Becca Bessinger and George Stevens of Americana duo The Letter Show are on the same wavelength.
It’s something they realized more than a decade ago, when Stevens put out a job description on Craigslist searching for a musician, and Bessinger answered.
“It was immediately like, yeah, this is my kind of person,” Stevens told the Charleston City Paper. “We instantly just kind of clicked on a personal level … and we got really excited about the songs that the other one was sharing.”
On July 21, The Letter Show dropped its new EP Amber and Gold, the group’s first recording in 10 years. The four-song project melds classic Americana sound with elements of blues, featuring guitar riffs that range from twangy to delicately picked. The musicians sing solo or engage in gentle harmony, their honeyed voices taking on a grittiness at times.
Bessinger and Stevens each wrote two songs on Amber and Gold. The musicians typically create songs independently then present them for input, knowing the other person will deeply study the song before providing suggestions.
“We both do our homework,” Bessinger said. “I am a complete perfectionist. … George is absolutely incredible and can produce anything kind of on the fly — but he doesn’t do that, he cares enough to do something meaningful and not just throw stuff down.”
Mutual respect and admiration forms the foundation of the relationship between Bessinger and Stevens, and they also share a similar musical ethos, in terms of both inspiration and what creating art means to them.
“George and I both do a lot of story songs,” Bessinger said.
“My approach is to seek a little observation or some interesting thought. And then from there, I like to extrapolate, build a story around it,” Stevens agreed.
Neither artist is interested in being overtly political in their songwriting. They see the creative process as being a protected space where they don’t have to dwell in the muck of the chaotic world.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Bessinger is actively invested in the issues and policies that surround her everyday existence, but when it comes to music, it’s a chance to be creative without pressure.
“I don’t know how I do it, because I let [the state of affairs] affect me tremendously. It weighs on me terribly, and I have gotten pretty bogged down at times,” she said.
Stevens brought up artists like Bob Dylan, whose music often contained aspects of activism and protest.
“It’s so cool to think about the fact that it mattered, and it really got a rise out of people and inspired change, but for me personally, I just want to write about the little moments,” he said.
Bessinger said she feels similarly: “Anybody who writes songs out of protest and gets people motivated, I appreciate them and what they do so, so very much,” she said, “but I’m with George — it’s sort of like a coping mechanism to not do that with my art. I suffer over it in other parts of my life, and so with art, I want to keep that for myself in a sort of selfish way.”
The Letter Show has found sure footing in the brewery scene in Charleston, and the band is celebrating the release of its new EP at Park Circle’s Winds and Waves Brewing on July 22. It’s easy to see how the emotive, acoustic nature of the duo’s music is well-suited to outdoor gatherings.
Along with the release of Amber and Gold, The Letter Show is looking toward establishing new relationships in the scene, a community they have found, at times, somewhat closed-off.
“We’re not playing cool kid music, you know what I’m saying?” Stevens said. “And I don’t think I’ve ever been interested in that. We’re playing music that we love, and I think it’s great. But with the pocket that we’re in, it’s more of that kind of folk songwriter realm, that’s not necessarily getting booked at clubs.”
Bessinger admitted that while being a woman in the music industry has its difficulties, the issues she has faced have not necessarily been more evident in the scene than they are in her daily life.
“I would say they have been multiplied by the fact that I am a gay woman,” she said. “I, like most women, have often been underestimated and condescended to, and as a result, I constantly question my own worth. But these experiences have been countered by many great men, in music and in life, who have collaborated with and supported me. George included.”
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