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Surf City, North Carolina, United States

Surf City, North Carolina, United States
Band Rock Americana


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"Waterline Returns with Long Goners"

June 8-14, 2005
By Cristina Williams-Fontanez

Waterline, a Wilmington music duo, is back with their long-anticipated sophomore album, Long Goners. The two artists that make up this band, Chris Pappalardo (guitar and vocals) and Jim Ellis (piano and vocals), have been heavily promoting their second album, and, so far, they’re seeing promising results.

Along with receiving a good amount of airplay on WUIN, The Penguin 106.7, they currently are launching their 2005 tour, making several appearances in the Wilmington Area, including a stop at Cobb’s Corner on June 11, 9pm-midnight.

Although they debuted their first cd, Stranded, in 1999, the band had already toured all over the east coast and even in Cabo San Lucas, accumulating a rather large and enthusiastic following. Like the kitschy names that have risen from previous mainstream music fans (Parrotheads, Deadheads), Waterheads are those who get their music hydration from Waterline.

And, once again, Chris and Jim have been pouring out the jams freely, working with two award-winning producers–Tony Daigle, who won a Grammy award in 2003 with B.B. King, and Steven Heller, who also won a Grammy in 2003 with Doc Watson and David Holt–to bring Long Goners out of the well and into the ocean.

In order to have a good sound, it’s necessary to have a good rhythm section, at least in my personal opinion. Waterline ensured just that when they incorporated the musical stylings of Sonny Landreth and his band to make up the rhythm section for the record. Apparently, members of the Sonny Landreth group have also been linked to the Parrotheads’ God, Jimmy Buffett, as well as Marc Knopfler and Shawn Colvin. The adult-contemporary sound is crisp and sincere, such as in the title track, “Long Goners.” It’s heartfelt and easily defined by its smooth soundscapes and mellow mien.

To mellow out with them, head to Cobb’s Corner this Saturday. And if you can’t make it to Carolina Beach, no worries! They’ll be heading to downtown’s Soapbox for their official cd release party on July 1st, doors open at 8pm.

For more information, check out their official web site at www.waterlinemusic.com.
- Encore Magazine

"Waterline Collaborates with National Recording Artist & Grammy Winning Producers on New Long Goners CD"

WILMINGTON, NC – Waterline, a Wilmington area music duo, recently paired up with Sugar Hill recording artist Sonny Landreth and his band to complete a 10-song recording project entitled Long Goners. Landreth and his band have collaborated with numerous national recording artists, including John Hiatt, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton and many more. Landreth’s signature guitar style is prominent on all tracks and includes both slide and standard electric guitar work.

In addition to Sonny Landreth, Waterline also worked with multi-Grammy winning producers Tony Daigle at Electric Comoland Studios in Lafayette, LA (2003 Grammy award with B.B. King), and Steven Heller at Upstream Productions in Asheville, NC (2003 Grammy award with Doc Watson & David Holt).

The resulting sound for Long Goners is considerably higher energy and more roots-rock oriented than the duo’s debut release, Stranded. According to Jim Ellis, keyboardist for the group, “The intense energy created by Sonny and his band was evident from the first note we recorded. Not only are they incredibly talented individuals, they have been playing together for nearly 30 years, so as a group, they’re like a finely tuned freight train.”

The band is currently on tour promoting Long Goners. For more information on the band and sample tracks from its recordings, visit www.waterlinemusic.com
- Press Release

"Waterline plays with John Hiatt's band on new CD"

By Zach Hanner
As appeared in the Wilmington Star News
June 30, 2005

There was a time when the piano was an integral part of rock. From Queen to Elton John to REO Speedwagon, the keys have played their prodigious role, augmented, of course, by the wail of an effects-laden electric guitar. The two musicians who comprise the Topsail Island act Waterline understand this relationship well, as illustrated by their new release, Long Goners.
Waterline will play a CD release show for Long Goners on Friday.

When he was a teen, Waterline's guitarist, Chris Pappalardo, had an epiphany. "I heard the live version of Santana's Europa and a bell went off and I said, 'I've got to do that,' " Mr. Pappalardo said. "I had no experience with music at all, but I gave up sports and all the other things I had done before to learn more."

Six months later, he was a music major at Virginia Commonwealth University where he would eventually meet pianist Jim Ellis, a student at Richmond University, who had been playing in bands since age 14. The pair started performing with an act called Beluga Whale when they encountered another Virginia-based musician by the name of Dave Matthews.

"He started out playing the Flood Zone on Wednesday nights for 40 or 50 people," Mr. Pappalardo said. "I remember seeing them and realizing that they had this X factor, also understanding that our band at the time didn't have it. But soon Jim and I came to the conclusion that together, he and I might have that intangible."

The duo had planned a move to Nashville when Mr. Ellis saw the real world staring him in the face. "I had just met the woman who would become my wife and gotten a job at a bank," Mr. Ellis said. "So Chris moved to Nashville without me."

They stayed in touch, however, and eventually decided to give the act another try. They cruised around the mid-Atlantic area through cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville and Charleston, but none of them seemed right. "We fell in love with Wilmington and we moved here in 1996," Mr. Pappalardo said.

While Mr. Pappalardo returned to Nashville for a period, Waterline continued to play, if only one weekend a month. Eventually, they ended up where they currently reside, four blocks from one another on Topsail Island. "I think your environment has to affect who you are, and that in turn affects how you write," Mr. Ellis said. "Every day is like a vacation living at the beach, and I think that comes through in the songs, especially some of the stuff I've been doing lately."
The songs from Long Goners evoke that beachfront atmosphere, as well as pop-rock maestros like Jackson Browne, Gregg Allman and Bruce Hornsby.

The album's title refers in part to the fact that John Hiatt's backing band, The Goners, provided the backing tracks on the disc.

"We both wanted a consistent drum and bass rhythm section because the last record we did was kind of a hodgepodge of players, and we wanted this to be more cohesive," Mr. Pappalardo said. "I had toured with The Goners and we both really liked the way (bassist) Dave (Ranson) and (drummer) Kenneth (Blevins) played together, so Jim suggested I just ask them."

What they weren't counting on was The Goners' guitarist, renowned slide master Sonny Landreth, sitting in for the whole recording session. "Sonny said he might come in and play on a few songs and ended up playing on every track over the course of two days," Mr. Pappalardo said. "They've recorded so much together and spent so much time in the studio that it was shocking how quickly they picked up our stuff."

Long Goners is an elegant collection of heartfelt songs filled with snazzy hooks and harmonies that should appeal to fans of carefully crafted, bluesy pop.

As the tide ebbs and flows, it appears that Waterline just may be on the rise.
- Currents Magazine

"Waterline - a popular music duo"

It’s time for that beach walk you’ve been waiting for all day…all week…or all year. Those who are out on the beach often learn to read the tell-tale signs of whether the tide is going or coming by searching for the waterline–that point of division between wet and dry sand…constantly changing and evolving, never standing still.

Which makes Waterline the perfect name for the musical duo of Chris Pappalardo and Jim Ellis–two locals who call the island their inspiration and their new home. Their careers have evolved over the years–separately and together–both playing in various bands since 1992. Among other accomplishments, Jim performed with several Virginia area bands, and Chris toured with slide guitar legends Sonny Landreth and Lee Roy Parnell.

But a weekend trip to play together on the Carolina coast convinced them both what they already knew deep down–that they wanted to live near the sea…and they wanted to play together…and they wanted to give performing full time again a shot. Here’s where the never standing still part comes in, and Waterline as a band was born, alive and kicking.

Getting their feet into the local water, they quickly evolved a style that Jim calls “coastal kick-back music.”

“We play a lot like a rocked up Jimmy Buffett or a country James Taylor, if that makes any sense,” explains Chris.

Once you hear them play, you’ll know what they mean. It’s familiar and comfortable, upbeat yet relaxing, a mixture of the music we know and love with a new twist. The talent practically oozes out when Jim takes on the keyboard in what can be described as a bluesy Bruce Hornsby style that naturally complements Chris’s expertise as he switches between acoustic, electric and bottleneck slide guitars.

When asked why they’ve chosen to work as a band of two, the duo answered almost identically.

“The best part is what happens without planning, the musical flexibility,” says Jim. “Bands typically have a set list and they rehearse songs exactly, a certain way.”

“We play songs based on how the crowd is reacting,” adds Chris. “We rarely play the same song in the same way or in the same order, so our live shows are always different.”

“We’re free to extend songs if we’re feeling something, play things differently without feeling like we’re going to throw each other off by doing so,” says Jim. “And since we’ve been playing together for so many years, we’re often on the same page when we go through our ‘in the moment’ set list.”

“Plus, being just the two of us, we travel easily and our set-up and tear-down is simple,” quips Chris.

But most of all, they both love to write and perform music. And with every performance, their fan base seems to be expanding. Jimmy Buffett has Parrotheads, the Grateful Dead has Deadheads and Waterline has Waterheads.

Chris explained that the name came from fans themselves at a live performance a few years back. Those fifteen or so fans became “The Original Waterheads” with more and more Waterheads joining the family all the time.

When he first heard the name, Chris described the moment as “strange and wonderful,” adding that it made him realize that people were really listening. “It made me want to play that much better and practice that much more.”

Luckily they both have supportive wives and families who moved here with them so that Jim and Chris could go after their dreams. Although they came at different times, the two families ended up in North Topsail Beach only four blocks apart.

“I can’t help but be inspired by my surroundings here on Topsail,” says Jim. “I feel like I notice the world’s beauty more now that I’m here, and I literally feel like I’m on vacation all the time.”

And with all this inspiration, it’s a great place for the duo to compose, although they both admit that the creative process often takes years to get one song from conception to the recording studio.

“Usually the best ideas just pop in your head out of nowhere,” says Chris. “I’ve recorded them in my phone when I’m driving, gotten them while eating dinner, or just lying in bed.”

For the most part, Chris and Jim write music and lyrics independently, and then at the right time, they bring their separate ideas to the table and work out the parts together.

And the process works beautifully, as exemplified in their latest release, Long Goners. The name came about for several reasons. First, they had the good fortune of having John Hiatt’s band, The Goners, back them up on the CD.

“Plus, it took a long time to get this CD finished and a long time for Jim and I to decide to play full time again,” says Chris.

“And since the CD marked a new start for Waterline after a six-year hiatus, it all pointed to Long Goners as being the most appropriate title,” adds Jim.

“Who ever thought you could do what you love for a living, and even bigger. Who would have dreamed you could not only do what you love and make a living, but also live where you want and do it,” says Chris. “I don’t want to sound corny, but I wake up most days feeling inspired. Living here and playing music is a dream come true.”
- Topsail Magazine - Fall 2005

"Waterline Featured in New Book"

Waterline is featured in Mayberry by the Sea, a new book about Topsail Island by Ray McAllister. Learn more at http://www.mayberrybythesea.com - Press Release

"Stranded Where I Want to Be - Harmony, Humor & Serious Jammin' with Waterline"

The keyboard reverberates off the wooden docks against a backdrop of boats, buoys, pelicans and blue water. The guitar strums in time to the billowing sails and setting sun.

A seasonably warm afternoon draws locals and visitors to the sea air, the spirits, and the energy of the music.

A following of devoted fans -"self-proclaimed Waterheads"- circle in close, and have long since known what a good time is in store.

Lyrics echo true for all who listen, and melodies linger in the mind like an old familiar favorite.

Waterline - Jim Ellis and Chris Pappalardo - a high-energy, extremely entertaining, fun-loving duo, met in Richmond playing with a four-piece rock band called Beluga Wail. The group "clicked right away" playing clubs, and fraternities and although Beluga Wail opened up for The Spin Doctors and The Freddy Jones Band, the band didn't seem to be going anywhere. Chris had graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and Jim was a senior at the University of Richmond. With sights set on New York, LA, or Nashville to pursue the next level, Jim and Chris decided on Nashville.

Yet, as plans were set in motion, Jim had fallen in love, and been offered a banking job in Richmond he felt he couldn't pass up. Chris made a go of it in Nashville and slowly began to make some serious contacts including Sonny Landreth- "a new artist who had won numerous awards for his slide guitar ability. We opened for B B King, Buddy Guy, Fleetwood Mac, Little Feat, The Band, Bob Dylan and more. It was a dream come true. The only problem was, Jim wasn't there," reflects Chris. Ironically, "after Sonny's tour was winding down and it was time for a change, Jim called and said he wasn't happy. (Hence the song, "Going Through the Motions".) He wanted to play full time again." They picked five cities, got in the car, and decided on Wilmington, NC.

They followed a love for the beach (inspiration), and the knowledge that a lot of music was going on. Chris remembers, "We were able to meld into the scene right away, we were playing five nights within a few months." Locals, Rhino, (the former) Ogden Inn, Dockside, and The Dockhouse in Beaufort, NC, to name a few. A stint in Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, two-years going was a great experience that further enriched their musical aspirations.

Musical aspirations and yearnings have been there for as long as they both can remember. Chris, from the time he was 18 has felt, "there's always been this thread - play full time-get a real job - come back, play full time". Even after his experience in Nashville, "blessed with the opportunity to play with some real talent" and play "Fanfare" live in front of an enormous audience, he says it still doesn't compare to this - what Waterline is doing now.

For Chris, nature provides an endless source of inspiration, "The waves at the beach, the sun rising over the mountains, feeling the clouds lift off the trees and feeling the breeze coming off the shore. I always strive to let whatever I am playing do nothing more than express what I feel." To watch him play and sing you can sense he's got a lot more going on in his mind- he has passion and genuine zest for the moment. His voice is bluesy and bold and takes you by surprise with every new solo.

Jim started playing guitar when he was six, then piano at nine or so. He remembers, "I took piano lessons for three to four years, but grew pretty tired of classical music, so I quit. I've been playing in bands since I was 14... I can read music, but I mainly play by ear." And oh, does he play-sincere and intense - as if the keyboard is a part of him. With eyes closed he's completely engrossed in every note. Vocally, he emulates James Taylor, soft and contemplative. It is a rare treat to see and hear the keyboard alongside the guitar in venues such as Dockside in Wilmington, or The Dock House in Beaufort, NC. As a singer-song writer, a single lyric, a line, triggers the inspiration. Their first released CD entitled "Stranded", features Jim's original songs richly imbued with real life emotions. Chris injects, "Lived every one of them - and still do. That's the cool thing."

The other cool thing is the production of their CD which Chris calls a "two-city venture" realized by the best of local (Wilmington) talent and the best of Nashville. Chris is exuberant in the fact that the songs were all tweaked live before recorded, "We took the live sound and got it on tape."

Jim recalls, "After playing live for about three years, we knew that a CD was long overdue. We first went to John Guttman's 3:16 Studios here in town and recorded drums for about half the songs. I took that to a friend, Jeff Reid, and his Penguin Mars Studio to record my keyboard tracks, bass and some saxophone for those songs. We then set up a two week period for Nashville, to finish the record. We recorded the rest of the CD on Nashville's Music Row at Don Scott Hare Productions. All told, we used six added friends/musicians: Rick Lay (percussion), Bobby King (bass) and Mike Organ from Nashville, and Vinnie Stout (bass), Leroy Harper (sax) and John Guttman (drums) from Wilmington. The entire experience was fantastic."

The entire compilation is fantastic, and seeing Waterline perform live is quite an experience. These two are not just another beach crowd band that sounds better with each round of beer - they are serious, talented musicians with a terrific sense of fun, and a dynamic between them that engages the audience in the poignancy of their lyrics. Their cover songs and requests are infused with Waterline flavor. Creative renditions of Barenaked Ladies "If I Had a Million Dollars", Schoolhouse Rock's "Conjunction Junction", and Guy Clark's "Homegrown Tomatoes", to name a few, get the crowd going. They like testing the waters with songs that are unexpected. Jim relates, "I think it's more fun to introduce people to songs a bit more obscure. To this day, our favorite cover is Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis"- It's the kind of song that people hear and say "oh yeah, I remember that song, who did that?"

Chris and Jim balance each other well - complementary vocal styles and vibrant personalities constantly feed off each other. Both, extremely gifted on the guitar and keyboard respectively, appear to get great pleasure just jammin, responding to the mood, and the camaraderie between the two of them. During any given show they can go from quiet and reflective to wild and wacky, taking their cues from the audience and adjusting their humor likewise. At one point they send out a toast: "Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. And dance like nobody's watching!" For Chris, it all goes back to the premise, "we're good apart, great together." And anyone lucky enough to have seen a performance of these two can attest to the adventure found in their simpatico.

Victoria White, a true "waterhead", is amazed to "watch them play- they can look at each other and know what the other is going to do. They just constantly add new stuff and never play a song the same way twice."

Chris reiterates, "The biggest joy of working in a duo is we never play the same. Jim and I don't work on this. It just happens. We never create a set list. We start and stop songs differently, play different solos, even change words. Every song is still a blank canvas on which we get to paint."

By nights end, it becomes evident that the two musicians looking out on a star-filled sky and three-quarter moon, playing to silhouettes of sails and stargazers, are completely in their element. The waterline shimmers and glistens, the melodies are carried off with the sea-breezes. All go home humming a new tune.

- Kristin Gibson

- Capturing the Spirit of the Carolinas Magazine

"Stranded - CD Review"

To begin by summing it up, it's unexpectedly familiar. Chris Pappalardo (guitars, vocals) and Jim Ellis (guitar, vocals), together as Waterline here in Wilmington since 1996, together as friends and stage partners in a previous incarnation in Richmond for several years prior, have released a wonderful CD entitled Stranded. Available at local record stores, the album's basic sound is a cross between that of James Taylor and the best, most bittersweet sitcom themes of the late 70's.

It is a friendly, open record. The songs are not only about real situations, but are produced with voices and instruments sounding real. No monstrous or alien special effects.

Waterline's unabashed willingness to be autobiographical lends an easy listenership and an aura of closeness and warmth to the CD. You put the record on and either imagine these guys sitting around your kitchen table with you, talking about their pasts, or wanting to invite them over immediately to do so.

Outside of the duo's attitude and clear, honest direction, this record also benefits from the contributions of great sidemen on the Wilmington-recorded tracks, as well as those cut in Nashville. Good judgement on the artists' part; utilizing the most appropriate people for each song on a single-act, single-songwriting team recording project is the best way to showcase both the artists and their studio allies.

I am personally grateful to Waterline for the promotion they give to Wilmington's music community with this release. Wilmington-based sidemen on Stranded are recording engineer/drummer Jon Guttman, bassist Vince Stout and sax man Leroy Harper. Their playing on this record is as good as anything they've recorded with any of the many other acts they've worked with separately in town. Even better, Waterline includes Stout in their live bookings whenever circumstances permit, and Harper frequently sits in at their shows when he's not on the road with James Brown.

When listening to the CD, I got the idea from Waterline's intensely personal subject matter and delivery that what they experience on the bandstand must be comparable to that dream we've all had in high school, walking down the hall, completely nude. When I asked Jim Ellis about this impression, he agreed, but somewhat halfheartedly, as he has no basis for comparison. He's never written songs any other way.

If you, the reader, are lucky and enjoy impeccable, sincere live music, you'll be able to make it to at least one of their upcoming shows and/or buy the CD soon.

- Arthur Shuey

- Encore Magazine

"Waterline's New CD Stranded Highlights their Versatility"

Many of you know Chris and Jim as the easygoing club duo Waterline, but for their first studio release they opted for the full band approach.

They drafted area pros like Jon Guttman on drums, Vinnie Stout on bass and Leroy Harper on sax. They also had some Nashville muscle in the way of Mike Organ on drums, Bobby King on bass and Rick Lay on percussion.

The project started at Jon Guttman's 3:16 Studios in Wilmington, progressed to Jeff Reid's Penguin Mars and finished in Nashville.

Stranded is pop variety at its most infectious. Most tunes were penned by Chris and Jim, but they also usedsome songs by local treasure Catesby Jones (I Got Used to It and 27" Tall) as well as country music scribe Hal Ketchum (Trusting Fool).

Waterline's showcased songwriting skills hold their own in such heady company. All and all, Stranded is fresh, polished and easy to like.

- Mike Raab

- The Beat Magazine


Long Goners - released May 2005
includes AAA radio airplay for single "Smoke & Mirrors"
Stranded - released May 1999
includes AAA radio airplay for single "I Got Used to It"



Chris Pappalardo and Jim Ellis formed the band Waterline after a weekend trip to the Carolina coast. Having toured the world with slide guitar legends Sonny Landreth and Lee Roy Parnell, Chris was ready to settle down and call North Carolina his home. Jim had been performing and recording with Virginia area bands since the late 80's, but had always been drawn to the sea. The two of them had been playing music off and on since 1992 in various bands, but that weekend, they knew they had found their home…and Waterline was born.

A loyal following of "Waterheads" grew as Waterline performed at clubs, festivals and house concerts from the Carolinas to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Waterline’s sound is described as Jackson Browne meets train, with a Jimmy Buffett "change in latitude."

During live shows, Waterline delivers a mix of both original material and eclectic covers from some of the duo’s favorite artists, including Lyle Lovett and Barenaked Ladies. Chris switches between acoustic, electric and slide guitars, serving up a variety of moods to audiences, always perfectly complemented by Jim’s “New Orleans Bruce Hornsby” piano style and smooth harmonies.

When a full band format is called for, they add a drummer and bassist and create a sound similar to their high-energy recordings.

Waterline’s latest studio release, Long Goners, features an impressive rhythm section, including Sugar Hill recording artist Sonny Landreth and his band. This group has backed up John Hiatt as "The Goners" since the late 1980’s, and Sonny’s slide guitar can be heard on recordings from Jimmy Buffett to Dolly Parton.

"It's familiar and comfortable, upbeat yet relaxing." - B.J. Cothran, Topsail Magazine

"An elegant collection of heartfelt songs" - Zach Hanner, Currents Magazine

"Sound is crisp and sincere" - Cristina Williams-Fontanez, Encore Magazine

"Seeing Waterline perform live is quite an experience...they are serious, talented musicians with a terrific sense of fun, and a dynamic between them that engages the audience in the poignancy of their lyrics." - Kristin Gibson, Capturing the Spirit of the Carolinas Magazine