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Local band to play the Plum

Jennifer Sprouse • May 29, 2012 at 9:50 PM

As 39 bands prepare to take one of the four stages at the Blue Plum Festival this weekend, one local band will get a new view of the downtown festivities from their place on the Market Street Stage.

The members of Untold Empire, a band comprised of Cameron Tate and Eric Vaughn from Kingsport, and David Nipper and Brad Clay from Johnson City, said their music journey has taken off in a way they never imagined in such a short time.

Nipper and Tate had played a show together 1½ years ago and were equally impressed with each others’ sounds, so they started having jam sessions in Tate’s garage.

It wasn’t long after that Vaughn, a friend Tate had been playing music with for four to five years, joined the band. Clay, a longtime friend of Nipper, was the most recent member, officially joining the band in January.

“It kind of just worked out ... pretty perfectly how we all met,” Nipper said. “We kind of get to merge our different styles and create something new.”

The band’s sound has been compared to mainstream groups such as The Fray or The Script, and they said their songs are a unique blend of sounds they’ve each picked up individually along the way.

“Our backgrounds and our influences are so ... sporadic. They’re just all over the place,” Vaughn said. “When we write, there’s little touches and influences of all kinds of stuff in there.”

Tate said the band has a mix of 20 songs that they play regularly and about 15 they are still perfecting.

Nipper said four songs the crowd can count on hearing at the festival, include “Start Over Again,” “Break Into Pieces,” “We’re All The Same” and “Hurt For You.”

The band has also worked with Matt Mahaffey at Fresh Imperial recording studio in Franklin, where they were able to lay down some of their music.

“He’s (Mahaffey) originally from Kingsport and kind of blew up on his own,” Clay said. “He played guitar for Beck, worked for Lupe Fiasco, Pink.”

The band said while recording was an exhausting, all encompassing, creative process, they were happy with their end product.

“It’s probably the most exciting part for me, because we will go in with what we think is the song, and ... we get in and we start digging and it becomes something else,” Vaughn said. “Every band writes a song and they’re proud of it and they’ll play it over and over, but when they start to change that song up and they realize that so much more can be done, it’s just a process of evolving into who you can really be.”

He said the collaboration and friendship between his band mates has made the recording, writing and creative process so much easier.

Even though the band enjoys playing in music outlets throughout the Tri-Cities, it has slowly been inching toward something they call a “risk worth taking” –– a move to Music City.

For months the band members have kept quiet, even to their closest friends, about their potential move, but have now confirmed they will be moving to Nashville on July 1.

Nipper said it wasn’t any easy decision to make and the move, while stressful at times, feels like the right thing to do to further their music career.

“I want our music to hit people like it’s hit us,” he said. “Not necessarily our music, but the way that music just affects our lives too.”

Vaughn said the band will be living together and will be focusing their attention on completing their album.

Aside from recording music in Nashville, the band has already been exposed to the Nashville music scene, playing at The National Underground, owned by recording artist Gavin DeGraw.

The band said another exciting venture that will be under way in July, is the filming of their first music video by Jeffrey Moore with Axtravaganza Films. According to the band, one of Moore’s videos was nominated for Best Music Video of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards and that he found out about Untold Empire through word of mouth.

While the band already performs local shows at places like The Accoustic Coffehouse, Capone’s and O’Mainnin’s Pub & Grille in Bristol, they are eager to play at the Plum and to connect with their local fan base.

“It’ll definitely be cool just doing something that I’ve always gone to while I’ve been here,” Nipper said. “It’s just kind of part of Johnson City in June.”

Untold Empire sits right in the middle of the other six acts playing at the Market Street Stage on Saturday, being scheduled to perform from 3:45-4:30 p.m.

For more on Untold Empire, visit www.untoldempireband.com and for information on the other music acts scheduled for the festival, visit www.blueplum.org.

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