This month, we were granted an interview with Kyle and Kaitlyn Gerber, a brother/sister duo from Millbank who created a gospel bluegrass band called Rescue Junction.
RR: So, you two started Rescue Junction in 2009. Do you remember your first gig? Where was it? How did it go?
Kaitlyn: The first real gig we did as an organized band was, I think, at the Gospel Express Revival Meetings in Millbank. We had just asked Roger to join us (Kyle and myself) more “permanently” and the three of us sang a few songs before the service opened. I don’t remember it going too badly and we were asked to sing other places after that so it must not have been too bad.
Kyle: Did the revival meetings gig happen before or after we played, as a trio with Roger, at Nelson Kuepfer’s birthday party . . . that one felt like a real gig at the time?
Kaitlyn: We did play at Nelson Kuepfer’s birthday party. It wasn’t really a real gig, but it was our first paid gig. So yeah, I guess that was our first.
RR: So did the two of you just wake up one morning and decide to start a band? Or did it start out as just messing around, and slowly transition into this huge venture?
Kaitlyn: We started getting into bluegrass when our family was living in Indiana. When we moved home to Ontario in 2006 we thought we were going to lose any opportunity we might have had to start or join a bluegrass band. However, because we loved singing together, Kyle and I used every opportunity we were given, whether it was singing at nursing homes or just doing a few songs on a Sunday evening at church. Having an amazing banjo player like Roger living just down the street from us wasn’t just a coincidence in our eyes either…we really felt, as time went on, that this was something we were meant to do and doors were opening faster than we could get through them!
Kyle: Definitely grew into it. I’d say we got the musical bug pretty early, but the opportunity to really put a band together and do the kind of work that we do now really grew out of taking advantage of all the opportunities.
RR: Since 2009, you’ve more than doubled the size of the group. When did the others join you?
Kaitlyn: We really needed a bass to round out our sound, so we asked Dallas to join us in 2010. He’d never played bass before, but he had musical background. He went from his first ever bass practice on a Thursday night to performing Saturday night that same week! Nick started getting interested in bluegrass music after he was introduced to Dailey & Vincent, and he became interested in joining the band. He bought a dobro in the summer of 2014 and started playing with us later that fall.
RR: Obviously, your skills would’ve improved a lot in 7 years. Has your style changed significantly as well, or have you been consistently been improving the same style of music?
Kaitlyn: I wouldn’t say that our style has necessarily changed but I think as we’ve improved on our instruments it’s allowed us to do more musically and incorporate other influences into our bluegrass style. We love playing traditional bluegrass music but it’s exciting to explore our own interpretation of bluegrass and experiment with other genres within an acoustic framework.
Kyle: I would say that our developing skills have allowed us to incorporate a broader spectrum of our influences within a bluegrass framework. As we become more proficient, we’re more able to blend different styles and continue to move towards what we hope is a definitive “Rescue Junction” sound.
RR: You’ve played all over Ontario and beyond. What’s the farthest from home you’ve done a gig?
Kaitlyn: The farthest we’ve ever played would be Alaska. We had an amazing opportunity to join a cruise with other Gospel groups in 2013. So somewhere on the water in Alaska is the farthest we’ve ever taken the band!
RR: You guys definitely make some great music, and you’ve received some recognition for it. What’s the biggest/ most prestigious award you’ve won or been nominated for?
Kaitlyn: We’ve won a couple of the nominations we’ve received but I think the most prestigious or affirming award we’ve won was the “Most Promising Group” award from the Central Canada Bluegrass Association. It was a huge encouragement to receive a nod of approval from our peers and was an exciting endorsement for the band.
Kyle: The fact that our grandparents love our music and our parents come to our concerts is pretty high praise, if you ask me!
RR: I know a few of your songs allude to your life in a rural area. Do you think your music would be significantly different if you had grown up in a big-city atmosphere?
Kyle: I don’t think it would necessarily be so; bluegrass as a genre enjoys a robust urban scene. That said, there are certain rural sensibilities that inform Kaitlyn’s song-writing, as well as our repertoire, so while the music might not sound much different I do think we’d be recording different material if we had a more urban focus.
Kaitlyn: Bluegrass is typically thought of as rural music, but it’s not restricted to that. Kyle and I didn’t grow up listening to bluegrass, but once we were exposed to it, it was the genre we both identified with musically and naturally felt at home with.
RR: You guys call yourselves a ‘Gospel Bluegrass’ band. Is that a common combination, or is bluegrass often secular music?
Kyle: The message of the gospel has historically been a part of the bluegrass genre. It’s important to keep in mind that Bluegrass, like Classical music or Southern Gospel music, is the style. However, form and content are usually co-dependent, and there is an earthy, folksy quality to bluegrass that works nicely with the message of the gospel.
Kaitlyn: Gospel music has always gone hand in hand with bluegrass, but it’s important for us to have folks know that we represent much more than just the bluegrass genre. What comes first for us is sharing the Gospel…basically we just want people to know what they’re in for!
RR: I’m sure you guys get inspiration from lots of other bands & singers as well. Who do you think influenced you most musically?
Kaitlyn: My biggest influences early on in Rescue Junction were Cherryholmes and Dailey & Vincent. Cherryholmes provided me with a sound and style to bluegrass I had never heard before, and was really what pushed me head over heels in loves with music. Dailey & Vincent were my biggest and earliest heroes and anything they did, I wanted to imitate! What really stood out to me about them was that the way they presented themselves on stage was exactly who they were off stage and that spoke volumes to me. There’s so many more influences but those were probably the most influential.
Kyle: In chronological order: The Cathedral Quartet – The Oak Ridge Boys – The Dave Matthews Band – Nickel Creek – David Grisman – Dailey & Vincent – Emory Lester.
RR: Now I want you to imagine that you can only listen to music from one artist for an entire month. Who are you going to listen to, and why?
Kyle: David Grisman: the breadth and depth of his musical expression are far more than enough to keep one mando-head satisfied for a month.
Kaitlyn: Probably Alison Krauss & Union Station. They’re an incredibly diversified band and phenomenal musicians, not to mention vocalists. A month of listening to only their albums would probably give me a wealth of inspiration.
RR: So, looking back over everything that’s happened since you guys started the band, is there anything you’d do differently? Any advice for new bands just starting up?
Kyle: I’d have started playing with other better musicians earlier, and trying to get as much experience playing in ensembles as possible. In terms of advice: your primary satisfaction needs to come from playing the best music possible – if you’re measuring your success by awards, the places you play, the reception of your recordings, you’re going to struggle. Your primary task as a musician is to connect with people through the music. Make the music a priority, make sure you integrate the music with the deepest parts of your character, and everything else grows from there.
Kaitlyn: I don’t think there’s anything I would personally do any different. The best advice for new bands starting up is to play as much as you can and work on your music as often as possible. But have fun! There’s no point being in a band if you’re not having fun!
RR: Well, thanks so much for your time! Hope you guys keep putting out good quality music- it’s great to see this kind of talent come from our rural areas!
Kyle: Thanks to The Rural Route for taking the time to get to know Rescue Junction a bit better. We’re honoured. And to all you readers, keep your ears to the ground for live music in your area: it’s good for everybody!
Make sure to like Rescue Junction on Facebook and follow them on Twitter! If you want to hear some of their music, look them up on iTunes and Spotify. And of course, check out www.rescuejunctionband.com for more information & an event schedule!