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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray

Erin Frisby (Miss Shevaughn) and Chris Stelloh (Yuma Wray) are an Americana duo who live life on the road.

In February, they packed their Honda Element with an array of instruments including guitars, organ, kick drum, banjo, mandolin, glockenspiel, lap steel and harmonicas and began touring in support of their self-produced EP Snake Oil Songs available on Bandcamp.

In eight months, the duo has played 115 shows in 29 states. Fortunately for The Spec, they took time out of their busy schedules to answer questions about how they met and where those creative stage names came from. Read what they had to say below…

How did you come up with the name for your band?
Miss Shevaughn (MS) – Shevaughn is my middle name, my folks didn’t get the Gaelic spelling quite right…

Yuma Wray (YW) – We were on a road trip from Los Angeles (where my folks live) to Chicago, and passed a highway sign on 76 through Colorado – with an exit towards “AKRON, YUMA, WRAY”. I thought “Yuma Wray” sounds like the name of one badass guitar man, right?

How did you guys meet?
MS – We met about 12 years ago at a hip-hop club in D.C., Yuma can tell you who was performing…

YWThe Cocoa Brovaz!!! Smif ‘N Wessun – yeah… Can’t really say it was that memorable of a performance.

MS – Skip forward 10 years, Yuma invited me to see his band one snowy night in Chicago and the rest is history.

Who/what are your influences?
YW – I could list bands, but the two biggest influences on me musically and personally have been 1) Simon Flory – he is an amazing musician from Indiana whom I met when I first moved from D.C. to Chicago in 2005. Before I met him, I knew nothing about country, blues or folk music. Musically, I owe him my life. 2) K.C. Haywood, formerly of the country band Handsome Molly. K.C. and I worked together until he passed away in 2008 from a head injury sustained in a fall. He was an amazing songwriter, but he was also one of the most powerful, friendly and charismatic people I’ve ever known. Three years later, and I still find myself wondering if he would dig Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray.

MS – I grew up performing folk music with my mom in Arkansas and somehow ended up studying opera. In school, I developed an open heart and mind towards all kinds of music, which in turn brought me back to the music I had grown up with and had since abandoned for a while.

YW – Really, we are each other’s greatest influence. When one of us writes a song, we’re excited to show the other. We’re always trying to impress each other.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
MS – We are recording our first full-length album this January in L.A. We’re fortunate to have friends willing to travel to collaborate with us.

YW – We want to do this full time. Touring and playing our songs is the first thing that either of us has done that truly makes sense to us, and we don’t ever want to go home.

MS – We are home, we’re from here…

What inspires your music?
MS – I write on stories about family members a lot, a mythological family tree…

YW – I don’t ever want it to get old. I want to pick up my guitar when I’m 70 and still feel a bit of that exhilaration I got when I walked into my first punk show.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
MS – Bands and artists the both of us admire are: Black Mountain, Neko Case, Steve Earle, Jack White, Baroness, Sixteen Horse Power, Laura Marling and PJ Harvey, to name a few. Then there’s Chris Darby – he’s a Chicago-based musician who helped get us on the road back when we didn’t really know where to start.

YW – This probably won’t be the last time I bring up the punk thing – but Fugazi has been immensely influential. Not necessarily because of their sound (which I do enjoy), but for the way that they took personal responsibility for every aspect of their careers as musicians.

Why do you make music?
MS – Bad habit.

YW – The only habit, really. It’s the only thing that we both can see ourselves wanting to do for the rest of our lives.

What was the hardest part of the tour? Where was your favorite place to play?
YW – We’ve been on the road for the better part of the last nine months, and we are coming into the home stretch. It can be hard to keep up morale and not get irritated with each other. But, like an old friend of mine once told me, being in a band you really care about is like running a marathon.

MS – We jumped into this not knowing anything; we do our own booking, cooking, driving, and publicity and sleep in our car or camp most of the time. We’ve been cold and tired and played some lousy shows at creepy places. But those are all actually good experiences; we learned something every time. And we’ve played some awesome shows: Common Market in Charlotte, Black Cat in D.C., Double Door in Chicago, Independent Chicago Singer Songwriter Festival, a beach show in Florida, New Frontier Lounge in Tacoma, Jackson Avenue in Illinois, Farmhouse in Cape Cod, P & H in Memphis, Southgate House outside Cincinnati, amazing shows all over North Carolina and Arkansas both… we’ve played like 115 shows this year and they were at least 90 percent spectacular.

Anything else you’d like us to know about your band that we haven’t asked?
To quote our friend Chris Darby, “A bad day on tour is still better than a good day at a job you hate.”

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