The husband and wife duo, Carolina Story, consists of Ben and Emily Roberts, who met while attending college. While dating, the duo decided to take a camping trip to North Carolina, where the foundation for their first song would reach fruition. However, their passion for creating music came to a pause due to being on the road relentlessly and needed to recharge.
Their new album, Lay Your Head Down, reflects that time with themes of commitment, parenthood and resolve. The album debuted on July 13 via Black River, and contain all original songs written by Ben and Emily. The album was recorded mostly at Sound Stage in Nashville and produced by Nick Autry.
You both are promoting your new album, Lay Your Head Down, and I love that it’s very personal, but it’s also very hopeful. It has a lot of encouragement in it. What was the recording and making of it like for the both of you?
Ben Roberts: When we decided on the songs that we were going to put on the album we all were on the same page with that. And we were really excited, including our producer, Nick Autry, who’s actually from Autryville, North Carolina. And then went to NC State and stuff, so a lot of Carolina connections. We sort of assembled the band together, and we decided to go into the studio on August 3rd, 2017. And we didn’t actually know at that time, when we scheduled it, that this would come to life. But right as Emily and I were about to strike the first chord and were getting ready to record the first song, which was “Lay Your Head Down,” it dawned on me that it was literally … We had met in Memphis in a parking lot on August 3rd, 2007. So it was literally, as we’re getting ready to start recording this album, it was literally ten years almost to the minute that we had met.
So that was kind of a very, serendipitous and crazy sort of light bulb moment, where we were; i.e., we’re on the right track, we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be, so sSometimes the universe nudges you in little ways.
It was a long while before you guys’ dream of continuing to make music came to fruition. Was it intentional to wait ten years, or did that just happen because of your frustration with how things were going?
Emily Roberts: I think it just kinda happened to be the timing of everything. ‘Cause we were going hard for about seven years, and just literally … I always say we played all these quantity shows, but I felt like, man we need to step back. And I actually found out I was pregnant with our first child. And so-
Ben: Yeah, the timing of that was actually-
Ben: We were getting a little burned out from the road, and then when we got pregnant it just seemed like the right thing to kind of pump the brakes a little.
Emily: It was a blessing for us as a couple, but even a blessing musically, because we finally got to pull back and have an overview look of how we should approach it in the future. Instead of just burning the road because that’s what we had to do.
Ben: Right. We had just kind of been burning at both ends for years and years.
Emily: So there when we had our son then we took about two years off. We just played here and there.
Ben: Yeah, and then I focused on creative writing at a school here in Nashville and was coaching four sports. I was working at a bakery. Emily’s braving … helping … staying at home with the kids. I was actually, this time last year or last spring was actually getting ready … I had all my grad school applications ready to go and was getting ready to like go … Our life was just taking a turn, and we always knew that we would do music but-
Emily: Just didn’t know if it’d be full-time.
Ben: It was like our life was shifting, and we had accepted that a little, I think. Not really, but you gotta do what you gotta do for your family and to put food on the table. And there weren’t any music opportunities. So, anyway, all that happened and then that all kind of got shot up when our label entered the picture through our attorney. And it was like an open door, and we took it. So here we are.
I love it. I love it.
Ben: Pretty crazy.
That’s awesome. I think it’s great! And I think it’s just very good, awesome, and an encouraging sight to see you guys encouraging other people too, that may feel the way that you guys have felt. And so that’s always a great thing to feature. And it encourages me, I’m single and not married, so it definitely encourages me.
Ben: Yeah, and I mean, that’s the beautiful thing about music or art, it can really speak to just anyone, the common man. Just because we were on the brink of giving up in music, I mean, that looks different for so many people in their jobs, and whatever their dreams and hopes are. So we’ve found that just by being ourselves, and being authentic, and saying it how it is, that people can grab onto that and say, “Hey I’ve been there I’ve felt that, I’m not weird.”
Now are you guys doing this full-time? Are you doing anything on the side or is this your bread and butter right now?
Emily and Ben: Yeah it’s full-time.
Ben: Soon as the label got in the picture and there was also, through them, publishing opportunities, so we write songs. I wrote a song today with my friend, Paul Moak, just this morning, at the Smoke Stack. We’re actively writing two to four times a week, together, with other people.
Emily: And like Ben said earlier, he booked our whole tour that we have coming up in August. He did all that and we’re-
Ben: Yeah, we’re full-time…I barely have time to read my kids a bedtime story, much less coach anymore, work at the bakery and all that, so…it’s wild.
We have nothing but high hopes for you and know that you’ll continue to flourish. Both of you write the songs, of course, featured on the album. And being a married couple there are obviously differences in each of you guy’s songwriting, what is each of your songwriting processes like?
Emily: I say, for me, a lot of time, lyrics are my big thing. And Ben will always come with a guitar melody and you can either just mash those together or they just don’t work at all. And sometimes we just … Ben will almost come to me with fully completed songs, but then I’m the editor.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah.
Emily: I get to tweak it and tell him it’s not very good.
Ben: Exactly. Being married and being pretty point blank with one another I think leads to more productivity. You kinda-
Emily: We’re pretty honest.
Ben: Yeah, you’re honest. Also can lead to some hurt feelings too. But I’ll come to her with something that I think is so awesome and she’s like, “Ah maybe back to the drawing board.”
Emily: I feel like we’re just so emotional too. I was gonna mention that earlier, just in like the process of never giving up. I’m grateful that we have each other, because usually on my bad days he’s on his good days and vice versa. So at least you have somebody to kinda, you know.
Ben: Well and then those days when we’re both doing bad, we gotta call someone.
Like, we’re gonna divert and call somebody so we can get help here.
Ben: Yeah. We need some outsider to just come sit in here with us.
Besides singing and writing, do you guys play any instruments at all?
Ben: Yeah, I do all the acoustic guitar work on all of our albums and live and field harmonica. I’m a Gibson guy, that’s my … My guitar, her name is Warhorse, and she’s awesome.
Emily: I play guitar as well … My guitar is named after my grandmother, Geraldine.
Ben: We both play guitar and piano. I’m working my way through the mandolin, and the banjo, and you know drums and bass and all of it. I’ve been playing the guitar now, I guess, right at 20 years next month.
Emily: Ben has a really unique style I think, but maybe I’m biased because he’s my husband. But I think he’s a very … he’s a great guitar player, for sure.
Ben: My rhythm, that is … I’m not a lead player, but I’ve sort of developed this weird rhythm thing, I don’t know. It’s really just ’cause I don’t know what I’m doing. Fake it ’til you make it.
Are there any other singing duos or married couples that you guys look up to that inspired you along the way, like Shovels and Rope or similar?
Ben: Yeah, we … They’re acquaintances, friends of ours. We opened a couple shows for them a couple years back…Yeah, I remember Emily, on our anniversary or something, Emily took me to see them here in Nashville, at the Five Spot. That was probably like five or six years ago.
Ben: It was before they had put out, O’ Be Joyful, and all that. Anyway, they were … they just … Yeah man, just seeing them and that you’re able to do it with being married, also co-workers, and they have a child as well, so that’s encouraging. And the sound of their voices together is awesome. But the Everly Brothers, I know they’re not husband and wife, but just The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, that’s really … We got really knee deep in that.
Emily: Yeah, we kind of obsessed over them for a while.
Ben: Several years ago. And that kind of has influenced us in a big, big way. Yeah, we’re a sucker for those sibling harmonies, like The Everly Brothers. Or a man and a woman, you know- And we’re excited, on this tour, we’re going to Joshua Tree – and others.
Ben and Emily are on tour through the end of September and have several scheduled dates opening for Delta Rae. For full tour dates, click here.