Rachel Kate Gillon is under the impression that she has a tendency of telling really dumb, irrelevant stories. Those are her exact words.
“I’ll end up telling like, five stories before I realize that none of them made any sense to anyone,” she says.
But Joel T. Hamilton, her musical partner for the Unchained Tour, disagrees.
“Rachel’s stories are great,” he says. “If there’s one reason to come, it’s to hear Rachel’s stories.”
Fortunately, neither she nor Hamilton are under the same kind of pressure to prove themselves as orators as, say, Peter Aguero (see story on page 20), one of the tour’s official raconteurs. The City Paper hasn’t been privy to one of Gillon’s drawn-out tales, but we can commend both her and Hamilton for being some of Charleston’s favorite lyricists, and that’s what they’re on this tour for: the musical entertainment.
The pair was playing together in a Savannah coffee shop, Unchained’s home base, when they were spotted by Samita Wolfe, and she liked what she saw. It was a completely unplanned appearance for Gillon, and now she and Hamilton are on the tour. Oddly enough, they’re taking the slot over from another Charleston band, Shovels and Rope.
Gillon and Hamilton will play a couple of sets throughout the show, breaking up some of the storytelling action, or spicing it up, as they say. “I think that we’re going to be figuring it out as we go,” Hamilton says of their setlist. “It’s kind of a question mark.” They both have a shortlist of five or six songs they’ll draw from, depending on what feels right at each of the venues, whether it’s the Charleston Music Hall or Savannah’s Knights of Columbus Hall, reflecting the mood and respecting the spaces. Gillon and Hamilton have something special planned for the Charleston show, but it’s a surprise.
Gillon sees the tour as a new kind of challenge for herself. “I think it’s fun to explore venues and situations that I’m not typically used to playing in,” she says. “I think that’s exciting. Maybe [there’ll be] some self discovery of some sort. What do you think, Joel?”
“I think it’s going to be a cool opportunity to meet fantastic people,” he adds. “One of the things that [Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst] had experienced and passed along to me, I remember when they were doing these tours they’d tell me about Edgar [Oliver, one of the storytellers] and all these other people on the tour that were so awesome and all their amazing stories. And even if they told the same story twice, it didn’t matter. It was just as good the second time as the first time and slightly different and exciting.”
And they’re not intimidated by the international celebrity of some of the other performers, specifically Neil Gaiman. “I hope to have a lot of deep conversations with him,” Gillon says. “I feel like he’s a good person to talk to when you’re confused in your mid-20s.”
They hope there will be a lot of sharing among the riders (“Sharing’s the shit,” as they both agree). Hamilton plans to start a road-trip game, that one where you’re going to grandma’s house and you need to bring something for each letter of the alphabet — you know, I’ll bring an apple, Hamilton brings a bar stool, Gillon brings cat nip.
“I’m excited about being in that 50-year-old bus and it breaks down and having an adventure with a bunch of people that I don’t really know that are most likely fantastic,” Hamilton says.
Maybe Gillon will get a good story out of it.