Columbia, S.C., is slightly more than an ocean away from his native Liverpool, England, yet guitarist Keith Thomas of the rock group Treehouse says living in that state’s capital, away from his wife and child, is worth the sacrifice.
Unable to carve a niche and feeling musically out of place in Liverpool, Thomas and singer-guitarist Peter Riley, bassist Paul O’Brien and drummer Abe Juckes packed their bags last summer to pursue success in the United States.
It began with a series of gigs in Southern California, including the venerable Whisky A-Go-Go. Eventually, a copy of their self-released album “Nobody’s Monkey” landed in the hands of Hootie & the Blowfish’s fledgling Breaking Records, which made the quartet its first signing. After serving as the opening act on Hootie’s extensive European tour in December, they moved into a house in Columbia near Breaking’s offices.
“Nobody’s Monkey” was released in April, and now Treehouse is opening for fellow Columbia resident Edwin McCain.
Treehouse, Thomas said, feels right at home in Columbia. Their searing, soulful songs – and a slew of heartland instruments, such as Thomas’ mandolin and Riley’s banjo – have a rural feel, but with just a twinge of Liverpool pop to keep them honest.
“It’s not like we sat down and said, ‘Let’s make this radio-friendly and U.S.A. friendly,’ ” Thomas said. “This was always the way we sounded. We felt like outsiders in Liverpool, in a way. England’s a very narrow market, especially Liverpool. There are literally thousands of good bands there, but they’re all biting at the same bisquit, trying to get a hold of the same piece. We never really sounded like any other band there.”
Not that they didn’t have their supporters back home. The local radio station regularly played tracks off “Nobody’s Monkey” and the group had a sizable following, but the lure to the United States was too strong.
“We all miss home from time to time,” Thomas said, “especially when we have a day off and we’re sitting in a hotel somewhere. That’s when your brain starts working too much, especially when you have family.
“It’s really hard being away from my wife and kid, but you’ve just got to put it behind you. This is what I want to do, and they support me. There’s no use in turning back now. There are millions of people in bands back in Liverpool who would love to be where we are, so I’m counting my blessings.”
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