The sound is American roots music — blues, country, early rock and soul. The instruments are banjo, washboard, dobro, harmonica, and a couple of other different guitars. The sound and the instruments might be more associated with the southern portion of the U.S., but the location is Walnut Creek, California and the band is The Backwater Ramblers, an Americana music band from the east bay in the SF bay area. They create and play original music in the Americana genre, influenced by legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline.
The Backwater Ramblers played an intimate performance at Up The Creek Records in Walnut Creek, CA recently, and I was fortunate enough to attend as part of Zipgig’s Spotlight Chronicles Stories in Music blog. I interviewed Jeff Eyman a few days before the performance to talk about The Backwater Ramblers, what inspires them, and what their creative process is for making original music. Jeff leads the band and is their primary songwriter. They have a new 5 song EP coming out soon.
Up The Creek Records was the perfect place to listen to The Backwater Ramblers’ retro sound, being a retro shop itself, with an impressive array of vinyl records and music memorabilia. They welcomed The Backwater Ramblers and their guests to enjoy the music while browsing the store.
Below is my interview with Jeff Eyman. I’m looking forward to listening to more of their music, both recorded and live. Backwater Ramblers will be playing at more venues around the bay in the coming months.
To listen to more of their music, check out their tracks on their website.
SC: What genre of music do you most identify with?
JE: Americana label, because it covers American roots music, blues, country, early rock and soul.
SC: Describe your style of music.
JE: It is fun, original Americana music in a retro style with a modern flair. We sometimes use traditional instruments like a banjo, washboard, and dobro.
SC: What is your role in the band?
JE: I’m the songwriter, I also play guitar and banjo. I do most of the social media management as well.
SC: Do you write your own music and lyrics?
JE: I write the music and lyrics. I make demos, play the instruments. I like to give it to the singer and go over the melody and get the feel of a song with her first, and then present it to the band and the band puts their own spin on it. It goes through a process of evolution. When we play it in front of people and get a response, we might tweak it some more.
We recorded a 5 song EP and would sell it at shows when Aimee was in the band (the former singer). We’ve recorded a handful of single songs, but we’ve gone through two singers, so the songs are not out there commercially anymore. We currently have a new 5 song EP in the works with our new singer Anna!
SC: How long has the band been together, what brought you together?
JE: The band started in 2017. Like most bands we have gone through line up changes. We started playing as a trio with Greg Seeno on bass, Scott Cereghino on drums, and myself. My friend Aimee from Kentucky moved back to CA and joined in as the singer, her brother Josh also joined as a 2nd guitarist. Around this time our harmonica player, J.J. White joined. But things didn’t work out with that line-up.
My friend Jenny Carr stepped in as the singer, but then she moved to San Diego. Greg and Josh both left the group. Ken Best joined and is our current bassist. We found our current singer Anna via Craigslist. She is from France on work permit. She has been with the band for over a year now.
SC: Where are you based out of, where do you play, and in what type of venues?
JE: We practice in Pleasant Hill. Band members are all from the East Bay, so they come to Pleasant Hill for practice. The East Bay is where we play. Locally, in bars, festivals, and events. Our goal is to play breweries, or other places where the fit is right.
SC: If you had to identify with a famous musician or band, who would it be?
JE: We don’t really identify with one band or musician. We identify more with a time period in music. The 50’s and 60’s music played by artists such as Patsy Cline, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Muddy Waters.
SC: What inspires you as a band?
JE: Keeping the music of the past alive to be heard. We are not riding a trend. We play the music we love. I like to think the music we play is timeless. We want all ages to enjoy it.
SC: Is the SF bay area a good place for you to promote your unique sound?
JE: I think so. Getting heard by the people that enjoy Americana music can be challenging. I do think there is definitely a market for our style of music here.
A couple of years ago, I went to Nashville and to Mississippi, I really liked it. That is where the roots of American music comes from. The roots music scene there is real nice. There is less of that here in the bay area.
SC: When people leave your show, what is it that you hope they will say about you?
JE: How music can be fun, that they had a good time. Also if they haven’t been exposed to live Americana roots music, I’d like them to think how rad that style of music is. That American roots music has energy and vitality.
Thank you Jeff for the interview and to the rest of the Backwater Ramblers for the show. I really enjoyed your show at Up The Creek records!