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Miss Shevaughn And Yuma Wray Depend On Kindness Of Strangers

Courtesy Photo

It's no secret that musicians spend much of their professional lives on the road but for members of Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray, the road is actually the place that seems most like home. KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin recently spoke with the band's founding members and has more.

Around 2010 Chris Stelloh and Erin Frisby had been spending a good deal of time gigging in Chicago bars and clubs as Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray. At some point, the pair decided to take to the road for an East Coast tour. It went well, and Frisby explains that at the end of that run, she and Stelloh mapped out a plan to stay on the road for most of 2011.

“As were driving back to Chicago I was thinking, 'You know what? I think it will take about a year to plan to get on the road for a full year,'” she says.

Credit Courtesy Photo
Erin Frisby and Chris Stelloh

Stelloh says, “I wasn’t completely sold yet. But by late 2010 we were looking at our options of playing with people in Chicago versus throwing out all of our stuff, getting rid of our apartment, living off of our savings, living in our car, driving around the country, playing as much music as we could. And by the fall of 2010 we were both convinced that that was going to be what we were going to have to do in order to be musicians."

“So we built a loft in our Honda Element,” Frisby adds, “and we booked some shows and we stayed out pretty much the whole year.”

Both claim somewhat rootless upbringings and say that never being quite sure where their home was has never really bothered them.

“There’s a romantic part of it that I think everybody kind of grasps on to,” Frisby says. “There are things about it that are hard, but mostly I think that it has to do with whether or not it fits your personality. Interestingly enough both Chris and I come from a long line of travelers."

“I grew up traveling,” Stelloh says. “My parents were government employees, so I grew up abroad, living no more than a couple of years here and a couple of years there. The whole idea that some people grow up with being comfortable somewhere? I don’t think that either of us has every really had the notion of being comfortable, so the comforts that you have to give up in order to live on the road and play music? We never really put much stock in that to begin with. So, the whole idea of, ‘Hey, let’s go live in a cramped, sweaty car and play sometimes for no money to no people?' It was actually a lot more palatable for us than it would be for other folks.”

The road proved to be an especially welcoming place for the duo as they discovered that the kindness of strangers is still something a touring act can depend on.

“You end up making these friendships in a way that’s kind of unexpected,” Stelloh says. “Especially that first year that we were out. We would be playing a show at a coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon in a town that we’d never been to before, and people would come up to us and say, ‘Oh, I saw your poster on the wall. I read about you online and saw that you were traveling musicians from out of town and just wanted to come down and check you out.'"

“And they’d say, ‘Oh, by the way, if you need a place to park your car for the night, here’s our address. When you get up, we’ll make you breakfast in the morning,'" Stelloh says. "Things like that happened so frequently. We like to think that it’s because we’re such charming personalities but we know that it has a lot more to do with the fact that there are people in this country that are still open and welcoming to the idea of taking in a stranger and treating them nicely.”

Miss Shevaughn and Yuma Wray, which is now a quartet, performs at Barleycorn’s Tuesday evening.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.