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From the street to the stage — Productive Paranoia

art frTurning the corner at Church and Main streets in downtown Waynesville, I saw them out of the corner of my eye.

Sitting one-by-one atop the brick planter in front of Earthworks Gallery, the five young faces were all smiles amid their sing-along. Each had an instrument, some of which were seemingly as big as the kids themselves. Their sound was a mix of traditional mountain music and modern day Americana. And although these sounds of Southern Appalachia have intrigued folks, young and old, for generations, it was impressive to see these teenagers so interested and passionate about perpetuating the ancient music of this landscape and its people.

They told me their name was Productive Paranoia. And for the last few years, they would take their place on the brick planter every first Friday of the month during Art After Dark. They liked performing for those strolling by, meandering between the galleries, shops and restaurants. Many-a-time someone would stop, drop a dollar in their “tip jar” and comment about how “great it is to see y’all playing the good stuff.” 

Based out of Haywood County, Productive Paranoia consists of Ean Sheppard (15, bass), Andreas Kampouris (17, mandolin/vocals), Madeleine Sheppard (17, vocals), Connor Luckey-Smith (18, guitar/vocals) and Keegan Luckey-Smith (20, banjo/vocals). In 2014, they released their debut album “Liars, Fools, and Riches For You.” Now entering their fourth year together, the quintet will be kicking off the Concerts on the Creek summer music series on May 22 at the Bridge Park Pavilion in Sylva. 

Smoky Mountain News: How did your band come about? 

Connor Luckey-Smith: We were all part of Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) back around 2011, and decided it would be fun to play some shows together. Our first official show was during Folkmoot in 2012, and after that we decided to book at local breweries and venues. Our only real motive was to just have a good time playing together, and, thus far, we feel that we’ve done a good job accomplishing that.

SMN: Where does the name come from? 

Keegan Luckey-Smith: We were at a 4-H leadership conference and Jim Collins mentioned a business term called “productive paranoia” — being so paranoid that it contributes to your productivity. For example, being so scared that your power is going to go out, that you complete all of your assignments for school a couple days early. I think we just decided it sounded cool.

SMN: What’s the philosophy of the group?

Andreas Kampouris: I think the intent is to spread both our own music, and the music of Appalachia, to the people of Haywood County, and have fun doing it. 

Madeleine Sheppard: To help keep the spirit and heritage of Appalachia alive, and to help the younger generations relate to it more since we’re young ourselves. 

SMN: Describe the sound. What sets your style and attitude apart from other acts?

Ean Sheppard: Our style is constantly evolving. We started with very strong Appalachian influences, and now we are kind of crossing into folk rock and Americana, with roots in Appalachian music. I think our age definitely plays a role in our style as well. There aren’t really any other bands that are as young as us, collectively speaking, playing the same style of music. 

SMN: I remember seeing y’all at first playing and jamming out in front of Earthworks Gallery. What about those experiences, those moments, ultimately molded itself into your current group?

MS: We think it really gave us an opportunity to try out new stuff without the worries of someone being overly critical of what we are doing. It also allowed people to get to know who we were. They could stop by, listen, talk, and find out about where we were playing future shows. 

SMN: What is it about this music that you find attractive? 

CLS: What attracts us to Appalachian music is the heritage and stories of it. I know that when I am writing some of our songs, I draw heavy influences from the old-time stories I would hear when I was a child. Coincidentally, we actually, especially in our newer stuff, draw some influence from rock music. But, we definitely maintain our roots in old-time music.

SMN: What does 2015 hold for y’all? 

CLS: Besides Concerts on the Creek, we have a bunch of other shows planned too, like Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration in Waynesville and Freedom Fest in Bryson City. We’re also planning on recording an EP sometime in June. We have three great new songs, and I’m always working on more.

SMN: How does the landscape of Western North Carolina affect the sound and what it is you’re ultimately trying to get across to an audience?

KLS: It’s really interesting, actually. A lot of what we play was created somewhere in or around this area. The hills of Haywood County carry a lot of history and heritage, which we try and glean influence from. The banjo, in particular, really draws me in, and I’m always trying to learn new songs from the fantastic musicians of Haywood County. Our main message is really just for people to hear both our music, and the music of this area.

 

Want to go?

The 6th annual Concerts on the Creek season begins on May 22, and will run from 7 to 9 p.m. every Friday through Labor Day at the Bridge Park Pavilion in downtown Sylva.

Performers include Productive Paranoia (folk/bluegrass) May 22, Sundown (rock) May 29, (PMA) Positive Mental Attitude (reggae/rock) June 5, Corbitt Brothers (outlaw country) June 12,         Emporium (rock) June 19, 96.5 House Band (classic hits) June 26, Dashboard Blue (rock/rhythm/blues/beach) July 3, Lisa Price Band (country/rock/bluegrass) July 17, Buchanan Boys (country/rock) July 24, Robertson Boys (bluegrass) July 31, Porch 40 (southern funk rock) Aug. 7, Mountain Faith (bluegrass/gospel) Aug. 14, Mangas Colorado (Americana/folk/rock) Aug. 21 and Unspoken Tradition (bluegrass) Aug. 28.

The July 4 Fireworks Festivities will feature Darren Nicholson & Friends featuring David Holt (bluegrass) from 4 to 6 p.m. and The Business (rhythm & blues) 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Fireworks at dark. 

The July 10 band will soon be announced. The Concerts on the Creek series is a Blue Ridge Music Trail partner. The events are free with donations accepted. Bring a chair or blanket. The Town of Sylva, Jackson County Parks and Recreation and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce team up to celebrate the musical traditions of Southern Appalachia by producing the series.

828.586.2155 or www.mountainlovers.com.

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