In with the Old, Out with the New: Welcome to Union Sound Treaty's Outlaw Country

Jun 22, 2017

“We felt that by coming together to write authentic music, we offer a modern-day "sound treaty" to the legends and heroes of grassroots, outlaw country and bluegrass music.”

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting and A Change of Tune, this is 30 Days of #WVmusic, the interview series celebrating the folks who make the West Virginia music scene wild and wonderful.  

And today's interview is with an Americana/country outfit out of Morgantown who are paying tribute to the rabble-rousers and outlaw country giants before them. This... is Union Sound Treaty.

How did the band get together?

Union Sound Treaty began humbly in 2015 when singer-songwriter Charles Godwin decided he wanted to expand his musical horizon and bring new life to his catalog of music by forming a full band. From childhood friendships with Ross Justice (drums) and Nate Colombo (pedal steel/banjo) and networking at Morgantown's local music store, John Schooley (guitar) and Shawn Wilhelm (bass) completed the lineup for Union Sound Treaty. The band was formed to write, record and perform original music… a sound similar to "old" country, but infused with homegrown Appalachian energy. It is the goal of the band to make a career out of our music and bring the sounds of West Virginia to the rest of the country.

Union Sound Treaty are Charles Godwin, Shawn Wilhelm, John Schooley, Ross Justice, Nathan Colombo.
Credit Lindsay Jordan Cook

What previous bands have you all been in?        

Vandalia (Charles and Nate), The Hide and Seek Effect (Ross), SpaceHoney (John, Shawn) and too many cover bands to name.

Where does the name Union Sound Treaty come from?               

We take pride in the authenticity of our music and felt the name Union Sound Treaty accurately represented our mission as we create music for ourselves and anyone who would like to listen. Our interpretation of country is one that negates the sound of pop-influenced radio hits that play day in and day out. We felt that by coming together to write authentic music, we offer a modern-day "sound treaty" to the legends and heroes of grassroots, outlaw country and bluegrass music.

Where can folks see you play in and around West Virginia?

Schmitt's Saloon (Morgantown), 123 Pleasant Street (Morgantown), The Boulevard Tavern (Charleston), Live on the Levee 2017 (Charleston), Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company (Lewisburg), Cheat Fest 2017 (Albright), The Purple Fiddle (Thomas), Black Bear Burritos (Morgantown) and Clay District Fair (Fairview).

What’s been the highlight of the band’s musical journal thus far?            

We have been able to have two great recording sessions at Blackbird Studios in Nashville. Being surrounded by such great equipment and even better people has enabled us to record some great tracks, including our debut album Next Year, which we released in November of 2016.

Union Sound Treaty
Credit Courtesy of the artist

What’s it like making music in West Virginia?

Making music in West Virginia is special. There is a real energy in West Virginia that enables us to create music that is authentic but rooted in Appalachian music's past. We typically draw writing influence from life events and stories that highlight the joy, struggle, fights and triumphs of people that call West Virginia home.

Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?

If a musician is serious about a touring career, it seems that he or she is never satisfied with his or her surroundings. In that respect, we might always feel a bit held back (regardless of location) until we are playing throughout the country on a daily basis. We certainly feel supported by the people we meet and our family and friends in West Virginia, which ultimately keeps us grounded and focused.

Union Sound Treaty
Credit Durbin

What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?           

The West Virginia music scene is filled with well-known acts and hidden gems of talent. By municipalities embracing artists within their communities, the music scene will naturally move forward. Increasing the opportunities for artists to perform - all the while increasing opportunities for crowds to listen - will have a lasting impact on the West Virginia music scene that will keep folks playing and listening for years to come.

Any advice for anyone who is starting to make music?  

Stay true to yourself and the music you honestly want to create, especially when just starting to make music. The journey should be filled with joy and authenticity, not pressure.

Union Sound Treaty’s latest release is Next Year. Keep an eye (and ear) on the band’s social media for tour dates and new releases (including a set of new Nashville recordings). Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.

Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Kin Ship Goods, proud supporter of DIY music and the arts. Locally shipped worldwide at kinshipgoods.com.