“You have no idea who we are, but we’re about to be great friends.” And with that inviting proclamation, Levon’s Michael David Hall has opened many a performance. Making friends through the music is part of what it’s all about for this soulful country/rock trio, whose cross-generational sonic appeal draws from past and present, with a harmony-driven style built around compelling lyrics and memorable melodies: music with a timeless quality.
And, they are impacting country radio now with their debut single, “Ms. Marianne,” from their recently-release debut self-titled EP. “Ms. Marianne” was co-written by lead singer Hall, James Dean Hicks and Jamie Houston.
Levon consists of three best friends: Northbrook, Illinois, native Michael David Hall (on guitar and lead vocals, with a soaring five-octave range); Sumter, South Carolina’s Jake Singleton (on harmonies, bass, and percussion); and Camden, Tennessee, native Ryan Holladay (on guitar, mandolin and harmonies).
A few of the trio’s musical roots are suggested by their name, an homage to the talents of The Band’s Levon Helm, as well as Elton John and his song, “Levon.” All in their twenties, Levon’s members nonetheless share a collective musical passion for the 1970s and the artist/songwriter generation whose lyrics and melodies have remained relevant long after their time on the charts. “We wanted people to hear our name and kind of know where we were coming from,” Hall says.
In addition to John and Helm, Levon’s influences include a range of artists whose careers have become synonymous with stellar songwriting, musicianship, and/or harmonies: The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, CSNY, Keith Urban, Pure Prairie League, and others.
The genesis of Levon sparked with a chance meeting one night in early 2014, when Hall and Singleton performed in separate bands at a Franklin, Tennessee, restaurant where Hall had also been working as a server. Each liked what they heard, with drummer Singleton learning to play bass in order to join Hall’s then-band. Thus began a musical partnership that would crystallize with the September 2015 addition of Ryan Holladay. A vocalist and mandolin player since the age of 3, Holladay had years of experience on the bluegrass circuit and became the perfect third to complete Levon’s three-part-harmony sound.
Now dually signed to Sony Music Nashville’s storied Columbia Nashville imprint as well as New York-based powerhouse Epic Records, Levon is a band committed to country music, but with a style and sound that transcend genre or format: killer songcraft that simultaneously won over both Sony Music label teams.
And while their music clearly has the potential to break through to a massive audience, Hall makes no bones about the fact that Levon is – and will remain – a country band.
“This is where our blood and soul is,” he says of the trio’s feelings toward country music and their Nashville home. “We want to represent what this town is.”
Indeed, playing such Music City-area venues as Puckett’s in nearby Leiper’s Fork and gigging for tips outside Nashville fave, the Pancake Pantry, contributed to the early buzz on Levon. Today, the band’s résumé spans an ever-growing array of festival dates and opening slots for such artists as Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Willie Nelson, Kelsea Ballerini, Alabama and many others.
Off stage or on, Levon presents a laidback personality: humble, grounded, appreciative. So when they talk about making music that will last for generations, those sentiments aren’t coming from some lofty, egocentric perspective. One of the band’s career highlights to date was opening for Willie Nelson, an icon whose music has and will stand the test of time. And for Levon, it’s about the passion, the dedication, the heart and craftsmanship of doing the work and investing the time to create truly great music: the kind of music that can earn the right to become timeless.
DPAC - Durham Performing Arts Center