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10 Questions with | Graham and The Band Upstairs

Graham and The Band Upstairs is an Atlanta based Americana band led by Graham Waldrop. The band creates music in the tradition of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, combining introspective lyrics with diverse melodies that meshes the folk, blues, and rock genres to create a fully realized sonic identity for each song. Graham Waldrop sings and plays guitar, Jeff Dei Dolori plays lead guitar, Josef Bell is on the bass, Zach Strum is on the drums, and Veronica Roman is on vocals. Indie Boulevard managed to connect with the band’s frontman Graham Waldrop, and learn more about the band’s creative path, the new album and much more.

IB: Hello Graham and The Band Upstairs! It's an honor to talk to you about art, music and your debut single 'Home To You'. I'm very interested in how you started making music?

GRAHAM: I've always loved music but it's never something I thought I'd pursue. Before the COVID-19 pandemic happened, I started playing guitar more as a pastime. But when the pandemic happened and I was laid off from my job, it became a full time obsession that turned into learning how to sing and write music that's rooted in the music that I love the most- artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Alexa Woodward. So I just kept studying music and writing songs and ingrained myself in that world.

IB: You guys are very cool and look incredibly happy as a music band. How did you find each other? How did you start playing together and forming a band?

GRAHAM: I'm lucky that I count each member of the band to be some of my dearest friends and I'm doubly lucky that they're all extremely gifted musically. I've known each member of the band for at least a decade. I went to college with Josef, our bassist, and also have worked with him professionally across a couple of jobs in the technology sector. He's a very technical mind, the ultimate problem solver, and his selflessness and collaborative nature is second to none.

I met Jeff, our lead guitarist, when he was roommates with another friend of mine ages ago. He's been in multiple bands over the last decade or so and he has an insanely deep musical knowledge. We're also both massive Dylan and Neil Young fans so we always connected through our mutual love of music and I have always admired his musicianship, so it's been a lot of fun working with Jeff on this material because he brings an unquantifiable spiritual quality to our sound. I think this is exemplified in Home To You. What he does on guitar in this song is sublime.

Zach, our drummer, was my first college roommate and we've always been close friends. Like Jeff, Zach is also a huge Dylan and Neil Young fan, so we have shared connective tissue musically that at this point kind of goes unspoken. Zach has this instinctual way of feeling out each song to know exactly what he needs to bring to it in a very thoughtful and patient way.

I've known Veronica, our backing vocalist, longer than anyone else in the band. Her husband Adam has been my best friend for close to 25 years and they've been together for I think 17 years now. Veronica and I always had a shared love of singing and musicals that really took off when we sang Summer Nights from Grease at karaoke years ago. Any time our friend group goes to karaoke, we always sing that one and bring the drunken house down. Even though the music we're making couldn't be any more different from Grease, the energy we have when singing was something I wanted to tap into. She's been a huge part of shaping these songs vocally and has been a wonderful collaborator in defining the voice of our music. So when I wanted to start making music, I knew these were the people I wanted to do it with due to our personal relationships and musical ability. I'm so happy that they were willing to not only be a part of it, but to take the music to a place I didn't even know was possible. 

IB: So you recently released your debut single 'Home To You' and it's brilliant. What inspired you to write the song? Is it connected to a special moment in your life?

GRAHAM: Thank you! The song came to me when I was in the car one day. These lyrics started flooding through my mind out of nowhere and I had to grab my phone and record myself sloppily saying the lyrics before I forgot them. It was very surreal. I've never had a song come to me like that unconsciously. There was no starting point, it just made itself known.

IB: 'Home To You' sounds pretty cinematic. Are you planning to release a music video for the single?

GRAHAM: There are no plans to make a music video. We commissioned a lyric video specialist, Nancy Razk, to make a lyric video that's currently on Youtube. I think she did a fantastic job with it. While I'd like to make a music video for Home To You, from a logistical standpoint, I don't think we have the bandwidth to pull that off right now with everything else we're working on. 

IB: I know you're set to release your first record 'Turning Magic On Its Heels,' this summer. Can you tell us a little more about this release? Will it be an EP or a full length album?

GRAHAM: This will be a full length record. I was very inspired by Bob Dylan's last album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, to make an album where every song could be the start of a new record from a sonic perspective, but simultaneously, it's incredibly cohesive as a complete listening experience. Home To You is very much rooted in folk, but our next single that's coming out in April, Standstill Blues, is an uptempo, really fun blues number. We're always thinking about what we can do to make each song stand on its own. 

IB: Your lyric video for the single 'Home To You' has 52 thousand views and you're already performing live on stage. And that's just the debut single! What's your secret? I'm not afraid to assume that almost all independent musicians dream of such a public reaction. However, in practice, it's always a difficult issue. How to get ahead in the indie industry and make a firm place in the hearts of listeners? Oh, and of course, how do you find a dedicated audience?

GRAHAM: It's been quite the interesting journey so far in Home To You's very nascent life in terms of who is responding to it. We've posted about the song a lot on social media, and try to get it in front of people who like the music that our work is inspired by. We also have gotten the song on some indie radio stations and online publications by working with Independent Music Promotions, a PR company, who have done a really wonderful job getting our song out to folks. Our friends and family have also been helpful with word of mouth about the song. We've just tried to get the song out there as much as we can in as many ways as we can without being obnoxious. Marketing is bizarre. I still don't understand it and I think we have a long way to go in terms of figuring out how to engage with fans and potential fans. I think the biggest thing is that we tried to be consistent with content surrounding Home To You's release, be it just a raw video of us playing the song, posting the single artwork or making the lyric video. 

IB: Do you have anything to share about upcoming gigs, and what do you have planned for 2023? Summer festivals?

GRAHAM: We were very focused on getting prepared to get back in the studio for all of January and most of February, so we weren't focused as much on getting gigs then. Now that we've concluded that studio session, we're hoping to get some more gigs this spring. We've applied to some festivals this Summer and this Fall so fingers crossed we're able to play some of these events.

IB: Performing live is always fun and unpredictable, so many different stories and events can happen in one night. What has been your best live experience so far?

GRAHAM: I think the last show we did was my favorite live show experience. We practiced like crazy getting ready for the show and we just went in there feeling really loose, but very tight musically. Everyone was just in the zone and there was this unified feeling of togetherness where the nerves dissipated completely and we were really enjoying the music. Sometimes it's hard to do that without micro-analyzing everything performance wise, but this was one of those nights where inhibition didn't exist and it was joyous. The best part about it was this couple I didn't know coming up to me after the show saying they loved our performance. As great as it is for friends and family to show you love, when people who have no obligation to talk to you go out of their way to tell you they enjoyed your music, that means you must be doing something right. 

IB: If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would it be?

GRAHAM: The Arena Di Verona in Verona, Italy. I was lucky enough to see David Gilmour perform there in 2015. It was built in 30 AD and I immediately felt immense reverence for its matchless craftsmanship the moment I set foot in it. Places like this make it feel like you're on another planet. I know there's no chance we'd ever perform there, but it would be amazing to do so. 

IB: And the last question. What would you spend your first million earned from your own music on?:)

GRAHAM: What a question! A new house would be fantastic!

Single ‘Home To You’ by Graham And The Band Upstairs available on all digital platforms. Read our 'Home To You' review.

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