Americana Highways is premiering this video for Gathering Time’s version of “Get Together” from their recent release Old Friends. “Get Together” is performed here by Stuart Markus on lead vocals, bass and background vocals; Hillary Foxsong on guitar and background vocals; and Gerry McKeveny on guitar and background vocals. The video was directed by Efrat Shapira and includes footage captured by Robert Comforto and the band.
Gathering Time has taken a song that is part of our collective unconscious, written by Chet Powers and made ubiquitous by the Youngbloods, and presented it in a lovely, gentle form when the world needs it most: right now. We talked to the band; the video appears beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: How do you start your day?
Gerry: My wife and I start every day with coffee—usually not uttering a word until halfway through the first cup.
Hillary: Reluctantly, and with coffee. Please don’t try to get a coherent sentence out of me until the caffeine has kicked in!
Stuart: I wake up to a clock radio tuned to a pop music station— I like to keep a sense of what’s current in popular music and what the trends are. After about 45 minutes, I’ll turn on the morning news on TV, get up and have coffee.
AH: What are you currently reading, or watching?
Stuart: I’ve become a news junkie of late, like “The View” and Rachel Maddow, but I’m thinking that’ll calm down a bit after January 20. I’m a big fan of “Finding Your Roots” with Louis Henry Gates, and historical documentaries and docudramas. In the absence of gigs I’ve also discovered a few network sitcoms I like.
Gerry: Currently, I am reading Night Boat to Tangier by a great contemporary Irish author named Kevin Barry. A lot of it takes place where my wife and I spent our last trip to Ireland, so it’s extra cool.
Hillary: I’m really not watching anything; I’m not much of a TV person. Most of my reading these days seems to be the “New York Times.”
AH: What else is keeping you busy during Quarantine?
Stuart: I’ve done a number of home improvement projects, including painting the exterior of my house myself. I’ve found more time for practicing guitar, and taken part in a lot of Zoom song circles, where I’ve been getting to know songwriters and folk musicians from across the country and overseas.
Gerry: I’m actually working full-time for the first time in 25 years—this time as an addictions counselor. I enjoy many aspects of the work, but I was unquestionably born to be a musician and I will return!
Hillary: Sigh. I wish I could quarantine. My day job of the last 25 years has been carrying mail, and you know the saying… ‘the mail must go through.’
AH: What inspired you to start playing music?
Stuart: I’d been singing since before I can remember, probably as soon as I started talking. My parents always encouraged me, and had me in music lessons by the time I was in kindergarten, and piano lessons shortly after that. My grandparents gave me my first guitar for my 8th birthday, and I soon fell in love with that, though I studied French horn, drums, voice, music theory and history through high school and college.
Hillary: I can’t really say there was a time when I “started” because it’s been ever since I can remember. I grew up in a household where there was always singing and playing. When I was old enough to start school, I was surprised to find out that not everyone’s family did that.
Gerry: The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, my older brother who played, the discovery that I had a knack for it…
AH: Who are your biggest influences, and why?
Stuart: So many! Simon & Garfunkel and CSN, in terms of harmony and intelligent lyrics. The Beatles are up there, too. But so many groups and songwriters have worked their way into my musical consciousness, from The Who to Jethro Tull to Queen, and Paul Simon to Billy Joel.
Gerry: A lot of the usual suspects—the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell; but a big turning point for me as an adult was discovering guys like Gorka, Wilcox and Pierce Pettis who had these solid careers outside the music mainstream doing high-quality work. It was always happening in jazz, etc. but it was a real eye opener and game-changer (two metaphors for the price of one!) for me.
Hillary: It’s such a mixed bag. Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, are such fearless, free, uninhibited singers. Freddie Mercury, Prince – who are unafraid to cross the borders of any musical genre. And I still say that I want to write songs like Ray Davies when I grow up.
AH: If you weren’t a musical artist what would you be doing?
Stuart: I’d spent several years as a journalist, a reporter/editor, and really liked doing that. Either that, or a historian.
Hillary: I suppose I’d have time for a hobby in addition to delivering the mail! Maybe I’d still be riding horses.
Gerry: Dunno. Seriously.
AH: You’ve enjoyed a lot of success, particularly among the folk community, over the years, what do you attribute that to?
Stuart: Well, honestly we’ve worked to be the best musicians and singers we can be, and have established our reputation for that. We’ve also, I’m told, gained a reputation for being easygoing and easy to work with, and that means a lot too. And we’re open to new experiences, whether it’s coming up with a new specialty show or adding harmonies to someone else’s music.
Gerry: Showing up consistently (laughs). We keep coming back, always trying to deliver an honest, quality experience-always looking for ways to get better and go deeper.
Hillary: People like listening to harmony as much as we like singing it! And I think we’re all friendly and fairly easy to get along with. We enjoy putting on a good show, too, so we never bring our second-best to a gig. I think people appreciate that – I’ve had people tell me that they always know they’ll enjoy the show and that’s why they keep coming back to see us.
AH: You just released Old Friends, an album featuring your renditions of some of the most iconic songs of the 1960s. How did the concept for the album come about?
Stuart: It evolved. We do a lot of tribute shows at libraries and parks, playing this music and speaking to its historical context between songs, and we’d been getting a lot of requests for an album of it. Times being what they are the last few years, we decided to make sure we included some socially conscious songs from the era, which have more recently become very relevant again.
Hillary: It seems laughable now, but we thought a covers album would be easy and fun and wouldn’t take too long! It was fun, all right, but you get into the studio and start tinkering and adding and so on, and before you know it three years have gone by.
AH: Which song was your favorite to cover for Old Friends?
Hillary: That’s like choosing your favorite child. But maybe the first one that comes to mind for me is “At Seventeen”; we did some techniques with the backing vocals that we’d never done before, and that was exciting. I was also pleased with my lead vocal on that one. It took me a while to get a handle on how that song wanted to be sung, so it was satisfying to feel like I did what I was trying to do.
Stuart: Hard to say! They all really are like old friends to us. I do particularly love the vocal arrangement on “At 17,” and the layered guitar parts and joyful energy of “You Were On My Mind.”
Gerry: I’ll admit to “Get Together” being my personal fave. I got to re-arrange the guitar part in open G tuning and mess with the groove and tempo. Plus it harks back to the era in which I was first being inspired to make music.
AH: You are currently promoting the video for “Get Together,” a song that seems perfectly timed for today’s climate, even though it was originally released 51 years ago. Why do you think its message still resonates with listeners and what do you hope fans take away from the song and video?
Stuart: It’s been said that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. It’s also been said that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes. What we’re going through now, the racial strife, the divided society, the lack of trust in leadership, are very reminiscent of 1968 and ’69, when the song was written and released. I hope people will receive the message that we’re much better as a society if we care about each other and try to understand each other, rather than vilifying, canceling and shouting at each other.
Gerry: I think it’s deep in our species to be in this constant battle between the desire for community and for sharing and the impulse to division. Throughout history there have been people who appeal to the better angels and those who seek to divide. Our time just happens to be seeing that in a heightened way – the most so since the late-60s and earl 70s with Civil Rights and Vietnam.
Hillary: It’s a great song, but in a way, I wish we didn’t still have to sing it fifty years later, you know? It’s crazy how, as a society, we’re so divided, when what ALL of us want is a safe place for our families to live, decent work to put food on the table, and the same opportunity as anybody else to make a good life. I hope if we keep singing it, that’ll sink in.
AH: How will you be spending the holidays?
Hillary: Very quietly and at home; obviously no running around trying to squeeze in family visits with the pandemic. And, of course, this is the busy season for me delivering mail, so I will not be bored during the quiet home time!
Gerry: With my wife and kids – they’re adults now. Time with each other becomes ever more precious.
Stuart: Hoping to have a few gigs here and there, whether at nursing homes, heated patio cafés, or live-streamed. (I know musicians who’ve gone from touring nationally with name bands to playing restaurants and pubs — you go where the gigs are.) Calling and FaceTiming and Skyping with friends and family. And looking forward with hope to the new year.
AH: What do you have planned for 2021?
Hillary: It’s so hard to plan anything in a concrete way under the circumstances. I have some goals, because you kind of HAVE to have some goals, but I’m playing it by ear as far as how I tackle them. I’m just trying to be ready to move forward when the doors open, however that ends up happening.
Stuart: Hopefully, a lot of canceled shows from this year will be rescheduled. Hopefully, people will be in a mood to hear and see a lot of live music, having not been able to so much this year. Otherwise maybe busking on the boardwalk somewhere.
Gerry: Planned? Hmm. I know I hope to make a lot of music for people. Praying for it, in fact.
Find more here: www.gathering-time.com The video showcases the folk trio on location in various settings. Watch the video here: