Most bands release an album and hope that CD purchases will offset that cost and, if they’re lucky, make a profit. The Greencards decided to do things a bit differently.
The band released its latest album this summer after asking fans, through online donations, to foot the bill. The band will be playing tracks from this new album at Jammin’ Java Aug. 25 at 9 p.m., treating audiences to the band’s Americana-influenced and fan-financed tracks.
The Greencards – a tongue-in-cheek name inspired by the band’s international origins – began as a collaboration between Australian-born musicians Carol Young and Kym Warner, about a decade ago. From the occasional Irish pub gig to nightly club billings, the band – now a four-piece act including Young, Warner, and American-born musicians Tyler Andal and Carl Miner – got its start in the thriving, eclectic music scene in Austin, Texas.
After five years, the band made the decision to move to Nashville, Tennessee, relocating to the country music recording capital as the next big challenging in the group’s career.
“You can get really comfortable in Austin,” Warner said. “It’s a great place to live. There is music all over town, every night. You can decide to stay and play in town locally, but we came from the other side of the world and decided that we didn’t want to stay somewhere and get comfortable and not push ourselves.”
Despite being based in what Warner considers a commercial music capital, the band has opted not to sign with a major label and instead independently release their music on Darling Street Records, their own independent label. Still, the records the band releases celebrate a good deal of success, with their albums Viridian (2008) and Fascination (2010) earning Grammy Award nominations.
The Brick Album, released this summer, was funded through the group’s Buy a Brick campaign. In exchange for donating to the album project, donor names were printed on the album itself, each on a brick that make up the wall motif across the album’s case.
“In a roundabout way, you are asking people to give you money,” Warner said, admitting to some nervousness on the part of the band as to whether or not the project would be a success. “But within the first hour of the morning it went up … it was overwhelming. We thought, ‘Wow, maybe this is going to work.'”
The funding and the clever cover art weren’t the only benefits to funding the album with donations. According to Warner, the project encouraged band members to make a quality recording for the fans who were supporting it.
“It gave us a real inspiration and energy that we took into the studio,” Warner said. “People put their money up before they even heard the music, so we just pushed this really hard, continue writing better songs, making sure we had a really good record, because we were doing it for these people.”
“Make It Out West” exemplifies for Warner the live-recording feel that band hoped to achieve and the energy they hoped to capture. Through single-take recordings and little, if any, overdubbing, the band creates a rhythmic tangle of strings upon strings, with a chorus of wails that reaches up through the mass.
“Make It Out West” features the slide mandolin work of celebrated bluegrass performer Sam Bush. Country Music Hall of Famer and 20-time Grammy Award winner Vince Gill also makes an appearance on the album, contributing guitar and vocals to “Heart Fixer,” a pared-down romantic ballad that combines Gill’s and Young’s voices word-for-word in one full sound with the rhythmic, bright syncopation of string picking.
“We were working with a couple of our heroes, who are pretty important to us,” Warner said. “To be able to have them play our music with us, it’s pretty great.”
The band will continue touring the nation, promoting the album into next year, recreating the stage-show sound of the tracks for fans of this latest incarnation of the long-standing bluegrass tradition.
• For more on The Greencards, visit thegreencards.com.