Listen to Brie Capone’s remarkable folk-soul EP Orbit, and there’s every reason to believe she’d bring its full-band sound to the stage, night after night. But if you watch the Asheville artist’s live videos or sit in on one of her gigs, odds are good that it’ll be a stripped-down, acoustic presentation.
“I’ve found myself in this little realm of singer-songwriter where you just kind of bring the guitar and sing a couple songs,” she says. “I love the balance. I just like to perform … but I would love, especially with the new EP, to be bringing full-band performances more.”
Capone gets one of those opportunities on Friday, July 7, at The Grey Eagle. In the Last Waltz-style show, she and fellow local musician Matt Townsend will each play sets with the same ensemble, rotating out players for certain songs and converging for a few covers.
A graduate of A.C Reynolds High School, Capone studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Upon completing her degree, she briefly came back to Asheville before moving to New York City and forming the duo The Humble Grapes. She describes the group as “more in the rock, punk, belting female vocal branch.” She also calls the metropolis “beautifully overwhelming” and notes that her time there taught her a lot about herself.
“One of those things was that I don’t do well in big cities,” Capone says. “I just felt mentally very drained and really in a changing point where I had to decide if I was going to stick it out in the city or find another place to call home. I was just looking for direction.”
After The Humble Grapes amicably parted ways, Capone eyed a return to Asheville, as well as a solo career. She made it her goal to record music that she really liked while finding a sound of her own. She also set her sights on Echo Mountain Recording as the place to realize that dream, having loved many projects that emerged from its studios. The realization that one of her favorite bands, Dawes, had cut its album Stories Don’t End there sealed the deal.
“It was kind of like this ‘aha’ moment of, like, ‘Well, I love Dawes. I love Asheville. They recorded somewhere I want to record at. I think this is a sign,’” Capone says. Playing the band’s track “Take Me Out of the City” on repeat soon commenced and, on April 1, 2016, she rented a little Kia, packed it with everything she owned and drove to Western North Carolina.
“The drive itself was gorgeous, but it was the longest drive ever,” she says. “I cried and laughed and freaked out — it was a lot of things all at once in one day, but it was good.”
Capone had approximately five songs in varying degrees of completion when she moved. One was “Orbit,” written as a response to leaving New York and, in her words, “having a breakdown in a good way [over] a lot of things changing” simultaneously. Settling into Asheville life, she felt inspired and wrote more tracks. She also convinced herself that she needed a producer, and soon found one in Peter Brownlee.
The professionalism of Brownlee’s online work samples and his website itself impressed Capone. That he was a fellow Berklee grad was just a happy coincidence. Brownlee’s bandmates in the Asheville art-pop group Midnight Snack — members Zack Kardon (guitar) and Jack Victor (drums) play on Orbit — were only a year behind her in college, but she never met any of them before coming back to WNC.
Brownlee helped Capone whittle down the collection, nixing compositions that didn’t fit with Orbit’s overall flow or weren’t up to the best-songs standards. Among the selected pieces were the title track, the lively breakup anthem “Vinyl” and “Scars,” a searing love song Capone had written years before.
The video for “Scars” — in which Capone swims nude at Skinny Dip Falls in October, an experience that may or may not have left her with mild hypothermia for a few days — tied for the Judges’ Choice award at Music Video Asheville in April. The following month, “Scars” and “Vinyl” were part of a larger submission of work that won her the fourth annual LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition. Capone says those accolades have cleaned up a few insecurities about whether she should be a full-time musician and if people truly hear what she’s saying.
She’ll look to funnel that encouragement into a follow-up EP, currently in the rehearsal stage with an anticipated fall release. One of her main goals with the latest material is to get more instrumental detail work done on each song, building on her rapport with Brownlee and recruiting new musician friends to contribute string and horn parts. Her songwriting has also evolved.
“I find myself interested in things other than myself,” Capone says. “I don’t think there’s a song on [Orbit] that isn’t more from my internal dialogue with myself, but I tend to write that way. I end up with a lot of questions that I want to sing about, but I would love to get away from relationship songs a little bit more and maybe dive more into story songs and different characters that I could develop.”
WHO: Matt Townsend and Brie Capone
WHERE: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave., thegreyeagle.com
WHEN: Friday, July 7, 9 p.m. $8 advance/$10 day of show