NKU band hoping that 2014 continues to be their year

Along the Shore didn’t start this year, but 2014 just might be when the acoustic folk band really starts to take off. After a few hiatuses and lineup reconfigurations, NKU senior and EMB major Kyle Rhodes seems to have newfound energy and inspiration with collaborator and vocalist Claire Whitaker.

When Rhodes started Along the Shore in 2009,  Whitaker was not a member; they were introduced through the band’s former drummer. Following a hiatus, Along the Shore reformed last September as an acoustic folk duo of Rhodes and Whitaker. New members bassist Joe Neal and drummer Chris Bishop joined earlier this year.

Though hopes are high for the coming months, Whitaker admits 2014 hasn’t had the smoothest start.

It’s been kind of a rocky start so far,” Whitaker said. “I mean, I feel like we’ve still been able to practice and keep up with each other and try some new things out, but we’re hoping that summer and fall will be [more] conducive conditions for music-making.”

Rhodes and Whitaker both share vocal duties and often come together and harmonize during songs. Rhodes says the current sound is what he desired when he first started the project, and that he tends to let Whitaker take the lead.

“When I come to harmonizing with her, I let her go for it, and then I kind of just slip in and see if it works or not,” Rhodes said.

Both Rhodes and Whitaker have made and will be making some major steps in their life this year. Rhodes will be graduating from NKU in May. He describes the university as “an inspiration.” Whitaker recently had her first child with her fiance earlier this year. She says she hopes for her music to serve as an inspiration to her daughter.

“I want to be a role model for my daughter,” Whitaker said. “I want her, when she’s 16, 17, 18, 30, I want her to look back and see, ‘My mom had a dream and my mom did everything in her power to achieve it.’”

So far this year, Rhodes and Whitaker have only been able to play one show, at the Backstage Cafe in Covington, Ky. Their Facebook page include recordings of songs performed at the Thompson House in Newport, Ky. According to Whitaker, live performance is where she and Rhodes both become “larger than life.”

“Playing live, that’s like where the magic happens,” Whitaker said. “I feel like eventually I would absolutely love to put out an EP that is just a solid live performance.”

Part of the band’s love for live performance comes from the audience interaction. Rhodes calls performing live “a family experience.” After one performance, an audience member approached him, touched by one particular song: “Don’t Lose Hope.”

“He had someone come up to him at the show and cried,” Whitaker said. “I mean, she was really, really moved by it.”

Even though the band’s live performances might not always go according to plan, they have evidently learned how to improvise on the spot.

“There’s been a time where I just made up a line on the spot,” Whitaker said. “Luckily I’ve gotten really good at looking like I mean to do it.”

Joe Neal, Along the Shore’s bassist, first met Rhodes through the music scene in high school. A graduate of Western Kentucky University who works as an analyst at Kroger Personal Finance, Neal has so far enjoyed his time with Along the Shore.

“It’s kind fun to play bass in this type of band,” Neal said. “You really get to affect the rhythm more.”

During Along the Shore’s hiatus, Rhodes played in other bands. However, he was frustrated by how they “would put out songs just to put out songs.” With Along the Shore rebooting, Rhodes says he wants to write songs that emotionally resonate with listeners.

“I wanted to be the voice for someone who didn’t have one and then be there for someone who doesn’t have anyone,” Rhodes said.

As a new beginning is dawning for Along the Shore, both Rhodes and Whitaker seem eager and excited about what possibilities await them.

“We’ve got new people joining us, new collaborations,” Whitaker said. “I think we’re more than ready to really get this show on the road.”