Honey and Blue Make Their Musical Mark

February is a cold, cold month here on the north coast. Most people are hunkered down somewhere indoors, save for your skiers and other winter sport aficionados. It is certainly a little out of the norm to see any kind of outdoor gatherings, let alone a festival. Wait, festival? Here? In Cleveland? Uh, yeah. The Brite Winter Festival entered its 11th consecutive year and is dotted with various food trucks, ice carving demos, and of course the highlight of the event, the music.

Located on the west bank of Flats in downtown Cleveland, OH, the one-day Brite Winter event features three separate stages outdoors along with various smaller acts performing indoors. With the acts changing every hour, there is plenty of music to experience with something for nearly everyone. Still, it was just one band in particular that caught my attention that afternoon, and let me just say, it was difficult not to hang onto every note.

My aimless steps on the 45-degree, unseasonably warm afternoon took me to one of the three stages down a short side street. After being impressed with the Cleveland School of Rock moments earlier, I was still looking for a little less rowdy and smoother-edged performance. A group out of Columbus, Ohio calling themselves Honey and Blue was to be the next band up. Were they rock? Were they pop? Blues? R&B? Yes. To all of that the answer is yes.

With a roster that is five members strong, Honey and Blue’s diverse sound is delivered partially by the gritty guitar and smoky vocals of co-founder Adam Darling. Standing at stage left in front of bassist Dwight Bailey (who we’ll get to in just a moment), Darling commands his teal electric guitar through a flawless delivery as drummer Willie B lays down a supporting rhythm on drums. Not to be forgotten is David Swank helming the keyboard, whose jazz-flavored ivory notes add yet another impressive layer to the group’s artistry.

The aforementioned Bailey eventually nabbed the spotlight in one of the sickest bass guitar solos my ears have ever had the luxury of digesting. Don’t just take my word for it as the amassing crowd started cheering and clapping in impromptu unison at Bailey’s handy work. The four-string maestro wasn’t done as he would knock it out again later on in the set and with no less adrenaline than before.

Still, a band is not a band without someone who can hold their own vocally. Lead singer duties for Honey and Blue are taken on by none other than ‘Honey’ herself, Stephanie Amber. Originally from New York City, the smooth flow of Amber’s lyrics is magnetic if nothing else. At first audible glance, her voice graces the festival attendees with a vibrant rhythm and blues persona. Not denying a chance of being vocally diverse, Amber can also seamlessly alternate to a pop vibe at the microphone without missing a beat. Honey and Blue is, at the very least, an example of a brilliant marriage of musical talent. At its best, it is a band that accomplished in the recording studio and is simply invigorating live.

There are arguably two levels of someone who gets on stage. There is conducting your craft, then there is performing your craft. Stephanie Amber doesn’t merely sing just as Adam Darling doesn’t just play the guitar. Every member of Honey and Blue delivers each note of their music with an emotion that is undeniably felt by the audience. They are performers. They are performers in the studio because that energy comes through on their albums. They are performers because the moment they walk on stage they have every audience member’s undivided attention and never let go of it.

Needless to say, this quintet is fully invested in their craft. Honey and Blue, the name referring to co-founders Stephanie Amber and Adam Darling, seem to be a group that refuses to let the grass grow under their feet. After recently completing an east coast tour, the band will be releasing their third studio album in late March titled Bloom.

I had the chance to speak to lead singer Stephanie Amber about the album, its creation process and what’s next for the band.

WSB: Hi Stephanie!  It’s been a few days since my first exposure to Honey and Blue and it’s a high I’m still trying to come off of.  Can you tell me about the band’s experience at the frigid but fun Brite Winter Festival in Cleveland?

SA: First off, thank you so much for your kindness and enthusiasm! We had a blast at Brite Winter Festival! To be honest, once the music starts you completely forget about the weather and just feed off the amazing energy that Cleveland produces. Brite Winter has an incredible team and they all truly go above and beyond to make sure every musician has a wonderful (and warm) experience.

WSB: When you and fellow bandmate Adam Darling sit down to write a song, where do you draw your inspiration from?

SA: This is always such an interesting question to answer, primarily because every song’s inspiration is slightly different. We always write from experience. Sometimes it’s something that has happened to us personally, sometimes it’s something that has affected someone we love. The most important thing to us is that it’s honest.

WSB: What comes first, the lyrics or the song title?

SA: Lyrics are king! The song title is usually out of necessity and reveals itself once the core of the song is there.

WSB: You mentioned in a previous interview that you have found more creativity living in Columbus, Ohio than you had in your time in L.A. or New York. Why do you think that is?

SA: In Columbus we have had significantly more opportunities to perform and grow in front of an audience than ever before. There is something magical about this city’s love of live music. It forces you to want to be better and give more of yourself. It doesn’t hurt that the cost of living allows for more time to create.

WSB: On March 26th, Honey and Blue’s third studio album, Bloom, gets released. How did all of you approach this effort and how does it differ from your second album, All the Feels?

SA: Bloom is much more of a collaborative effort. This album is not just our voices this time around. It’s the voice of a team. All the Feels was more of an experimental album; we were finding our sound and identity. That experimentation allowed us to really hone in on what types of music really brings us the most joy. If an album is a time stamp of where an artist is in their career, Bloom is where we are today.

WSB: Was the birth of Bloom an organic scenario or was it more of a case of someone in the band saying, “Hey it’s time we make another record”?

SA: We knew we had a body of work that we’re really proud of and wanted to create a new album to showcase it. The title song ‘Bloom’ was one of the last songs to be written and it truly felt like the perfect title for our third album. This album is completely about growth. We have blossomed as a group and as individuals.

WSB: What’s next for Honey and Blue after March 26th?

SA: World Domination! But seriously, once the album is released the real journey begins! We hope to continue to grow and touch as many people as we can!

WSB: Thanks, Stephanie and best of luck to you and the rest of the band!

Head over to the band’s website www.HoneyandBlue.com for the latest music, performance dates and more!

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