I became a fan of Josh Daniel’s music when I took my first listen to The Storm, an EP he cut with his band, The New Familiars. I reviewed it right here in the pages of Blue Ridge Outdoors, lamenting the record’s brevity and crowing that I was ready to spread the fever this band was giving me.

Whew. Heady stuff.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to catch The New Familiars live and they remain one of my favorite North Carolina bands. As often happens, though, members of the band start delving into side projects, and Josh has recently been playing out and about with Mark Schimick, long time mandolin player for Larry Keel.

The Josh Daniel & Mark Schimick Project is a departure from The New Familiars’ rockin’ ways for Daniel. With Schimick, the sound is bluegrassy, with hints of reggae and soul thrown in for good measure. Daniel and Schimick recently released Live in Carolina, their first record, which offers listeners a little glimpse into the musical magic these guys can create.

I recently caught up with Josh and chatted about music in his home state, how he and Mark got started, and playing music in the kitchen. 

BRO – How did you and Mark cross paths?

JD – Although we’ve shared the bill over the years, I officially met Mark last year at the Clear Mountain View Festival in Lawndale, North Carolina. The New Familiars played right before Larry Keel & Natural Bridge. There was a big jam at the end and we all played together. Mark and I exchanged phone numbers and I called him for a gig about a month later. We’ve been playing together ever since.

BRO – How quickly did you realize you and Mark were on to something good?

JD – I knew pretty quickly. We did a few private duo shows and had a great time. We are both rabid music fans and record collectors and we bonded over our love of bluegrass, soul, reggae, and jazz. We immediately started playing some covers we like, stuff like Al Green and Jimmy Cliff, along with bluegrass standards and our own tunes. Mark suggested Greg Howell, a former band mate, for upright bass, and with him on board we put together a solid band. I think it’s a unique sound and I’m really having fun doing it.

BRO – You have been rocking with The New Familiars for much of the last decade. What brought about this change to a more acoustic vibe?

JD – The New Familiars started as an acoustic band, but we moved to a louder rock and roll sound quickly by adding drums and amps, which I loved. But I have always enjoyed the pure acoustic sound bluegrass bands produce. It’s wonderful to be able to go in to a room and just play without plugging anything in. So, after years of playing with a big set up, I wanted to move to something a little different.

BRO – There is always great music coming out of North Carolina. Got any homegrown favorites you have been listening to lately?

JD – Yes! We love North Carolina music. Mark and I are both proud North Carolina natives and are big fans of the sounds that are coming out of our state right now. Folks folks The Avett Brothers and American Aquarium are out there killing it right now. I’ve been really enjoying the new record from The Loudermilks and I always love hearing what Greg Humphries from Hobex is up to. His last record is still heavy in my rotation.

BRO – We are featuring “Salt Shaker” on this month’s Trail Mix. What are the chances you wrote this one sitting in the kitchen?

JD – Pretty good! My house is pretty small and I love the acoustics in the kitchen!

You can catch Josh Daniel live around Charlotte throughout the rest of November. For a really good time, put Friday, November 28 on your calendar, when Josh and a bunch of friends get together for the big Levon Helm Tribute at The Visulite Theater. Having seen this show a couple years ago, I can testify that it is truly outstanding and would make a fantastic addition to your holiday weekend.

For more information on Josh Daniel and his work with Mark Schimick, including how you can get your hands on Live in Carolina, the new record, surf over to joshdanielmusic.com.