Ballroom Thieves (Photo: Shervin Lainez)

It’s no secret that the pandemic almost destroyed the music touring industry. Understandably, some bands gave up during the two-year slowdown, while others hunkered down and made the best of a bad situation.

Maine-based Ballroom Thieves were one of those bands who were down, but not out, managing to put together a new album which is finally being released this week.  

That album Clouds, is coming out on July 15th. “We wrote and recorded most of it during the pandemic,’ explained Martin Earley, one-half of the duo with Calin Peters. “Obviously we weren’t touring, one of the things we decided to do was to spend our time writing. I think a lot of musicians tried to do that during the pandemic.”

The band was unafraid to address issues that many creatives faced during the pandemic, an unexpected and extended career pause that contributed to despair for many in the industry. That idea is reflected on the album which features introspective, melancholy lyrics that act as a counter to more buoyant melodies.

“We wrote songs about missing the road and missing traveling and dealing with different struggles like mental illness, depression, anxiety, some of the things we were dealing with and still are. So we came out to Nantucket and recorded our album here last June. We recorded most of it live in the room, it was a fairly quick and painless process,” said Earley.

“We’re excited about the new direction of the sound and where we’re going from here. We’re finally releasing this thing,” added Peters.

The result is a compelling recording, with multi-layered tunes that reflect the times. They will undoubtedly translate well to the Festival stage where the band is playing on July 23. Although the Thieves played a few shows this year, including a double bill with Darlingside at the Columbus Theatre in May, the band is excited to dive back into touring.

“We both really love performing, having been stuck at home unable to play in front of people was really difficult for us,” Earley explained. “Now getting the chance to do it again is a cathartic and beautiful experience. We just missed it so much. The feeling that I get on stage is that the audience really missed live music too. Live music is just such a special thing you can’t get that same experience through a computer screen, a live stream. There’s a connection there where the audience feeds off of our energy and vice versa.”

“I think everyone is just a little more grateful now,” added Peters. “But along with that I think people are a little more careful with their time, and where they put their energy. People are being a little more choosy in what events they participate in.”

Both Earley and Peters appreciate the opportunity to play Newport Folk. “We played there on the Quad Stage in 2015 and we did a Museum Stage set with our friends Tall Heights and Ryan Montbleau in 2018, and we’ve done of the pop-up stuff,” said Earley.

It’s no secret that festival organizers work hard to ensure the performers enjoy the experience.  

“I love playing festivals like Newport because the focus is on the music, not to knock events like art festivals, but when you’re at a festival that’s not all about the music, the music can be more of an afterthought. It’s pretty difficult to get through that. Newport cares so much about the artist experience, and I think they care equally about the attendees, so everyone just ends up having a really nice time despite the heat,” laughed Peters.

“It’s a really special experience, I went to Newport as an audience member for many years, I think the first year I went was 2010 or 2011, that’s when the band first got started. Early on it was a huge goal to just play at Newport. There’s no festival that we’ve played where the backstage area and the general feeling is as relaxed and fun as it is at Newport, and I think that translates to the crowd,” added Earley.

“We’re just so happy to be back, so happy people are still listening to our music, just glad to be playing again,” said Peters.

For more on Ballroom Thieves, click here.

For more on the Newport Folk Festival, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.