Jeremy Sharp, McKenzie Davidson, and Brad Davidson make up the band, Center State, our ReVerb Nation band feature act for this issue. The St. Joseph and Kansas City area is where founding member Jeremy Sharp called home through the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, where he honed his craft playing with local garage rock bands performing in local dives and bars.
Jeremy eventually connected with an acoustic oriented group called The Bypass, where he experienced working with his female lead vocalist. Although the band had mild success it eventually fizzled out and led Jeremy to start writing songs that leaned more toward the roots and Americana flavor.
A local concert series that was starting up in downtown St. Joseph contacted Jeremy about forming a new music act for the opening series. Jeremy asked friends McKenzie, and then Brad to join in for the show. ”At some point during the rehearsals for the first show,” Jeremy said, “the conversation led to, ‘maybe we should continue playing shows if it makes sense.’ That was in 2012. It’s 2018 and it’s still making sense.”
Jeremy recalled the moment when it all fell in place. “McKenzie and I had played multiple venues together in the past, but it wasn’t until Brad got engaged to McKenzie that The Center State was even a thought. Brad accompanied McKenzie to a practice one day, and wanting to avoid awkwardness, I asked Brad if he played any instruments. When Brad told me he played a little guitar, I said, ‘perfect! Pick up that bass.’ With the realization that he could also provide a second harmony to the songs, we huddled up, broke down, and restructured everything.”
The Center State, like a lot of groups in this genre feature mostly original songs. Jeremy is considered the songwriter of the group. ”It’s a very basic process,” he said. “I simply find some hole to write in, i.e. a bathroom, closet, bedroom, or wherever it’s easy to focus. I experiment on different chord structures, then immediately after starting a music idea, I start to analyze and understand what the music is feeling like. Is it sad, or happy; does it have a story to tell, or a message to share. Then words develop as illustrations that define the meaning of the feeling that the song is trying to share. Then it’s all roughed in on a basic recording through an iphone. When it’s time to record, we sit down and listen through the multiple ideas on record, then pick and choose the songs we like and that sound like they might fit together. Then the rough versions of the songs develop from there by finding lead lines, and proper melodies and harmonies.”
Jeremy said their favorite audience is found in the relaxed and engaged wine sipping crowd. “But, our music seems to reach a broader spectrum too,” he commented. “We attract those yearning for a story; those who have experienced pain and are drawn to beauty. We have multigenerational, cross cultural fans.”
Jeremy said they are often being inspired by the folks that come out to hear their music. “There was a young girl who decided to pick up the violin after being inspired by one of our shows,” he recalled. “It was weird and beautiful that we could influence the younger generation that way. Hopefully we’ll hear of her success one day. Another memory was in the midst of recording our first album, we blew up an air mattress in the back and took turns sleeping in between takes. That was when jobs and school pushed us to do the recording process in the middle of the night. That whole project stretched us!”
Like many other musicians, Jeremy, Brad, and McKenzie all have other gigs to help pay the bills. Jeremy is a media director, Brad is a scientist, and McKenzie is still a student. “Even though we aren’t so called full time, we definitely aim to sound full time. This band is guided by one principal; Does it make sense when we write, or book shows, or develop any ideas? That is the beginning of the conversation. It’s predominantly seen when booking shows. What’s the pay? Or if it doesn’t pay well, what benefit do we get from the show that makes the most sense. Are we opening for a band we would love to open for, or are we getting a live recording for a session, or is it a benefit we believe in? Full time is always something we are open to, but it would have to make sense. We simply want to make good music at a professional level.”
The Center State has just released their sophomore album, Wilderness. The band feels like this is an album where they have grown musically, and been able to explore different sounds while staying true to who they are. “The song, “Sunrise” was co-written with Leigh Nash from Sixpence None The Richer, and her husband Stephen Wilson, who is a writer for Curb Records. The album was mixed and mastered by Jarod Hadaway of Last Triumph Records.