On the right path

Mu­sic Fest was group’s first taste of big time

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MUSIC - By Michael Don­ahue

The Band CAMINO had been to­gether for less than a year when the group was asked to play at last spring’s Mem­phis in May Beale Street Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

“It was sur­real,” said drum­mer/backup vo­cal­ist Andrew Is­bell, 19. They parked lead singer/gui­tarist Jef­fery Jor­dan’s mom’s van “next to Bastille’s 18-wheeler.”

“I think that was the best show we ever played,” said bass player Gra­ham Row­ell, 20. “It felt right. It felt like we were sup­posed to be there.”

The band, which also in­cludes gui­tarist, pi­anist, synth player and vo­cal­ist Spencer Ste­wart, 23, will head­line “This is Mem­phis” on Sun­day at the Le­vitt Shell. The fes­ti­val is pro­duced en­tirely by Uni­ver­sity of Mem­phis students through the mu­sic depart­ment’s record la­bel, Blue Tom Records.

“Hav­ing had all four mem­bers of The Band CAMINO in my mu­sic busi­ness classes, their re­cent suc­cess comes at no sur­prise to me,” said U of M as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of mu­sic Ben Yonas. “We fin­ish class some­times at 9 p.m. Most kids go home. They stay and re­hearse for hours. They are 110 per­cent com­mit­ted to pur­su­ing ex­cel­lence and have no in­ten­tion of slow­ing down.”

Jor­dan, 21, who sang and played pi­ano in church, be­gan writ­ing songs in ele­men­tary school. His self-ti­tled first band was a coun­try band. “I was raised with that life­style, I guess,” he said. “Both my grand­par­ents owned farms.

“I came from a nar­row­minded per­spec­tive of mu­sic. I just lis­tened to what I liked. I wasn’t re­ally con­scious of other kinds of mu­sic. I was just in my own bub­ble, re­ally. And when I got to col­lege, I was like, ‘All right! There’s a lot of other stuff hap­pen­ing.’”

Row­ell, nephew of the late Stax bass player Don­ald “Duck” Dunn, was in Jor­dan’s first band. “When I was 14, I fig­ured out how cool my un­cle was, so I started play­ing bass,” Row­ell said. But he wasn’t se­ri­ous about it.

Dunn died when Row­ell was 16. Re­mem­ber­ing the funeral, he said, “I was sit­ting next to the singer from AC/DC — Brian John­son. There were all these in­cred­i­ble mu­si­cians. I got a weird feel­ing like, ‘I have to do this.’ I was go­ing to the Uni­ver­sity of Ar­kan­sas. I wanted to be in a fra­ter­nity and do sports man­age­ment. That changed ev­ery­thing.”

Row­ell then moved to Jor­dan’s next group, The Jef­fery Jor­dan Band. The most pop­u­lar song the singer-song­writer band per­formed was “Sim­ple Life,” which Jor­dan de­scribed as “a tra­di­tional coun­try song: rock­ing chair, a gui­tar, a trac­tor, a field, a truck.”

Said Is­bell, who had joined the band: “I started play­ing drums be­cause we’d go to church and there was a drum set there so I’d bang on it.”

He played a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing in high school, but, he said, “I loved play­ing per­cus­sion and orches­tra stuff. But I’d get out of re­hearsals and I’d just go straight back to the rock mu­sic.”

Ste­wart, who was in the choir and took pi­ano lessons when he was in high school, also was in The Jef­fery Jor­dan Band. Ste­wart was in­flu­enced by his brother, Jor­dan Ste­wart, who was in a Chris­tian band, Mon­day@4: “He used to pick me up from school. We used to lis­ten to ev­ery­thing from Outkast to Sean Paul to early ’80s rock and roll.”

He took three semesters at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Mis­sis­sippi. “I was a mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion ma­jor,” Ste­wart said. “I thought that’s what I wanted to do. Then I re­al­ized I don’t have enough pa­tience to be a teacher. I’m too pas­siveag­gres­sive.”

The Jef­fery Jor­dan Band changed af­ter Jor­dan brought one of his new songs, “Young,” to a re­hearsal. “We started jam­ming, and it just came to­gether,” Jor­dan said.

The song, which he de­scribed as “a power bal­lad, but still midtempo rock” is “about let­ting other peo­ple down. Things not go­ing how you thought they would. Look­ing back on the choices you made and the peo­ple you hurt.”

“Out of the mid­dle of nowhere, it worked re­ally, re­ally well, and we were hav­ing a good time with it,” Is­bell said. I think that was the most im­por­tant part. We were just hav­ing a blast play­ing mu­sic to­gether.”

The band’s name orig­i­nally came from a car. “It’s noth­ing deep,” Row­ell said. “We saw an El Camino: ‘That’s a cool name.’”

The other band mem­bers hated it un­til they dis­cov­ered is the Span­ish word for “path,” which fit per­fectly. “We chose the band path,” Jor­dan said. “We’re go­ing down the band road.”

Adding “The Band” to the name was “re­ally a happy ac­ci­dent,” he said. “We’d made all the so­cial me­dia tags — be­cause ‘Camino’ had al­ready been taken — ‘@the­band CAMINO’ on Twit­ter, Face­book and In­sta­gram.”

Peo­ple be­gan re­fer­ring to the group as “The Band CAMINO.”

They be­gan play­ing al­ter­na­tive rock-pop, Row­ell said. “It’s like rock mu­sic with ’80s pro­duc­tion.”

They played their first show as The Band CAMINO in Septem­ber 2015 at the Delta Fair. Eight months later, they were on stage at the Beale Street Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

Mikey Glenn from the New Daisy Theatre was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting them a slot af­ter he heard the band per­form, Jor­dan said.

“We didn’t even have enough songs,” he said. “We had to fin­ish two songs and add a five-minute jam at the end of one.”

The Beale Street Mu­sic Fes­ti­val was “the big­gest moun­tain­top,” Row­ell said.

“It was the most per­fect day,” Ste­wart said. “There were barely any clouds. A per­fect view of the river. The weather was per­fect.”

“We had the set down,” Is­bell said. “And we just killed it. We were the open­ers. The bot­tom of the totem pole. I was still 18. They were all kind of skep­ti­cal when we went on stage. We just did our thing. And when we got off, the stage manger was in­tro­duc­ing him­self to us, shak­ing our hands. We sort of proved our­selves, in a way.”

“It changed the game,” Ste­wart said. “It changed ev­ery­thing.”

The Band CAMINO: Andrew Is­bell (left), Spencer Ste­wart, Gra­ham Row­ell and (seated) Jef­fery Jor­dan.

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