6 Feet Apart

Rachael Penn and Ward Chandler's new incarnation performs for Seco Live

Posted 6/12/20

Social distancing has affected the music community in numerous negative ways. But, it has, at times, served as inspiration.

Such is the case with 6 Feet Apart, a new band formed (and named) in response to social-distancing measures. This new Taos band features singer, violinist and banjo player Rachael Penn and singer and guitarist Ward Chandler.

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6 Feet Apart

Rachael Penn and Ward Chandler's new incarnation performs for Seco Live

Posted

Social distancing has affected the music community in numerous negative ways. But, it has, at times, served as inspiration.

Such is the case with 6 Feet Apart, a new band formed (and named) in response to social-distancing measures. This new Taos band features singer, violinist and banjo player Rachael Penn and singer and guitarist Ward Chandler.

The two musicians had met at the Taos Inn's open mics before COVID-19 shut down live music. A few weeks into the shutdown, Penn reached out to Chandler to see if he might play music with her while maintaining the six feet apart from each other necessary for social distancing.

Chandler agreed, and the two began playing music together. They quickly found that they had something good going on, and named their band appropriately.

On Wednesday (June 17) from 7 to 8 p.m. Seco Live presents 6 Feet Apart for their Taos "Stay at Home" live music series. Tune in at the Arroyo Seco Live Inc. Facebook page, facebook.com/arroyosecolive.

This will be the first public concert that 6 Feet Apart has performed. And, Penn and Chandler plan to broadcast their performance from a beautiful field with a view of Taos Mountain.

6 Feet Apart features sweet vocals and harmonies with strong finger-style and flat-picking guitar and fiddle. The duo plans to play a mix of slow ballads, fiddle tunes and cover songs from artists including John Prine, June Carter, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Kacey Musgraves and Bob Dylan.

I caught up with Penn and Chandler by email and phone to find out more about their backgrounds and new project.

Tell me a little bit about your musical background.

Penn: I grew up singing, dancing and playing the violin. I was classically trained on violin and viola through my high school music program and from private lessons with a member of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. In college, I developed a hunger for songwriting, improvisation and traditional world music.

When I moved to Taos, I spent many years writing songs, but my love of playing with other musicians was what motivated me to pick up my violin again. Wanting to accompany other players, I learned how to play improvisation, which led me to join a few bands and eventually encounter other musicians who sparked my interest in traditional fiddle styles. I have been studying with David Bragger, of the Old-Time Tiki Parlour, since September 2016, and have been learning both Appalachian fiddle and banjo and very recently gourd banjo.

Chandler: I discovered the guitar at five years of age and it has been my loyal companion ever since. My parents loved music, and although neither played an instrument, they supported my desire to play from that young age forward. It's been a constant joy throughout my life.

How long have you two been playing together?

Penn: We occasionally played a few tunes together at Kate and Billy's Medicine Show, but it wasn't until COVID-19 when we started putting a project together.

What do you enjoy about playing music with each other?

Penn: I knew Ward was a great singer and guitar player from the open mic, but I didn't really know the depth and range of his guitar skills, from finger-style to bluegrass flat-picking, until we started putting 6 Feet Apart together. He has a sweet, warm singing voice and an incredible repertoire of songs.

All of this allows us to do a very wide range of arrangements, everything from him leading a tune with me joining on vocal harmonies and violin, to the reverse with me singing and him accompanying, with songs ranging from sweet ballads, to rock 'n' roll, old traditional songs, vocal duets and down and dirty country. He is also a fabulous old-time fiddle accompanist. And we will be playing a few bluegrass instrumentals.

Chandler: I met Rachael at the Taos Inn open mic nights and I loved her playing and singing. She's a very talented player and singer so it was exciting for me to get the chance to start playing with her as this lockdown period started to ease. Most of the songs we do are from a library I know - so she has had a very fast ramp-up for these tunes. She's a fast learner - a great natural player with a great ear.

Who came up with the name 6 Feet Apart?

Chandler: I'm really not sure - it just sort of fell into place and we both liked it. Now we have to decide if we want to add a third player and have the double entendre of six feet, or just be four feet, six feet apart. It's a lot of math. Fortunately, Rachael is a bookkeeper and has it covered.

Rachael Penn is also a music teacher and available for Skype violin lessons. She can be reached at rachaelp7777@gmail.com. To reach 6 Feet Apart, visit facebook.com/6FeetApartTaos. Both musicians would like to give a shoutout to John Henderson and Arroyo Seco Live for organizing the "Stay at Home" series.

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