Band of the Week: The Oak Leaf meets The Easy Leaves

Sage Fifield (right) and Kevin Carducci (left) of The Easy Leaves duo enjoy a beer in Carducci’s cozy home located in the heart of Roseland. The pair have spent the last eight years traveling the world and playing music together.

Estefany Gonzalez, A&E Editor

High in the clouds an airplane engine roars, but it’s not the only sounds booming 39,000 feet above ground. Aboard a plane from San Francisco to Denver, the passengers of United Airlines flight 540 hear The Easy Leaves duo play the first concert on an airplane. The Roseland locals preformed sweet country tunes, like “Crack Another Bottle” over the onboard PA system. 

Guitar player Sage Fifield and bass player Kevin Carducci started performing together eight years ago and have since gone on month-long tours across the U.S., played the main stage at Outside Lands and had their music videos featured on Country Music Television.  

Though the duo sometimes plays with a full band, the heart of The Easy Leaves is in the songs Carducci and Fifield write. Locally, Dave Zirbel often plays pedal steel, electric guitar or banjo with the band. Other concert regulars include Vicente Roderiguez on drums and Kyle O’Brien on fiddle. “We have tour bands we pick up different places we go,” Carducci said.

The two first met while playing open mic nights around Sonoma County in 2007. Fifield finished his teaching degree at Sonoma State University but decided to pursue his passion for music.

 “I was a working class guy and college student throughout my entire life. I had always written songs and played guitar since I was a young kid,” he said. “When I finished at Sonoma State I said, ‘Well I’m either gonna try and do something with these songs I’ve written or I’m gonna teach English.’”

Fifield’s songs caught Carducci’s attention during their open mic run-ins. “I definitely had my ear out looking for people to collaborate with, and honestly, out of all of the open mics I went to, Sage was the only one writing consistently good songs,” he said. 

 The two admit playing in front of a crowd was hard at the beginning of their careers and they had to push themselves to get onstage.

“I was just trying to get comfortable with it, doing it as much as I possibly could,” Fifield said. “It’s the kind of thing you get better at – I had horrible stage fright.”

At the time, Carducci just moved to the North Bay from Oregon and was working as an outdoor education teacher and on a farm. Although Carducci started playing country music in college he was still nervous. “I was definitely forcing myself to do it because it’s kinda uncomfortable. But you know that it makes you better when you do, or even a more relaxed person in general,” he said.  

The pair said they were drawn together because they were both doing the same thing at the same time and had similar tastes in music. Carducci said their shared inappropriate humor helped.  

Though the pair started playing together and hit it off musically, Carducci left the North Bay in 2008 to tour across the country on a self-supported tour with friends he had in Pennsylvania. Once the tour was over, he decided to fly back home. It was on that plane ride he knew he wanted to continue playing with Fifield.

“I was listening to iPod shuffle on the plane ride and one of the recordings I made of me and Sage working on some song came on. I was like ‘Maybe I’ll call that guy up and we can try to start a project when I get back home,’” Carducci said. 

From there, the pair played wherever they could. The more places they played, the more they would meet people having a party or who knew someone at a winery looking for a band to play at an event. “It seems like we got progressively busier throughout the years just by knocking on doors or through word of mouth,” Fifield said. 

Soon the duo found themselves playing up to three events per day. Eventually, all the small shows lead to bigger and bigger ones. 

Now, two full-length albums and an EP later, the band shares about touring, playing Outside Lands, and what it was like to play the first concert on an airplane.   

What is the biggest show you’ve ever played? 

Carducci: “Outside Lands was probably the biggest thing we’ve done. There’s probably like 100,000 people that go to that thing. We were playing on the same stage as Willy Nelson. They were finishing sound checking when it was time to do our check. That was all Willy’s crew and all his gear on stage, except for his guitar. That was surreal. And just getting to hang backstage and rub elbows with those guys, that was cool.”

Fifield: “Pickathon was really cool, we did that one just last spring. That one was great. Very creative festival grounds. And the camping was all up in the woods so it was really neat.”

Carducci: “Actually the Pickathon festival we were playing at, they were filming an episode of ‘Portlandia’ at the festival called ‘Pickathon.’ It’s gonna be airing soon I guess.” 

What’s the difference between playing with a full band or as a duo? 

Fifield: “When you play as a duo, I think you work a little bit harder because you have to put a little more out there. With a band it’s nice because you can kinda relax a little bit more.”

Carducci: “When you’re playing with a band, everyone is hitting the downbeats at the same time and there’s just more power and energy there and that’s super fun when everyone’s locked in. It’s fun as a duo too, but when it’s bigger it’s exponential.  The energy is more powerful.”  

How did you end up playing a live show on an airplane? 

Carducci: “We wouldn’t have done it if the captain hadn’t of forced us to. He approached us in the terminal. He saw us with our guitars and asked us what we we’re up to, and we told him were a band traveling to a gig.” 

Fifield: “He said, ‘you’re gonna play on the plane then right?’”

Carducci: “We said, ‘Good one captain Scott’, and he said, ‘No I’m serious.’ So we worked out a deal that we would do it for free drinks.” 

Fifield: “It was very smooth, no turbulence. The flight attendants were so nice. They were so nice you wouldn’t believe how happy they were. They were amazing.”

Carducci: “We played into the intercom, she [the flight attendant] pressed the button and held it [the intercom] in front of us.”

What do you like to listen to on the road? 

Fifield: “We listen to lots of podcasts, we’ll go on old benders, we’ll listen to old hip-hop favorites and we’ve gone through a Journey phase. Outkast hits are always a go-to.”

Carducci: “Montel Jordan even made an appearance some time randomly.”

Fifield: “It really can go across the board, there’s no standard playlist.”

Carducci: “It just depends on how drunk the DJ is, the passenger, not the driver.” 

What’s the longest you’ve gone without a shower on tour? 

Carducci: “I’ve gone a week but not with Sage, he’d freak out.” 

Fifield: “I grew up in the sticks and we didn’t have running water but my mom still made us take a bath every day. We had no electricity, no running water but we took baths every day. If at all possible I try to bathe every day. I’ve bathed in sinks before, a little horse bath. It’s great, you feel like a million bucks.” 

What are your travel essentials? 

Fifield: “Cowboy hats have become pretty essential.”

Carducci: “Socks, as many socks as you can fit in a bag. That’s the tour essential.”

Which musician would you most want to meet, dead or alive? 

Carducci: “I was listening to this Waylon record where he’s smoking on the cover. Man, to have a cigarette with Waylon.  What, you’ve got like 20 minutes in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette, what could you talk about with a guy like Waylon Jennings? You have to pick your questions. That guy played in Buddy Holly’s band, dude did it all.” 

Fifield: “Hank Williams [senior] but he’s still alive and the thing with anyone still alive is, that there’s still a chance you might be able to meet them. Given this question, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to meet a dead person, so it’s gotta be someone dead in my thinking. John Lennon would be pretty cool.”