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The Road To CukoRakko: The Reunion of Mama's Love September 15, 2016 12:25

 
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Our latest segment, "The Road to CukoRakko," consists of a series of interviews leading up to CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival this weekend at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL.  We're kicking off the segment by taking a look into a special reunion set from one of our favorite bands of the past, Mama's Love.  Mama's Love was born in Athens, Georgia in 2007 and took the southeast by storm for many years.  While various lineups continued the band's legacy through 2014, the core lineup will perform at CukoRakko for the first time since December of 2011.  We recently sat down with Thomas Galloway (guitar/vocals) and Whit Murray (lead guitar/vocals) to relive some of the old memories and see what we can expect at Horse Pens 40 next month.
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Mama's Love is scheduled to play on Friday, October 7th at 8:15 on the Main Stage at CukoRakko.  Share this post from Live & Listen's Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments for a chance to win two weekend passes to the festival.
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-Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
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Let's start off by talking a little bit about the beginning of Mama's Love back in Athens, GA.
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Thomas:  The band formed back in 2007 in Athens, Ga.  Most of us were in school there at the time.  I had been playing with William Boyd (keyboards) since high school, as well as Patrick Atwater, the original bassist.  So, there was already some chemistry going. Boyd looped in his cousin Ben Torbert who became the original drummer.  Then we hooked up with Taylor Knox, the original guitarist, who had played with some of us in another project called The Shady Boys.  We went through a few names while playing together and eventually became Mama's Love. Pretty soon after, we recorded our first studio album Willow Street Sessions, and we played around Athens and the southeast from 2007-2009 with that initial lineup.  

Knox left the band towards the end of '09 to pursue another career so we were searching for a new guitarist.  We had played with Whit's band, Perfect Colour, out of Raleigh, and he was friends with Knox and all of us.  I think Whit was in a position to make moves to Athens, and he was interested in making it work.  So, he came on board in 2009.  We also changed things up with Bo Nicholson as our new bassist around that time of transition. Patrick went on to study Jazz bass in Colorado.  Soon after, we went to Southern Tracks Studio in Atlanta and recorded the self-titled EP with Tom Tapley.  We toured in support of that for a while, and eventually followed that up with a full length LP with John Keane in 2011 called, The Great Divide.  

We toured around the southeast pretty heavily during that time.  I guess soon after The Great Divide, different factors cause the band to dissolve.  I was still living in Athens, and after some soul searching, I had the opportunity to get another really talented group of players together to keep the music going.  We recorded the single, "Beyond the Divide" with Keane and we actually have a shelved album "Stone Farm Redemption" that I hope will see the light of day at some point.  That lineup toured heavily between 2012-2014 and we still occasionally play a few shows from time to time

Listen to "Wake Up Woes" by Mama's Love here:

Very cool.  So Whit, as you guys were saying, it was right around 2009 when everyone was finishing school, and you ultimately came on board.  How did that come about in your eyes, and what drew you in to make the move down to Athens and take on this new venture?
 
Whit:  I think it was a football tailgate in 2007 when I first saw ML. I was down in Athens, and my one of my good friends from home was living with (Taylor) Knox.  I would visit Athens all the time from University of South Carolina, and I would stay with them. Knox and I would always play guitars, and he told me he was playing with his new band at the tailgate the next day and that I should sit in on a song.  I remember it was "Mama Lay Your Hair Down."  G Blues! He was telling me about Thomas, and how he had written all of these songs.  He kept raving about how Ben was the best drummer he had ever played with, too.  So, I met all of them and sat in.  Then, the following summer, I worked at a summer camp with (Patrick) Atwater, and they had just recorded Willow Street Sessions.  He played me the album and it was so good, especially compared to anything that anyone I knew was doing. Not many of our peers were writing their own music at the time. So, we got to be friends and they'd always let me sit in when I came to town and vice versa. 
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When I graduated from college in 2008, I moved home and nobody my age could get a job because of the crash. So I put a band together and really put my energy into that. Raleigh has a pretty cool, smaller music scene but I knew I'd have to move to a mecca if I really wanted to get involved and Athens at the time was buzzing. It was always in the back of my minds towards the end of college, then when I heard Taylor had left the band and they asked me to fill in temporarily, I went down for a week and checked it out. They had the open room all ready and the shows we played were so much fun, I just kind of stayed... for 2 and a half years. We toured and practiced a heavily and made two albums. It was a blast!  
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Mama's Love - Athens, GA - 2008
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So, like you said, you had about two-and-a-half years of consistent touring and playing a lot of music together.  You guys obviously got to play a lot of new cities and different venues.  When you look back on that time, what are some of the memories that stand out the most?
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Thomas: One of my favorites was going out west for the first time. Seeing and feeling the landscape change as you get further out. We got to open up for Mickey Hart (The Grateful Dead) and Keller Williams.  Actually, that was in Driggs, Idaho, and some Jackson Hole shows.  We did some Colorado and Texas dates too.

Whit: Yeah, I would say the same.  I think that run was about three weeks.  That was our first real tour.  We were typically doing two to four nights a week before that.  Going out west and playing for three weeks when we were fresh out of college was really cool.  We got to go to a lot of places we'd never been and probably haven't been to since.
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Thomas:  That was fun, and you would think being younger and on the road would be easier to do personally, but I almost feel like it's gotten easier with age.  I guess we're just more accustomed to it at this point?
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Whit: There's some conditioning to it, but we were just a lot younger.  We were probably partying a little harder than we can now (laughs).
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Thomas:  One of the really great memories I have was one night at the Georgia Theatre.  Knox was still playing at the time, but we had Whit sit in on "Catch a Feelin".  Almost a passing of the guitar pick foreshadowing moment, although none of us knew it at the time. It was pretty packed out, and we had a bunch of balloons drop during the peak of that song.  That was pretty fun.
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Whit: Oh yeah...that was so cool. The old Theatre, before the fire. 
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Was there any special occasion for the balloon drop that night?
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Thomas: We were just trying to do something cool and different, so we blew up a bunch of balloons ourselves.  They were stored at our house, and we snuck them into the theatre that night, and Big Mike our manager dropped them off the balcony at the right moment.
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Thomas Galloway: ATHFest 2013
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What else would you say was unique about both of your stints with the band?
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Whit: I would say what really stands out to me was how close we all were.  We were such good friends. For instance, if I had to partner off for lunch with someone, it didn't really matter who it was.  Individually, we were all just really tight.  In hindsight, that made the band special.  We got to hop around college towns from night to night and pretend to be rock stars (laughs).
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Thomas:  I would say the same.  We were very fortunate to have found each other.  It wasn't just like, "We're going to start a band.  Where can we find good musicians?"  I feel like, when I look back at it now, Mama's Love is just a big brotherhood of outstanding musicians and people. That's what it was always about.  We recently got to play again at Torbert's wedding, and it was very easy to get back up there and do it.  It felt really natural, you know?
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Whit: It's cool, because I've had a lot of people come up to me and say "Hey, you played our college formal" or some of my favorite memories were going to see you guys play, or something along those lines.  We played a lot of frat gigs back then.  Thomas and I pulled up to Hampden-Sydney last year, and these guys were blaring a Mama's Love album that we recorded 6-7 years ago.  There's a poster at Washington & Lee from a show we played there in 2009 and it's still there! Having people come up and realizing that our music is still being passed down is really cool.
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Listen to "Ragtime Rug" by Mama's Love here:
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Yeah I can imagine that you hear a lot of those stories.  Mama's Love played a major role in so many people's college experience.  I can certainly attest to that.  If you were at Auburn University from 2007-2009 and Mama's Love was in town, you made sure you were there.  If you had a test the next day, you got a doctor's note. 
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Thomas: Another experience from that lineup that really sticks out was one of our band retreats.  We all went up to Atlantic Beach for about a week.  We stayed at Bo's family beach house.  Most of that time was spent in the basement working on new music.  The rest of the time was spent on the beach just having a lot of fun.  
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Whit:  The band house was together for 3 years and it was everyday, you know. Not just playing music but trying to hone our vision and grow our business. I'd always wanted an experience like that and have really fond memories of that period. 
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Whit Murray of Mama's Love
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So, as you were saying, you guys got to return to the stage just a few weeks ago at Ben's wedding at Lake Burton.  That's a nice precursor to this reunion set coming up at CukoRakko in a few weeks.  What is it like for you guys to have this opportunity, and how do you go about preparing for a set at this point?
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Thomas:  Well, we've already been talking a lot about the set.  We're all working on re-familiarizing ourselves with certain songs again.  What's nice about it is that Whit and I are here in Nashville, so we can get together and work on the material.  Boyd and Torbert are in Atlanta, so they can get together. Bo might be the wild card (laughs) but I trust he'll kill it.  I hope we can find the time to get at least one full rehearsal in as a band, but like I was saying, everything was really easy when we just recently played together.  It was almost like time had not passed.
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Whit:  It's so engrained, you know.  It's been a while, but it's in there somewhere.  For it to be able to resurface is just really cool.  You don't full remember until it happens though. One thing about this that is really cool is that it's pretty much been five years since we played a show.  We were all at Taylor's wedding last December, and that was the first time that all of us have had a chance to hang out together since the last time we played.  We kind of just let this thing happen with the CukoRakko opportunity coming up.  We knew that we would do something like this again, but we wanted to let it happen organically.  When the time's right, it's right.  The wedding was such a cool precursor, because we haven't had a chance to play in such a long time. It's really cool how it's all unfolded.  
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Watch Mama's Love perform "Long Willie Jackson" > "Catch a Feelin" at Ben Torbert's wedding reception on August 20th, 2016 here:
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CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival Reveals Final Lineup For Fall Fest August 15, 2016 11:53

Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Share this post directly from our Facebook page and tag a friend for a chance to win two weekend passes to CukoRakko.  We will announce a winner via Facebook on Monday, August 22nd at 12:00 PM CST.

CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival is pleased to reveal it's phase three artist announcement and final artist lineup for the 2016 Fall Fest at Horse Pens 40 on October 6th - 9th.  The phase three artist announcement includes a very special reunion performance from Mama's Love (Athens, GA), Dank & Friends (Atlanta, GA), Winston Ramble (Birmingham, AL), Bird Dog Jubilee (Atlanta, GA), and Seeds? (Huntsville, AL).  A variety of single-day and weekend passes to the festival can be purchased by clicking here.  CukoRakko is a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly event located at one of the South's best kept secrets, Horse Pens 40.  Kids ages 10 and under are admitted for free.  Stay tuned for details on Live & Listen's official pre-party at Horse Pens 40 on Thursday, October 6th.  

CukoRakko's Fall Fest will be held at Horse Pens 40 in Steele, AL from Thursday, October 6th - Sunday, October 9th.  The lineup this fall will feature as diverse and exciting of a lineup as we have seen from the festival, including the likes of The Heavy Pets, Funk You, Col. Bruce Hampton & Madrid Express feat. Carter Herring, Backup PlanetWinston RambleDank & Friends, The Captain Midnight Band (x2), Maradeen, Mama's Love, The Stolen Faces, Jason Bailey Band, Boy Named Banjo, Royal & Toulouse, Bird Dog Jubilee, Seeds?and Harkestra's Grateful Gospel Jamboree.

Click Here: Purchase your CukoRakko tickets today!

In preparation for the October festivities, we have included video or audio footage from each of this year's performers below.  This lineup features a variety of amazing talent from across the Southeast, including many of the regions top up-and-coming acts.  Stay tuned for future coverage and exclusive content, including our annual interview series, "The Road To CukoRakko," which will be released in early October.

The Heavy Pets

"Dewpoint" - Live at The Georgia Theatre

"Keep Me Running" - Live at The Georgia Theatre

 Funk You

"Lets Dance" - Live at Terminal West

Col. Bruce Hampton & Madrid Express w/ Carter Herring

Entire set from Echo Mountain Studios

Backup Planet

Official music video for "The Road"

Winston Ramble

"Free State of Mind" - Live at Muscle Shoals Studio

Dank

Official music video for "Get Up"

The Captain Midnight Band

"Common Law Hussy"

Maradeen

Official Music Video - "She Treat Me Like a Real Man"

Mama's Love

Listen to "Catch a Feelin'" here:

Listen to "Wake Up Woes" here:

 The Stolen Faces (Grateful Dead Tribute)

Official Music Video - "U.S. Blues"

Boy Named Banjo

Listen to "Blue Hole Bridge" here:

Jason Bailey Band

"Adventures of Shannon Ceili"

Royal & Toulouse

Official music video - "One Direction"

Bird Dog Jubilee

Covering Twiddle's "Lost In The Cold"

Seeds?

Live at Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL

Harkestra's Grateful Gospel Jamboree

Live from CukoRakko SpringFest 2015