After a long hiatus, The Senators have finally returned to the folk music world. They took a brief pause to focus on family and are returning to their craft this fall.
The Phoenix-based folk band is comprised of Jesse Teer, Chuck Linton, Marshall Hunt and Jason Yee, all of whom are Phoenix locals and came together for the love of music and storytelling.
The self-proclaimed band geeks are headed by Teer and Linton.
Teer is the lead singer, as well as a multi-instrumentalist. Linton is also a strong contributor, playing most string instruments, as well as the keys. Both grew up with a love for music, although this love originated from vastly different areas in the music world.
Linton’s family owns a music store in Mesa, Linton-Milano Music, and he has been exposed to music since his childhood. Teer was a cello player throughout high school and has since developed his musical abilities to much more than solely classical music. The two met through mutual friends and initially played with Teer’s brother, Adam. However, the brothers decided to go different directions and are now pursuing separate endeavors.
The band name, The Senators, originates from an infamous story when two governmental representatives during the 19th century, Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner, engaged in a physical altercation. This altercation stemmed from disagreements regarding Sumner antagonizing a relative of Brooks, and ended with Brooks beating Sumner with a cane on the Senate floor. The Teer brothers thought this was a humorous story. Before one of their very first gigs, they were in desperate need of a band name. Thus, The Senators were born.
The band plays and produces music that demonstrates the struggles they have endured, while maintaining an authentic feel-good sound. Themes of love, family and heartache are apparent when listening to their music. In addition to the heartfelt sound, their music is also influenced by the simple beauty of the Southwest.
Teer said their latest album, “Promised Land,” strips down their sound. Linton said their newest songs, some of which have yet to be released, have been the perfect blend of acoustic and artificial sound. One song titled “Hand Me Down” was deemed an all-time favorite by both Teer and Linton. Teer said this song was written from the heart. The song is about family and the conflict that ensued between him and his brother.
Teer said the band slowed down when their biggest challenge — having babies — presented itself. The band gained solid bookings early in their career from a variety of venues in Arizona and Los Angeles, and opened for other folk musicians such as Phillip Phillips. They were also a feature on Billboard’s Next Big Sound charts and gained licensing for overhead play in Starbucks nationally.
However as their careers developed, so did their families, and music took the back burner for a while.
“It makes us sick to not be able to do what we love, but also to not be with our kids,” Teer said.
The break is over. The Senators have several tour dates announced and plan to add more. Work on “Promised Land” began around two years ago. An EP was released earlier this year under the same name as the full album, which is yet to be released.
“[We have been] sitting on something we know is carbon turning into diamond,” Teer said. “It’s time to get back at it.”
The album was written and produced with Simone Felice of The Felice Brothers. Felice is a mainstream producer in the folk music industry. He has produced for musicians such as The Lumineers and Jade Bird.
“[Felice] was in the new retro-folk movement,” Teer said. “That’s why we love him.”
Felice hosts bands in his studio, Catskill Mountain Studio. Which is a converted barn turned music production set in East Jewett, New York. This opportunity to record with The Felice Brothers sparked something fresh within The Senators’ music.
“Working with [Felice] was pretty intimidating,” Teer said. “I got sick the first day.”
After overcoming the initial nerves of working with such a seasoned producer, Teer said collaborating with him was an incredible opportunity. Before working with Felice, Teer said the band walked in with a lot of layers. Felice showed members the importance of stripping down the music to write approachable, real ideas. In addition to finding a new way of writing, the band also commended Felice for showing a more editorial side to production and finding the true meaning of their work.
“Promised Land” is also the name of a featured song on The Senators’ new album that harmonizes the band’s acoustic sound with their soothing vocals in a melodious track. Linton said this blending comprises the band’s sound and is what the composition of the new tracks exemplifies.
“The new stuff, beside the Felice album, has got a lot of good buildup,” Linton said. “The sound is something you’d hear if Jughead and Betty were having troubles.”
Linton said the composition of the songs The Senators release are organic and simple.
Cara Grantham is one of the Senators’ many fans. She said the album features tracks that are stripped down, synthesized and combine elements from a variety of genres. These are the reasons many fans enjoy their music.
“I’m not usually into the whole bluegrass sound, but they add the perfect amount of it to their indie style,” Grantham said. “I also dig their lyrics.”
The adoration from followers and passion each member shares for music is not always enough to keep the band functioning. Through years of touring locally and nationally, the band said they have had their fair share of ups and downs within the music industry. Teer said it is incredibly important to ground oneself within the music business. He said newcomers in the industry should stay rooted.
Teer offered words of advice for up-and-coming musicians — advice that stems from the band’s own experiences in the industry.
“Don’t ever think you’re bigger than you are,” Teer said. “Don’t turn down the little venue. Work with local places and build it up from there.”
Teer said this is advice the band exercises themselves.
The Senators have several dates released on their website and will be returning to Flagstaff in February after a brief tour in New Mexico.
The band is featured on Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and YouTube. The release date of “Promised Land” has yet to be announced, but an EP with the same name is now available and includes the song “Promised Land.”