20:20 — 20 Questions, 20 Answers
Published October 30, 2020
In Part 9 of our series, Lauren Stovall and Pete Sharpe—founding members of the duo By The Lee and the bluegrass band The Railsplitters—answer queries from inquiring minds.
Join us in a conversation with these partners in life and art as they remind us we all depend on the kindness of strangers from time to time, reveal a newfound love for nesting, and relish in their growing passion for surfing.
Photos by Cary Jobe | Courtesy of By The Lee
20:20 with Lauren Stovall and Pete Sharpe
NWM 1): Please introduce yourselves, briefly, as musicians and humans of Earth.
Lauren: We are Lauren Stovall and Pete Sharpe, a married couple from Boulder, Colorado. We are founding members of the band, The Railsplitters. We met at a bluegrass party back in 2011.
NWM 2): Who might we be surprised to find on your playlist?
Lauren: My most recent obsession is the album Sway by Tove Styrke. We randomly heard her song “Say My Name” on the radio while in Mexico on a surf trip and I’ve been obsessed ever since.
Pete: My playlist may be less surprising. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sarah Jarosz lately—especially the covers she’s been posting on YouTube during the pandemic. I’ve also been really into Maggie Rogers these days.
NWM 3): Name three things that make you smile.
Pete: Riding singletrack on my new mountain bike. Drinking a super dank hazy IPA. Eating ice cream.
Lauren: Watching Skippy (my 14-year-old Jack Russell) who now sleeps with his tongue sticking out. Riding my new mountain bike, Ruth, named after the late RBG. Drinking a super dank IPA. (I guess you could say we have a lot in common, haha!)
NWM 4): Where were you and what were you doing when you realized COVID-19 had just changed your life as a performance artist?
Lauren: We returned home from spending our winter in Costa Rica on March 5th and after three months off, we were really looking forward to coming back to a busy gig-and-work schedule. However, we quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the case. After about a week of being home and getting our bearings back, we shifted our vision from gigging to nesting and working on house projects we’d been putting off for the last five years! We were lucky to both have day jobs that we could fall back on, as well as a steady trickle of local music gigs that continued through the summer.
NWM 5): If you could see anyone from throughout history perform who would it be?
Pete: I got into bluegrass later in life and regret not seeing Bill Monroe play, but I also would’ve loved to see Jimi Hendrix play at Monterey Pop. That probably gives you some insight into my diverse musical tastes.
I regret not seeing Bill Monroe play, but I also would’ve loved to see Jimi Hendrix play at Monterey Pop. ~Pete Sharpe
NWM 6): Name an album or song you play on repeat.
Pete: My repeat album would probably have to be Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott’s Real Time. Their harmony singing on this album is just amazing and it has an authentic, gritty feel that really sets it apart.
Lauren: It will always be Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker. I can sing it from the beginning to the end and will absolutely listen to it until someone like Pete intervenes and says something like: “Okay, that’s enough of that.”
NWM 7): Has anything positive come out of the COVID shut-down?
Lauren: Yes, we both feel like many good things have come from this time.
We have mostly noticed a new sense of gratitude for the life we’ve created together. ~Lauren Stovall
We’ve had to slow down a bit like everyone else, and it’s given us a chance to do a lot of self-reflection, creative projects, honing new skills, and so on. We have mostly noticed a new sense of gratitude for the life we’ve created together, and being forced to become a little more rooted at home has actually been pretty lovely.
NWM 8): Who’s a favorite songwriter?
Lauren: Lyrically speaking, Cahalen Morrison has to be at the top of my list. However, my focus lately has been on electro-pop and vibey, heavily produced (non-acoustic) music. What I’m noticing these days with the music I’m listening to is that it’s less about the lyrics and more about melodic nuggets and the production itself. So that opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms. Pete has also been enjoying some of these new sounds with me!
Pete: I’ve been really into Gregory Alan Isakov from Boulder, Colorado, for a few years now. He has this wonderful, understated style and creates a wistful, melancholy vibe. His lyrics have a way of creating images that grab me, even if I don’t always know the meanings of them.
NWM 9): Strangest road story?
Lauren: Oh man, where do we start? We’ve travelled to so many places by now and we have tons of stories: Such as having to push our 15-passenger van down the highway three times in one day. Or the time we traded a stack of CDs for a used blender while in the UK.
One favorite that comes to mind is a specific trip to California. In April of 2019, By The Lee traveled out to California for an extended stay and we played a few shows on the way out. We were joined by Joe D’Esposito who plays fiddle with us in The Railsplitters. We’d just played in Berkeley, California, and were traveling south.
The plan was to stop in Big Sur to camp for the night, but as usual, we didn’t pre-plan and of course, the campsites were all full. We drove in and circled three times, hoping that someone would leave or invite us in. Then I stopped in front of the camp host’s camper just waiting for someone to come out so I could beg for a place to sleep.
While I was waiting, a young guy walked over to ask the host about buying some firewood. As we waited, we chatted, and I eventually worked up the nerve to ask if we could crash at their site in trade for some firewood, beer, and cash. Thankfully, the guy agreed! Then, as we pulled into the site to unload, the guy’s friend said, “Wait, do you play with The Railsplitters?” We were so shocked this random person knew that. Turns out, he was also from Colorado and had recently tried to get tickets to a sold-out show. Needless to say, we gave him and his friend some CDs for the road.
Touring has lots of rough moments but also many little gems like this one—where the kindness of random folks makes you remember why you chose to live out of a van with four other adults for five years.
The kindness of random folks makes you remember why you chose to live out of a van with four other adults for five years. ~Lauren Stovall
NWM 10): What’s a favorite Lauren Stovall and/or Pete Sharpe composition?
Lauren: “The Estuary” by Pete because it’s so beautiful.
Pete: I like “Everyone She Meets” by Lauren. When my aunt Connie passed away, my cousin told me the song came on the radio, and it felt like the song was being sung from her perspective to the family. That association has stayed with me, and it makes me appreciate the song on a whole new level.
NWM 11): What in particular fuels your inspiration? Tell us about your space or what is most necessary for your writing.
Lauren: We live in a tiny house for most of the year so finding space and solitude to write can be really tricky. We don’t do much co-writing either, so we have to be pretty mindful about intentionally carving out “alone time” to write.
NWM 12): What is a favorite cover you perform?
Lauren: By The Lee is covering Maggie Rogers’ “Light On” right now, and it’s hands down our favorite. It’s a crowd-pleaser too!
NWM 13): What are your non-musical gifts/talents?
Lauren: We are super fortunate to have many similar interests.
Our latest endeavor has been learning to surf. ~Lauren Stovall
Our latest endeavor has been learning to surf. While we aren’t yet masters, and likely never will be, we have really enjoyed starting a new sport together and watching each other improve with time and practice. If COVID doesn’t put a halt to traveling this winter, we plan to spend a month in Del Mar, California, and we are really jonesing to get back on our boards!
NWM 14): Prince or Bowie?
Lauren: I grew up in a pretty sheltered household so I don’t really have much of a relationship to either Prince or Bowie.
NWM 15): What are your before-you-go-on-stage rituals?
Lauren: Drinking an IPA and stretching our bodies a little. Gotta get loose.
NWM 16): What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that you actually follow?
Lauren: “Slow Down.” No one said those words explicitly to me, but we hear it a lot throughout life. Two years ago, I decided to take it pretty literally. I have stopped over-scheduling myself, I allow time for myself each day, I always try to leave early so I’m not rushed, and I drive slower these days as a result, which in turn makes me a happier, less aggressive person overall. I highly recommend simplifying and slowing down when and where possible.
NWM 17): What was your most memorable performance and/or venue?
Pete: Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It’s truly hard to beat that. I always dreamed of playing Telluride but never imagined it would actually happen.
I always dreamed of playing Telluride but never imagined it would actually happen. ~Pete Sharpe
Lauren: Likely my favorite venue and show was when The Railsplitters played at Whitstable Oyster Company in Whitstable, England. It was the quaintest little seaside restaurant with a beautiful concert venue upstairs. White walls, high ceilings with giant chandeliers, model boats for decor, and windows on stage that opened up right to the sea. You could literally hear the waves crashing between songs.
NWM 18): How do you express your creativity other than through music?
Lauren: I go through phases of writing and drawing and painting. I’m not very good at any of these but when I’m in the mood, it’s pretty fun!
Pete: I like baking, especially in the winter.
NWM 19): What not-so-obvious aspect of your life has been changed by the pandemic?
Pete: There has been a realization of how much of my social life revolved around picking with people. I’ve really missed that and maybe I took it for granted before. I am really excited to be able to jam with folks again.
Lauren: I have been shocked at how satisfied I’ve been with nesting and “settling down” a little. I’ve always had a bit of a wild hair and can get pretty stir-crazy without travel, so I’m a little shocked at myself to say that I’m not in a big hurry to go anywhere.
NWM 20): What is one thing you would want our readers to know about which we might not know to ask?
Lauren: People think that because we are a musical couple that we sit around and romantically play music at home all the time. While it’s a nice thought, it’s not actually true. Instead, we garden, cook, exercise, and listen to podcasts together.
Fun facts about Pete: He was born in Brazil, is obsessed with surfing, loves Panang curry, and was once struck by lightning at summer camp. Outside of music, he works as a psychotherapist in private practice.
I love all things ocean related and am an aspiring free diver. I enjoy surfing, own and run a mobile hair salon, and live for mini cheese sandwich crackers.
For now, we will continue to be creative and enjoy the journey. ~Lauren Stovall
By The Lee is our main project right now, mostly playing close to home, so we can sleep in our own bed. I am currently working on an electro-pop piece and trying to learn a bit more about how the pop industry works.
Pete continues to write new music, some of which he hopes will end up on a new By The Lee project. We are both unsure what the future holds for us, musically speaking, and it’s hard to know what the future of gigging looks like. For now, we will continue to be creative and enjoy the journey.
“Long Hard Road” written by Rodney Crowell with By The Lee friend Eric Wiggs joining in on dobro.
Lauren Stovall and Pete Sharpe
By The Lee is a duo born of the Colorado-based band, The Railsplitters.
Inspired by touring the world together, married couple Lauren Stovall and Pete Sharpe continue to cultivate new and old music, while incorporating their love of adventure and discovering new passions.
To learn more and buy stuff: https://www.peteandlauren.com/
You may enjoy our previous 20:20 with Dango Rose
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