Zoe Speaks


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About

Zoe Speaks consists of Kentuckians Mitch Barrett, Carla Gover, and their daughter Zoey Barrett, along with bassist Owen Reynolds and multi-instrumentalist Arlo Barnette, who draw on their deep roots in the region to put their own spin on everything from traditional ballads to finely-crafted originals. A smooth blend of Americana, ...

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Publicist
Ben Michaels
812-339-1195 X 204

Current News

  • 09/06/201811/11/2018
  • Louisville, KY

Flying Forward, Kentucky’s Zoe Speaks Lift Up A New Vision of Kinship with a Distinct Appalachian Lilt on Wings

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things...

Press

News

11/11/2018, Louisville, KY, Odeon, 7:00PM
09/06/201811/11/2018, Flying Forward, Kentucky’s Zoe Speaks Lift Up A New Vision of Kinship with a Distinct Appalachian Lilt on Wings
Event
11/11/2018
Event
11/11/2018
Ticket Phone
502-290-7067
Ticket Price(s)
$15
Venue Zip
40206
Venue City, State
Louisville KY
Venue St. Address
1335 Story Ave
Venue
Odeon
Concert Start Time
7:00PM
Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing. MORE» More»

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things like, ‘I learned this from field recording #234.’ That’s wonderful, but in the mountains we were raised with music as a part of our daily lives, songs we sang with Granny breaking beans. Or what grandpa sang while plowing with his mules, or at a meeting on the graveyard.”

They have also weathered family upheaval, breaking up and reforming after core members Gover and Mitch Barrett divorced. They came to see what they truly had in common as artists, and with their community writ large. The Lexington-based band has taken flight once more with Wings, thanks to help from engineer/producer/fiddler Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers Band) and with a new lineup that includes the band’s namesake and daughter, Zoey.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms (“Paper of Pins”) they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.

“We have a very storied history of cultural output in Kentucky, including a huge tradition of using music as a tool for social change. We’re carrying that torch,” says Gover. “In all the stereotypes of apathetic, backwards people on welfare, that gets lost. You can find nuanced thought, freethinkers and political engagement all through the region, despite what you see on 60 Minutes or from certain writers.” They channel this progressive spirit on the no-holds-barred “Hole Where Your Soul’s Supposed to Be”

“People make fun of Appalachia, but you have all these Kentucky writers and artists,” muses Barrett. “I’m proud of that, that our music is kin to that storytelling line. We’re deep-thinking people.”

{full story below}

Gover, who honed her playing at community dances starting in her childhood, and Barrett, who formed a mountain duo and performed with his mom as a boy, came together as life and creative partners, building a fan base regionally for their musician’s craft and stunning songwriting. They had children, dealt with life on the road together. One day, they realized it wasn't working. They parted ways and ended the project.

Then a friend asked them if they’d be willing to do a reunion show. Almost ten years had passed. They agreed--and realized again how much they liked playing together. It sparked a new, fertile era of music making. “It requires a certain maturity of us, the being divorced part,” reflects Barrett. “We always wrote separately and shared back and forth with each other, but this is another layer. The music on Wings is the most mature music that both of us have made.”

This music often unfolds in response to the pop world, without straying from home. “Lay Down” winks at “Leather and Lace,” albeit with a dreamy mountain quality. “Hey Josephine” was Barrett’s exploration of what it would mean to switch the gender of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe.” “The Earth Has Had Enough” takes a distinctly Neil Young turn, with gritty guitar and raw-edged vocals.

Yet just as often, songs spring from what Barrett calls “an amalgamation of real life and story,” the emotional touchstones at the intersection of lived experience and lore. “Black Feather” flowed from a crow spotted from a coffee shop table. “Cheat the Blues” came to Gover in a dream after she had to miss a favorite music festival. She saw the Grateful Dead playing by a river, “and that was the song they played,” she smiles.

Wings simultaneously extends the family involvement to a new generation. Along with upright bassist and Kentucky native Owen Reynolds, they brought the bright, soulful voice of Zoey Barrett (she and Gover sing together on tracks like “Bluebird”) and the wonderfully scruffy, buzzy guitar, understated bluesy keyboards, and spot-on percussion of Arlo Barnette, Zoey’s fiancé, into the band. The juxtaposition of the family band, but with a contemporary twist, tells a story of its own.

“We’re on stage together, with our adult child and we both have other partners. In a way, we’re modeling the 21st-century family, the reality of a lot of families,” says Gover. “There’s a sense of failure and shame around divorce. In the communities we come from, it can be stigmatized and that’s unfortunate. We’re saying it’s okay to be who you are, that there all kinds of families.”

That a band steeped in family lore and ties would eventually (and peaceably) embrace divorce is only part of the story. Zoe Speaks extends kin to include wider circles: the vulnerable and the young people Barrett and Gover frequently work with, their fellow artists (author Silas House was instrumental in Gover’s writing of “Wings of a Dove”), the entire planet facing climate change. (“The Earth Has Had Enough”).

Barrett often undertakes residencies at schools or with programs designed to reach specific at-risk populations (collaborating with teenage mothers in Eastern Kentucky inspired “You’re Not So Alone”), and Gover is likewise heavily involved in arts education programs, in part as a pivotal player in a cross-cultural educational initiative, “Cornbread and Tortillas.” Both draw on those interactions and experiences in their writing.

“With groups like the moms I worked with, we help them use singing and songwriting as a tool to express themselves. What they expressed was their loneliness,” Mitch notes, speaking about “You’re Not So Alone.” “But we decided that since the verses are sad, now we have to write a magic chorus. And we did it.” Live, Barrett uses it as an opportunity to urge audience members to sing along, then to turn to one another and look in each others’ eyes.

The group has a deep awareness of their community, one that lifts them up no matter how tough the times. “I love Kentucky and love our artistic community,” Gover enthuses. “We inspire and feed off each other. It’s a beautiful tapestry to be woven into. I know we’ll be making art together when we’re old and grey, and influencing each other and the younger generations.”

Event
11/11/2018

11/02/2018, Louisville, KY, Odeon, 8:00pm
09/06/201811/02/2018, Flying Forward, Kentucky’s Zoe Speaks Lift Up A New Vision of Kinship with a Distinct Appalachian Lilt on Wings
Event
11/02/2018
Event
11/02/2018
Ticket Phone
502-290-7067
Ticket Price(s)
$15
Venue Zip
40206
Venue City, State
Louisville, KY
Venue St. Address
1335 Story Ave, Louisville KY
Venue
Odeon
Concert Start Time
8:00pm
Doors Open
7:00pm
Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing. MORE» More»

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things like, ‘I learned this from field recording #234.’ That’s wonderful, but in the mountains we were raised with music as a part of our daily lives, songs we sang with Granny breaking beans. Or what grandpa sang while plowing with his mules, or at a meeting on the graveyard.”

They have also weathered family upheaval, breaking up and reforming after core members Gover and Mitch Barrett divorced. They came to see what they truly had in common as artists, and with their community writ large. The Lexington-based band has taken flight once more with Wings (released 08/24/18),  thanks to help from engineer/producer/fiddler Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers Band) and with a new lineup that includes the band’s namesake and daughter, Zoey.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms (“Paper of Pins”) they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.

“We have a very storied history of cultural output in Kentucky, including a huge tradition of using music as a tool for social change. We’re carrying that torch,” says Gover. “In all the stereotypes of apathetic, backwards people on welfare, that gets lost. You can find nuanced thought, freethinkers and political engagement all through the region, despite what you see on 60 Minutes or from certain writers.” They channel this progressive spirit on the no-holds-barred “Hole Where Your Soul’s Supposed to Be”

“People make fun of Appalachia, but you have all these Kentucky writers and artists,” muses Barrett. “I’m proud of that, that our music is kin to that storytelling line. We’re deep-thinking people.”

{full story below}

Gover, who honed her playing at community dances starting in her childhood, and Barrett, who formed a mountain duo and performed with his mom as a boy, came together as life and creative partners, building a fan base regionally for their musician’s craft and stunning songwriting. They had children, dealt with life on the road together. One day, they realized it wasn't working. They parted ways and ended the project.

Then a friend asked them if they’d be willing to do a reunion show. Almost ten years had passed. They agreed--and realized again how much they liked playing together. It sparked a new, fertile era of music making. “It requires a certain maturity of us, the being divorced part,” reflects Barrett. “We always wrote separately and shared back and forth with each other, but this is another layer. The music on Wings is the most mature music that both of us have made.”

This music often unfolds in response to the pop world, without straying from home. “Lay Down” winks at “Leather and Lace,” albeit with a dreamy mountain quality. “Hey Josephine” was Barrett’s exploration of what it would mean to switch the gender of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe.” “The Earth Has Had Enough” takes a distinctly Neil Young turn, with gritty guitar and raw-edged vocals.

Yet just as often, songs spring from what Barrett calls “an amalgamation of real life and story,” the emotional touchstones at the intersection of lived experience and lore. “Black Feather” flowed from a crow spotted from a coffee shop table. “Cheat the Blues” came to Gover in a dream after she had to miss a favorite music festival. She saw the Grateful Dead playing by a river, “and that was the song they played,” she smiles.

Wings simultaneously extends the family involvement to a new generation. Along with upright bassist and Kentucky native Owen Reynolds, they brought the bright, soulful voice of Zoey Barrett (she and Gover sing together on tracks like “Bluebird”) and the wonderfully scruffy, buzzy guitar, understated bluesy keyboards, and spot-on percussion of Arlo Barnette, Zoey’s fiancé, into the band. The juxtaposition of the family band, but with a contemporary twist, tells a story of its own.

“We’re on stage together, with our adult child and we both have other partners. In a way, we’re modeling the 21st-century family, the reality of a lot of families,” says Gover. “There’s a sense of failure and shame around divorce. In the communities we come from, it can be stigmatized and that’s unfortunate. We’re saying it’s okay to be who you are, that there all kinds of families.”

That a band steeped in family lore and ties would eventually (and peaceably) embrace divorce is only part of the story. Zoe Speaks extends kin to include wider circles: the vulnerable and the young people Barrett and Gover frequently work with, their fellow artists (author Silas House was instrumental in Gover’s writing of “Wings of a Dove”), the entire planet facing climate change. (“The Earth Has Had Enough”).

Barrett often undertakes residencies at schools or with programs designed to reach specific at-risk populations (collaborating with teenage mothers in Eastern Kentucky inspired “You’re Not So Alone”), and Gover is likewise heavily involved in arts education programs, in part as a pivotal player in a cross-cultural educational initiative, “Cornbread and Tortillas.” Both draw on those interactions and experiences in their writing.

“With groups like the moms I worked with, we help them use singing and songwriting as a tool to express themselves. What they expressed was their loneliness,” Mitch notes, speaking about “You’re Not So Alone.” “But we decided that since the verses are sad, now we have to write a magic chorus. And we did it.” Live, Barrett uses it as an opportunity to urge audience members to sing along, then to turn to one another and look in each others’ eyes.

The group has a deep awareness of their community, one that lifts them up no matter how tough the times. “I love Kentucky and love our artistic community,” Gover enthuses. “We inspire and feed off each other. It’s a beautiful tapestry to be woven into. I know we’ll be making art together when we’re old and grey, and influencing each other and the younger generations.”

Event
11/02/2018

09/23/2018, Lexington, KY, Minglewood Restaurant, 7:30 PM
07/30/201809/23/2018, Flying Forward, Kentucky’s Zoe Speaks Lift Up A New Vision of Kinship with a Distinct Appalachian Lilt on Wings
Event
09/23/2018
Event
09/23/2018
Event Notes
All ages show
Ticket URL
https://maps.google.com/?q=159+N+Limestone,+Lexington,+KY+40507&entry=gmail&source=g
Ticket Price(s)
$10
Venue Zip
40507
Venue City, State
Lexington, KY
Venue St. Address
159 N Limestone
Venue
Minglewood Restaurant
Concert Start Time
7:30 PM
Doors Open
6:30 PM
Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing. MORE» More»

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things like, ‘I learned this from field recording #234.’ That’s wonderful, but in the mountains we were raised with music as a part of our daily lives, songs we sang with Granny breaking beans. Or what grandpa sang while plowing with his mules, or at a meeting on the graveyard.”

They have also weathered family upheaval, breaking up and reforming after core members Gover and Mitch Barrett divorced. They came to see what they truly had in common as artists, and with their community writ large. The Lexington-based band has taken flight once more with Wings, thanks to help from engineer/producer/fiddler Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers Band) and with a new lineup that includes the band’s namesake and daughter, Zoey.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms (“Paper of Pins”) they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.

“We have a very storied history of cultural output in Kentucky, including a huge tradition of using music as a tool for social change. We’re carrying that torch,” says Gover. “In all the stereotypes of apathetic, backwards people on welfare, that gets lost. You can find nuanced thought, freethinkers and political engagement all through the region, despite what you see on 60 Minutes or from certain writers.” They channel this progressive spirit on the no-holds-barred “Hole Where Your Soul’s Supposed to Be”

“People make fun of Appalachia, but you have all these Kentucky writers and artists,” muses Barrett. “I’m proud of that, that our music is kin to that storytelling line. We’re deep-thinking people.”

{full story below}

Gover, who honed her playing at community dances starting in her childhood, and Barrett, who formed a mountain duo and performed with his mom as a boy, came together as life and creative partners, building a fan base regionally for their musician’s craft and stunning songwriting. They had children, dealt with life on the road together. One day, they realized it wasn't working. They parted ways and ended the project.

Then a friend asked them if they’d be willing to do a reunion show. Almost ten years had passed. They agreed--and realized again how much they liked playing together. It sparked a new, fertile era of music making. “It requires a certain maturity of us, the being divorced part,” reflects Barrett. “We always wrote separately and shared back and forth with each other, but this is another layer. The music on Wings is the most mature music that both of us have made.”

This music often unfolds in response to the pop world, without straying from home. “Lay Down” winks at “Leather and Lace,” albeit with a dreamy mountain quality. “Hey Josephine” was Barrett’s exploration of what it would mean to switch the gender of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe.” “The Earth Has Had Enough” takes a distinctly Neil Young turn, with gritty guitar and raw-edged vocals.

Yet just as often, songs spring from what Barrett calls “an amalgamation of real life and story,” the emotional touchstones at the intersection of lived experience and lore. “Black Feather” flowed from a crow spotted from a coffee shop table. “Cheat the Blues” came to Gover in a dream after she had to miss a favorite music festival. She saw the Grateful Dead playing by a river, “and that was the song they played,” she smiles.

Wings simultaneously extends the family involvement to a new generation. Along with upright bassist and Kentucky native Owen Reynolds, they brought the bright, soulful voice of Zoey Barrett (she and Gover sing together on tracks like “Bluebird”) and the wonderfully scruffy, buzzy guitar, understated bluesy keyboards, and spot-on percussion of Arlo Barnette, Zoey’s fiancé, into the band. The juxtaposition of the family band, but with a contemporary twist, tells a story of its own.

“We’re on stage together, with our adult child and we both have other partners. In a way, we’re modeling the 21st-century family, the reality of a lot of families,” says Gover. “There’s a sense of failure and shame around divorce. In the communities we come from, it can be stigmatized and that’s unfortunate. We’re saying it’s okay to be who you are, that there all kinds of families.”

That a band steeped in family lore and ties would eventually (and peaceably) embrace divorce is only part of the story. Zoe Speaks extends kin to include wider circles: the vulnerable and the young people Barrett and Gover frequently work with, their fellow artists (author Silas House was instrumental in Gover’s writing of “Wings of a Dove”), the entire planet facing climate change. (“The Earth Has Had Enough”).

Barrett often undertakes residencies at schools or with programs designed to reach specific at-risk populations (collaborating with teenage mothers in Eastern Kentucky inspired “You’re Not So Alone”), and Gover is likewise heavily involved in arts education programs, in part as a pivotal player in a cross-cultural educational initiative, “Cornbread and Tortillas.” Both draw on those interactions and experiences in their writing.

“With groups like the moms I worked with, we help them use singing and songwriting as a tool to express themselves. What they expressed was their loneliness,” Mitch notes, speaking about “You’re Not So Alone.” “But we decided that since the verses are sad, now we have to write a magic chorus. And we did it.” Live, Barrett uses it as an opportunity to urge audience members to sing along, then to turn to one another and look in each others’ eyes.

The group has a deep awareness of their community, one that lifts them up no matter how tough the times. “I love Kentucky and love our artistic community,” Gover enthuses. “We inspire and feed off each other. It’s a beautiful tapestry to be woven into. I know we’ll be making art together when we’re old and grey, and influencing each other and the younger generations.”

Event
09/23/2018

09/09/2018, Frankfort, KY, Josephine Sculpture Park, 4:00 PM
08/03/201809/09/2018, Fall Festival
Event
09/09/2018
Event
09/09/2018
Event Notes
Join us for this free, family-friendly, art-full festival in the lovely rolling hills outside of Frankfort, KY! We go on at 4 PM, but be sure to check out the entire lineup of awesome music and activities.
Venue Zip
40601
Venue City, State
Frankfort, KY
Venue St. Address
3355 Lawrenceburg Rd
Venue
Josephine Sculpture Park
Concert Start Time
4:00 PM
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MORE» More»

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things like, ‘I learned this from field recording #234.’ That’s wonderful, but in the mountains we were raised with music as a part of our daily lives, songs we sang with Granny breaking beans. Or what grandpa sang while plowing with his mules, or at a meeting on the graveyard.”

They have also weathered family upheaval, breaking up and reforming after core members Gover and Mitch Barrett divorced. They came to see what they truly had in common as artists, and with their community writ large. The Lexington-based band has taken flight once more with Wings, thanks to help from engineer/producer/fiddler Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers Band) and with a new lineup that includes the band’s namesake and daughter, Zoey.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms (“Paper of Pins”) they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.

“We have a very storied history of cultural output in Kentucky, including a huge tradition of using music as a tool for social change. We’re carrying that torch,” says Gover. “In all the stereotypes of apathetic, backwards people on welfare, that gets lost. You can find nuanced thought, freethinkers and political engagement all through the region, despite what you see on 60 Minutes or from certain writers.” They channel this progressive spirit on the no-holds-barred “Hole Where Your Soul’s Supposed to Be”

“People make fun of Appalachia, but you have all these Kentucky writers and artists,” muses Barrett. “I’m proud of that, that our music is kin to that storytelling line. We’re deep-thinking people.”

Gover, who honed her playing at community dances starting in her childhood, and Barrett, who formed a mountain duo and performed with his mom as a boy, came together as life and creative partners, building a fan base regionally for their musician’s craft and stunning songwriting. They had children, dealt with life on the road together. One day, they realized it wasn't working. They parted ways and ended the project.

Then a friend asked them if they’d be willing to do a reunion show. Almost ten years had passed. They agreed--and realized again how much they liked playing together. It sparked a new, fertile era of music making. “It requires a certain maturity of us, the being divorced part,” reflects Barrett. “We always wrote separately and shared back and forth with each other, but this is another layer. The music on Wings is the most mature music that both of us have made.”

This music often unfolds in response to the pop world, without straying from home. “Lay Down” winks at “Leather and Lace,” albeit with a dreamy mountain quality. “Hey Josephine” was Barrett’s exploration of what it would mean to switch the gender of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe.” “The Earth Has Had Enough” takes a distinctly Neil Young turn, with gritty guitar and raw-edged vocals.

Yet just as often, songs spring from what Barrett calls “an amalgamation of real life and story,” the emotional touchstones at the intersection of lived experience and lore. “Black Feather” flowed from a crow spotted from a coffee shop table. “Cheat the Blues” came to Gover in a dream after she had to miss a favorite music festival. She saw the Grateful Dead playing by a river, “and that was the song they played,” she smiles.

Wings simultaneously extends the family involvement to a new generation. Along with upright bassist and Kentucky native Owen Reynolds, they brought the bright, soulful voice of Zoey Barrett (she and Gover sing together on tracks like “Bluebird”) and the wonderfully scruffy, buzzy guitar, understated bluesy keyboards, and spot-on percussion of Arlo Barnette, Zoey’s fiancé, into the band. The juxtaposition of the family band, but with a contemporary twist, tells a story of its own.

“We’re on stage together, with our adult child and we both have other partners. In a way, we’re modeling the 21st-century family, the reality of a lot of families,” says Gover. “There’s a sense of failure and shame around divorce. In the communities we come from, it can be stigmatized and that’s unfortunate. We’re saying it’s okay to be who you are, that there all kinds of families.”

That a band steeped in family lore and ties would eventually (and peaceably) embrace divorce is only part of the story. Zoe Speaks extends kin to include wider circles: the vulnerable and the young people Barrett and Gover frequently work with, their fellow artists (author Silas House was instrumental in Gover’s writing of “Wings of a Dove”), the entire planet facing climate change. (“The Earth Has Had Enough”).

Barrett often undertakes residencies at schools or with programs designed to reach specific at-risk populations (collaborating with teenage mothers in Eastern Kentucky inspired “You’re Not So Alone”), and Gover is likewise heavily involved in arts education programs, in part as a pivotal player in a cross-cultural educational initiative, “Cornbread and Tortillas.” Both draw on those interactions and experiences in their writing.

“With groups like the moms I worked with, we help them use singing and songwriting as a tool to express themselves. What they expressed was their loneliness,” Mitch notes, speaking about “You’re Not So Alone.” “But we decided that since the verses are sad, now we have to write a magic chorus. And we did it.” Live, Barrett uses it as an opportunity to urge audience members to sing along, then to turn to one another and look in each others’ eyes.

The group has a deep awareness of their community, one that lifts them up no matter how tough the times. “I love Kentucky and love our artistic community,” Gover enthuses. “We inspire and feed off each other. It’s a beautiful tapestry to be woven into. I know we’ll be making art together when we’re old and grey, and influencing each other and the younger generations.”

Event
09/09/2018

08/16/2018, Maysville, KY, Washington Hall Sessions, 7:00 PM
08/03/201808/16/2018, Washington Hall Sessions
Event
08/16/2018
Event
08/16/2018
Event Notes
Come be in the audience for this live-recorded radio show in historic downtown Maysville, where we'll be performing some of our new material as well as chatting with our host, Nicholas Denham. Suggested donation: $5 at the door.
Venue Zip
41056
Venue City, State
Maysville, KY
Venue St. Address
116 W 2nd St
Venue
Washington Hall Sessions
Concert Start Time
7:00 PM
........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ MORE» More»

Zoe Speaks is not your ordinary folk outfit. They are rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where thinking and singing went hand in hand with working and playing.

“We write a lot of originals, more than ever before, but we’re drawing on what we were raised with,” explains Eastern Kentucky native, songwriter, singer, and old-time banjo master Carla Gover. “You’ll go to festivals and hear things like, ‘I learned this from field recording #234.’ That’s wonderful, but in the mountains we were raised with music as a part of our daily lives, songs we sang with Granny breaking beans. Or what grandpa sang while plowing with his mules, or at a meeting on the graveyard.”

They have also weathered family upheaval, breaking up and reforming after core members Gover and Mitch Barrett divorced. They came to see what they truly had in common as artists, and with their community writ large. The Lexington-based band has taken flight once more with Wings, thanks to help from engineer/producer/fiddler Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers Band) and with a new lineup that includes the band’s namesake and daughter, Zoey.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms (“Paper of Pins”) they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.

“We have a very storied history of cultural output in Kentucky, including a huge tradition of using music as a tool for social change. We’re carrying that torch,” says Gover. “In all the stereotypes of apathetic, backwards people on welfare, that gets lost. You can find nuanced thought, freethinkers and political engagement all through the region, despite what you see on 60 Minutes or from certain writers.” They channel this progressive spirit on the no-holds-barred “Hole Where Your Soul’s Supposed to Be”

“People make fun of Appalachia, but you have all these Kentucky writers and artists,” muses Barrett. “I’m proud of that, that our music is kin to that storytelling line. We’re deep-thinking people.”

Gover, who honed her playing at community dances starting in her childhood, and Barrett, who formed a mountain duo and performed with his mom as a boy, came together as life and creative partners, building a fan base regionally for their musician’s craft and stunning songwriting. They had children, dealt with life on the road together. One day, they realized it wasn't working. They parted ways and ended the project.

Then a friend asked them if they’d be willing to do a reunion show. Almost ten years had passed. They agreed--and realized again how much they liked playing together. It sparked a new, fertile era of music making. “It requires a certain maturity of us, the being divorced part,” reflects Barrett. “We always wrote separately and shared back and forth with each other, but this is another layer. The music on Wings is the most mature music that both of us have made.”

This music often unfolds in response to the pop world, without straying from home. “Lay Down” winks at “Leather and Lace,” albeit with a dreamy mountain quality. “Hey Josephine” was Barrett’s exploration of what it would mean to switch the gender of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe.” “The Earth Has Had Enough” takes a distinctly Neil Young turn, with gritty guitar and raw-edged vocals.

Yet just as often, songs spring from what Barrett calls “an amalgamation of real life and story,” the emotional touchstones at the intersection of lived experience and lore. “Black Feather” flowed from a crow spotted from a coffee shop table. “Cheat the Blues” came to Gover in a dream after she had to miss a favorite music festival. She saw the Grateful Dead playing by a river, “and that was the song they played,” she smiles.

Wings simultaneously extends the family involvement to a new generation. Along with upright bassist and Kentucky native Owen Reynolds, they brought the bright, soulful voice of Zoey Barrett (she and Gover sing together on tracks like “Bluebird”) and the wonderfully scruffy, buzzy guitar, understated bluesy keyboards, and spot-on percussion of Arlo Barnette, Zoey’s fiancé, into the band. The juxtaposition of the family band, but with a contemporary twist, tells a story of its own.

“We’re on stage together, with our adult child and we both have other partners. In a way, we’re modeling the 21st-century family, the reality of a lot of families,” says Gover. “There’s a sense of failure and shame around divorce. In the communities we come from, it can be stigmatized and that’s unfortunate. We’re saying it’s okay to be who you are, that there all kinds of families.”

That a band steeped in family lore and ties would eventually (and peaceably) embrace divorce is only part of the story. Zoe Speaks extends kin to include wider circles: the vulnerable and the young people Barrett and Gover frequently work with, their fellow artists (author Silas House was instrumental in Gover’s writing of “Wings of a Dove”), the entire planet facing climate change. (“The Earth Has Had Enough”).

Barrett often undertakes residencies at schools or with programs designed to reach specific at-risk populations (collaborating with teenage mothers in Eastern Kentucky inspired “You’re Not So Alone”), and Gover is likewise heavily involved in arts education programs, in part as a pivotal player in a cross-cultural educational initiative, “Cornbread and Tortillas.” Both draw on those interactions and experiences in their writing.

“With groups like the moms I worked with, we help them use singing and songwriting as a tool to express themselves. What they expressed was their loneliness,” Mitch notes, speaking about “You’re Not So Alone.” “But we decided that since the verses are sad, now we have to write a magic chorus. And we did it.” Live, Barrett uses it as an opportunity to urge audience members to sing along, then to turn to one another and look in each others’ eyes.

The group has a deep awareness of their community, one that lifts them up no matter how tough the times. “I love Kentucky and love our artistic community,” Gover enthuses. “We inspire and feed off each other. It’s a beautiful tapestry to be woven into. I know we’ll be making art together when we’re old and grey, and influencing each other and the younger generations.”

Event
08/16/2018