamboo flute, synth, and piano abilities) and Smith. Their new home is the locale for Smith’s paintings (of course, they’re amazing!), writing, and collaboration with other artists who help add to their music.
First Flight, is just the beginning for this good-timey-vibes duo. With songs so full of wisdom and true emotions, Oakes & Smith are unstoppable. Just like their poetry-influenced lyrics, Oakes & Smith will keep moving forward and continue to grow and mature in their musical abilities and will become much bigger. True artists like Oakes & Smith have been pushed by life and have successfully pushed back, which brings them to the top in the music industry. First Flight is a true representation of what real, pure, talent should sound like.
Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith met by chance in the summer of 2007 and as they connected immediately on many levels, the two brought their creative strengths together to form a project that has been progressing ever since. The two just released their brand new album, First Flight, in November of 2013, a beautiful folk effort with lush, multi-instrumental arrangements and stunning melodies in their vocal duets.
We had the chance to speak with the duo about their initial connection, their newest release, and what they have in store for 2014, so read through the jump and get acquainted with Oakes & Smith.
It seems that you both were more or less born into music, which for most, often with any profession, led to it becoming a major part of your lives. Has there ever been a point where you felt that you were doing this because it was in your blood? Did you ever want to do something else or wish that you had?
Robert Oakes: My father’s mother sang and played old-timey songs on the piano and my father’s uncle was a vaudeville performer in New York City-or so the story goes. My father was a singer and drummer and consummate showman, and my brother and I followed in his footsteps, playing in bands (including his) from the time we were little kids. The strange thing is, the musical presence in my family is a bit mysterious. None of us have had a whole lot of formal training. Mostly, it’s been something that has just come to us or has just always been there. So, yes, I have often felt that sense that I do this because it’s just a part of who I am, of who we are as a family. And I really don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t doing music in some way. That said, yes, I have felt the pull to do other things. I have also wanted to be a writer or a teacher, and actually, I have done a bit of both of those things, too.
Katherine Smith: Music has always been part of the atmosphere I grew up in. I can remember being a little kid and being brought to rehearsals that my parents’ local singing group held before they had a big show. My father always sang around the house and music was often playing on the radio during our day-to-day life. I have a large extended family that is very closely knit, and most of them are musically inclined or great appreciators of music. Our holidays and get-togethers often involve instruments and songs being shared, sung around campfires, pianos or simply in one another’s company. To this day, every time we have a family reunion, among the food tables and outdoor games, a stage is put up with sound equipment and microphones for family members to get up and play and sing throughout the day’s festivities. I think it’s safe to say that music is in my blood, and that I knew it would always be prominent in my life whether I made it my profession or not. I feel very fortunate to be embarking on a career that makes it a focal point. I do have many other interests, and though music is the main focus of my time and energy, I am actively painting and have been getting my feet wet with teaching, too.
At what point did you realize that you really wanted to follow that path and dedicate yourself to music?
Robert: I think, for me, it happened about two years in to college. I had been studying and learning and moving toward getting a degree and all that, but always, there was this gnawing feeling that there was something else I should be doing with my time and energy. Something was calling me. I remember, during those years, I would feel these intense flashes of inspiration and end up spending hours at the piano writing music, or taking long walks and dreaming up ideas for lyrics. More and more, a conflict was growing in me, whether to stay the course and complete my degree or to leave school and focus on my creative work. Finally, I decided to quit school and record my first album of original songs. At the time, I felt I was making a major choice for my life’s path, that I was choosing the life of an artist in no uncertain terms and devoting myself to the call of my creativity. Eventually, I did complete my degree, but it was never a clear and narrow path from that point on. Multiple times, I left school to follow my creative impulses or to have some other experience that I couldn’t find in college.
Katherine: My creative path has never been a clear-cut, easy-to-follow course for me. I have many creative outlets that have, in the past, competed for my full attention. I did always know that I wanted to be an artist when I grew-up, but what type was unclear. Just as music was a huge presence in my life growing-up, so was visual art and theater. It wasn’t until my later high school years leading into college that I began writing down some of my deeper thoughts and created some poetry, never thinking that, someday, I would meet someone like Robert who would help me craft those ideas into song compositions. I suppose I was always seeking a way to marry stage performance, visual art and music together. In a big way, being part of this duo exercises all of those creative muscles often. From making visuals that accompany each song, performing the music live on a stage, and composing new music with Robert, I often feel satisfied, like my whole creative self is being given the outlet it deserves.
Are their any artists or acts in particular that you feel have inspired your sound and style that you’ve adopted over the years?
Robert: There are many artists that have inspired me over the years. A few of the biggest for me are Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Yes, Jon Anderson, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Kate Bush, Cat Stevens, Joe Jackson, Walt Whitman, Rilke, Rumi, Hafiz, Hesse, Neruda, Thoreau, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, Tolkien. The list goes on, really.
Katherine: I would say that the list of musicians that I listen to and who have impacted my life continues to grow as I do. I am an active listener of many genres and musical time periods. I am always interested in experiencing new sounds and messages. That being said, I was a huge fan of the voices of Broadway shows and old jazz standards when I was a kid. I also loved powerful rock voices such as David Bowie, Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury. It was a pretty typical scene to see my friends and me driving down the road, blasting Queen in the car and singing/yelling all the words as we went along. In more recent years, I have been taking in more of the folk greats including Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Their songwriting and clear powerful voices stir up much inspiration.
And the area in which you two live is a major influence as well, right? How would you say your current locale affects your writing and the mood that goes into it?
We live in a renovated barn in a town of just a few hundred people in the Berkshires, the westernmost county in Massachusetts. This area is very quiet and filled with natural beauty and lots of cultural offerings like museums and music, theater, art and dance festivals in the summertime. This close kinship between art and nature that we feel all around us here definitely finds its way into our music. There is a sense of letting things follow their natural flow, rather than trying to force them into a particular mold or design. There is a sense of looking inward or reaching down into the roots of things, rather than looking outward to what the world wants or what others are doing. And there is a stillness or peace, the kind of pace you find when you walk far enough out into the woods for the manmade world to fall away, and you hear that soft breeze blowing up the valley through tree limbs that have been growing ever so slowly over years and years and years. We try to sing that presence into our songs as best we can.
When you two began collaborating initially, what was it that made you know that this was something to stick with? What do you feel each of you brings to the table to round out your sound?
The very first thing we collaborated on was a music video concept for a song that appeared on Robert’s 2009 album, Heart Broken Open. We sat and talked up ideas for how the video could go, and then Kate drew out the storyboard. Really, it was more than a storyboard. She created these beautiful little drawings that really conveyed the atmosphere of the story. That was the first moment we realized that there was a spark here. We immediately saw that we shared a very similar artistic sensibility and that what we were doing was the art equivalent of finishing each other’s sentences. It was so exciting and inspiring.
Eventually, we began singing together, and again, we found that our voices blended perfectly with ease. Together, our voices created a new sound that was more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t something you find every day. People sing together all the time, but it’s rare to find such chemistry.
Following that, we tried our hand at writing collaboratively, and there, again, we found connection. Songs began to come, we each contributed lyrics or melody, or Kate had the start of a song, which Robert helped her to finish, or Robert had a piece of music with no lyrics, and words that Kate had already written fit them perfectly. Kate also began to create images to go with the songs, to help express them visually, as well as lyrically and musically.
We each bring special strengths that help to shape the overall sound. Kate has a strong and penetrating voice that really shines, while Robert’s voice provides a deeper, subtler underscore. Robert also brings ability on a number of different instruments and years of experience with songwriting and arranging music. Kate comes from a background in which stage performance reigned supreme, so she brings a strong and solid stage presence, while Robert comes at it more from the point of view of writer, so he brings extra attention to the message and meaning behind the music and to how it is expressed in words. With Kate’s background in painting and drawing, she offers an added dimension by creating visual elements for the act. Of course, we both overlap in many ways, but it is in our individual strengths that we lift each other up.
Do you feel that your relationship is an advantage for this project or is there any kind of hindrance that makes it a different or more difficult process than it would otherwise?
Our relationship is definitely an advantage. There is a trust between us and a real sense that we are in this together with both feet. This is a musical act that we are trying to grow, yes, but it is also a relationship and a life together that we are building. This raises the stakes, perhaps, but the promise and rewards are also that much greater.
So your new album, First Flight, is still freshly released. How would you describe its sound and themes to a potential listener?
This is an acoustic folk or folk-rock album, but it gives nods to some other styles of music that have influenced us-new age, progressive rock, jazz, musical theater, among others. Unlike our 2011 School Session EP, which was pretty sparse in its instrumentation, First Flight features lush arrangements for a full band, including piano, upright bass, drums, acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, violin and viola. Front and center throughout are our two voices singing in close harmony. The overall mood of the album is pastoral and meditative, introspective with a touch of melancholy. But there is also a strong feeling of optimism
There are a number of themes woven through the album. Most emphasized are themes of love and relationship seen in a positive light, of following a call to create a life in alignment with your heart and soul, of pursuing dreams and visions, of a return to innocence and remembering a sense of childlike wonder, of experiencing the peace and beauty of nature, of a willingness to take a leap of faith because love and destiny compel you to do it.
What does the title and artwork represent in relation to the subject matter on the release?
The title of the album comes from the song “First Flight.” In the song, there’s an image of a bird that’s taught to fly by getting tossed from the nest. There’s a sense here that it’s only when we throw ourselves into life and take a chance on something or someone we love that we can really feel alive and follow our fate. There is also a faith that, if we do throw ourselves in, even though we don’t ever feel quite ready to fly, we’ll develop the skills or get the guidance and resources we need to achieve liftoff.
This has been a guiding spirit for us throughout this entire project and really, throughout our entire time together. There has been this sense of fate, a feeling that we were meant to meet and create something together, but that, to do so, we’d have to take some chances, following a call that pulls us from our comfort zones and into the unknown. We have also been inspired by this connection to remember the pure and simple things that have always sparked feelings of love, hope and faith within us from the time we were kids.
The wings on the cover signify flight, of course. They also serve as a reminder that it takes two wings to fly, bringing it all back to relationship and collaboration. The image could be seen as both bird wings or angel wings, so, there is also a nod to nature as a guiding presence, as well as to a spiritual guide that may also be present, though unseen.
There are a lot of musicians and instruments incorporated throughout the album and the arrangements are fantastic. Was this a collaborative effort at all in terms of how it’s written and structured or were you two solely in control of that?
Thank you. It started with songs that Robert had written some many years ago, or songs that Kate and Robert wrote together more recently, as well as a couple traditional tunes we love to sing. Starting off, it was just us singing to Robert’s guitar or piano. When it came time to begin thinking about making the album, Robert created arrangements for drums, bass, piano, synths, etc, recording demos at our home studio. This became the basis for our work with the musicians who played on the album. It gave them a starting point to understand how we heard the more developed versions of the songs. We then sat down with guitarist Justin Hillman and pianist Zack Cross and worked out those arrangements with them. In the process, Justin and Zack added their own unique style, and together, we worked out parts that allowed each to shine and lock in gracefully with one another, while also fully supporting the songs and our voices. Once we had this established, we began working with drummer Conor Meehan and bassist Dan Fabricatore in much the same way. We played a few gigs with this ensemble and then went in to the studio to start recording, with D. James Goodwin and Eli Walker engineering.
As time went on, other players were brought into the mix for certain additional parts and Justin Hillman also helped us with a lot of the overdubbing and editing we did at home during the final phase of recording. We also worked with producers Thom Soriano, Jason Loughlin and Jemal Wade Hines during different phases of the project. And mixing engineer Oz Fritz and mastering engineer Garrett Haines brought it all together beautifully. Each of these artists helped to shape the overall sound of the album. In the end, though the two of us certainly had a strong vision for the album from the outset and were very much involved in making choices along the way, we were helped quite a lot by the amazing musicians, engineers and producers who worked with us.
How did you choose who to get involved with this album for contributions? Were these all musicians you already knew?
Most were musicians we already knew; a few, like Thom, Jason and Dan were musicians that Robert has known and worked with for many years. Dan and Robert had their first band together when they were in middle school and Thom and Robert started making music together in high school. Jason and Robert had a band together in college. Others are friends we’ve met and worked with in more recent years, especially here where we live in the Berkshires, where we are fortunate to be a part of a great community of supportive musicians and artists. It all happened very organically. The right people seemed to come along at the right moment.
You released “The Holy Moment” a month after First Flight was out. Was that just a stand-alone track for the season or will that be on a future release?
“The Holy Moment,” for the moment, at least, is a stand-alone track. Maybe, one day, we’ll be able to do a full-length holiday album, and we can include it. We’d love to do that, actually. We’ve been recording holiday songs at home for a few years now and sharing them just with friends and family. This year, we wanted to honor that little tradition of ours by writing and releasing a professionally produced tune and offer it to a wider audience. For this, we invited in percussionist Brian Adler, bassist Dan Fabricatore and engineer Justin Hillman, who also played mandolin, to help us create the backing tracks. We worked with engineer Godfrey Diamond (Lou Reed, Judy Collins), who recorded the bass and drums and mixed the song. Then, we made a little homespun music video to go with it. The idea with this tune was to try to convey something of the wonder and mystery of Christmastime.
So now that First Flight has been out for a bit, what are you working on now? Any big plans for 2014?
Now that the album is done and out, we are turning our attention to spreading the word about it and also to playing live as much as we can. We are looking to expand our reach beyond our home turf and do some touring. We really just want to get our music and this album out into the world as much as we can. We’re working now on scheduling lots of tour dates, including shows here in our region, as well as a number of shows that are much further afield. We’re so excited to get out there to meet and play for people and to see what new adventures and possibilities will come our way.
With groups like She & Him now straddling that middle ground between commercial and indie, duos have become a popular phenomenon in pop music, so much so it can be difficult to sift the good from the bad. However, Oakes & Smith definitely seem to be making a name for themselves with their unique brand of finely polished folk. The duo of Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith are releasing their new album First Flight, with influences of 60s and 70s folk icons like Paul Simon and Cat Stevens clearly shining through.
Oakes & Smith remind me of a somewhat well-known quote from Kurt Cobain on the Vaselines, “I just have this feeling Eugene and Frances had a really cool relationship. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think it’s a really amazing thing when a couple can get on together and write some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. They’re kind of sharing their life with people.” Of course, as Cobain realized, it doesn’t matter if they’re a couple or not, but that a simple duo can have just a great chemistry between each other and that it shows in their music is a rare thing.
Make no mistake, they are definitely a folk group, but the production here is fantastic, detailed, and of high quality. With a revolving door of musicians and carefully chosen instrumentation on this record, this extra sonic quality fits in perfectly with the preexisting chemistry between Oakes & Smith. Most of the vocal duty is shared between the two of them, with a slight lean towards Smith leaving Oakes to handle more of the instrumental side.
Nothing here rocks the boat too violently. Instead, they choose a gentle, more introspective route here on beautiful, meandering songs like “Before Dawn.” However, when the tempo is turned up slightly, as on the fantastic cover of the standard “The Wayfaring Stranger”, the results are just as consistent. There are a million folk bands out there today, but few as interesting as Oakes & Smith. Unafraid to do their own thing, or even add influences from other genres, Oakes & Smith have created a fine album with First Flight.
Oakes & Smith is a captivating folk band. Formed by Robert Oakes & Katherine Smith, there are visual details to their music offered up on their project, First Flight. Each song illustrates images in the listener's mind making the musical adventure even more conceptual and passionate. The album, which features 12 songs, while could be compared to other folk and singer-songwriter duos actually presents something different, unseen, warm and inviting.
"Once" begins the album and is one of those songs that has many layers leaving the listener enveloped in several sounds. It is one of those types of songs that you do not want to end. "You Beside Me" is slower. A romantic introspection, Smith's vocals are perfect for the guitar that echoes behind her. "Hold On To Your Dream" is a perfect anthem for the rejected, dejected, upset and those who feel that every time they take two steps forward, they take three steps backward. Both Oakes and Smith sing their hearts out on this song. It is another one of the songs exhibited on First Flight that you won't want to end.
"By the Ocean" begins with a bamboo flute and tells the story of the healing dynamics of the ocean, while "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" offers a loungey feel with its mix of Smith's tone and instrumentation. The title track, which shows up towards the end of the project, is a melancholic and memorable piece. It is difficult not to feel the piercing elements that Oakes voice provides to the song. The finale, "When I Woke," is a perfectly woven story that ends an album that's exceptional.
While there are countless folk duos, Oakes & Smith seem to be bent on ensuring harmonies are sprinkled all over their music. Their affinity for music is front and center on First Flight. It is unmistakable and leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
Final Grade: A
Oakes & Smith, a folk duo rising from Tyringham, Massachusetts, recently released their debut album ‘First Flight’ in late November.
With musical sounds similar to The Swell Season, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and Joan Baez, Oakes & Smith are rising to the indie and folk scene with their new release. With the gaining support of fans and a successful Kickstarter campaign, ‘First Flight’ was also made possible through many big names in the industry who have recorded and produced for artists including Norah Jones, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, among many more.
This talented duo consists of Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith. The two both were born into musical families who got them into performing and writing music at very young ages. Katherine was involved in singing with her parents’ choral group, and went on to perform in high school and college productions. Aside from singing and performing, Katherine also was involved in other forms of art including writing, visual art, stage crafting and acting. For Robert, he spent his time playing in a number of bands with his family and friends before continuing on to take a step into self-producing and performing in many venues of New York. Also, aside from music, Robert has been writing stories and poetry since a young age.
Katherine and Robert met in Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts in the summer of 2007, unexpectedly. While there, the two artists worked on the production, artwork and photography of Robert’s solo album ‘Heart Broken Open’, which was released on Big Sleep Records of Brooklyn in 2009. After the release, Katherine and Robert decided to test the thought of collaboration. It was in New York City where the two attended and performed together at a workshop led by Joy Askew. She loved their sound and urged the duo to continue to create music together, recorded some at-home demos together and recruited members for a band - Oakes & Smith was then born. Since officially forming, the duo has spent a lot of their time performing their music at cafes, bars, festivals, theaters, art centers and everywhere in between along the East Coast and beyond, gaining a wide and warm welcome into the industry.
Oakes & Smith is an example of the perfect soundtrack for a crisp, fall season or warm summer nights. The folk sounds make any time or moment relaxing, making you want to kick your feet up and enjoy your surroundings, whether it be nature, friends or a peaceful silence. A lot of this may come from the fact that the duo spent a great deal of time in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. The duo describes the area as “a peaceful place filled with natural and cultural beauty”, and you can absolutely feel this sense of peace through the duo’s music. In fact, I spent the whole time writing this piece with ‘First Flight’ softly playing in the background, and kept the tunes playing well into my evening.
To take a listen to the relaxing sounds of Oakes & Smith, visit their Bandcamp site at oakesandsmith.band camp.com, or visit their website at www.oakesandsmith.com! Stay tuned for more to come from this talented duo in the new year!
Massachusetts singer-songwriting duo Oakes & Smith are back with their beautiful DIY album First Flight. The acoustic duo ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the album, which was mixed by Oz Fritz, the engineer of Tom Wait’s Grammy-winning album Mule Variations. First Flight is full of descriptive storytelling and flawless harmonies that are only outdone by Oakes & Smith’s dynamic vocals.
Katherine Smith’s voice is effortlessly strong in the same vein as Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell. She showcases her notable range on the peaceful track “Before Dawn” and the beautiful early morning love song “You Beside Me.” Robert Oakes is a masterful guitar player and his vocals are equally as captivating.
Oakes & Smith trade-off vocals throughout First Flight, but their partnership is most impressive on “Hold On to Your Dream.” They sing, “They will try to pull it all to pieces/Make you think your crazy/Don’t go down so easy you know there is a reason/To hold on to your dream.” “Oceans Apart” is an eloquently composed song that explores the space that can exist between two people. A few more upbeat songs would have done this album well, but it is a beautiful record rich with feeling.
The highlight of the album is “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” a honky-tonk wandering song that tells the tale of a lonely traveler. Oakes & Smith expertly use their music to highlight the experiences of life. The steady rhythm of “Factory Girl” emulates the day-to-day routine of the working-class.
Oakes & Smith showcased their talent, optimism and go-getter attitude on First Flight. The album is wonderfully crafted, beautifully produced and universally inspiring.
Oakes & Smith—a classic-sounding name for a classic-sounding act, straight out of Tyringham, Massachusetts.
Both Oakes (Robert) and Smith (Katherine) were born into musical families, and felt a powerful connection to performing from a very early age. This is a fact evident in their polished harmonies and balladic, lilting songs, with influences ranging from classic folk such as Simon & Garfunkel to shades of an almost Disney-esque hue, with musical theatre undertones (not that surprising when you learn that Katherine has a background on the stage).
Meeting unexpectedly in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts—a locale rich in natural beauty that very much reverberates in their sound—Katherine and Robert instantly felt drawn to each other. Since beginning to perform together in Spring 2010, the pair have played numerous shows throughout the Northeast and beyond at festivals, arts centres and occasionally even on street corners. Their debut album First Flight was to follow, engineered by D. James Goodwin (who has also worked with Norah Jones, a natural bedfellow for the duo) and mixed by Oz Fritz, of Bob Marley and Tom Waits fame. Released in November 2013, First Flight has been gradually enhancing the band’s presence on the folk circuit, and their fanbase is growing day-by-day.
Oakes & Smith’s material has an easy charm, tinged with a smoky, irresistible melancholy. Definitely one for fans of all-American, all-acoustic folk.
TYRINGHAM -- Last year, Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith, the folk-pop duo Oakes & Smith, were self-described "shy" people, who decided to run a social media fundraising campaign through Kickstarter.com to help make their dream -- their first full-length recording -- come true.
They’ve since been able to make that happen with help from a flock of new collaborators and friends, several of which were encountered serendipitously.
Their album, appropriately titled, "First Flight," was officially released Tuesday. On Saturday night, beginning at 8, the Tyringham couple will celebrate their accomplishment will a full-band performance at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.
The Eagle catches up with Oakes, 39, and Smith, 26, to chat about taking leaps of faith, serenading a yoga class and how nature can be both a muse and a menace, particularly when trying to make album art in a field of goldenrod.
EAGLE: Let’s start with the new album. It was worked on with the support you gained from a Kickstarter.com fundraising campaign. Tell me about that process.
SMITH: The whole project took about two years. We started in Summer 2011. We used Kickstarter last year for a boost to finish the album, and we were able to meet our goal.
OAKES: When we put it out there, people really rallied for our Kickstarter campaign.
SMITH: As we got down to the final hours [of the campaign] it was like counting down on New Year’s Eve. When we met our goal it was like, ‘Yes, we did it!’
OAKES: We’re kind of shy people, so to put this thing out there like we did was a new idea to us. It’s been really nice to see how it’s been well-received.
SMITH: We count ourselves among the lucky.
EAGLE: Usually you perform as a duo, but the album’s recorded with a full band. How do you know when you’ve found the right bandmates? The process seems a lot like dating.
SMITH: It kind of is.
OAKES: We met Oz Fritz, who’s from California. He’s worked with Tom Waits and a lot of others. He’s friends with a band we’re friends with, HuDost, and one of their members, Jemal Wade Hines, introduced us.
SMITH: A mixing engineer can change your final sound to something you don’t like. It’s about finding the right chemistry. Oz helped us put the finishing touches on the final piece as we had hoped for.
OAKES: There’s sort of this unspoken energy there too, when you’re feeling out a mix of people. His approach brought spirit to our whole process.
SMITH: It is like building a friendship or a relationship -- When you see it, you know it.
EAGLE: I saw you guys play this past Sunday night at the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge. You really squeezed a lot of people onto that small stage to make a really full, multi-layered sound. Tell me about some of those folks onstage with you.
OAKES: We’ve been very fortunate to find people in the area like Zack Cross and Justin Hillman and Gregoire Pearce to perform with us, who also helped with recording the album. There are a lot of other people who have been involved too, like Justin Green, who played percussion with us. He’s also one of our biggest fans and supporters.
We’ve worked a lot with Justin Hillman, who also helped with editing and recording the album. There’s a real kinship about what we do, and it’s such an enjoyable experience to work with him.
SMITH: For our full-band recording, we had help from Conor Meehan on drums; Dan Fabricatore from Robert’s hometown in New Jersey play upright and electric bass; Stephen Chopek, Jason Loughlin; cello players like Melissa Hyman and Noah Hoffeld; Eric Martin, Ken Rosser and Sarah St. Denis.
OAKES: There’s been a lot of synchronicity with people coming into our lives at the right moment, like Zack Cross. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved piano, and so we thought to have a pianist for our album. It’s a funny story how we met Zack. It was at the Mount, where I work, and a colleague is dating him.
SMITH: At the time, I was looking for a jazz pianist to work with to do some solo gigs like weddings and such, and she suggested Zack.
OAKES: I would hang around while they were working and listen, and then it just made sense to have Zack come and play with us. The great thing about Zack is that he’s also a writer himself, so he really appreciated what we are trying to do as songwriters.
SMITH: It’s kind of that Berkshire magic that connects people—not to say it’s all been easy.
SMITH: Not always. Things change. Timing changes. Availability changes.
OAKES: You get off track when you don’t listen to your intuition.
SMITH: But just the feeling of being able to finish something of this magnitude that you’ve put your hearts and minds and wallets into is amazing.
EAGLE: Your lyrics speak a lot about love, growth, discovery, dreaming and journeys. Where does the material come from?
OAKES: Some of the material has been in my life for a long time; some songs I wrote almost 20 years ago, and they were written from an innocent place. Before I met Katherine, I was kind of in a dark place. When Katherine and I started working together, it was like a rebirth. It was like, ‘Oh my God, I love this, I want to make this kind of music again.’
Oh, and there’s a story I want to tell you.
OAKES: Yeah, we had just picked up our new CDs, the new album, in New Jersey, and then drove out to Ohio, a place called Loveland, to perform at the Jubilee Peace Fest. There, we were asked to play for a "Yoga for Love" class which was in this big room and you just saw people practicing with so much love and open-heartedness. Also everywhere we went we’d see the Ohio license plate, which is etched with the phrase "Birthplace of Aviation." Our album is called "First Flight," so that whole experience was kind of like giving a blessing to our recording.
EAGLE: Your album art, which you also produced yourselves, has symbols of wings on the front and this big open field on the back cover, which seems to kind of capture that spirit.
SMITH: Yes, the photo was taken in Tyringham.
OAKES: We were lucky enough to catch the color of the goldenrod at just the right time, which was great, once I stopped sneezing long enough to take a shot. [Both laugh]
SMITH: We’re very lucky to live and work in a place where you can feel like you’re part of something bigger.
OAKES: There’s always something more.
SMITH: But we’ve learned that when you’re starting out in pursuit of something, it’s about taking a leap of faith.
OAKES: And taking a chance on something you love. Love compels you to take that chance.
Oakes & Smith, First Flight
Published: Nov. 19, 2013 on: skopemag.com
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Folksy with a bit of adult contemporary and bluegrass flourishes make up most of First Flight, the new album by Oakes & Smith. The duo has created a passionate and intimate album full of meditations and breezy themes.
First Flight starts off with Once, a very 70′s AC song that reminds me of acts like The Carpenters or Fleetwood Mac. The duo brings back storytelling instead of pop singalongs.
Factory Girl stomps along with a kick drum thud and heavy bassline, then the bluegrass harmonies and Country Western vocals come in to compliment the track. The violin solo adds a nice touch and authenticity.
You Beside Me sounds like a more traditional country song with Oakes & Smith’s trademark soaring harmonies front and center.
Oceans Apart is a ballad that has a Paul Simon influence, while Before Dawn begins with a reverb soaked piano and flute which takes it’s time in building before the song sneaks up on the listener. Like a well placed interlude between songs, giving us time to reflect as Smith spins her tale.
Hold On To Your Dream gives Oakes the lead, his baritone blends well with the Country Western flair, then it goes to Dolly Parton territory. This sounds like a song that Dolly should have written.
By The Ocean starts with another breezy flute lead, somehow giving this track a New Age feel, combined with traditional folk.
Poor Wayfaring Stranger picks up the pace a bit and strays into blues territory, which fares well with Smith’s meloncholy voice. The duo sounds right at home here.
Being Broken is another ballad which gives turns on the two taking leads before they harmonize. A nice acoustic guitar solo makes an appearance midway through the song. What started out as somewhat of a downer turns into optimism as the song nears the end. A nice change of pace.
First Flight is next followed by Stay True, both which surf familiar sonic turf, ethereal and almost floating in space, their voices harmonizing and playing off one another.
When I Woke is the final track on First Flight and captures all of the trademarks of Oakes & Smith. With its piano, bass and drum backing it is the perfect way to end the album, with an almost progressive feel and capturing the 70′s era bands they’ve been influenced by.
Oakes & Smith, Tyringham's Dulcet Duo, Take 'First Flight'
By Robert Burke Warren
Published: Nov 14, 2013 on: ruralintelligence.com
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Singer-songwriter Robert Oakes and poet-visual artist Katherine Smith met by chance in the Berkshires four years ago, and when they sang together, sparks flew. They’ve tended those sparks into a considerable flame, writing and gigging as Oakes & Smith, refining their distinctive harmonies into a potent folk blend, a balm for a cacophonous, distracted world. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, they’re releasing their debut CD First Flight, gracing the stage of Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox with a full band. RI’s Robert Burke Warren chats with Oakes about making one’s own luck, and seizing the day in the name of harmony.
* * *
We live in a noisy, often dissonant age. Harmony is all too rare, so when we happen upon it, we’re captivated, especially if it emanates from the up-and-coming Tyringham, MA, duo (and devoted couple) Oakes & Smith. They’re bringing that sweet sound to Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre in Lenox, MA, where they’ll be celebrating the release of their debut CD First Flight, on Saturday, November 23rd, at 8 p.m. Like Richard and Linda Thompson, Ian & Sylvia, or current sensation The Civil Wars, Oakes & Smith’s combined voices offer a unique tonal blend, greater than the sum of its parts, showcased perfectly in their heartfelt, acoustic-based material. (Video for their single “Being Broken” HERE.)
Since meeting four years ago, guitarist-vocalist Robert Oakes and vocalist-visual artist Katherine Smith have been working toward this moment, performing anywhere and everywhere they could, honing their distinctive brand of melodic, lyrical folk. They’ve played bars, festivals, concert halls, and street corners, most often as a have-guitar-will-travel duo. Need an act to appear unplugged and un-miked at the Guthrie Center? Check. Require musical accompaniment in a “yoga for love” class? No problem.
Although the duo format is most common for Oakes & Smith, the release party for the impressively fleshed-out First Flight will be a rare full-band show, in a proper listening room with a stage, lights, a backstage… the works. “We wanted to create an event,” says Oakes. “We wanted it to feel like a show. The Bernstein Theatre is in the round, and seats about two hundred people. It’s intimate. And Shakespeare & Company is presenting It’s A Wonderful Life as a vintage radio show in December, so the stage will be set for that. The set will look like an old-timey studio.”
Old timey suits the duo, especially Katherine Smith, who comes from a family steeped in choral church music. While most twenty-somethings’ first musical memories comprise TV, pop CDs, and/or the radio, Smith recalls singing harmony with her parents and extended family in a group of mostly adults called Mass Production. This background gives her a rich, resonant vocal presence, confident and assured against Oakes burnished baritone. Still, she’d not considered making a stab at singing professionally until she met Oakes, a journeyman rocker looking for artwork for his 2009 solo CD, Heart Broken Open.
“I was working on my album, and Kate and I started to brainstorm ideas for a video,” says Oakes. “She drew up beautiful sketches, then we started singing together, and it was a revelation. It was like ‘whoa.’ When the chemistry between two voices works, it’s profound. It was so exciting for me. I hadn’t been performing a lot, I just was recording. But when we made this discovery, it was a rebirth. All I wanted to do was perform with Kate as much as possible.”
After wowing the room at a 2010 performance workshop conducted by famed singer-songwriter-keyboardist Joy Askew (Joe Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson), Oakes & Smith was born. “Joy said, ‘You guys have something special,’” Oakes recalls.
Like many acts, both established and new, Oakes & Smith launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund First Flight. By producing a brief, entertaining video, and offering rewards like signed CDs, prints of Smith’s artwork, and a house concert at which they will also cook the donor dinner, they succeeded in raising a little over six grand. (Note: In a Kickstarter campaign, acts must raise their desired amount in a specified time, or they get nothing.) “It was nervewracking,” says Oakes. “Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform, and we had six weeks to raise six grand. We really put it out there, really made a case and, toward the end, people started to respond. In the last week we tripled the amount of money we raised. My high school class even started a Facebook page to help raise funds. The final hours of the campaign were like New Year’s Eve. But we got what we needed. It was incredible, very heart-warming.”
Oakes sees Kickstarter as part of the new paradigm between indie artists and fans: “Kickstarter gives people an opportunity to be a part of the process, and allows the funding of more things than the traditional model, which included gatekeepers who decided what got done and what didn’t. Now, if you believe in an idea enough, and can make a good case for it, you can get what you need in advance.”
After such an outpouring of support, Oakes & Smith are eager to give back as good as they got, starting at the Bernstein Theatre.
Oakes & Smith
Saturday, November 23, 8 p.m.
Shakespeare & Company’s Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre
70 Kimble Street
Oakes and Smith—Destiny Brings Progressive Folk Duo Together
Published: Nov 12, 2013 on: indiebandguru.com
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Fate will remain a huge influence in the formation of beautiful music. Some people are just meant to find one another, both in love and in music. This destiny has created some of the best musical pairings the world has heard. Many times these meetings do not begin with the purpose of even writing music together but over time fate has its way and the musical partnership is formed. Our faith in this is renewed by our recent discovery of Oakes and Smith.
Both Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith were raised in very music friendly families. From Katherine performing with her parents’ Connecticut-based choral group as a teenager to Robert singing and playing bass guitar in his blues-and-jazz-singing father’s band while still only a child, the seeds were sown early in life. After building on their musical experiences, the two met in 2007 after having both relocated to the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. What started as Katherine just helping Robert with the album artwork and music video concept for his solo album turned into a full-fledged partnership after trying out the duo idea at a singing/performing workshop in New York City. Their sound had caught the attention of some important ears and the progressive folk of Oakes and Smith was officially born.
Next Tuesday (November 19, 2013), they will be releasing their debut full-length album First Flight. The 12-track record features their ethereal and warming sound in a fully produced version much different from the stripped down live feel of their previous EPs. The studio time and professional mixing and mastering was made possible by a successful Kickstarter campaign that gave Oakes and Smith the motivation to put out a full album of songs. The opener ‘Once’ begins with just a gently strummed guitar and Katherine’s powerful voice before Robert comes in with vocals and piano to create a full soundscape to wash over the listener. The passionate pursuit of their success is evident on tracks such as elegant ‘Hold On To Your Dream’ and the title track ‘First Flight’ which tells the story of leaving your comfort zone to follow the path to your dreams. Another strong tack is the mellow ‘Oceans Apart’ which features Katherine’s beautiful voice over a soft but somewhat different instrumental folk feel. The atmospheric ‘Before Dawn’ is one that grabbed my attention with its ethereal multi-instrumental sound joined with the closeness of the lyrics. This contrast makes for a very pretty song. Overall, there are many feelings expressed through this album making it a perfect record to listen to as you sit quietly and reflect. Submerse yourself in the aura of Oakes and Smith at: www.oakesandsmith.net.
Oakes and Smith Release New Album: First Flight
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Tyringham, MA—Progressive folk duo, Oakes and Smith, will release their first full-length album, titled “First Flight,” on November 19, 2013.
Robert Oakes and Katherine Smith are a musical match made in heaven. The harmonious blend of their voices creates an ethereal sound and unique quality not often heard in today’s popular music. This, combined with masterful songs that they call ‘lyrical and inspirational meditations,’ bring forth a sense of childlike wonder and express themes such as beauty, innocence and mystery. “First Flight,” as a whole, represents Robert and Katherine’s leap of faith into the unknown and captures the feeling of recording their first full album together.
Unlike their debut EP, “The School Session,” which was mostly recorded live as a stripped down version of their act—just two voices, two guitars and a piano, “First Flight” is a fully produced album featuring a varied cast of players and a powerful, collaborative production team. Robert and Katherine started by recording at The Isokon Studio in Woodstock, NY where D. James Goodwin (Kaki King, Devo, MTV) and Eli Walker engineered. Later, Jason Loughlin (Amos Lee, Rachael Yamagata, Lesley Gore) joined the project, helping with production, editing and playing electric guitar. The album was mixed by Oz Fritz, who, among many other accolades, worked on the Grammy award-winning album “Mule Variations” by Tom Waits. The album was mastered by Garrett Haines, who mastered a song on the Grammy-winning compilation album, "All About Bullies... Big and Small.” Throughout the final phase of production, they were assisted by Jemal Wade Hines of the band HuDost.
First Flight, the title track, expresses the strongest theme on the record. It’s about leaving your comfort zone and following your fate. They explain, “Just like a bird leaving the nest, if we are to have any hope of flying, we must take that leap of faith, though there is never a guarantee of success.” Hold on to Your Dream is a song about never giving in to the many forces in life that would cause you to question and abandon your innate impulse to dream big. Robert and Kate invited a chorus of friends to join them on the track, conveying that through the passionate pursuit of our dreams, others are inspired and want to join in as well. Oceans Apart highlights Katherine’s vocals and features strong dynamics and an adventurous musical arrangement.
Oakes and Smith cite numerous musical influences as diverse as Van Morrison, Paul Simon, Sinead O’Connor and The Cranberries. The common thread through all of them is that they are all strong and real performers with deep, flowing lyrics. They provide examples of great storytelling, strong vocal presence and the ability to connect with the audience, all qualities which Oakes and Smith possess. Fans of The Swell Season (Glen Hansard), The Civil Wars, Cat Stevens, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell will truly appreciate the music on “First Flight.”
At the heart of this project, Oakes and Smith discovered the strong bond between each other and the passion to create music and art. They hope to remind people through their music that love, joy and hope for the future are still very much alive in the world.
For additional information about Oakes and Smith, please visit www.oakesandsmith.net. For media inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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“The album consists of twelve beautifully engineered and produced tracks with good harmonies and passionate storytelling. Songs such as “Before Dawn,” which is reminiscent of “Because” by The Beatles, and “By the Ocean” are melodically eloquent and profound … throughout the album, Oakes and Smith’s vocal tones play off of one another very well…the sound is…poignant.”
— Kevin Tshiamala, Hear Magazine
“’Before Dawn’ (is) … very spiritual and driving … one of my favorite tracks of 2014, so far…”
— Robert Ottone, Just Press Play
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