The Gilpin Railroad Incident are bringing Mainers — from The County to the coast — to their feet, as such events tend to do. Fear not, gentle reader; they’re not gawking at a train wreck. Music lovers just want to know where they can buy a copy of the GRI’s debut CD, “What It Is.”
Brad Radley of Orland has been making music since he was a boy; as a man, he still wanted someone to play with. “Chris Soper and I had just ended a cover band a few years ago. We wrote a couple of songs and were playing acoustics for fun,” he said. “It became a way to express ourselves.”
Then in 2007 the two guitarists, whose skills honor the memory of Duane Allman, called their buddy Becky Bowden, whose bass riffs are as smooth as chocolate, to join them on a wild odyssey, in which they aimed to write and play their own songs.
Along their journey, they asked Aimee Hopkins and her keyboards, songwriter and drummer Jamie Moore and finally lead singer Jennifer Nittolo to hop aboard. By summer 2008, they were recording, editing and mixing all 11 of their songs at My Thrill Studio in Winterport.
After surviving a grueling, yet exhilarating, 16 months at the studio, the album was mastered and produced at Klarity Multimedia in Vassalboro. Radley said he is “happy with the CD. I’m glad to have it done, even though it was a lot longer process than we thought it would be.”
On the live scene, “we’re very lucky to stay busy. There are not a lot of original bands in the area,” Radley said. “But it’s very satisfying to get out those inner feelings. The songs are about how we deal with life. It’s my therapy; special songs like ‘Always Be’ inspire me.”
“It’s pretty cool — a little Orland band puts out an album,” said Bowden, who also has been a music maven for years. “Despite some hurdles and setbacks, including our day jobs, we’ve done what we wanted to do. Now we want to be the most famous opening band for any kind of music.”
Chris Soper echoes his band mates’ delight with the CD. “This idea started with Brad and I sitting on a log laughing about our acoustic band,” he mused. “Now here we are writing, recording and playing the music we created, living a dream — small as it is right now — and having a blast showing the world what Gilpin is all about.
“The thing that inspires my music and writing is the reaction we get from a song from different people,” Soper said. “It’s total satisfaction when your words make a difference in someone else’s life, and their reactions tell everything you need.”
Another fortuitous event happened for the GRI during a spring 2007 gig in Bucksport. Keyboard player Hopkins was back in town after having lived in Massachusetts for 20 years. The band wasted no time enlisting the veteran pianist and organist to join them after she heard them play at Tozier’s II.
“The band started playing and after a few minutes I was mesmerized, dying to get up on that stage and jam with these guys. I was smitten,” Hopkins recalled.
Playing in this band “means a chance to do something important with our music, maybe make someone laugh, cry or be moved in some way,” she said. Hopkins heightens the drama in “Watching Over Me,” as she coaxes her keyboard to simulate snowfall “at 2 o’clock on a February morning.”
The GRI shares their career milestone with their families and especially the Train Gang, a loyal group of Bucksport-area boosters who Bowden says are “an extension of the band. They have volunteered to help us with anything from early on.”
One particularly devoted fan actually scouted the GRI’s new lead singer Nittolo, who makes the GRI’s songs her own, from the sexy, sultry “Right Back at You” to the irreverent and playful “My Other Half.”
“Joining this band is one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” she said. “I really love to sing ‘That’s My Home,’ because of its groove and fun, homey message. ‘Always Be’ gets me every time, and the harmonies are amazing.”
Over the coming winter, the GRI will be writing more new material while also playing some covers, songs made famous by other artists, “to show that we know how to play them,” said Alabama native Moore, who spiced up the band with his Southern rock and soul experience and his expertise in phrasing. “I get wound up every single time when people sing our songs back at us,” he said, “and ‘Right Back at You’ gives me chill bumps.”
To experience the music for yourself, just take a ride on the GRI. For more information on how to reach the band, buy their CD or find venues where you can see them perform live, check out http://www.myspace.com/gilpinrailroadincident.