The Railsplitters is a Boulder-based bluegrass band headed by Lauren Stovall, a Mississippi born and raised spitfire on stage. Her band is made up by Dusty Rider on banjo (we promise, that’s his real name), Christine King on fiddle, Leslie Ziegler on bass, Peter Sharpe on mandolin and Lauren on guitar/vocals.
RS played their first gig in January 2012 as a group of individual musicians invited to perform by Lauren.
“I put together this particular group and I didn’t want to play in public without being rehearsed,” she said. “So we put together enough material to play a 2.5 hour set. It was fun and it worked.”
After the show, Lauren didn’t sit back quietly. She approached each of the musicians with a formal written proposal, requesting initially a three-month trial commitment.
“My proposal said, ‘I don’t know so much about what I do want, but I do know what I don’t want. And I said I would like to find a group of musicians who can commit and would like to move forward in creating a product and figure out how can we be professional and make a little extra money on the side.'”
With those words, the members were in agreement, and the result has well outlasted three months. Their objective was to create a unique bluegrass sound—a tall order in Colorado, home to the likes of String Cheese Incident and no less than two dozen annual bluegrass festivals. Yet in the last three years, The Railsplitters have established an intense local and overseas following with the Spotify stats to back it up (nearly 17,000 monthly listeners). And a voice all their own that sounds as rich live as in the studio, combining skillful instrumentation with Lauren’s powerful yet crisp crooning .
The Railsplitters released their first self-titled album in early 2013, with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign. Their sophomore album The Faster It Goes was came out this past May, while the group was on tour in the UK.
In the early days of the band, Lauren herself handled much of the marketing and promotion for their shows and albums, but now The Railsplitters rely on other industry professionals.
“Your first time on tour in the US, you’re playing to empty rooms and it’s really sad and sort of soul crushing,” she said. “But in the UK, our tour manager, who has a killer reputation there, set us up with a van and a driver, places to stay, made sure the venues fed us. We heard we were playing this festival in this amazing little town. We show up and we’re at this old cathedral, sold out to 350 people.”
For the true fans and players of the genre, bluegrass is a sort of no-messin’ around technical field, with sub-genres ranging from traditional and gospel to more modern spinoffs like punkgrass and popgrass. But for those of us casual listeners with an untrained ear, bluesgrass only has two categories—wholly listenable or Kentucky gas station background music. Fortunately, The Railsplitters falls comfortably into the former category, with the accolades to prove it. They’ve won two major contests: 2012 Pickin’ In The Pines in Flagstaff, AZ and 2013 Rockygrass in Lyons, Colo.
And then there’s the international demand.
This month, The Railsplitters will return to Europe a second time, slated for 21 performances across Germany from just before Thanksgiving until mid-December.
As for the Mississippi girl a long way off from her Rankin County roots, Lauren is living out a performer’s dream.
“It’s still hits me sometimes. This is the first time when someone asks me what I do, that I can truly be proud.”
To catch them in the act, visit The Railsplitters’ site for a full list of tour dates.