The Artist Spotlight sat down with The Farm on the opening night of Country Stampede 2012. Click play to watch the full interview and performance.
April 2010. Poolside at a Tennessee lakehouse.
Three musicians and a songwriting friend were toying with a fiddle riff, just to see where it might lead. It became the hook for a song, and once they launched into the “Home Sweet Home” chorus, the three voices fell into place with an unexpected, other-worldly sound.
Instant harmony. Almost-instant band.
THE FARM is in many ways a hybrid act – a trio deeply rooted in Country Music, that folds in sonic elements from a variety of popular-music genres – but the core is built around a solid, identifiable vocal harmony.
Interlocking voices have been an important thread in country’s history, from the Sons of the Pioneers through Alabama through Restless Heart through Lady Antebellum. THE FARM – Nick Hoffman, Damien Horne and Krista Marie – puts its own distinct spin on the sound, a tightly woven mesh that relies on the synthesis of three musicians who found their way to Nashville from different parts of the U.S. with different sets of musical influences.
THE FARM’s unified blend is an aural representation of the melting-pot mentality at the heart of America.
“There are a lot of bands out there that you could take a member out and not know the difference,” Nick, the fiddle-playing singer, notes. “This is not one of those bands.”
“It’s really three elements that you bring together,” Krista adds. “Like earth, wind, fire – and there we are.”
THE FARM’s first album demonstrates the various musical sources at work. The crunchy chords in “Fresh Off the Farm” pull from classic rock. “Be Grateful” relies on pop melodicism. And “Farm Party” builds on a hip-hop counter-hook and a rhythmic center that’s old-school R&B at its heart.
Despite the outside influences, THE FARM is clearly a country project, built from heartland values, Nick’s snarling fiddle, and those intense harmonies created by three distinct solo voices.
“People are so eclectic in the way that they listen to music and the way they receive music,” Damien observes. “You can keep it country, and still incorporate all the things we are each capable of doing.”
It’s a bold, edgy mix that dares to be different and for THE FARM, that daring sound is a fundamental part of the trio’s makeup. Nick was a country traditionalist, Krista was a former solo vocalist with a background in opera and standards, and Damien had first moved to Nashville with an alternative-rock band and ended up opening concerts for R&B artist John Legend. Manager Marc Oswald was the first to suggest the three write together. Nick brought along songwriter-producer Danny Myrick, a co-writer of Jason Aldean’s genre-busting “She’s Country,” and the four sat down to write, just to see if anything might come of it.
In that unpressured setting, sitting at the pool on a typical Tennessee spring day, all four musicians were free to bring their separate visions to the table, and it began with Nick introducing a riff he’d created on his fiddle.
“I had never been to a co-write before where somebody brought their fiddle,” Krista recalls.
“Usually you write around a guitar hook,” Nick explains. “Instead, I kind of play fiddle like most people play guitar. That’s how we ended up writing ‘Sweet Sweet Sunshine,’ ‘Home Sweet Home’ and several of the other ones that are on the record as well. We started with a fiddle hook, and then it just kind of went from there.”
The hooks were important, but more vital was that three-part harmony. It was tight, it was stunning, and no one directed it. They gravitated to their parts naturally, then moved throughout the chorus as if they were of one mind. Central to all of it was the lack of pressure. It didn’t matter if it became anything – only that they had a good time doing it.
“It was just about making music and building this chemistry and growing, but it wasn’t even like we were after a deal or anything like that,” Damien reflects. “We were in the same head space, we were just making music, and a bunch of things just kinda came about because the music was good.”
It was so good that once they finished writing “Home Sweet Home,” they popped the cork on a bottle of champagne. They knew they’d created something really special, whether or not it actually went anywhere.
But it did go somewhere. Quickly. THE FARM built a stockpile of new material and gave its first public performance in October 2010 at Fontanel, a Nashville venue on property that Barbara Mandrell once called home. Several Warner execs were in the crowd that night, and label head John Esposito was so impressed with the trio’s unique harmonies and multi-layered influences that he stayed and played along with them in an informal jam session until 2 o’clock in the morning.
Esposito signed THE FARM to the Warner Music Nashville’s Elektra Records, and Damien, Krista -with Myrick and Nick co-producing – approached the first album with a focused dedication that’s more like a rock band than the typical Music Row recording process.
“We wrote like a band, and we recorded like a band,” Nick explains. “We camped out in a studio every day for two weeks from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There was evolution and experimenting, things that wouldn’t have happened if we had done it any other way.”
The experimentation is why THE FARM works. In an era where music fans shuffle their iPods from Alan Jackson to Eminem to Journey, THE FARM blends country with other influences in a manner that’s completely natural and gives the band its own immediate niche.
“We have that option to experiment, and what makes it easy is that we did that from the beginning,” Damien says. “We didn’t set out to be a group and be something specific. It was ‘Let’s just make music.’ As long as it’s cool and resonates with us, we’ve discovered it will resonate with other people.”