“There’s been a lot of talk about our live shows, but we’re definitely a band that cares most about the songs,” Walston said. “We basically just walk on stage and play the songs. There’s nothing elaborate about our stage shows.”
That doesn’t mean people are sitting on their hands at Walston concerts. “If you get a chance to stop jumping up and down and singing at the top of your lungs,” said Steve Benoit of the Newport Folk Festival, “you’ll start to hear songs that echo well beyond the few minutes they’re played.”
That, of course, is exactly the effect Walston and the Business are going for. And an ever-increasing number of critics, fans and music business types are taking notice. The band, as noted, played the legendary Newport festival earlier this summer, and will tape an “Austin City Limits” show in September. Buzz might be an over-used word, but this band is certainly creating exactly that.
All of which Walston greets with surprising calmness.
“We’ve been going at this pretty intensely and consistently for about 10 years,” Walston said. “The first two of those 10, we were booking ourselves. It was six weeks of efforts to go out for two-week tour. And working a full-time job in addition to that.”
So, he said, “We appreciate this. We know what it’s like for no one to care about it. When these opportunities happen, we appreciate what it is.”
Walston talked by phone from his home in Richmond, Va.
Newport, ‘Austin City Limits’ — does all of this attention create extra pressure?
I feel like we’re ready. It’s not like this is happening overnight. We’ve been off on our own for so long, developing what we do. We know our strengths and weaknesses.
What was it that made you at some point decide you had to make music?
I don’t know. From a very young age I was doing things with the idea that “When I’m in a band…” Before I could play an instrument, I was writing song lyrics. I taught myself how to play guitar and piano by writing songs. I only know how to play about three songs by other people. I can’t sit down and play a cover song. I only know how to play my own songs.
You’ve been traveling all this time with your own piano, saying you don’t play “keyboards.”
Well, now we’ve been doing these shows, like Rochester, where we fly in., so we work with a local company to get something comparable. But if we’re traveling with our own gear, I’ve got two pianos that I bring along.
Is it a sentimental thing?
Yeah, but I think it’s more that when people get keyboards, all the notes are the same. There’s a different reaction to real instruments, whether people realize it or not. We lean toward this gear that’s not going to sound the same all the time.
Almost everyone who hears your records immediately spots the Led Zeppelin influence.
I love Led Zeppelin, but they weren’t my first love. My first love was the Shirelles.
Which would explain those harmonies and choruses in your music.
If you go
What: J. Roddy Walston and the Business in a Down by the Riverside concert. Opening: La Madness
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Mayo Park, behind Mayo Civic Center