Nashville band featuring Blairsville native returns for Knotweed Festival performance
When organizers made plans for Blairsville's Second Annual Knotweed Festival, they had to decide what portions of the community celebration to change and what successful elements to repeat.
Given the warm reception the band received last year, it seems a natural choice to have The Devious Angels once more close the festival with its music that mixes country, rock and other influences.
Bandmates Stephanie “Steevie” Steeves, a 2003 Blairsville High School graduate, and Kentucky native Jon Decious will be back performing on Blairsville's West Market Street bandstand, from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 16.
Speaking by phone Monday from the group's home base in Nashville, Steeves was looking forward to sharing music once more with a hometown crowd.
“I'm happy to be coming back home again,” she said. “We had such a good time last year. I didn't expect all the love I got last year from old teachers and classmates, neighbors and old band members. It was absolutely delightful.”
Steeves was a vocalist with two area groups — Broken Arrow and Steph and the House Band — before relocating to Nashville and forming a musical partnership with Decious, beginning in 2010.
She revealed that, if not for scheduling conflicts, the Blairsville bandstand stage might be more crowded this year, as The Devious Angels has expanded beyond a duo for many of its shows.
Steeves and Decious have joined forces with two friends and fellow musicians from Nashville, Charlie Pate on upright bass and Aaron Raitiere on “ganjo” — a cross between a guitar and banjo.
In addition to supplementing the band's instrumentation, the two men also sing, providing opportunities for four-part harmony at Devious Angels shows.
“It's a fuller sound,” Steeves said. “We're thinking bigger, and our sound is getting bigger.”
For the Knotweed gig, Steeves explained, Pate and Raitiere “will be out of town, so they couldn't go to Blairsville.”
Still, audience members at the Blairsville festival will be able to witness the growth Steeves and Decious have experienced in the past year, as performers and songwriters.
“We've got new music. Our songs are getting a little bit more intricate and more artist-driven,” Steeves said. “We're more comfortable in our shoes right now. We're writing about our life and not catering to the mold.”
As for her performance style, “I've gotten way better with my tambourine skills,” she said.
But her delivery of vocals is where Steeves really has stepped up her game.
“I'm belting them out a little bit more,” she said. “I'm a little more comfortable being the lead female singer in the band.”
She said she's made an effort to infuse a more elemental, bluesy vibe into the band's country material.
“I think that there's not enough women... bringing that side out right now. I feel it's a responsibility of mine. If I've got the voice for it, I'd better do it,” she said.
“A lot of our songs are gender-friendly,” being equally appropriate for a female or male vocalist, Steeves noted. A case in point is “Hillbilly Bills,” The Devious Angels' take on the universal challenge of “making ends meet.” It's available in a performance clip posted on the band's website (www.thedeviousangels.com).
The band's lively “Country Cantina,” written together with Raitiere, was spotlighted by American Songwriter magazine April 4 in its online Daily Discovery feature. In the song, Steeves expresses a “hankerin'” for her date to “Spin me round like a ballerina/To the mariachi, have a margarita... No dress code, just up the road, let's go.”
Steeves and Decious also have stretched their songwriting skills by collaborating with other artists outside of the group.
“We have a good core group of phenomenal songwriters we work with,” Steeves said.
She penned the reflective “If I Don't Love You Anymore” with Hannah Bethel, whose video performance of the song also can be viewed on The Devious Angels site.
According to Steeves, Decious worked with Anderson East on the song “What A Woman Wants To Hear,” which is due to appear on the latter's album.
“It's a good song,” Steeves said, adding that the lyrics reflect “what I would want to hear.”
As for The Devious Angels, “We're playing out as much as possible with our new material,” Steeves said. “We're probably doing more touring this year and making new rounds at festivals.
“There are a lot of shows where we've been asked back to play. People really want to hear us. I think that's the greatest feeling.”
Adding to their full schedule is the fact that both original band members continue to hold down day jobs, Steeves as a waitress.
But, she said, she‘s excited about the direction their music is taking them.
With a self-titled debut EP under their belts, they've been preparing an as-yet-untitled follow-up with producer Greg Droman, who has worked with country star Gary Allan.
“We have so many new songs, we're trying to figure out what songs to put out,” Steeves said.
The Devious Angels also has signed a new management deal with Nashville's 1680 Entertainment and has joined the roster of Nashville Unleashed, which books various tour dates for performing songwriters like Steeves and Decious, who have been showcased at Nashville's legendary Bluebird Cafe.
“It's the Bluebird vibe, but we take it outside of Nashville,” Steeves said of the touring group.
The Devious Angels also is among Nashville Unleashed artists set to be featured in a related television series slated to air beginning this fall.
“I'm excited for that to come out. Our episode is going to be really good,” Steeves said, noting she was able to screen series footage of the group performing the song “Take Me Away.”
Steeves said the show is expected to be available on the Palladia channel.
All told, “It's been a very busy year for us,” Steeves said.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.