The Earnest Lovers: Sing Sad Songs
Dolly and Porter. Johnny and June. Tammy and George. The male/female duet is one of the main pillars of country music. The intimacy and honesty implicit in partnership deepens themes of love and loss, allowing the two voices to reveal both sides of a sad story. Emotionally rich country duets like this are at the heart of the new music from Portland, Oregon duo The Earnest Lovers. Fronted by Portland underground country stars Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia, the two found a mutual love for this music, and each other, at the end of a long road. For Pete, this project was an opportunity to return to his roots as a songwriter, and for Leslie, it was a chance to step more fully into that role. Working with Jon Neufeld of Black Prairie as producer, the pair recruited some of their favorite country musicians and headed into the studio just seven months after debuting the band at the 2014 Pickathon Festival. The result is Sing Sad Songs, an introduction that shows The Earnest Lovers as a powerful new creative force working with the roots of country music.
The path that brought Pete Krebs and Leslie Beia together to form The Earnest Lovers was a long and winding one. Pete first came to prominence in Portland during the 90s grunge scene in the Pacific Northwest. His band Hazel was signed to Sub Pop Records, toured the world, and shared stages with Nirvana, and Pete frequently collaborated with close friend and legendary songwriter Elliott Smith. Inspired by bands like X and The Blasters, Pete then turned to American roots music, a not uncommon path for punk rockers, and he formed the vintage jazz band The Stolen Sweets, and Western Swing ensemble The Portland Playboys. This long path through many different influences also took Pete through two cancer scares, one when he was 21 and another just in the last two years. “Both of these experiences were wake-up calls,” Pete explains. “The first go round put me on the path of wanting to do things my own way, to pursue the dream of being a musician. The last go round made me realize that I’d strayed pretty far from the path of being a creative musician. You’ve gotta make the most of the time that you have and pursue things that are important and meaningful to you.” Hungry to create again and moving closer to old-school country roots, Pete met Portland country singer Leslie Beia at the Landmark Saloon, a key gathering place for honky-tonk musicians in the city. A musical and personal relationship quickly blossomed and the two found themselves writing songs together and delving ever deeper into their shared love of vintage country music. Beia was well known in Portland and the Pacific Northwest from her work with her earlier duo, Copper & Coal, which featured original country songwriting and beautiful duet vocals.
For their debut record, producer Jon Neufeld worked hard to nail the beloved sound of classic country vinyl from greats like Buck Owens and George Jones. This sound provided the framework for Pete and Leslie’s original songs, which show an uncommon depth and draw inspiration from other neo-traditional songwriters like Martha Scanlan and Cahalen Morrison. Recorded almost entirely live and in just three days, The Earnest Lovers’ debut EP taps into the sincerity and power of the old country duets, but brings this sound into modern-day Portland.