Back in 2007, local musician David Childers decided he'd had enough of touring life and figured it was time to hang up his guitar. After nearly two decades, he had had enough of the road and no longer wanted the stress of performing that had taken a toll on his health.
Around the same time, The Avett Brothers' bassist Bob Crawford, who was a fan of Childers, heard the news and hoped it wasn't true. He called Childers up and the two bonded over stories of American history and music. While Childers was burned out, he also told Crawford he wanted to keep writing. Crawford suggested that if he sent him lyrics, he'd write the music.
That series of correspondence, along with sporadic meetings to perform together, write, rehearse and record, have led to the formation of a new band, Overmountain Men. While the band's debut disc, Glorious Day, is being released on Jan. 26 through Concord's Ramseur Records, there's more (and less) to the story.
The new band doesn't mean Childers is getting his road shoes back on to tour. It also doesn't mean Crawford's Avett Brothers days are over. Instead, what could be considered a side project or avocation has taken shape and, as long as it remains fun, it will keep going for the foreseeable future.
"I said, 'Keep it [any shows] in Charlotte, once a month and only on the weekends so it doesn't interfere with my work,' and I'm happy with that," Childers says by phone from his Mount Holly home. "It's not like I'm coming out of retirement. These once a month things are fun. Right before the gig, I'm glad I have it. The next day, I'm glad I don't have to do it again for another month."
Both Childers and Crawford see the group as a collaborative effort that will happen as long as it doesn't feel like a job. When Crawford can't perform with the band -- he will be at the Jan. 26 CD release party -- because of his obligations with The Avett Brothers, Bill Noonan will step in. Childers' son Robert, who is also in 2013 Wolves, is the band's drummer and his former Don Juans compadre Randy Saxon is on guitar. Other band members include Geoffrey White on fiddle.
"Performing takes a lot out of you," Childers says. "I try to put everything I've got into it, but I'm 58 years old and not in the greatest health. It takes its toll. My heart goes out to musicians, especially the traveling ones. You see the big guys making a lot of money, but there are so many thousands playing these little places with dreams that something will come of it. That's how I was for a long time."
For now, Childers, who got out of retirement thanks to Crawford and his son, says he'll play the gigs and make new records when there's time. Crawford will perform when he can and get together as time allows for writing and recording. At this point, Childers' main focus is on his law practice, though he wouldn't hesitate to be in a band full time if that's the way he could make a living. His hopes on that point, however, remain pessimistic.
"There aren't that many people that want to hear it. I know, because I tried," he says. "It would be great if we'd sell four or five million copies and get songs in movies and get signed to Columbia, but that ain't gonna happen."
Crawford is happy to provide Childers with an outlet to write, his own outlet for writing music and an outlet to perform with Childers and his son. He compared performing with David Childers to being in a gig with Springsteen -- sharing the stage with a performer in his mid-50s who was carrying the youngsters on his musical shoulders.
The two have established a friendship in the last few years, something that's based as much on American history as the music itself. The band's name, Overmountain Men, comes from those who battled at Kings Mountain during the Revolutionary War.
While Childers' band the Modern Don Juans was more of a rock 'n' roll bar band, Overmountain Men is closer to the Avett Brothers in its vein of American music. It gives Childers the chance to showcase his poetic lyrics. He also enjoys getting to perform on a less stressful basis, knowing there are people who enjoy it.
"I've been very moved by the way people have been ... I've felt a lot of appreciation, love and respect," Childers says. "I don't know if I deserve it or not, but I've been very grateful."
Crawford notes there are a few songs on the album without guitar for the purpose of showcasing Childers' talent.
"My goal initially was that I was going to make music for David Childers' voice," he says. "I wanted to pull him out of the bar band. There's always been a bar band background, but I wanted to do songs with him where there's no guitar -- 'Leaving England' and 'Coney Island Express.' I don't think there's ever been a David Childers song that sounds like 'Leaving England.' It feels very fresh."
Crawford knows he has strong obligations with The Avett Brothers and his family -- his daughter is only a few months old. If it comes down to Crawford only contributing a bass track for the recorded version of the band, he'll be happy the ball is rolling and Childers is getting to write and sing.
"A lot of it is David's writing and my belief in David and knowing his greatness and wanting to share it with the world. If he heard me say that, he'd probably get mad," Crawford says with a laugh. "A lot of it is being able to spend time with him, Rob, Randy and the rest of the guys."
As for the future of the band, again, Crawford says, the goal remains clear.
"We're doing this because we want to," he says. "As long as we can keep it fun -- there's no shortage of songs, there's no shortage of ideas, there's no shortage of love to do it. The minute it's a chore or the minute it's not fun, it doesn't need to exist. We're doing this because we can. We're not going to become millionaires doing it. We're alive, now let's have fun."
Overmountain Men will hold a CD release party at Snug Harbor on Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5-$7.