An award-winning band from Richmond, VA is headed to Newport’s Jane Pickens Film and Events Center on Friday, May 5. Best known for 2001’s “The Boxer,” and the 2004 hit “Life Less Ordinary,” Carbon Leaf plays an Americana blend of bluegrass, rock, folk, Celtic and pop. With a dedicated fanbase, they regularly sell out shows across the country. Get your tickets to the Pickens show here.
The newest member of the five-piece band is drummer Jesse Humphrey, who lives in Jamestown. He joined the group in 2017 and has been an integral part of the touring band ever since. How did a musician, originally from Cranston, get hooked up with an Americana band from Virginia, 25 years after they formed at a fraternity at Randolph-Macon College? We learned more in a recent phone chat.
“I joined the band in 2017; they’ve been around so long, this is their 30th year,” says Humphrey. “Being a new member of a band like this, that’s been around for so long, the fanbase, so diehard, you have such a large catalog of music, every show has the potential to be different and special. It’s a really fun experience to come to a Carbon Leaf show.”
The band’s sound is hard to describe. “There are Celtic influences in songs like ‘The Boxer,’ we have a whole Celtic album,” Humphrey notes. “I would call it indie-rock with some Americana influences. The Gathering series of albums is more acoustic-based, with banjos, upright bass, more down-home Americana, four on-the-floor music. It’s a pretty rocking show, but not too heavy. Our forthcoming album is more on the rock side, more back to the band’s roots.”
Humphrey spoke highly of the band’s dedicated fans, who show up night after night. “I recently played a solo show in Massachusetts – I had a ton of Carbon Leaf fans – they are so dedicated in supporting everything about the band. They’re truly special.”
Humphrey first got to play for Carbon Leaf after a tour with singer Steven Kellogg. He met the band on a rock boat cruise in Florida, when he was looking to join a band. “The fit was great, it was awesome.”
A Cranston, RI native, Humphrey is a big booster of music and arts programs in public schools. “I am the biggest advocate for kids in band and choir,” he says. “When I went to Cranston West, there was such an amazing music environment, pushed by Arthur Montanaro, the band director at West. Friends of mine, Steve Aiello, who plays in 30 Seconds to Mars, guys like Dan Mills, who’s in Providence now, so many people from that school and that city at that time, who are still doing high-level stuff.”
“It’s pretty sad to see those things going away around the country and I hope to God that people fight for it, it’s incredibly important to kids’ mental health to get in there and have an outlet like music,” adds Humphrey.
In addition to touring with the band and playing solo shows, Humphrey has a popular podcast called “After the Gig.” “It’s available on all major podcast outlets. It’s a music podcast, interview podcast, where I talk with friends of mine from around the industry.” Click here to listen.
Click here for more on Carbon Leaf.
Click here for tickets to the show.