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An Interview with the Upstate NY Band, Closer Still

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Interview with Upstate New York Band Closer Still

Closer Still on their mix of folk, pop, acoustic, jazz, indie, and soul

Closer StillMany famous bands in history have undergone transformations and reincarnations to become what they are today, changing members or crossing across the lines of their genre. Closer Still may not have been around as long as shape shifting bands like AC/DC and Incubus, but they have definitely changed their lineup a few times to achieve their unique blend of voices and instruments. Closer Still was born in 2005 when a trio of sisters, Maggie, Maynah, and Millie Goble, came together to play music. It evolved over the years into a band with four members: Maggie Goble playing the piano and singing, Maynah Goble as a singer, Jason Checkla adding his voice and finger-picking guitar, and Tom Miles on drums and various percussion instruments. The band describes its sound as a mix of folk, pop, acoustic, jazz, indie and soul. I recently caught up with the two sisters that started it all to ask them some important musical and non-musical questions:

The Free George: You’ve noted a lot of influences, including artists as diverse as James Taylor and Jason Mraz. What about these artists influences you most?

Closer Still: Our harmonies and vocals have been very much influenced by listening to background vocals and backup singers. Jason has learned his guitar style from artists like Andy McKee and Craig D’Andrea.

TFG: How do you feel the addition of Jason and Tom changed the sound and dynamic of the band?

CS: Jason brought a whole new layer of talent that’s taken us where we are now. Tom fit very naturally with our sound and gave it the backing and rhythm it needed. We had been very particular when finding people to play with and Tom was perfect for what we were doing.

TFG: Is there a radio station or other setting where you’d most like to hear one of your songs played?

CS: On a commercial.

TFG: What’s your favorite pre-performance ritual, during-performance drink, and post-performance snack?

CS: We often do three or four hour sets, and on occasion two shows a day, so Monster energy drinks have been our pre/during show drink of choice if we need. We do try to drink a lot of tea. When we’re on the road, Taco Bell is open late, so that’s our usual post show meal.

TFG: Where do you see yourselves as a band in 2 years? 5? 10?

CS: Hopefully not waiting tables. We want to continue playing music as much as possible for as long as possible.

TFG: You listed your home town as Oswego. How did growing up in Upstate New York influence your music?

CS: There are a lot of successful and talented local musicians in Upstate. We’ve been lucky to work with a number of local artists in Syracuse and Oswego. We’ve received amazing support and have made some very close friends.

TFG: The band originated as Three Sisters, does the name Closer Still reference that?

CS: It does, the name goes with an older version of the band that started as Three Sisters.

TFG: Closer Still’s sound is beautifully layered with the finger style guitar, piano melodies, and sometimes the cello. Do you consciously experiment with adding new instruments to the mix, or would you in the future?

CS: There are always new instruments around. Recent additions to our set up have been banjo, xylophone, harmonica, and ukulele. Our drummer that’s recently joined the band plays a variety of hand percussion instruments such as that cahone, box cahone, and the conga.

TFG: I’m sure you’ve been interviewed a lot by now, whether formally or informally. If you had to turn the tables and interview one person in the music community who would it be?

CS: Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie.

TFG: Since you’re from Upstate NY, I have to ask, apple pie or apple crisp?

CS: Apple crisp.

For more information about Closer Still, visit their MySpace page at

Jessica Nicosia is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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