Music News & Reviews

‘Something felt special from the first note’ — Lexington band’s first year ends in debut record

Magnolia Boulevard is (L to R) Todd Copeland on drums, Gregg Erwin on lead guitar, Ryan Allen on keys, Maggie Noelle on lead vocals and John Roberts on bass.
Magnolia Boulevard is (L to R) Todd Copeland on drums, Gregg Erwin on lead guitar, Ryan Allen on keys, Maggie Noelle on lead vocals and John Roberts on bass. Kim Blackburn photography

Since forming in early 2017, Magnolia Boulevard hasn’t had much time to relax.

The Lexington rock, blues, and jam band has quickly captivated fans with the combination of Maggie Noelle’s powerhouse vocals and guitarist Gregg Erwin’s jaw-dropping six-string storytelling, performing a handful of headlining shows around Lexington while also getting their feet wet playing at some of the region’s up-and-coming festivals.

“Playing with this group, something felt special from the first note,” said drummer Todd Copeland. “It’s been effortless, like finding a bunch of random puzzle pieces and having them fit together perfectly.”

One of those puzzle pieces was Duane Lundy of Shangri-la Productions, who reached out to the band about collaborating last July after hearing buzz about them from other area musicians, notably Joslyn & The Sweet Compression guitarist Marty Charters.

“Anytime there is a positive vibe between other bands and musicians, it generally indicates that something is worth checking out,” Lundy said.

Upon meeting, Lundy admits being taken aback by how much fun the group — comprised of the aforementioned Noelle on lead vocals, Erwin on guitar, Copeland on drums, Ryan Allen on keys, and John Roberts on bass — was having. Both he and the band described the recording process as organic, despite each artist’s varying studio experience. Add to that Roberts' fresh presence, having only been playing with the group for just over a month at the time of recording.

While most of the members of Magnolia Boulevard had some recording experience, Noelle had none, leading her to feel equal parts nervous and intimidated teaming with Lundy, who has worked with a long list of artists including Vandaveer, Miles Nielsen, Justin Wells and Ringo Starr.

However, for Erwin, the experience presented other challenges, which in turn have helped to tighten both the band’s bond and collective sound.

“We took a lot away [from working with Duane] as a band as far as playing together after recording that because in [his] studio you’re isolated, you’re wearing headphones and in separate rooms,” Erwin said. “In most studios you have a line of vision [with bandmates], so with that gone you have to rely on what you know as a band and trust each other. Since recording, I feel like we’ve grabbed another gear and only grown closer as a band.”

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Honing in on their sound with Lundy also provided the group the chance to tighten their songs into more compact bursts suitable for recordings and radio play rather than their traditional ten minute, jam-filled barn burners. The group now utilizes landmarks in their songs as points of entry and return for jams and solos, providing structure while not infringing upon the group’s trademark improvisation. That flexibility came in recently during Magnolia Boulevard’s performance at Willcutt Guitars’ 50 year anniversary celebration for a set that featured extended jams, cookie cutter songs and a sit-in from legendary studio guitarist Brent Mason.

What’s been a whirlwind year of opportunity and discovery for Magnolia Boulevard will become even more chaotic with the release of the band's debut, self-titled EP on May 25 with a celebratory show at The Burl. It will follow up with a festival schedule that includes the 25th annual Master Musicians Festival in Somerset, Virginia’s FloydFest and the newly located and re-dated Moonshiner’s Ball.

“We have grown closer together and have gotten to be more comfortable with sharing what we love to do most, playing music,” said Noelle.

"We share ideas and compromise very easily with each other, which is hard to do with anyone, let alone a group of people. They are whole hearted part of my family now — my brothers. I can't imagine playing music with anyone else.”

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Magnolia Boulevard

What: Magnolia Boulevard EP Release with Joslyn & The Sweet Compression and Zach Longoria Project

When: 9 p.m. May 25

Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road

Tickets: $12 pre-sale, $15 day of show,