Two Charleston-based artists. One indie folk'n collaboration. Singer-songwriters Sean Richardson and Kyle Meadows have come together for a new 4-song split EP, and they’ve even brought in seminal indie rock fellow Ken Stringfellow from The Posies along for the ride. We sat down with Sean and Kyle to talk about their new music, Ken Stringfellow’s return to the Mountain State and you know, cats.
Kyle Meadows and Sean Richardson’s self-titled EP is available now on Bandcamp, and they’ll each have full-length releases out this June. Keep up with Kyle and Sean’s careers on socials. While you're at it, go ahead and give ‘A Change of Tune’ a follow and like on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. To hear more of their music, tune in to 'A Change of Tune,' airing Saturdays at 10pm EST on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
On getting into music:
Sean: [My start in music] was actually formed by The Cousins Five, and that was a grouping of all my cousins. We used to practice in my grandparents’ garage, and we would put original songs together and dance moves, and then we would come in and entertain my grandparents when my parents would drop us off for the weekend (so the parents could get away from us [kids]). And we’d just entertain my grandparents! They seemed genuinely engaged by our performances.
Kyle: Well, I’ve always considered myself sort of shy and introverted, so I never wanted to be in a band. I’d much rather play by myself. I’ve been playing guitar for a long time. I recorded my first album throughout 2012 to 2014 and gave it to a few friends and was talked into releasing it. So I released it in 2015, May 15 actually, and it went over pretty well. There aren’t many places to play where I lived in Pennsylvania. My friend Michael asked me to move in with him in Boone County, and I did that. He showed me all the spots in downtown Charleston, and I just started playing open mic nights and… here I am.
On being a new transplant to the #WVmusic scene:
Kyle: I was born in New York and moved to Pennsylvania when I was 7. Then I moved here last year. I kind of live in the middle of nowhere. I like it because it’s quiet. I prefer it over everywhere else I’ve lived so far. When I bring up Boone County, [people] say, “Why? Why Boone County?” But I like Boone County. It’s nice and quiet.
On venues in/around West Virginia:
Kyle: I wish there were bigger [venues]. I feel like if there were just a few more that were somehow bigger, it would be easier for touring bands to come in and play instead of you having to go to Pittsburgh or Richmond. I only really started playing music live here [in Charleston, West Virginia]. I’ve been playing live for a short period of time. I played at the Chameleon Club in June of 2015 and opened up for The Secret Sisters… [Other than that,] just the Empty Glass, the Boulevard Tavern, Taylor Books and The Blue Parrot.
Sean: I think what I’ve found is the house show circuit is my new favorite way to go with live music performances. It’s intimate. For example, there’s a gentleman named Dusty Segretto who puts on “The Living Room Series” in Louisville, Kentucky, and I played last weekend. I made more money there than I would at any venue. It was incredible! This circuit exists, and people are starting to connect the dots. So you can run a tour nationally now and never play an actual venue. That intimacy is so key because it’s a listening room. I actually started up a house show concert series, and I’m on show number four now, and I love it! You can hear a pin drop. People are tippy-toeing whenever they need to get up and leave the room. And sometimes in these live music venues, it’s just an X-Factor. You may have a cluster of people who are coming and celebrating a bachelor party [or] a birthday, and no offense to them [because] they want to celebrate in an open forum. But for quieter, solo singer-songwriters, you do feel that sometimes you may just be the afterthought.
On the meaning of success:
Sean: [Success has] always been for me to work with other artists. I love booking musicians. I love lifting that person up to get them exposure.
On working with Ken Stringfellow of The Posies:
Sean: Back in January, I wrote a song that appears on the split called “Deceiving.” And I heard it in my head and thought, “Wow, this needs an organ part. Who’s going to play organ? Who can I find?” So last year, I brought Ken Stringfellow (from The Posies, Big Star and R.E.M.) to Charleston. And on this record he put out called The Record with Holly Munoz, which was homage to Willie Nelson’s ’75 Red Headed Stranger, he has an amazing Hammond B3 organ track near the end of the record. And he played some piano at the show in October at The Fireside Bar & Lounge [in Charleston]. He’s such an amazing multi-talented instrumentalist. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to send this track to Ken Stringfellow and say, “Hey man, will you give this a listen and consider recording?” He was in France, actually, playing Elliott Smith’s album Figure 8 with a bunch of musicians over there. So there’s that weird feeling if you’ll get that email back that says, “Thanks for sending this to me. I don’t think this is going to work.” But much to my surprise, he messaged back and said, “Yes! I think I can do something with this.” He absolutely killed, and now I have him as a featured artist on a song. So to me, those are the ways that I define success in my music career. I’m not that guy that wants to be in front of 600, 000 people. I am this quieter person, similar to Kyle [Meadows]. I think that’s why we connect. We can just chill and enjoy smaller intimacy with our friends. But hey, world! I’ve recorded a track with Ken Stringfellow, and I am over the moon.
On bonding over music:
Sean: I think we knew that without having to say it. That’s kind of the best thing, though. Music can be instinctual, and it doesn’t necessarily have to have more words than Kyle saying, “Hey, want to put out a split?” [laughing] I think we both knew when we heard those tracks that they would probably coalesce.
Kyle: When I first heard Sean play, he reminded me of Sufjan Stevens. When he told me he opened for Elliott Smith and I was like, “That is really cool, too.” We do share a lot of musical interests. So [this partnership] was just right off the bat.
On getting your band booked:
Sean: Put the link to your music right up front in the body of your email. We all want to know what you sound like. Some people are excellent writers, and that’s cool, but it doesn’t tell me if I can fit you on a particular stage that is calling for a certain number of players or that style I’m looking for. So let me know what you sound like! I want to see an electronic press kit as well. I want to know who’s in the band, how many [are in the band], what your stage set’s going to be. I want to see a biography and where you come from. But mostly it’s that link to the music right away, because some people try to sell you on a bunch of words. And be polite… and be patient.
On The Posies’ May 17 show in Charleston:
Sean: Well, Ken [Stringfellow] and I communicated and he said, “[The Posies] want to play non-traditional venues.” One option was a house show, but my house show concert series doesn’t allow for the size group that’s probably going to show up and see The Posies [laughing]. I’m a big fan of Patrick Guthrie, who owns the V Club and both Black Sheep Burritos & Brews in Huntington and Charleston. I really love what he does with the V Club. I think that’s my favorite music venue in the entire state. Nothing against 123 Pleasant Street [in Morgantown], it’s pretty awesome too. And I love my local Charleston venues as well, The Empty Glass and the Boulevard Tavern in particular, and The Blue Parrot. But for non-traditional venues, [Black Sheep] has a stage and we’re going to remove the chairs and make it standing room only because we want to fit in as many people as possible. I love that Black Sheep also brews its own beer, they have great food, and it’s also a venue where we can have an all-ages show. I hope that young people will come and experience this… It’s going to be a fantastic show.