Can’t Stand the Music is most ambitious album to date from Main Line area rock group Chestnut Grove. Released January 9, it features a unique soul of Americana mixed with a ‘90s alt-rock aesthetic and a blend of R&B that almost defies genre.
Despite the success of the burgeoning album, Chestnut Grove recently commenced a music-making hiatus as the living requirements of its members have had to adapt to changing circumstances.
Since the band is unable to give its latest entry the tour it deserves, we sat down with co-lead singers James Daniels and Dee Gerhart to discuss the process and emotion behind Can’t Stand the Music.
MLT: Give us some exposition. How did the band form and how have you evolved over the years?
James Daniels: We all graduated high school (Boyertown Senior) together, so we started out as a garage band. And we’ve evolved in a lot of ways. I mean, the biggest one I would say is we’ve never had a real agenda other than being a rock ‘n’ roll band.
We’ve never had a real agenda of what music we are trying to play, whether it’s indie rock, R&B, classic rock, or a slew of a lot of those things. And over the years I feel like we’ve just allowed ourselves to grow. I think this record that just came out culminates a lot of the things we’ve tried to accomplish. We grew naturally and kind of taught each other how to play music. And through that we’ve explored a lot of different genres and palettes, and it’s all come out as a five-piece rock band.
MLT: When did you know this was going to be your final project before the hiatus?
Daniels: Sometime in the summer. The recording process was in two stages. We recorded the first half of the songs starting in 2021 and 2022, and we released a few singles in 2022 and 2023 that are on this record.
And then things kind of got delayed because of money [which] was the biggest factor in us going on hiatus. People like myself and our bass player, Zach [Winkler], we had to get jobs and figure out our work-life balance a little better.
I don’t think we really ever knew it was going to be our last record. I think we expected to be touring this record. It’s kind of a disappointment, if I just want to be blatantly honest, that we’re not out on the road touring this record right now. It just didn’t financially work out for us the way we had planned.
Dee Gerhart: When we started recording, I don’t think anyone had intentions of calling it quits. And if there was someone thinking that, they hadn’t brought it up at that time, and we were still playing shows. It is really unfortunate that we’re not able to take advantage of these new songs that are out and the touring machine that we’ve become over the years.
MLT: Can you give us a little insight into what your emotions are like knowing this phase in your career is over?
Gerhart: I’ve just been trying to take the positives from it and let things come one day at a time and keep moving forward and still grinding in a different way. [It’s not] being out on the road, not booking shows, [but I’m] trying to approach it in a different way than we have in the past. It’s been really hard.
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MLT: Was there any pressure to create something great for your farewell?
Gerhart: I think for the first time while we were recording these last songs, I for once had the biggest case of, “Whatever, I’m going to do what I do best and I’m going to just throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.”
I felt almost no pressure this time because I knew what was coming, but I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like. I was also just trying to apply myself as best I could while also being like, “Well, we’re not going to be able to tour this, so I’m just going to give it everything I can here in the studio.”
MLT: James, you’ve said that Can’t Stand the Music is the album you’ve always wanted to make. What held you back from that previously?
Daniels: Maybe [we were] hesitant to be so explorative with genre? I think we tried to box ourselves in as an Americana band at one point, just because we thought that would make more sense branding wise. I think [this time] we were able to write whatever songs we felt we wanted to get out there. There wasn’t this situation where it was like, “Okay, are we an Americana band? Are we a rock ‘n’ roll band? Are we trying to be alternative? Are we indie rock?”
What I mean by, “I think it’s the record we always wanted to make,” is that we were all proficient as musicians on this record. We all executed and delivered what we wanted to get out of our recordings in the past. I think everybody’s takes are great. Everybody performed at the level we always desired out of ourselves, and I’m real proud of that.
MLT: It doesn’t sound like you’re entirely done making music. What can fans expect from you two, at the very least, if not all of Chestnut Grove going forward?
Daniels: I mean, I’d expect Dee and I to do something on the local level. She’s probably going to do a solo project. I’m going to do a thing called James Daniels Band that I’ve been doing on the side a little bit. And I’ll drop this now, I think Dee and I have been talking about doing a songwriter circle, like an “in the round” thing where everybody sits there on a stool with an acoustic [guitar] and we go around and have other songwriters we know do the show with us.
And then, behind the scenes, I think there is a rumble of us trying to figure out how to get a new bass player.
Gerhart: Or really, just [someone] who can fill that spot the best.
Daniels: Restructure the band, not go on tour and hurt ourselves like we did in the past and figure out how to probably tour this record in 2025. We still have a radio campaign happening for “Da Freakness” that was picked as the single. So I think Dee and I are going to try to shop that and work that as much through content posting and social media and keeping the record relevant for our year off from touring.
Gerhart: I’ve got to be as busy as possible without hurting myself. Last night I played a show with John [Plasterer], our other guitar player and keyboard player, and it was just a duo show in Philly. When things pop up that are doable, both James and I have always had the bigger [sentiment of], “Let’s go out and do things. Let’s be the extroverts!” He and I have always taken advantage of the opportunities presented to us, so I definitely see us both being out and playing.
MLT: What can fans do to support Chestnut Grove at this stage in your careers?
Daniels: You can buy merchandise directly from us. And honestly, more than anything, if you really do enjoy the music and like the music, try to remember every once in a while to show it to someone and spread the word about Chestnut Grove and try to make our music relevant to more people every day. That’s what fans of Chestnut Grove can do more than anything.