In listening to The Honeycutters’ songs such as “Penny,” “Better Woman,” or “On My Mind,” the term “country music” immediately comes to mind. Problem is, it’s difficult to know what qualifies as country these days.
“I’m comfortable with the label of country,” says Amanda Anne Platt, lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and primary songwriter for The Honeycutters. “In its truest sense, it’s just simple music. It doesn’t have a fancy pop hook. It’s more about the lyrics, the sound of the voice, the emotions.” The Honeycutters offer a sound more reminiscent of country stars such as Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Roseanne Cash, and Janie Fricke than of today’s pop-country auto-tuned sensations such as Taylor Swift. So the band usually falls under the broad umbrella of Americana so as not to be confused with the music coming out of Nashville today.
Amanda’s voice is honest and sincere, beautifully simple. Her lyrics heartfelt. She is joined by longtime partner Peter James, who started out with Amanda when they called themselves the Bee’s Knees. Pete immediately added depth to Amanda’s rhythm guitar and vocals with his lead guitar and harmonies but the two wanted a bigger, more layered sound. The group has evolved over the years, incorporating a handful of players. The current lineup consists of Amanda and Pete along with Tal Taylor on mandolin, Rick Cooper on bass, and Josh Milligan on drums. Rick and Josh have only been part of the band since September of 2012.
Amanda says that she is happy about the band’s current lineup and is looking forward to exciting things to come in the near future. The band is working on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for its third album. On May 17-18, The Honeycutters have a two-night engagement at West Asheville’s Isis Restaurant & Music Hall. Tours out West are set for June and August, and the band hopes to squeeze in some recording in July.
The Honeycutters are in the midst of exciting times, but fairly stressful ones, too. The band’s first album, Irene, gained immediate national attention when it was released in 2009. The group followed with 2012’s When Bitter Met Sweet, which rose to No. 21 on the Americana Chart, and finished at No. 94 for the year. It also garnered the No. 4 spot in WNCW’s listener-voted top 100. And with that success comes the pressure of elevating the band’s game.
With a goal of $15,000 for its Kickstarter campaign to fund When Bitter Met Sweet, the band has upped the ante to $28,000 to produce its third studio album. “Once we got started (in the recording process), we quickly realized that $15,000 wasn’t nearly enough to fund an album,” Amanda says. “So we really wrestled in the discussion of what we’d do about this third album. We had people telling us at shows that they were ready for the next record and would have kicked in for our last Kickstarter campaign if they would have known about it. So we decided to give it a try. The goal is nearly twice as much as last time, but it’s more realistic to the cost of actually making a record.”
Amanda adds that she doesn’t think anyone really loves asking for money. “You have to really stay on top of it,” she says. “You have to keep reminding people. When it works, though, it has a nice community feel to it. It’s the idea that we made this record. Fans have more of a stake in the music.”
Once the Kickstarter campaign goal has been reached, the band plans to spend some time at Asheville’s Echo Mountain Studios in July to record the album. “We’ll tour in Washington and Oregon in June,” Amanda says. “Then we’ll have some regional shows in July but we’ll be working during the week at Echo Mountain to record the album. After that we’ll go to California in August to tour.”
Amanda says the band definitely has enough songs for its next album. In fact, the challenge is narrowing down the songs. It’s especially a challenge when Amanda is still writing them. “I just wrote one yesterday that I’m really excited about,” she says. Assuming the funding comes through, the band is hoping for a March 2014 release on the new album.
The band will play songs old and new during two performances at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall (743 Haywood Road). Amanda explained that The Honeycutters played to a sold-out Grey Eagle last year at its CD release party so in playing Isis, the group wanted to make sure their local fans could see them.
After the upcoming local gig, Kickstarter campaign, recording, and touring, Amanda says she has know idea what’s in store for the band for fall. “We have a very organic process,” she says. “All we really know how to do is make music so that’s what we do in good faith and people are receptive to it. Each record has happened when it’s supposed to happen. It’s always a surprise what’s next with us.”
Amanda says the she and her band mates are just trying to keep moving forward while being “incredibly grateful” to the fans: “to everyone who has contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and in so many other ways.”
See The Honeycutters live at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall in West Asheville. The May 17 show is seated and starts at 9 p.m. with Rory Carroll opening. The May 18 show is general admission and starts at 9 p.m. with Moses Atwood Band opening. Tickets are $12 for each show; $15 day of show. For more information about The Honeycutters, visit thehoneycutters.com.