Lisa Piccirillo, Patrick Thomas and Erin “Syd” Sidney are three seasoned singer/songwriters with thick portfolios of accolades and enough touring experience to count two busted minivan transmissions between them. In the early months of 2011 their new project, Hotels & Highways, left another van in the shop.
After retreating to a cabin on a lake in New York in the fall of 2010 with the modest intention of writing songs together for 10 days, the trio unexpectedly produced "Lost River," a full-length album that evokes Fleetwood Mac, Fleet Foxes and Ryan Adams, and has been called a "gleeful blend of country, pop, and rock and roll…that sounds more like the product of a group that had been together for years rather than a mere week and a half," (Dan Bolles, Seven Days VT). Released in March 2011, that album garnered enough support from their fans to fund a 13,000-mile 7-week national tour and enough industry attention to land them a slot at the 2011 ASCAP South by Southwest Showcase alongside Grammy-winner Dan Wilson and fast-rising duo The Civil Wars.
Now, just months after the band's inception, "Lost River" is a 2011 Amazon.com Editor's Pick and is holding a steady spot on the Roots Radio charts. Ever true to their name, Hotels & Highways will hit the road again in the summer and fall, sharing their cabin-grown music with an ever-growing audience.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft Syd.
We all came into music in different ways I think. For me I was surrounded by a family of artists and music was a viable career path, no matter how much my parents wanted me to be a doctor or a dentist for financial stability, they weren't training me for that, they were training me for the creative life.
For Patrick, he often talks about growing up in Detroit and the pulse of Motown just constantly humming through the air -- you'd have to be made of lead not to feel that in your bones. It was later in life for him that he made a decision that this was the life for him. But Motown started it all.
Lisa was just born with a gift and had that stereotypical "girl-with-a-hairbrush-as-microphone" kind of drive. She just had to sing. Again, later on she got more serious about it, but the way she's described it to me -- she can just hear what she wants to be singing, open her mouth, and it comes out.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Be in the moment. Whatever that moment may be. And we turned that into a mantra at the cabin when we made this album and we spend our energy reminding ourselves of that as much as we can.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Being in the moment!! Haha. There are so many decisions to make about the future, whether it's planning to do a tour, the logistics of a tour or any of the myriad other things we do that it's very important to remember to put the music first and that feeling of joy above all else.
But there's a hamster wheel of tasks that you have to consciously disengage from in order to continue growing.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
A performer. Even when I imagined being an Egyptologist during our 5th grade section on Ancient Egypt, I still imagined being one of those early 19th-century explorers and going on a world tour with my findings.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I think each of us is absolutely a product of our environments. None of us is living where we grew up, but we carry a piece of it with us.
Pat carries Detroit with him in his work ethic and core values. I am certainly of Vermont and I look for Vermont-y people and places to align myself with. Lisa's found her core community by moving to Vermont from Connecticut, following the well-worn path of many before her, escaping the suburban greater NYC region for the smaller communities and more holistic lifestyle Vermont encourages.
This band is really all about that -- we each live in these different places, NYC, Vermont and Ventura, CA and we each soak up our communities and bring each other into them. It's really an amazing way to experience your surroundings.
What other artists out there do you love?
So many of our friends make great music and it's a shame we can't just spam this interview with a list of links. At this very moment we're all really enjoying getting to know Mia Dyson's stuff. She's our tour mate for our upcoming California dates and she's such an exciting blend of Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams and Ryan Adams. We really think people are going to love her out here. They already do love her in Australia -- she's won an Aria, which is their version of the Grammys.
What does your future hold?
We are going to get together on the east coast again in October to write and record some more and tour back there. We want to visit our old friends and make some new ones. We've already got a couple of songs in the works...we're just going to keep busy!