Oye, carnales, I just got off the telephone with Jhett and Callie Sioux Schiavone, the living souls that front a Southern Gothic folk-rock power trio cum quartet (Callie’s dad is playing rhythm guitar on this tour) se llama Gleewood. No fooling, these hep cats from Ruidoso, New Mexico have spent the past six years stretching their espooky roots and branches all over the region.
Now they are working outta Nashville and on tour, on their way back to Nuevo Mexico to lovingly spread their stark and star-crossed brand of rocking blues. Their new record dropped on June 12. It’s a single titled “Superstition” and tours the sharp edges of mental illness and addiction with a deft directness and dusky melodics.
Inflected by the literature of the southlands—you know like Faulkner and Oates—and informed by the hot as hell guitar cult that emanates outta Tejas and has, over the years, infected much of the rocanrol being made from New Mexico to Califas with its slithery ways. Gleewood is the sort of band that makes songs out of a mixture of dreams seen through an old teevee, a cunningly deployed distortion pedal and gravel from the rough road forward. Jhett’s haunting baritone adds another level of mystery while yielding fantastic harmonies with his mezzo wife and partner.
Weekly Alibi caught up with Gleewood as they drove toward Roswell for a Friday night gig. Since there weren’t any UFOs flitting about and showtime was imminent, music was the immediate focus of our rather cool conversation.
Weekly Alibi: Hey Jhett, it’s August March calling from Weekly Alibi. Got a few minutes to talk about Gleewood?
Jhett: Yeah, I do have a few minutes. Thanks for calling, man. That was perfect timing. We were just up in a mountain pass.
Where are you?
We left Nashville a couple of days ago and now we just entered New Mexico. We’re headed down to Roswell tonight, then we’ll do a house show in [Las] Cruces on Tuesday before we head up to the mountains for a gig in Pagosa Springs before dipping back down to Albuquerque, El Paso and Austin. In July we’ll head for the Pacific Northwest before the European leg of the tour starts in September.
Awesome. You know I’ve been listening to your music this week and really digging all of it, from the Southern Gothic aesthetic to Jhett’s baritone. But the question I really wanna ask is, where did you come up with the name?
Callie Sioux: [Laughs] We read a lot and look to books for inspiration. When we’re on the road, there’s a lot of time to read or listen to audiobooks. We came across the term “Gleewood” several years ago, in an old translation of Beowulf, actually. It kinda harkens back to our folk roots. It means “happy guitar.”
Jhett: Yeah, back in the Middle Ages in Europe, a gleewood was a hand-held harp; gleemen and gleemaidens would strum them and tour around Europe to help lift the spirits of the people, to help bring them out of the Dark Ages with uplifting songs.
That’s really cool.
Callie Sioux: It’s pretty random, but we found that term and did some research and it really—
It’s kind of like you’ve taken the whole concept to heart.
Yeah! Pretty much!
Where do the ideas for your music come from?
Jhett: Like Callie said, we’ve infused a lot of references to literature in our music. And we were both late bloomers as musicians. We’ve always been infatuated with storytelling; for us, music became the medium for all of that. There are a lot of folk and rock ballads in our work; storytelling is an essential part of the music we make
Calli Sioux: We didn’t grow up playing music, but we were fans. There are lots of musicians in both of our families. And when we met, we started playing music, writing songs together, mostly stories and ballads. And you experience a lot traveling through the US and Europe. Your family goes through changes. Those are big inspirations. The ups and downs, the history of New Mexico could be included in those inspirations and influences.
Jhett: As far as the music itself is concerned, we are obsessed with all things vintage. What happened with rock in the late ’60s—especially the folk rock and the blues rock of that period—was fantastic. The countercultural music scene connected a whole lot of people. A whole generation, could relate to that music. There were a few golden years there when music was meant to be shared. The Gleewood project is steeped in that culture and style. That culture and that style is coming alive again.
Like Black Oak Arkansas or something like that?
Sure. Absolutely. I appreciate the fact that you get the Southern Gothic thing. That’s groovy. On our last EP and the record we just released, we’re definitely using darker colors to paint the tapestry.