Flatland Tourists - Real, Honest, Red Clay Roots Music. They were raised on it, lived it, believe in it. They all grew up in the rural south and now are based out of Waxhaw, NC.
They’ve played Americana festivals, venues, and performance centers throughout the Southeast. They’ve played opening support for national Americana act, Shovels and Rope. Their first EP spent almost two months in the Top Ten on the Roots Music Report charts. Their shows are filled with happy, smiling, dancing people. They have red clay roots and it shows in their music. Flatland Tourists started their musical journey together in 2013, and for them, every day and every gig since feels like a vacation.
One evening in 2013, a local cover band was playing an outdoor show at the water tower in the small town of Waxhaw, NC. It may have been serendipity, blind luck, or just a coincidence that guided Billy Bost, Rachel Garcia, Frank Sutton, Joe Williams, and Kevin Winchester to that show. But that evening, all five of them eventually found themselves standing near the water tower, listening to the other band. Something brought them to that specific time and moment in space. They’d all known of each other for years from playing in other area projects, but had never worked together. A week later, that changed when the first Flatland Tourists rehearsal took place. It didn’t take long before they all knew they’d found something special. They focused on writing songs, building harmonies, tightening the band.
Within a few months, they were playing gigs at Americana venues in the Charlotte area. More shows followed, the fan base grew. Mark Williams, Grammy winning producer and engineer (REM, Southern Culture on the Skids, Hootie & the Blowfish) heard them at a show in Charlotte and they soon agreed on his involvement as producer of their first EP. Little King Records released their self-titled debut in 2014. The EP spent 12 weeks in the Roots Music Report Americana Chart Top Ten with the single “No Work, No Pay” rising as high as #2 and staying in the Top Ten Singles chart for 16 weeks, and the single “Cold Water River” rising as high as #3 and staying in the Top Ten Singles chart for 10 weeks. Since then, the band has expanded their venues beyond the Charlotte area; they’ve played opening support for national acts such as Shovels and Rope, and have appeared at festivals throughout the region like Tennessee’s Summer Solstice Festival and the National Whitewater Center’s River Jam. Affirming their rise in the genre and popularity in the area, they were nominated and chosen as the winners in the Americana Category for a 2015 Carolinas Music Award.
Their songs are honest and real. Their live shows are just that—lively, and everybody leaves happy and smiling. Yes, their music reflects a wide range of influences: country, blues, bluegrass, jam, early rock, even jazz elements. One common thread is evident through all their influences, though, and that’s the band’s connection to American roots music. It’s the music their parents and grandparents sang to them, played for them, and later, with them. It’s evident in their musicianship, the way they blend their harmonies, and even in their song-writing. This band is not a collective of musicians playing Americana music—they’ve lived it. It’s a sound born in their blood and bone, you know that as soon as you hear their first notes, the minute you see them on stage.
Courtney Devores writes in Sound Bites: “Singer Rachel Garcia’s soulful, bluesy voice reminds me of Rosanne Cash with a touch of Janis Joplin, but she's really got her own unique emotive sound and phrasing” and that their songs “place the band in the company of Ryan Adams and the Carolina Chocolate Drops' Rhiannon Giddens.”
In CD Review, Nancy Pfingstag writes: “Flatland Tourists’ debut EP offers the best of Americana—a big tent collection of country, rock, and folk, with a little bit of gospel thrown in for good Southern measure. The band’s sound ranges from melancholic and evocative (The Only Thread) to wonderfully, respectfully irreverent (Elvis at the Fast Fare) to foot-stomping blue grass joyfulness (Cold Water River.) The clear vocals and tight harmonies bring to mind Emmylou Harris, Alabama, even CSNY (think Southern Cross), only different. The Flatland Tourists band has its own distinct sound that pays homage to the North Carolina red clay roots of its members. Gorgeous vocals, haunting lyrics, and spartan accompaniment—music to the bare bone."
So, no, the band doesn’t think blind luck or coincidence brought them together that evening by the water tower. Not at all. Instead, they know that some form of musical karma, some force in the musical universe brought them together. You can see it when they play live, you can hear it in their music. More than that, you can feel it. They play the music of their southern, roots heritage, the music that courses through their blood and bones. They play it with peace and love in their hearts and nothing makes them happier than sharing it with their fans because, after all, we’re all Tourists on this journey, aren’t we?
So, get on the Tourists bus. Download the EP, go see a show. You'll be glad you did.
MEET THE TOURIST FAMILY
Billy Bost: banjo / guitar / vocals
“Syncopation” is too sophisticated a word for FT, so we say Billy provides the “bonka-bonka-bonka” for the band. Billy is originally from Charlotte, NC. He started playing guitar quite a few years ago and picked up the banjo somewhere along the way. He’s also our “international celebrity,” having served all over the world and parts of Arkansas in the N.C. Air National Guard. While keeping the 145th in the air, he played in a band called Willie and the Poor Boys, made up of six airmen who performed throughout the U.S, Belgium, and Germany. When he’s not grooving with the Tourists rhythm section, you might see him tooling the hills and highways on his Harley Davidson dresser. If he’s not on the road or the stage, he’s probably at home throwing the rock for Deacon, one of his fur babies.
Rachel Garcia: vocals/ percussion / songwriting
Born in Kentucky, Rachel finally made it to the red clay of North Carolina a few years ago and she is the map that guides the Tourists on this musical journey. She grew up singing the songs of Emmy Lou, Dolly Parton, and the Carter Family to her mother’s radio. From there, her talents led her to choirs, choruses, and then to rock and roll and jazz styles. She first met Joe at the historic Double Door Inn in Charlotte, NC, one of the Southeast’s premier blues / roots music venues since 1973, a fitting encounter since it eventually led her back to her true calling – singing red clay roots music with the Tourists. She has a style all of her own, and a unique voice to match. And she does her best to keep the “boys in the band” from acting like a bunch of fourteen-year-olds all the time. Most days, she’s successful at it.
Frank Sutton: drums/ percussion
Frank is the engine that keeps the Tourists running, the anchor of the rhythm section. If people still carried watches, you could set them to Frank’s beat. Frank is the Tourists’ “Hippie in Residence,” having played for years in the hippy jam band, Nth Degree. Maybe that’s why he always reminds us to “play it with love in our hearts.” He’s originally from Monroe, NC. He spent a couple of years on Georgia’s red clay, but soon found his way back home where he settled down in the teeming metropolis of Wingate, NC. In addition to his impeccable drum talents, Frank is also the keeper of Elvis and guardian of the safety sandwiches. And most importantly, his hair always looks fabulous.
Joe Williams: guitar/mandolin/ harmonica/ vocals/ songwriting
Joe’s family is originally from the mountains of North Carolina, near Cold Water River—hence the song on the first EP—but he grew up in Monroe, NC. His first semi-professional gig was when he was 12 years old. During that gig, the band blew speakers in all but one amp during sound check, so they all played through the one remaining amp. Rumor has it that it “went to eleven.” The rest, as they say, is history. He went on to play in many bands in many styles: rock, country, jazz, while touring throughout the Southeast before returning to his roots in the Tourists. He is accomplished on a variety of instruments and uses his top-notch arranging and song-writing skills to navigate the Tourists on their way. In addition to being the band musical maestro, Joe is also in charge of managing and maintaining the band’s healthy list of superstitions, quirks, tics, and rituals.
Kevin Winchester: bass/vocals/ songwriting
Kevin supplies the groove in the rhythm section. He’s originally from Monroe, NC where his grandmother taught him his first chords when he was barely out of diapers. He grew out of the diapers and into a bass guitar many years ago. He’s played all styles of music—country, bluegrass, punk, rock-n-roll—but is as happy as a hog in mud to be back playing the same kind of music as when he started. He’s also an award winning fiction writer and has a book and several stories published. He keeps the band on their toes by using odd words and phrases like “play it a scosh slower” or “put a wide spot right cheer” and he says the word “shaw” a lot. When the band’s not working, you can usually find him riding his Harley with Billy or planting beans and ‘maters.
Tom Eure: Fiddle
Tom’s the sixth Tourist, the honorary member, the fiddler not on the roof but on our records and on stage at most of our larger shows. He’s an accomplished musician and has several solo albums out. You can also find him playing in his Irish / Celtic roots project, Thistledown Tinkers, when he’s not out with the Tourists. He always brings a bucketful of excitement to the live shows and knows his way around a veggie burrito. More importantly, his hair is second only to Frank’s. When he’s not playing music, he’s usually running. We don’t know why, we don’t know where, but he does…
Buster Friendly: Guru
Buster Friendly has never been photographed and is rarely seen in public. He was born somewhere, abandoned by his human parents in a barn, and for the first few years of his life, he was raised by barn rats. When he was a toddler, a roving band of hippies took shelter in the barn and then adopted Buster, taking them along on their rolling carnival, teaching him the ways of peace, love, music, and cosmic justice. Buster communicates with dogs and barn rats (obviously), and has the unique and rare talent of being able to hypnotize chickens. He provides us counsel, encouragement, and guidance in all our travels.
Yep, only one name because he only needs one name. He has worn, and continues to wear, many hats for us in the figurative sense, although, he could literally wear a hat better than any of us because he’s by far the most dapper and culturally poised member of the Tourist family. He handles or has handled management, booking, press and publicity, running interference, acting as stage/road manager, website development, marketing, merchandising, advising, cajoling, and encouraging. He’s always making the scene behind the scenes and we wouldn’t be Flatland Tourists without his input. And, he makes a fantastic beard oil, too.
The Girls: Everything Else
The girls are Ann, Leslie (Flossie), and Terri. They do everything: keep the books, keep us fed, take gig pictures, work the merch tables, clap the loudest, dance the happiest, know all the words to all the songs, and most of all, they love and support us in all things Tourist.