Local band CityFolk has found a way to bring music to the people of Denton during the COVID-19 pandemic, performing for online audiences from their driveway and at outdoor venues.
“Live music kind of went away,” said Olivia Justice Countryman, CityFolk singer and mandolin and bass player. “It took people a while to realize we needed to innovate around [the pandemic], kind of like us figuring out we needed to go get in the driveway.”
The original members of the band met in the Denton Songwriters Guild, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people develop and pursue the art of songwriting by connecting them with other songwriters. The members came together to appreciate and play each other’s music together.
“We were just having one of our Songwriters Guild meetings and talking about we wish we had a band that could all play each other’s music, pretty much,” Countryman said. “And so, [all] of us were like, ‘Wait a second. We all play different instruments. Let’s actually do this, like, let’s make a band.’”
CityFolk began playing as a folk music band almost three years ago. When percussionist Madison White joined, the band grew to incorporate a different style into their music called Americana-rock.
“He was the missing brother we didn’t know we needed,” Countryman said. “So once he started playing with us, we kind of started pushing the limits a little more of what we were accustomed to doing.”
In May, the band began hosting live shows on Facebook called “Live from Driveway” performances, as they had reunited to play together in the driveway of lead singer Landon Taylor.
“We spent a month saying, ‘I guess we’ll get together soon,’ and just missing each other,” Countryman said. “But once we realized this was a part of our lives, we had to keep going.”
To stay socially distant while rehearsing and performing, Taylor marked his driveway with chalk circles that gave each member a dedicated space to play.
“He drew out these huge chalk circles and wrote our names in the chalk circles, like, ‘This is Olivia’s and this is Billy’s and this is Madison’s,’ [so] everybody had to stay in their circle,” Countryman said. “And so, that’s what we’ve been doing this whole time is jamming in his garage.”
CityFolk sticks to their roots through their songwriting, with every member contributing to the band’s discography.
“[The other band members] all write their own songs,” White said. “They are a warehouse of creative writing.”
The band is slowly reentering the traditional music scene and is now beginning to play at outside venues around Denton. By playing shows, the band hopes to raise money to begin recording music.
“We’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing,” Countryman said. “We have a couple of shows coming up. I’m hoping to raise some money to go in studio and ride out the pandemic by recording music.”
Fan David Taylor has been watching their livestreams, actively commenting his love and support, and attended their first live performance since the pandemic started at Red’s Yard last Saturday.
“We love them,” Taylor said. “We follow them everywhere they go.”
Many of the band members have jobs and passions outside of the band. Countryman is a law senior at Texas A&M. Bassist and guitarist R.W. Ratcliff released a solo album last year.
“Even though it’s not how you make your money, making art is so powerful,” Countryman said. “It’s powerful for the people who make the art and it’s powerful for all of us who enjoy seeing the art. I just think [for] everybody, no matter what else you’re doing with your time, making art is such an important thing to do.”
Featured Image: Olivia Justice Countryman performs with her band City Folk at Red’s Yard on Oct 17, 2020. A UNT music alum, Countryman first started singing in church in traditional baroque style. Image by Samuel Gomez