An Interview With Paint Branch Creek

Paint Branch Creek band music Hyattsville College Park

Photo courtesy Paint Branch Creek

Paint Branch Creek is getting ready for the big time.

The local Americana band has been playing at backyard barbecues, venues like Robert Harper Books and the Old Parish House in College Park.

Now, with its first CD on the way, they will be playing at MilkBoy ArtHouse at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday. (Advance tickets available for $10 here.) A regional tour is planned for later in the year.

If you haven’t seen Paint Branch Creek live, it’s worth going. Their music has a soulful vibe, making even original compositions sound like long-forgotten songs from the past.

Their debut album, “Original Americana in My Soul Down Deep,” will come out in April. (Pre-order here.)

The Hyattsville Wire checked in with the band recently.

1. How did you guys meet?

Eric Maring and Greg Heelan have been musical collaborators for twenty years. Over that time, Eric has made four major recordings — his 2001 debut solo release Birdsong (praised as one of the top local releases of the year by the Washington Post); his 2004 release Penguins Rock the World!; and his collaborative efforts with Jawbone (Amikaeyla, Eric, and Greg Heelan) including the exuberant and highly acclaimed all-ages record Holy Guacamole! Eric and Greg have played venues and festivals across the D.C. region.

Patrick Lynch, Allison Hughes, Arun Ivatury, and Eric Olson all live in the same College Park neighborhood (Calvert Hills) with Eric Maring. We — and our children — are all friends, and our families all do a lot together.

Our musical collaboration grew out of our common friendship. Backyard fire pit sing-alongs and potluck dinner conversations led to many things, including collaboration on annual community concerts at the Old Parish House — Irish Music for St Patrick’s Day, tributes to Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, among other community concerts. These concerts are also part of Eric Maring’s education of young musicians – he includes his students in the shows.

Eric Olson started sharing lyrics with Eric Maring in 2015. For two years, we put in many late nights putting words to music, sometimes joined by one or more of the others. Each musician in the group has taken the lead on writing music to different songs.

2. What are your day jobs?

Eric Maring (known as “Mr. M” by kids and families in the area) is an early childhood music educator, including at the University of Maryland’s Center for Young Children.

Greg Heelan is a general contractor in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Lynch works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Allison Hughes is a singer, director, and music teacher in College Park.  She directs the 55-member College Park Chorale, and maintains a private teaching studio.

Arun Ivatury is Policy Director of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Washington, DC.

Eric Olson is Executive Director of the College Park City-University Partnership, and a former member of the Prince George’s County Council.

3. How long has the band been together?

It has been an evolving band for the past several years. Eric Maring, Greg Heelan, and Patrick Lynch had been playing together as a trio in recent years, and Allison Hughes and Arun Ivatury had also been part of the community concerts. But the band including everyone wasn’t fully formed until this summer.

4. How did the album come together?

We spent a lot of time this fall at Eric Maring’s family farm in Gettysburg, recording demo material in the barn. We are up to 40 songs – so we have a lot to work with for a first album and plenty for the future. We are going into the studio this month to record.

5. How are you planning on promoting it? Any tour planned?

We are looking forward to playing locally and regionally — established venues, house concerts, and also taking the show on the road. We have a lot of family and friends up the East Coast and we are plotting a way to hit the road later this year.

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