Since forming almost a decade ago, Strung Like a Horse has built a reputation for surprising people, either with their talent, humor, sense of "why not?" or combination of the three.
The name alone should give people an idea of what the band is all about — witty wordplay and double entendre for starters — the name was chosen in part because horse hair is used on many bows — but there's also a nod to their music, Americana with a new-grass or even alt-rock edge. Over the last decade, the musicians have drawn fans across the South with their steady career progression, live shows and a need to constantly one-up themselves.
In perhaps the biggest next step of their career, they will release their major-label debut, "Whoa!," on Transoceanic Records at The Signal on Oct. 30.
Singer/songwriter/frontman Clay Maselle said they'll play three sets.
"It's going to be a really awesome show," he said. "The first set will be entirely unplugged, single-mic style. Old-school Strung Like a Horse-style. Then the second set will be all plugged in, and then the third set we will do the whole record start to finish."
Watch Clay Maselle recount recording with producer Matt Ross-Spang at Nashville’s legendary Sound Emporium studio, as well the band’s 2012 post-Nightfall parade.
The band first garnered a good deal of local attention in the summer of 2012. After headlining a Nightfall show, they led a parade that included fire breathers, jugglers and local dancers down Broad Street to an after-party show at Rhythm & Brews. The spectacle drew close to 800 people.
After the pandemic hit, they were among the very first acts in the country to do a live virtual show, performing a full set at The Signal on March 19. While many others have used everything from iPads and smartphones to do virtual shows, they utilized local sound, lighting and camera crews to ensure a quality event, and funds raised during the show helped everybody get paid.
Maselle is joined in the band by versatile local musicians Tyler Martelli on guitar, Dan "Danimal" Pinson on guitars and bass, and Eric "Crispy" Crisp on drums. Maselle said being able to record the new album in a professional studio in Nashville for two weeks was a dream come true for many reasons.
"We've always worked in our friends' basements and done it that way, and we've enjoyed that, but this was the first time we were able to be in a studio, do what we want, get creative and not be in a hurry. It's a magical place with a lot of history. Some of my heroes, like John Hartford recorded there, which blows my mind."
Grammy Award winner Matt Ross-Spang, known for his work with Jason Isbell, John Prine, Brandi Carlile, Calexico/Iron & Wine, Margo Price and Josh Ritter, produced the album and recorded it at Nashville's legendary Sound Emporium studio.
Maselle said he is good at organizing a band, but having Ross-Spang there to produce and engineer allowed him to focus on the 13 songs that ended up on the record.
"He's like the hippest dude you've ever met from Memphis. He set up the microphones and worried about stuff like that, so I didn't have to."
Maselle said working with a producer for the first time was made easier because of the way Ross-Spang works. Trust and working toward the same goal are important to such a collaboration, and all four band members felt immediately comfortable with Ross-Spang on the first day.
"He really listened to the song and tried to make it work," Maselle said. "He doesn't try to make it fit in a box."
Ross-Spang told gratefulweb.com that he was "intrigued immediately by the band's energy and sheer love of music."
"You can hear their home and heroes in these songs, but just enough to help them carve out their own sound," he said. "The way they approach Americana is truly unique."
The first single off the record, "F—- What They Think," released earlier this month, is a good example of the growth of the band. It's about being yourself and showcases the combination of bluegrass, rock, folk, punk and soul the guys have developed since forming as primarily a bluegrass band.
Maselle calls the 2012 Nightfall show and parade one of the funnest shows of the band's career, and for many people in Chattanooga, it marked a turning point on many levels. Jonathan Susman, who is now the city's special events manager, was working with Nightfall producer Chattanooga Presents at the time. He conceived the idea of Road to Nightfall, in which local bands, who are normally booked as Nightfall's opening acts, would compete for a headlining spot "on the big stage."
After Strung Like a Horse won the second year of the battle of the bands, Susman and Maselle came up with the idea of the parade as a way to make the night bigger. He and Maselle both pitched the idea to the city's special-events committee.
"We honestly thought we MIGHT get 100 people and had 750 or 800," Susman said.
"It was a big moment for a lot of things," he said.
"It was big for Road to Nightfall because it did what I had hoped, which was let people know that we have some incredibly talented people in Chattanooga," Susman said. "But it was a real change agent because it let people know we could be creative and have fun, and Strung did a great job of bringing out their people."
Venue manager Allison Ciccarelli said she's looking forward to hosting the album release party at The Signal.
"It's super important to us to support the local music scene and our Chattanooga family," she said. "It should be a super fun night, and we can't wait."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.