Folk duo Sleepy Brother discuss new album, writing process, and breaking into the RVA music scene, ahead of album release party at Sound of Music Recording Studios

by | Jul 16, 2015 | MUSIC

Up and coming folk duo Heather Wiederholt and Nathan Burns make up the band Sleepy Brother and their new album
Up and coming folk duo Heather Wiederholt and Nathan Burns make up the band
Sleepy Brother and their new album Let in the Light was just released July 14. It’s the band’s first full length album and the two will debut it at their album release party this Saturday at Sound of Music Recording Studios.

The acoustic-folk heavy band released the first single “Glimpse” from the 12-track album on June 18 along with a video you can watch below.

“By Way of Rail,” the most recent track off the record, is a happy and whimsical tune that takes you away to another place.

The album is light and uplifting with Widerholt’s angelic voice rushing smoothly over Burns’ guitar playing. “Hollow Ground” and “Such Wild Vines” are some good listens. It’s easy-listening and yet at the same time there’s a lot of soul behind each song and the lyrics seem to come from a very deep place.

Wiederholt said the two began writing songs about three years ago and started recording for this album last summer.

“We are super excited about Let in the Light being our first full length album release,” she said. ”This album has been a long time coming.”

Burns added the two aren’t signed to a label so Let in the Light was mostly just the two of them putting lyrics to music.

“LITL was largely a DIY project,” Burns said. “We got advice, help, and equipment from friends too.” Burns said.

Wiederholt said they both collaborate on the writing process and mainly email material back and forth.

“Nathan writes all of the music and I write all of the vocal parts/lyrics,” she said. “One of us will get inspired to start a new song and will send the other a recording of what we have in mind, even if it’s really rough. Then the other will add to it and send a revised recording back. It goes on like this until we’ve deemed a song finished. For Let in the Light we did this for the entire album.”

The last time we heard anything from Sleepy Brother was back in January 2013, when the band released their debut EP, Attachments.

Wiederholt said she feels many people will be able to relate to this album as she draws on everyday experiences everyone goes through.

“The themes in Let in the Light reflect life experiences for us that we feel are common to the human experience,” she said. “It’s about taking something that we as individuals are going through and writing about it in a way that others can relate to. I don’t think there are many experiences that are isolated to me as an individual. Someone can always relate; whether it be love, loss, life, or death. We’re all going through these things interpersonally and communally.”

“Emotionally, mentally, music effects us,” she added. “I hope that our music provides an experience for someone; that it has an effect. We’ve put our hearts into this music, and I hope that translates to the listener.”

And although they’re still trying to hone in on their particular sound, Burns believes the Let in the Light album was definitely a more cohesive writing process.

“Musically, we’re always looking to find evocative melodies that are catchy and pleasant,” Burns said. “I also like to fill in a lot of space with layers of guitar or keys, but a great song can be incredibly simple and sometimes it’s hard to find that balance. To me, this album was a big step forward in terms of our songwriting quality. There are some songs that are lush and perhaps a little overproduced, while others are a little more restrained and straightforward structurally.”

Wiederholt added that the songs on the newest album have much more depth than their previous work.

“Overall, I think we’ve kept a similar sound, but we’ve also matured a great deal,” she said. “Our writing has developed over time as we’ve grown as individuals and as a band.”

The bandmates met back in 2011 when Weiderholt moved to Richmond from Norfolk for a job.

“We were coworkers when I first started working in Richmond,” she said. “It didn’t take long for music to become a topic of conversation between us.”

According to Burns, Heather sent him a song he’d done that she put vocals to and thus, a year later Sleepy Brother was born.

“We wrote our first song together in January of 2012,” Weiderholt added.

Burns, a Northern Virginia native, played music his sophomore year of high school.

“{I} played in a bunch of angsty indie rock bands — one of which I’d say was half decent,” Burns said. “But, I was cursed. Every band I was in before college only played one show before breaking up. In college, I accompanied a few people here and there, but never had a project of my own. I didn’t really start writing songs until a few years after I moved to Richmond.”

Wiederholt’sbackground on the other hand, is quite the opposite from angsty teenage music.

“My training comes from the realm of musical theater,” she said. “I think our different styles and musical influences complement each other well. I’m waiting for the day when he’ll let us do a Broadway show tunes themed set!”

The two have been playing gigs around Richmond at The Wine Loft, Blue Bee Cider, and Crossroads, but Burns said it’s been hard breaking into the vast music scene here.

“As a two-piece, we sort of have a particular niche when it comes to playing out” he said. “We do well at smaller venues like coffee shops and cafes, but we’re looking to expand on that,” he said. I’m working on turning that into inspiration/motivation.”

Sleepy Brother will celebrate their album release at Sound of Music Recording Studio on West Broad Street Sat. July 18 along with Bear Stevens and Oceans Versus Daughter. Show starts at 8 pm. $5.

You can also catch them at The Wine Loft. Aug. 1, and Fri. Aug. 14.

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.

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