The get ahead
“Last night was not the best night, but it wasn’t the worst night either,” admits Nathan Earle. His wife, Juliet Howard, hums in agreement. Though the two create powerhouse Americana soul and shimmering indie roots music as part of Portland, Oregon’s The Get Ahead, they’re not recalling a performance at a local venue, but discussing their new sleep schedule since the arrival of their newborn baby. Along with longtime friend Sean Farrell and couple Danny and Angie Johnson, The Get Ahead are about as tight-knit as it gets. Comprised of two married couples, multiple long-term friendships, and now a baby, they consider each other more than just friends. “We have really become a family band,” says Nathan. Their newest record, Deepest Light, will be released on April 26 via Jullian Records.
Formed in 2012 with a shared love of old soul, gospel, and R&B music and the simple desire to make music that got Portland audiences up and dancing, The Get Ahead have evolved into a more cohesive ensemble focused on working collaboratively to find new ways to bring out their core influences. A turning point came in 2017 when acclaimed neo-soul artist Son Little, one of the band’s musical heroes, produced their EP Mind is a Mountain. “We were over the moon because we loved his first record so much,” says Nathan. With a fresh jolt of confidence following the EP, the band embarked on writing tracks for Deepest Light, looking to synthesize their new music with the spirit of family and togetherness.
2018 and 2019 have brought a lot of changes to The Get Ahead. Their work has continued to grow and transform, relationships have intensified, and the world has undergone dramatic social upheavals. Deepest Light, and especially the album’s cover image, is a testament to these transitions. “When we took that photo, we didn’t intend for it to be the cover photo. A girlfriend of mine is a photographer, and I went to take some creative maternity shots,” says Juliet. However, the image immediately struck a nerve with the band. “The image really reflects our values in that we believe this is a time for women,” says Nathan. “Seeing it reminded us that it’s time for a rebirth. A rebirth of creativity. I think it’s important that we show images of creation and of the feminine form right now, especially considering what’s going on in the political climate.”
Deepest Light’s resulting album cover features a pregnant Juliet in a smoky, fern-dotted forest. She is shrouded in a halo of light, calling to mind the divine feminine. The band decided to place the image on the cover in part due to the fact that it mimics pertinent themes that course throughout the record: the celebration of life, creation, healing, and the importance of keeping open hearts. However, political motives also uphold their decision. “We’re all for empowerment. We have two women and three feminist men in the band,” says Juliet. “As a society, we’re okay seeing images of violence and horror and all these awful things. But we don’t often celebrate or acknowledge the divine feminine, or pregnancy and birth, which is how we’re all here. It’s this creative and powerful thing.” On their upcoming album, The Get Ahead aren’t shying away from celebrating the strength and power of women and family. Instead, they’re placing it front and center.