Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band
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Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band

Redondo Beach, California, United States | SELF

Redondo Beach, California, United States | SELF
Band Folk Bluegrass

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"Ten Questions For Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band"

The South Bay's own Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band is having a really exciting year. Not only are they playing the hottest bluegrass and country venues in and around LA, but the band also released their self-titled debut album back in November, and makes their debut at downtown Villains Tavern this week. Fiddle player Lydia Veilleux and mando/lead vocalist Devitt Feeley sat down with me at the Wellsbourne on West Pico for some conversation and -- for Devitt -- a special occasion scotch (the band also consists of guitarist Craig Ferguson and bassist Brian Netzley).

What is your origin as a bluegrass band?
Lydia: Devitt and Craig played together in Cliff Wagoner and Old #7. I met Craig at a Make a Wish benefit, and the three of us really banded together to create something more traditionally bluegrass... we all wanted to play more festivals.
I grew up in Maine playing traditional Cape Breton style fiddle. It wasn’t until college that I really started playing real bluegrass. That’s what all the cool fiddle kids were doing.

Devitt: It’s just always been part of my musical makeup, with everything else... rock and blues and jazz and classical and bluegrass.
Lydia: We got Brian in the band about a year ago-- our bass player-- he’s now our go-to guy. And we just found out he can sing too!
Devitt: You know how bass players are... they’re coy... full of surprises.
Lydia: I think Craig got into bluegrass in college at Berklee, but he has more of a jazz background.

What is it that brought you to LA?
Devitt: Buddy of mine was playing guitar and invited me to play in his band. It was pretty simple: chasing music dreams.
Lydia: After college I assumed I would move to LA, NY or Nashville, but my husband composes film music, so LA it was.....

How do you describe the music that Rocky Neck plays?
Devitt: I'd say we're primarily a bluegrass band, but these days there are so many hats you can wear under that title.
Lydia: And we don’t always have a banjo player.
Devitt: We do not have a banjo player, but one of the greatest bluegrass bands of all time, The Tony Rice Unit, almost never had a banjo player, so... you know, thank goodness for those seventies and eighties guys who played acoustic and bluegrass music... they broke a lot of those boundaries for us.
But you know, when it comes down to it, we’re an acoustic band that mostly plays bluegrass. So many other genres of music have let listeners down, but acoustic music means you at least have to know how to play your music a little, and quite honestly, listeners are just more intelligent than they were twenty years ago.

What are your favorite venues to play in LA, or in southern California in general?
Lydia: I love the Cinema Bar. It’s an interactive audience. I also like when we play Peter Strauss Ranch-- an appreciative audience, beautiful venue, where we can actually hear ourselves play!

What are your favorite music stores in LA?
Lydia: Amoeba, because they’re carrying our record! Also, Angeles on Pico for my violins.
Devitt: I’ve been in music retail on and off since 1986--I always like to support the Ma and Pa stores rather than the big chains.
Lydia: I like Boulevard Music on Sepulveda too. Always great.

What’s your favorite drink?
Devitt: Well if it’s not a glass of water, on special occasions I’ll have a scotch. Craig and Brian are beer snobs though. I’ve actually never had a beer in my life. Seriously. Water or whiskey.
Lydia: Stella. Or Blue Moon. Or Guinness.

If you didn’t live in Los Angeles, where would you be based?
Lydia: Nashville? Austin?
Devitt: I would be in western North Carolina. Tepid climate. Great music. I go to MerleFest there every year. I love it.

What decade would you rather live in?
Lydia: I like the 20s... the whole Gatsby thing. That’s when people still threw big parties and booked a whole orchestra.
Devitt: If I didn’t go back to some cool decade in the past hundred years, I’d go all the way back to the minstrel days. You played for your food, you wrote music about the people you were staying with, you know. That’s pretty cool.

What are your current obsessions?
Devitt: Junior, my paraplegic cat.
Lydia: And Craig’s new bassett hound puppy, Moses.
Devitt: Obviously Rocky Neck is an animal loving band.

What would be your final meal in Los Angeles?
Lydia: Linguini with pink sauce from Mama D’s in Hermosa Beach.
Devitt: I kinda became a veggie about a year ago, but if it’s my last meal it might as well go for it right? I’d say a caesar salad with coconut shrimp. No dressing. I don’t care from where. Just so long as I can have it on the beach. I might be the blandest bluegrass musician in Southern California. - BluegrassLA


"Fiddler Finds Fame out West"

LOS ANGELES, California - A rising bluegrass star from Farmington, Maine, attributes her success to a local fiddling group.

Lydia Veilleux, a Mt. Blue High School graduate first discovered her love of fiddle music as a student in a summer program offered at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After seeing a showcase of bluegrass music she was hooked and pursued her new-found passion as a member of the high school's Franklin County Fiddlers.

"I wasn't getting along with classical music teachings, bluegrass opened doors for me," Veilleux said. Thanks to guidance from Fiddlers' director Steve Muise, Veilleux, the daughter of Tom and Sandy Veilleux of Farmington, decided to pursue fiddle music wholeheartedly.

As a junior in high school, Veilleux auditioned for and received a scholarship with Berklee College, the very same place that ignited her passion for bluegrass. "I didn't apply anywhere else," she said. "Berklee was the only school with a music program that studied fiddle music." She graduated in 2004 summa cum laude in Violin Performance and went on to study Contemporary Improvisation in the New England Conservatory's Masters Program.

After a year-and-a-half, nationwide tour with The 3 Redneck Tenors, a musical based in Dallas, Texas, Veilleux ended up moving to Los Angeles with her husband, a film composer. Veilleux was able to build contacts in the L.A. area and insists that the bluegrass vibe is not lost in the big city. "The bluegrass scene is a small group so it feels like a smaller community." Moreover, Veilleux offers a unique sound to the west coast. Her music is largely influenced by places in the northeast such as Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which is a, "more Celtic, kind of Civil War [fiddle] sound."

Once settled in L.A., opportunity presented itself for her in the form of fellow Berklee graduates Devitt Feeley and Craig Ferguson who, along with Veilleux, formed the group "Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band." Together they have drawn upon folk, country, and bluegrass music in their songs and, in 2009, won the competitive Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Band Contest. The group continues to build popularity in the L.A. area, accruing awards and releasing compilations to receptive audiences. Their first album, self-titled, was just recently released.

Today, Veilleux, 28, is kept busy with the Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band's steady schedule of gigs and teaching lessons. When asked what advice she would have for current members in the talented Franklin County Fiddlers, she has three points of guidance. "First, to be successful you have to be versatile." While Veilleux clearly favored fiddling music, she says she forced herself to master classical music as well. "You'll get more work," she explained.

Along the same vein she urges hopeful musicians to, "practice things you're bad at." Veilleux cites her own struggles with sight-reading sheet music. Fiddle music lends itself to learning by ear but Veilleux says it was imperative that she put in years emphasizing sight-reading.

Lastly, Veilleux said to, "take a business class. Most musicians are bad at business. You want to make sure you get paid." Studying business helped stressed the importance of written contracts and now she often draws them up and negotiates payment for her own gigs. "People will take you much more seriously," she said.

Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band's website (www.rockyneckbluegrass.com) offers several sound bites as well as information about the band. You can also follow them on facebook or go to Veilleux's personal website at lydiaveilleux.com.
- Daily Bulldog


Discography

Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band, self-released October 2010.
This album has received radio play across the nation.

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Bio


Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band is a Southern California based group featuring Devitt Feeley, Lydia Veilleux, and Craig Ferguson who got their start in the bluegrass music field by winning first place in the 2009 Topanga Banjo and Fiddle "Band Contest". Their first recording, "Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band" released in November of 2010, was recorded in a 1920's cabin in the mountain community of Big Bear, CA, and was mastered by legendary bluegrass engineer Billy Wolf in Arlington, VA. The album has been receiving regular airplay on radio stations across the country.
Although recently formed in 2009, Rocky Neck Bluegrass Bands's path to the bluegrass world began years ago. All members attended Berklee College of Music and have studied with musicians like John McGann, Matt Glaser, Roland White, and Mike Witcher. Lydia Veilleux has toured nationally with the musical "The 3 Redneck Tenors" and has played at CMA Fanfest and Stagecoach Music Festival. In addition, both Devitt Feeley and Craig Ferguson worked the southwest bluegrass circuit with Cliff Wagner & the Old #7. As part of the Old #7, they played the Colorado River, Parker, Logandale and Yuma bluegrass festival and appeared on Fox TV's "Next Great American Band" and FX's "Justified".
In RNBB's debut, "We wanted to make a bluegrass recording that had the feeling of a living room jam as opposed to the slick Nashville sound. Recording in Devitt's cabin in Big Bear couldn’t have been a better situation," says Craig, who engineered the recording. The blend of fresh bluegrass arrangements, original tunes, and traditional music on this album will be attractive to fans of not only bluegrass but also blues, country, and folk-oriented listeners.
Devitt Feeley added, "By arranging songs that are not part of the standard bluegrass repertoire like Neil Young's Comes A Time, we hope to reach out to people who might not know that they're bluegrass fans." According to Lydia, "We searched our common repertoire for traditional tunes that still feel relevant today and tried to build fresh arrangements on these timeless songs. By juxtaposing old traditional songs like "Shady Grove" with bluegrass arrangements of more modern songs we hoped to respect traditional bluegrass, while extending a hand to people who aren't that familiar with bluegrass music."
In addition to Devitt Feeley on Mandolin, Craig Ferguson on guitar and Lydia Veilleux on Fiddle, the live ensemble often includes Brian Netzley on bass. Live appearances are important to the band as they work hard to entertain crowds and put on a great show. RNBB's performance schedule for 2011 is filling up fast.