An In-Depth Conversation with the Nocturne Troubadours

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HUDSON FALLS – One of the best things in this scene, in this writer’s view, is the plethora of microcosms within it that are all coexisting. With different genres all over the place, there really isn’t one distinct sound that defines our local music scene. When a new band emerges and starts occupying space in one of these microcosms, it’s a great chance for me to see what is new and developing in our area.

In this particular instance? The band is the Nocturne Troubadours, and while their genre is hard to nail down to just one (Psychedelic? Bluegrass? Folk-psych-grass?), their energy is undeniable. With two songs currently released, “You’re Not Alone,” and “You and Me,” and with an EP on the horizon, it was my absolute pleasure to have a conversation with them. As you parse the interview below with Marc and Tania of the Nocturne Troubadours, I hope the energy that was apparent in the interview comes through the written word. Our discussion, for this author, was extremely refreshing, and I can’t wait to see what happens next for this band. You can check out their music at https://thenocturnetroubadours.bandcamp.com, and be sure to catch their next concert on October 29th, at the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs.

THE INTERVIEW

Lucas Garrett: Thank you, folks, for sitting down with me tonight. Tell us about the name, the Nocturne Troubadours. How did that come about?

Marc Clayton: Part of it is, we’re night owls – as you know – we’re musicians. Nocturne. It’s also very romantic; it goes back to 14th century poet, singer, street singer. But originally, we liked the idea of being these traveling gypsies. I found out through social media that gypsy is actually not a nice word anymore. It’s politically incorrect, it’s offensive. It’s become a slang for a real gypsy woman and that caused me to have a conversation with Tania really quickly. Where else could we go with it, and what would be equally as cool and say what we wanted. So that’s what we got.

The Nocturne Troubadour. From left-to-right, back row: Alan Dunham, middle row: Tania Susi, Mike Craner, front row: Keith Mann, Shane Madaio, Marc Clayton.

LG: I heard the newest song, and it’s pretty damn nice, you guys. Why don’t you talk about the recording process you’re involved with right now, where you’re going with the band, and what your plan is?

MC: Go ahead, Tania.

Tania Susi: OK. Well, gosh. We really play off of each other. So, there’s a magic that happens when we assemble as a group. Recording, for us, is at its best when we’re there to support each other. Fine example of that was the other night – Monday night. We got together and we were going to do a couple of different things, but I ended up getting my violin out first. So, I was on deck for the first round, and it ended up being quite a lot. Having my Troubadours there in the sound room, and egging me on, and showing me what they like. When I tried a lick here or a riff there, I need that suggestion. I don’t sit in my house really well and come up with great riffs. I come up with repetitive things that resemble riffs; I have all these ideas but when I have that spark of being around my “bandies,” and the chemistry, and the giggles, and the happiness, I get this extra courage. Dig a little deeper, or make a suggestion. It’s friction, too, that will help you grow. It’s that excitement; it’s the friction of having those conversations right then and there. It’s what starts a fire.

MC: And, we do a lot of dancing.

TS: And singing.

MC: We get uncontrollably goofy, and we dance or sing and make merry. It’s the spirit – that high – that feel when you know the creativity is permeating the room like a scent. Like a scented oil or candle. That’s a good way to put it: we’re each other’s candles burning, but we burn as one, as cliché as that sounds. But, that’s really what it is: our energies burn brighter when we’re together.

TS: When you see Marc’s arms go up like he’s ready to fly; that’s always a good sign. And, Alan’s (Dunham) feet start kicking, and Keith (Mann) starts air strumming.

MC: To add to what Tania is saying, another thing about the process is: we get right in there. We try to get the song wrapped up in two or three days. All the meat and potatoes in two or three days. It’s because of that energy that Tania mentioned. Things move pretty quickly when the lightning is striking. We harness it as fast as we can because it might not be there the next time. You never know.

LG: Yeah. So, who is the main songwriter if there is one? Who presents a song? Is it all written on the spot?

MC: The origins of the band have a lot to do with that I had this stockpile of music that I didn’t perform for anybody; just myself. Not even at open mics or in bands. I’ve known Tania for years. Her and I met through the Beatles group that I play in (Across the Pond) and Tania has sat in a bunch of times performing with our Beatles group and our ballet productions. I was trying to work up the courage to tap her on the shoulder and say, “you know, I’ve got this sound in my head, and I’ve got these songs.” I was in awe of her talent, and I realized the worst she could say was no. Long story short, I had an honest conversation and said, “Listen, you want to try and do some stuff with me? I’ve got this thing. Can we go in the studio? I have this song, and I’d really like this on it.” And, Tania said, “yes, I’d love to try and do something with you.” And we, just found from that day forward, not really looking back. That’s really the origins of our band.

The Nocturne Troubadours, left-to-right: Marc Clayton, Keith Mann, Mike Craner, Shane Madaio, Tania Susi, Alan Dunham

Her expression through her instrument – you asked about songwriting, and I had this conversation the other day. The way that Tania plays has affected me as a songwriter and has actually inspired me to write new material. So, pre-existing material in regards to that, I almost feel like it’s been rewritten because of what Tania brings to the table. Tania is a major part now of my songwriting and the sound. Therefore, the sound of the group is the origins – Marc’s songs, Tania’s playing – and then the songs are a reinvention of where we are now.

LG: Who is in the band right now besides you and Tania?

MC: Alan Dunham. Keith Mann. Shane is our original drummer. He will always be our original drummer.

TS: Yeah, he’s our original Troubadour.

MC: Donny Moore is our backup, but he’ll be our main man for a while. And, Mike Craner on bass. That is the band that you’re hearing on the recording and our first video.

LG: What are your plans going forward?

MC: I’m going to let Tania take that one.

TS: We’re going to make a lot of people happy with our music. We’re going to spread love, joy. We’re going to find our way into everybody’s hearts. In a more concrete way, we’re going to look for venues where we can do this. Like, a show that we have coming up will be at the Parting Glass in Saratoga on October 29th. That’s a Friday night. I know the Parting Glass will be decked out for Halloween. We want to create a vibe; an atmosphere. A feeling where our fans can feel like Troubadours. Come with the anticipation of a kinship; camaraderie and community of Troubadours. I think what we want to do, ultimately, is connect people. Connect who we are. As a band, we feel very connected to each other. We’re connected to each other’s heartstrings and to lifting each other up. We like that feeling to be what people take away from coming to our show.

MC: Our thing all the time, kind of like our slogan, is we want to lift the spirit through our media. We’ll be releasing a body of work that’ll be like a collective of everything Tania just said: a celebration of us having a good time and inviting people to have a good time. That’s really what it is. The other thing with this band: there’s no pressures. We’ve made it a point to say that from day one. We’re not going to work under a hurried pressure with unrealistic goals. Let’s just say how it manifests and materializes over time. You know, so far, we’ve been really lucky in that sense because we wrote and released a song – it was one of the newer things I wrote the last couple months, our first single, “You’re Not Alone.” We immediately did a video and we made that video because that’s who we are. The people you see in the video; that’s really the spirit of what’s going on in the studio. We didn’t know how people were going to react to that video. I think the video in essence may have came at a good time, ‘cause it was an intense year we’d all gone through.

LG: Oh, you don’t say.

MC: The video came out and the one thing we heard – which if we didn’t hear ever again, it was plenty – was, “that made me so happy. That video. That song. I watched it ten times today and I came home from work and I watched it again. It made me happy.” And, that’s good enough. That’s good enough.

Music Video for the Nocturne Troubadour’s debut single, “You’re Not Alone.”

TS: Can I add something, Lucas?

LG: Yeah.

TS: I was thinking about a question you asked me earlier. About the process and what happens in the studio. So, that first time that we got together for “Port.” I think he (Marc) brought me in and I was there for a two-hour session. As I was driving away, I realized my life had just changed in two hours. I floated away from the studio, driving home, and I was thinking, “god, I hope that wasn’t the only time I get to do that.” It was last summer (2020) that we did “City Street Sonata,” and again, that probably was also a two-hour. These things happen really fast. When the magic’s there, it just happens. What we did on “You’re Not Alone…”

MC: That was live.

TS: Yeah.

LG: I don’t really see as much positivity, and good energy – and I’m not saying that music needs all that to be great – as I do with this band. Even though I’ve never sat in a room and talked with all of you, I can tell by what’s on the record; all the good energy, positivity, and wholesomeness. And, I think it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s really great what you’re doing. As we wrap the interview up, is there anything you’d want to touch upon that I may not have talked about yet?

MC: I think you got it covered. We do hope to just continue doing what we’ve been doing and that people still want to listen.

LG: I’m really impressed by what I’ve heard and I can’t wait to hear more from you guys.

MC: Thanks.

TS: Thank you. I guess I will add that the feedback we’ve gotten so far has thrust us into this realm where we believe in ourselves more than we did when we started. When we started, we just wanted to connect to each other; to see if there’s anything there.

LG: Well, thank you again, guys, for taking the time tonight.

MC: Thanks, Luke.

TS: Thank you for inviting me to join you! I really enjoyed this.

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