By Gina Malone
Musicians Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller, known collectively as Zoe & Cloyd, have just released their third studio album, I Am Your Neighbor. The two met in 2005 playing at jams and pick-up gigs in Asheville. They hail from opposite ends of the Appalachian Mountains: Natalya from Massachusetts and John from North Carolina.
“We come from very different musical backgrounds,” Weinstein says. “I was raised studying classical violin. My Mom played violin, my dad plays jazz piano and my grandfather was a professional klezmer musician. John also comes from a musical family; he is the grandson of pioneering bluegrass fiddler, songwriter and singer Jim Shumate.” Their differences, the two musicians found, produced the “New Appalachian Music” sound that they take to performances and festivals across the country.
Miller describes their music as the result of the diverse influences and backgrounds each bring to the pairing. “It’s a reflection of our own lives and the times we live in, but often with a nod to the past as well,” he says. “I think it would be hard to write music that isn’t influenced by the place we live and what we see every day. I’m a WNC native and my music certainly reflects that. There’s bluegrass, old-time and blues in there, as well as a dash of rock and Americana influence.” Their talents are complementary, Natalya adds. “John is more of a singer and I’m more of an instrumentalist, but we’ve really helped each other expand our skill sets. I would never be singing and writing songs if it weren’t for John!”
Miller was the 2013 winner of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and is an Artist Fellowship recipient for songwriting through the North Carolina Arts Council.
Two of the songs on the new album, Zisa Meydele and Berditchever Sher, make use of the klezmer music they have been exploring in the last few years. Other songs on the album, they say, reflect their “songwriter” style and bluegrass influences. “We write a lot of our own material, but we try to stay rooted in tradition,” Weinstein says. “I think that people who enjoy American roots music and folk styles are especially drawn to us. Our songs often address current issues and we strive for an emotional connection with the listener.”
I Am Your Neighbor was released in September on Organic Records, and is available at ZoeAndCloyd.com. A concert will be held Saturday, February 15, at Black Mountain Center for the Arts. Tickets are available at BlackMountainArts.org.