Carolina Story

By Greg Tutwiler
Carolina Story is Ben and Emily Roberts; Ben from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Emily from Lennox, South Dakota. They met in Memphis, and now hail from East Nashville. So, you may wonder, where did the Carolina part come from? I did too. “When we first started dating, I took Emily on a week long camping trip in Western North Carolina, outside of Asheville,” Ben said. He had gone to college there for a time and had been a whitewater rafting guide on the French Broad River along with several others nearby. “It was and still is one of my favorite areas in the lower 48 and I simply wanted to take her there so she could see it for herself and hopefully fall in love with it like I had.”
One night near the end of the trip while sitting around the campfire, Ben and Emily decided maybe that two heads were better than one, musically, and a light bulb. “We should start a band and give it a go together,” Ben recalled. “On the way home, Emily mentioned Carolina Story as a name. We wanted our songs to tell our story and the stories of others, and North Carolina just so happened to be where the band idea was first hatched. It sounded folky and rootsy enough, and we didn’t have any better ideas, so it stuck.”
Choirs And Fenders
Ben grew up singing in the church choir and said he’s always been a lover of music, song, melody. “My dad was always educating me and my sister on different bands and artists that he grew up on too. We were raised on the sounds of Neil Young, Cat Stevens, George Jones, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, Led Zeppelin, Old Country and Rock n’ Roll.” Ben started playing guitar when he was 12 after talking his parents into buying him a Fender acoustic, “a guitar I still have to this day,” he said. They made him promise to take lessons and practice diligently. “I took a few months worth of lessons, learned four or five chords, the difference between major and minor and figured I knew enough, so I joined a band at the start of 7th grade.” He said. “We played together until my senior year of high school.”
Ben ended up going to college on a football scholarship and transferred around to several different schools over the course of several years. “During this time, I sort of put the guitar down so to speak,” he said. “I didn’t play much, except for around the campfire at parties and with friends.”
It wasn’t until he enrolled at Visible Music College in Memphis, TN in the fall of 2007 that he really picked it back up. “You could say that Emily had a huge impact on me,” he recalled. “I met her in the parking lot of the school and helped her move a couch into her dorm room. It was love at first sight for me.”
Devising A Plan
Ben devised a plan to bring to find a way to spend more time with his new found love interest. “Emily was into the music of an artist named Brandi Carlile,” he me. “I learned several songs off of her album, The Story and told Emily that we should sing some of the songs together for fun. She agreed, and we learned the song, “Josephine.” That’s where it all started. We then began crafting our own songs, mainly with Emily as the lead and me only accompanying. We never really set out to start a band or anything. We both knew there was a natural chemistry there so we went with it. The two were married two years later and went on their first tour a week after the honeymoon.
They returned to Memphis after that first tour because Ben had a year of school left. “We lived in Memphis during that fall semester but I got clearance from the school to finish my last six spring semester hours from the road. I literally would video chat with my class in the afternoons from the road. We would load in at venues and I would Skype in and sit there video chatting with my professor and classmates, often having to step out a few minutes early to go sound check,” Ben recalled.
On The Road Again
Touring has always been a big part of Carolina Story. “It’s how we’ve built our fan base,” he said, “one show at a time.” Since then, Carolina Story has played nearly 800 shows in 43 states. “Now that our son and first child is in the picture,” Ben said, “we tour a little less for the time being but he’s been to every show since he was born in September. I think he’s been to 12 states already.”
As a song writer, Ben said, “I am all about the song. I’m constantly chasing after it. I would definitely say that my personal travels and travels as a band influence our writing a great deal. Different cultures of people, different places and things. There’s enough things that we see, hear, feel in one given day that could inspire you and the next song. I just try to keep my eyes and ears peeled for that kind of stuff. You’ve just got to be receptive to it.”


Leave a Reply