“Everything comes with a priceI'm taking control of my lifeWith two feet on the groundBuilding this dream of what I was meant to be”—”Late Bloomer,” The Northstar SessionTRUCKEE, Calif. — The price for taking control of an up-and-coming, hard-working band is a relentless schedule of live shows up and down the West Coast and all across the country, 11 months out of the year. But with their collective two feet on the ground, the Northstar Session are out on the road, building up a devoted fan base and crafting a signature sound of rootsy, Americana-tinged pop.The Northstar Session is Matt Szlachetka on vocals and guitar; Kane McGee on vocals, drums, percussion and guitar; and Dave Basaraba on keyboards and vocals. The three came together in 2007 with the shared philosophy that music was their touchstone, their “Northstar,” if you will.At first blush, you'll want to categorize the Northstar Session with post-country musical brethren the Avett Brothers (sans the banjo) or Dawes (if Dawes employed Beach Boy-caliber harmonies). Or Ryan Adams (without the temper tantrums). But the band has carved out a niche to call its own, melodic power pop that references all the right hallmarks: country-era Stones, the Band, Tom Petty. In fact “Echoes from the Canyon,” its latest, a two-CD album recorded live in front of an audience of friends and family, is dedicated to Band drummer and singer Levon Helm, who died earlier this year from throat cancer. The 16 songs on the new album are a fair representation of the band's catalog of four full-length albums, plus a handful of covers that have been in rotation in the live shows.Lake Tahoe Action spoke on the phone with Matt Szlachetka about the new album, during a rare break in touring. Szlachetka was cleaning out his email inbox, listening to Steely Dan and getting ready to hit the road once again.“The fans demanded it,” Szlachetka said of the driving force behind the recording of “Echoes.” “They kept asking why some of the songs we play live weren't on any of the albums.”Fan favorites such as covers of the Band's “I Shall Be Released” and Van Morrison's “Into the Mystic” are included here, as well as a haunting version of Tom Petty's “Crawling Back to You.”The warm and intimate sound of the impeccably produced album “plays just like a night in the Cottonwood Fireplace Room,” according to Mike Blide, owner of Cottonwood Restaurant in Truckee, a frequent stop on the TNS tour schedule.Album versions of the songs played live on “Echoes” feature elaborate production, strings, horns. “We wanted to better represent what the songs actually sound like when we play them live,” said Szlachetka.Of the recent CD release party in Los Angeles, Szlachetka said, “It was good to play for a bunch of hometown folks we don't normally get to play for lately because we're always on the road.” The hometown glow is short-lived, however. TNS is on the road yet again, stopping in Tahoe, their adopted home away from home. Catch them Friday night at Cottonwood Restaurant and at Northstar California on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Q: How many days out of the month are you on the road?A: It usually breaks down to three weeks each month on the road. The past two years we have toured 11 months out of the year. We usually stop in December to take a break and spend time with family/friends and re-charge for the upcoming year.2) What make and model is the official TNS Mobile?A: 1997 Nissan Pathfinder, two-wheel standard/manual transmission SE model. We just hit 250,000 miles this past August driving over Mount Hood, Ore., on our Northwest tour.3) Do you get much downtime while on the road? What do you do to decompress?A: Not much but when I do I like to go running, read, catch up with family/friends and if I get a lot of downtime, write and play music.4) Is there a certain one of you who does the bulk of the driving?A: I do most of it. Kane drives a little as well.5) What are you guys listening to on the road nowadays?A: Anything that keeps our interest. (Laughs). Some of the albums I can think of that are in the car are:Tedeschi-Trucks Band: “Everybody's Talkin',”John Mayer: “Born And Raised,”Eagles: “Hotel California,”Eagles: “Desperado,”Black Keys: “El Camino,”Elton John: “Honky Chteau,”Lucinda Williams: “Blessed,”Dr. John: “Locked Down,”Graham Parsons: “Anthology,”Pete Droge: “Find A Door.”There's more, but I can't remember the rest right now.6) Do you ever get in fights over who gets to play DJ?A: Nope, we just try to listen to stuff that we haven't heard a million times. We actually just started burning mp3/data CDs so we can have mix CDs with 150-200 songs on them. 7) Do you guys rehearse in the car?A: Not yet, but it would be fun.8) Any speeding tickets? Have you ever had to play the “I'm a rock star!” card to charm a patrolwoman out of a citation?A: Nope, I'm a very careful driver. ... Knock on wood.