Zoe & Cloyd on Creating their Own Sound, Gospel Music & their New Album

Zoe & Cloyd

Eclecticism and variety are highly valued in today's roots music scene, and musicians try to embody these qualities with honesty and authenticity. That comes naturally to Western North Carolina's Zoe & Cloyd, whose third album, I Am Your Neighbor, will be released September 27 from Organic Records. It is available for pre-order now.

Drawing on deep family and musical roots, the duo - Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller - have crafted a collection that moves effortlessly from authentic old-time sounds and pointed, heartfelt originals to startling, yet seamless blends of styles as diverse as bluegrass and klezmer.   

Q:  I love your sound, which is so unique.  How would you describe your style of music?  Has your sound evolved over time?

Our hometowns are 800 miles apart, at the opposite ends of the Appalachians. Natalya comes from a family of classical, jazz and klezmer musicians and I have more of a bluegrass background. Natalya's dad is a wonderful jazz pianist and her grandfather, originally from Russia, was a professional klezmer musician. In contrast, I'm a 12th generation North Carolinian. My grandfather, Jim Shumate, was a fiddler with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. I think these different narratives coming together is a big part of what makes our sound. We call our music "New Appalachian" music because it incorporates all these influences.

Q:  In your press release, it says that there's a touch of klezmer in your music.  What sort of music is klezmer

Klezmer is Jewish folk and wedding music that comes from the Yiddish culture of Eastern Europe. As a folk music, it evolved over time and absorbed a lot of different ethnic stylings as it traveled around the world with Jewish musicians. Natalya's grandfather performed mainly in the Philadelphia area after coming into the US via Argentina in 1923. 

Q:  You have a brand new album coming out.  Why did you call it "I Am Your Neighbor"?

We had written a song called "Neighbor" with our friend Kari Sickenberger and we thought it was the right sentiment for a title track. There has been an uptick in "un-neighborly" rhetoric as of late and this song is a response to that. We face many challenges as a country and as a species on this planet. Only when we come together as one and recognize that we are all neighbors in this world will we begin to surmount these challenges. 

Q:  You have also included a few Gospel songs, why is it important for you to include Christian music?

Gospel music has always been a big part of bluegrass, country and American folk music. To me, the feel and sentiment of sacred music is different than secular music. It demands a certain reverence from the performer as well as the listener. We love Gospel music and will always play it.

Q: I really love "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."  Tell us more about your thoughts about this song.

"Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" is a traditional African-American spiritual that we learned from a 1965 field recording of Frank Proffitt in Vilas, NC. Proffitt claimed to have learned it from a black banjo player named Dave Thompson who was also from the Sugar Grove area of northwestern NC. There is a timelessness to this song that I think contributes to its survival. It's a stark and beautiful statement. 

Q:  What are your plans this fall?  Will you be traveling to promote this new record?  What can our listeners expect when they come out to see you?

We generally do most of our touring during the summer months since we teach a lot during the school year but we get out and about as much as we can. Our record releases on September 27th and we have some regional album release shows lined up as well as some other performances. Check our website for details and please follow us on Instagram, Spotify and Facebook!



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