Draft Carbon Leaf Will Rock In Maymont Again

by | Oct 9, 2017 | ART

What do you get when you mix a Celtic-Americana-indie-rock band, a garage studio in the suburbs of Richmond, and Maymont Park? Turns out, it’s Carbon Leaf. The local band, whose career has spanned almost 25 years now, is due to play at Maymont Park on June 24. 

The band hasn’t played at Maymont since 2010, and the band is excited to return. 

It’s such a family friendly and oriented show, that’s why the Maymont show in particular is so much fun,” said Terry Clark, guitarist for Carbon Leaf.

Clark sat down with RVA Mag recently at his house in Henrico, his kids running around the yard and house just outside, to catch us up on what they’d been up to.

Barry Privett, the band’s leading vocalist and multi instrumentalist ( penny whistle, bagpipes, and guitar), mentioned how much the band loves playing in Richmond, their hometown and starting point of their career.

“It’s cool because you have such a deep history of fans still in the area,” he said. The fans that were coming to see us when we were young, they still come out, but they also have kids of their own or maybe even teenagers that are into the music.”

After meeting together while attending Randolph-Macon College, Carbon Leaf grew their fan base in and around the Richmond area. After playing, writing, and performing for 24 years, the band’s sound understandably changed, but not dramatically. “We’re a little less grunge,” said Clark. “It took a while to figure out what we were doing,” added Privett.

“Through time, you start to figure out what works for you, what doesn’t. You hone down into the things that each person really likes. I think it breaks up a lot of artists because they don’t know how to communicate that. You really just learn how to communicate creatively, you learn how to collaborate creatively through that struggle of figuring out what’s best for the song.”

Clark went on to say that the process of songwriting contributed to the vibe of their album.

“Those elements change from song to song for us.”

The band has a catalogue of instrumentation that Privett works with to develop lyrics that form songs. Rather than creating an album that has a mixture of vibes or genres, they try to compile songs that have similar sounds and create an album that is primarily one cohesive sound. Two prime examples are the albums the band released in 2013. Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle is distinctly more Celtic sounding; Constellation Prize has a more Americana vibe to it.


For right now, the band is not focusing on what vibe their new album is going for. Instead, they are revisiting their older material. Carbon Leaf was a part of Vanguard Records, whose clientele include bands like Flogging Molly, Barenaked Ladies, Switchfoot, and more. However, the rights to songs and money became a concern. “The last couple of albums sold over 80 percent at shows and online. Do you need to pay them a whole lot of money to get you on a record store shelf in Des Moines when you’re not selling any product anyhow? You’re paying these exorbitant fees to them,” said Clark. The shift from physical record to digital was making its move, and the band was noticing. “The main thing for a label is can you get some really good licensing deals or some really good radio coverage. We did get some of that with the first album, Indian Summer, but then the subsequent albums, that business wasn’t there,” added Privett. Privett explained that a signing to a label is like a high interest bank loan. “When you’re in a studio that charges by the hour, it’s easy to burn up time figuring out those little details. ‘Do we really need to pay that much per hour for a tambourine?’ Probably not,” said Clark. Not only were they not getting the radio plays or the album sales, they were also not getting the publicity they needed and were paying high rates for studio time.

On top of it all, the label owned the rights to the master recordings. While Carbon Leaf owned the intellectual property, the label owned the digital media. “They basically don’t own the songs, but they do own the songs,” said Privett. Despite all of this, the band found a clause within the contract that would work to their advantage. “There was a term of five years after you’ve left the label that you could re-record. In other words, if you wanted the rights to revert back, you’d have to re-record so that you have an alternate master recordings of the songs that you own. And that’s what we did,” said Privett.

Since leaving the label, the band has re-recorded three of their albums, Indian Summer Revisited, Love Loss Hope Repeat Reneaux,  and Nothing Rhymes with Woman (2016 Re-Recorded Version), which was released just in December of last year. “We can take those [re-recorded songs] and we can put them out into the world. If an opportunity comes up where we can license the song to something, we have a version that we own. Now there’s a version that we get one hundred percent of versus just a 50 percent writer’s share,” said Privett.

In terms of the fan response to the re-done albums, the feedback has been positive. “I think we improved on all the albums and the songs. They still sound like they should. We weren’t changing things just to change things. The fans have been supportive about the reason why we’re doing it.”

With campaigns backed by fans to support the endeavor, the band has had great success in regaining the rights to their songs. The band had set up a studio in the unattached garage at Clark’s house in Henrico County. Complete with a soundproof room donated by a local radio station, Carbon Leaf was able to bring their production right into their own backyards, on their own dime, for a fraction of the cost of recording with a record company. “We’ve done the last six projects up here [in the studio], self-engineered and produced and literally shipped from the studio directly to pre-order fans and all that,” said Privett.

In regards to their upcoming Maymont concert, the band is looking forward to sharing their large repertoire with fans new and returning. Privett explained that they won’t be highlighting their re-recorded version of Nothing Rhymes with Woman, even though it’s their most recent album, a move most bands use to their advantage to promote newer material. “What you really want to do is make the live shows great as you can. People are seeing you only once a year. People are paying for that anticipation. We’ve got a deep enough catalogue where we can keep it fresh.” Privett continued by saying he keeps a catalogue of songs they play at every venue just so the band won’t repeat chunks of their setlist during their time there. “That’s not the time for someone to get super acquainted with the whole album.”

Because the last few years has been spent re-recording older material, the band is ready for something new. “We’re working on some new material and are shooting for a new release this September,” said Privett.

Although their career has spanned for almost 25 years, Carbon Leaf is still kicking. After transitioning from a label to working on their own, they haven’t missed a beat and are making major strides with their music. “Having the perspective helps with how it’s played. You’ve now had time to play it out live. Things change a little bit. It was gratifying to do that.”

Ticket information for their June 24 concert at Maymont Park in Richmond can be found here.

Jo Rozycki

Jo Rozycki

Field reporter for GayRVA/RVA Mag. RVA born and raised. Theatre nerd, french fry lover, dog-obsessed, die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan. Storyteller. William & Mary 2020, Sociology.

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