Strand of Oaks Takes Root
At this Year’s XPN Fest
By Rob Nagy
For former schoolteacher turned professional musician, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Timothy Showalter is living the dream, fronting his band “Strand of Oaks.”
Currently on tour in support of their fifth album release, “Hard Love,” featuring the single “Radio Kids,” Strand of Oaks is rapidly becoming a presence in the indie rock scene.
Merging elements of rock, metal and folk, Showalter is quick to point out that Strand of Oaks’ sound is a crossover into a variety of music genres.
“I think it’s impossible to define what we do because I’m inspired by so many different types of music, writing and art,” says Showalter. “It all just kind of filters through whatever is happening between my brain and my fingers and my voice and writing the song. It’s hard to define Strand of Oaks as a band. It’s what I love about it but it’s difficult for people. I think people want to define it as a certain thing. I love so many different kinds of music. There are bits of U2. There are bits of metal. All of that just kind of goes into the recipe for whatever makes a good soup.”
“What’s nice at this point in my career is that I’ve been doing it for so long that I think, with the fan base I have, the only expectation they have is that I just stay true to myself,” says Showalter.
“That’s what’s so interesting about making records because this is a time where there are two opportunities. You can reinvent yourself on a record but also the idea of playing live, which I savor. I follow the belief that when a record is put out, that’s what people have as a document for the songs, but live, they are just getting born and they can keep evolving forever and change. That’s what’s so cool. Painters don’t get that opportunity. Van Gogh can’t go back and say, ‘I gotta change that stroke.’ With bands you can write a song, put it on a record, and ten years later it can almost be unrecognizable at that point from what it has evolved into.”
Offering a collection of memorable songs and flawless production, standout tracks on Hard Love include, “Hard Love,” “Radio Kids,” “Everything,” “Cry” and “Quit It.”
“Strand of Oaks was formed in 2003,” recalls Showalter, from his home in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. “It was very loose for a long time because I was a schoolteacher. It was like a bowling league. You get together once a week. It wasn’t really until 2009 that I started putting out records and touring heavily.”
Releasing his debut album in 2009, “Leave Ruin,” Showalter hit the ground running and has never looked back. Following a near death auto accident, Showalter released the “Heal” album in 2014, his fourth, earning critical acclaim as one of the year’s best albums.
Touring extensively in support of the record, Showalter ‘s Strand of Oaks opened for Jason Isbell, Iron and Wine, and Ryan Adams as well as appearing on Late Night with Seth Myers. “Heal” went on to win numerous honors including American Songwriter’s Top 50 Albums of 2014, NPR Music’s Favorite Songs of 2014, 10 Breakout Artists of 2014, and Under the Radar’s Top 140 Albums of 2014.
Hailing from Indiana, Showalter relocated to Pennsylvania in 2003, ultimately taking residence in Philadelphia to experience the deep music history and become a viable presence in the rebirth of the city’s music scene.
“Coming to Philadelphia was the best thing ever for me,” says Showalter. “Being here in this city offers so many more things. I’ve just been really proud, from a musician standpoint, to see the city grow so much with new music venues and the constant support of WXPN radio. All of these elements have made Philly one of the best music cities in the country, if not the world.”
A veteran of the road, Showalter, who performs as many as 200 concert dates a year, continues to work at a feverish pace sharing his music without compromise with anyone that will listen.
“You got to work hard,” says Showalter. “You can’t just clock out. When you’re doing something like we do, your shift is never over. I wake up in the middle of the night and have ideas for artwork or for songs. It’s just always in my head. I love it. You have to be diligent and persevere. We’re not living in the day and age where you can sell 5 million records, but there are still people hungry for it and that is the best thing about it. You can never duplicate the experience of what it’s like to go to a concert. That’s priceless currency in this world. You can never take that away. It’s my favorite thing to do. We play so many shows a year. It’s rare for me to even be home in Philly at this point.”
“If you think too much about where you are career wise you can get away from the art. What is the slogan? ‘If your job is something that you love then you never work a day in your life.’ It kind of feels that way for me. I used to just play guitar after work, and now my job is to go and play guitar.”
“The connection with fans is what I look for,” says Showalter. “I just want to play the best show I can. I want to project these songs and make it happen.”
Strand of Oaks performs at the XpoNential Festival Presented by Subaru on Saturday July 29, 2017. For show times and tickets visit the BB&T Pavilion Box Office, Live Nation Box Office in Bala Cynwyd, PA, Ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 800-745-3000. You can purchase tickets online until July 27. After this date tickets will be available at the gate only.
To stay up to date with Strand of Oaks visit www.strandofoaks.net