Anyone who’s caught a Carbon Leaf show over the past three decades probably has a pretty good idea of what their values are: brotherhood, commitment, empathy, integrity, self-reliance. Founded at Randolph-Macon College in 1992, the group evolved from a houseparty cover band into something far more profound after graduation, when they moved to Richmond and made the shift to original music. The band’s first three albums helped build a devoted cult following, but it was 2001’s Echo Echo that truly brought Carbon Leaf to national attention, with lead single “The Boxer” earning the group a performance slot in front of millions of viewers at the American Music Awards.
After nearly ten years of self-releasing and grinding it out on the road (both as headliners and as guests appearing on bills alongside the likes of Dave Matthews Band, O.A.R., Jason Mraz, Blues Traveler, and Guster, among others), the band signed with Vanguard Records in 2004 for their critical and commercial breakthrough, Indian Summer, which yielded a Top 5 hit at AAA radio and garnered rave reviews everywhere from The Washington Post to WXPN.
While the band would go on to release two more similarly well-received albums with Vanguard, it soon became obvious to everyone that independence wasn’t simply an ideal for Carbon Leaf, but rather an integral part of their DNA, and so in 2010, the band parted ways with the label in order to return to their DIY roots and take complete and total control of their career.
Acting as their own label, distributor, and manager, the band cut new versions of all three Vanguard albums in order to regain the rights to the recordings, launched their own festival, and began releasing a successful series of direct-to-fan concert films, livestreams, and studio records leading up to the first installment of the Gathering series in 2018.