Despite Columbia cranking out more metal bands than Americana groups, The Prairie Willows have become a staple in the city’s scene.
In 2012, Kristen Harris, Kelley Douglas, and Perrin Skinner became the Prairie Willows, together writing delightfully folky, southern ballads about anything from biscuits to breakups. After a handful of original tunes and local performances over the years, their first official record is finally complete.
They’re taking the stage — and backyard — at Conundrum Music Hall June 12 to celebrate their much-anticipated album release, but also to kick back with some friends. Harris, Douglas and Skinner have been anticipating the album’s release as much as any fan. Also, after a successful partnership with local puppeteer Lyon Hill during Indie Grits, he will be joining the ladies on stage this Friday to perform a piece for their original song “Whiskey.”
They’re hardy, they’re homegrown, and they’re quirky. Their album is expected to reflect each of their personalities just as much as this interview we were able to have with them this week.
Jasper: How did the Prairie Willows come to be? When did you get together?
Perrin Skinner: We came together during the fall of 2012. Kristen moved in with me, and we knew Kelley for a while, because we’ve all been involved in the Columbia music scene for a long time…so we met and we decided to start playing music together, and experimenting to see what would happen. Kelley would just come over, and we would practice in the living room and just work up some songs and some covers. We just kind of took it from there and it blossomed.
Jasper: How is the music community for Americana in Columbia?
Kelley Douglas: I love it. I think it’s the best part of playing music here is that Americana is a really approachable genre. We’ve met a lot of people through playing music. A lot of people can connect with our music — we’re able to share it, and teach them songs that we know, so that they can jump in and play with us sometimes. It’s really fun to kind of collaborate with people, and share songs that some of us already know and learn new ones together.
Kristen Harris: Because of the community in Columbia for Americana, we’ve met some really great people just coming through town that we’ve gotten to play music with or share a bill with. It’s really exciting.
Jasper: Can you tell me a bit about your new album?
Perrin Skinner: It’s been a long time coming for us. We’ve wanted to release a full-length record for a while; it just kind of took us a bit to get everything together. We raised all the money ourselves, and got some really great guys to record us. The record is full of originals as well as traditional songs, and it’s really exciting. It’s called “White Lies.”
Kelley Douglas: What’s cool about it is that—we didn’t plan it—but it sounds like the perfect mixture of the three of us. It has elements of the different kinds of music that we like, and we brought our different tastes in. Just listening to it, you can tell it’s a beautiful collaboration of three very different people who created something unique and it came together as a way to surprise all of us.
Jasper: So, what do you have planned for the album release?
Kelley Douglas: We’re having it at conundrum on June 12, and the doors are at 7:30. Slim Pickens is opening for us—they’re some close friends—and Branhan Lowther, the lead player for that group, is going to join us on stage to play to play with us on a few of our songs. We’ve added him in on a few songs, and I think it gives it a little more of a dynamic. We’re really excited, and we have a lot of friends coming. It’s going to be a lot of fun, we’re going to hang out outside some, and it’s going to be a good night to be with friends…
Kristen Harris: Oh, and we’ll also have a puppet feature.
Jasper: Can you tell me more about that?
Kristen Harris: We collaborated with the local puppeteer, Lyon Hill from the Columbia Marionette Theatre recently for Indie Grits for the Spork in Hand Puppet Slam, and he created a piece that goes along with one of our songs called “Whiskey,” and it’s really cool. His wife, Jennifer Hill, is acting in it as a shadow puppet, and it’s a really cool piece — that’ll be our first part of our performance at the CD release.
Jasper: That’s awesome! So what’s next for the Prairie Willows after this?
All: That’s a good question [laughter].
Perrin Skinner: We’re just going to wait and see what happens — this has been a big goal for us, and we’re reaching it — we’re anticipating the album release and then hopefully it’ll bring a lot of opportunities our way.
We all love the idea of touring — going on the road to play different venues and sell our record. But we’ll be playing shows around town this summer, so that’s kind of what we have in store for right now.