In Maine, the name Gawler is synonymous with musical magic … and it’s about to be augmented even more with the appearance of a new group that will be making its first appearance at Slates in Hallowell on Monday, Jan. 27.

I was alerted to the trio by Katie Daggett, who sent an email with a brief description of act consisting of Duncan Yandell, Ethan Stokes and Elsie Gawler, which was headed “Yandell, Stokes & Gawler.”

Having interviewed various members of the Gawler clan for many, many years, I requested a phoner with Elsie and she ended up calling me Jan. 10 to chat about this new band. I read to her the descriptor I had received, which ended “As a trio, their sound is marked by a unique blend of heartfelt lyricism and dynamic, high energy instrumentation.” So I asked …

Q: Does that sound like what you’re doing?
Gawler: That’s us! (laughter)

Q: Well, I suppose I should get that instrumentation first.
Gawler: Sure. So, we have Duncan Yandell on the fiddle, Ethan Stokes playing guitar and banjo, and myself on cello and banjo.

Q: Oh, cool. Is there vocalizing present with you three, as well?
Gawler: Uh huh. Ethan and I both sing and typically songs that either he’s written or I’ve written — so originals from both of us and vocal harmonies with the two of us, as well — and sometimes three-part harmony.

Q: Oh, so you convinced Duncan that he can contribute, too?
Gawler: Occasionally, yeah (laughter) — exactly!

Q: How did you folks get together?
Gawler: Ethan and I have been good friends and musical compadres for a number of years now, and Ethan and Duncan started a duo about a year ago — they both have been living in Burlington (Vermont) — by the name of Duncan & Stokes. Ethan and I started making music together over the summer, as well, and it just was a natural kind of melding of a couple of different musical connections that have come together to form the trio. So, yeah, that’s kind of how we came together.

Q: Now, before this you were part of The Gawler Sisters, correct?
Gawler: Uh huh, and still very much am.

Q: Oh, this is beginning to sound like a Gawler tradition here: with a fingers-in-many-pies type of thing.
Gawler: Definitely (giggle) — you got it! (Laughter) Yeah, which is so fun because each different grouping of people just brings a different chemistry, so I get to play different songs and also a different style in a different formation with this trio than I do with my sisters — it’s a whole different sound and chemistry.

Q: Well, it must keep you from getting bored, I would imagine.
Gawler: For sure, definitely (chuckle) — and all the different collaborations just end up enriching each other, for sure.

Q: So, a lot of cross-pollination going on here.
Gawler: Yeah, definitely (laughter).

Q: Have you played out much as the trio?
Gawler: We have, but mostly in Vermont, though we have a string of gigs in Maine — this is the first time we’ll be performing in Maine — and I think that Slates will be the last gig of our weekend of gigs. Ethan is also moving to Maine, so he’s going to become a Maine resident, so we’re going to be playing a lot in both states and other states, I’m sure, in the future, too.

Q: Will Duncan still be in Vermont?
Gawler: Yes, Duncan is still Burlington-based. And it’s really fun to collaborate with these two because they each bring such unique styles of music and particular flavors to the table. … Ethan is an incredible songwriter with a lot of background in a cappella singing and different styles of guitar and trad (traditional) music, as well. Duncan pulls a lot from Cape Breton and Irish fiddle traditions, so we’re really rich in original compositions as well as all the really old styles of fiddle traditions, as well — it’s a really fun blend.

Q: It sounds like you folks are on the ground floor of something that has the potential to be very exciting.
Gawler: It has been really, really fun. … the main thing is that we really enjoy playing together a lot, so we’re excited to see where it goes, and excited to be able to share what we’ve got going on at the moment.

Q: Earlier, you mentioned having a “string of gigs in Maine” — where are the ones before Slates being held?
Gawler: Well, we have a house concert in Belfast on the 23rd, on the 25th we’re playing the Fogtown Brewing Company in Ellsworth, on the 26th we’re playing a little cider house in Belfast called Perennial Cider Bar + Farm, and then on Monday is Slates. Oh, and on Feb. 1st we’re playing down at the Milk & Honey which is down in Portland.

Q: Another Portland venue that seems tailor-made for the trio is One Longfellow Square.
Gawler: Yeah, totally. It would be wonderful to play there at some point. We’ve played there a few times as The Gawler Sisters and The Gawler Family … that’s been a really sweet spot. And I think this upcoming tour for Wake Robin — which is the name of our trio, actually, we settled on our band name a few weeks ago after I had talked with Katie initially. It’s always great to have a name!

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article about your venue debut at Slates?
Gawler: I think we’ve covered a lot of it, but there’s one other thing I’d like to say: I think a lot of people know my name from The Gawler Family Band, of course, and it’s like them to know that this new trio’s an exciting project for me in focusing a little bit more on some of my own original compositions as well as originals from Ethan, too, so it’s a slightly different flavor of my music than that of The Gawler Family music. The tunes seen to be very high-energy but there’s also a few more reflective, quieter songs, too … there are also a lot of songs with good, positive messages coming from Ethan and I, as well.

Q: Is there anything more that you think folks should know about?
Gawler: Well, yes, I should mention that Wake Robin is working on an EP — we don’t have a release date for that yet, but we will have some music out in the world at some point this coming year. And in addition to that, I’m releasing an album in the spring, a solo album, with nine original songs on it that are all recorded and we’re working on the album’s art work and production over the next few months.

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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