Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chicago band Sugarcreek Road releases new album, will play at Old Town School of Folk Music


Between teaching voice and piano lessons, touring nationally with "Jersey Boys" and being a mother, Chicago musician Kara Kesselring also finds the time to make music with her band, Sugarcreek Road.

Kesselring and her band will celebrate the release of "Hurry Up & Relax" with a show Aug. 20 at The Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $12, available by going to Old Town's website,

I had the chance to talk to Kesselring about the new album. 

Q - Congratulations on the release of the new album. What were your goals for the album and what would you like people to come away with from the album?

"Hurry Up & Relax" is a collection of songs that feel like a mash up of country/folk with a tinge of jazz/pop. Hence, the hurry up juxtaposed with the relaxation.

I’m always laughing at myself as I tear down the road to get to a massage. I am constantly needing to hurry up so I can relax.

This has always been a tricky balance in life for me.

Q - Your have a background in jazz. What made you want to form Sugarcreek Road, which is a blend of genres such as country, folk and bluegrass?

I’ve been writing my own music for years and I felt like I had a great collection of songs. Some of the songs I’ve written come out as jazz standards but many of them are in an Americana genre.

I perform many of them in my band Sugarcreek Road which began as a way to perform bluegrass, folk and gospel music from my childhood. As we started to workshop my songs in the band, SCR gave me a chance to play my songs live. After taking the songs to Chris Cash, who engineered, produced, and performed on "Hurry Up & Relax," the songs took on another life.  

I grew up on a family farm in southeast Iowa and many of the songs are stories about growing up there.  After moving to Chicago, some of my songs are about growing older, wiser and growing as a person without forgetting where I came from.

Q - You also have an interest in musicals, and toured with nationally with "Jersey Boys." How is that experience different from being in a band? Do you need both in your life?

I am always searching for ways to make people happy through music and constantly learning and challenging myself in different ways. I love that my job is to ultimately touch people in different ways and bring joy to their lives.

I feel like I can do this through musical theater, teaching, performing for weddings, funerals, songwriting, etc.  

"Jersey Boys" has been a remarkable experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to work on such a successful show with great songs and packed theaters each night. I also have a love for traveling, so I’ve been able to see the world by doing what I love.  

Q - You also have a family. How do you juggle being a mother with all your different projects?

The tricky part of living a circus life is the balance. My husband and bassist in Sugarcreek Road, Patrick Williams, understands the nature of this business more than anyone. He is incredibly supportive and we are both very involved with our 7 year old daughter, Iris. Last year while touring with Jersey Boys, we decided to home-school her and bring her on the road.

Q - You also teach voice and piano from your home. What do you try to instill in your students?

I love teaching and I think I’m patient and kind. With children, I try to make practicing exciting with incentive programs and goal-oriented master classes and recitals.

I try to provide a good diet of music exercises, appropriate repertoire, theory, and ear training. In addition, we make up songs, or learn songs off the radio.

I think kids are very proud of their accomplishments if they can play a song proficiently for family or friends. I also feel that learning an instrument is a great discipline but ultimately, it must make them happy.

Music should never be a chore or full of pressure.  

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

When I was in high school, I wrote a paper about my dream job of being a back-up singer for Lyle Lovett. That dream still stands.

He was such a huge influence for me as a songwriter. I really love being in supportive, collaborative roles and I feel like I’m a great harmony singer and team player.

I’m a huge fan of the group The Wailin’ Jennys and would love to work with them. I also would love to work on the new Sara Bareilles musical, “ Waitress,” which is based on such a moving film for me.

Not to mention she is one of the best piano player/singer/songwriters in the biz! Hopefully she won’t need too much therapy when she’s older!

I guess she’ll be able to write her own songs or life stories.