Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney are unlike any other touring couple in music. The duo, better known to the world as Big Harp, first met when their bands Art in Manila (Chris) opened for The Good Life (Stef) on a west coast run back in 2007. It was love at first sight and the two soon married and had two children. For many, the task of managing a career in addition to taking care of two young ones would throw a wrench into a touring schedule. Yet the Senseneys make it work. Their second album, Chain Letters, was released in January via Saddle Creek and the band will be hitting the road in support, with a show Monday night at the Constellation Room.
OC Weekly (Daniel Kohn): When you first met Stef you were both touring with different bands. Was there a weird dynamic that came from being with different bands on the same tour?
Chris Senseney: No, not at all. The two bands we were friends and I actually just joined the band I was in. I had seen Stef a couple of times on my own but I didn't really know her. But on tour we started hanging out and it was fun. After we met, everything happened really fast.
What was it like recording this album since the sound was more aggressive than your previous effort?
The first album we made in about three days after a week of practicing. There wasn't much thought into the sound on that one and we played the songs pretty straight. As soon as we started touring on that album and playing shows, we just naturally went to a more energetic place. The truth is that the first Big Harp record was by far the mellowest thing either one of us had ever done. I think after having a kid, we had the urge to be adults. Less than aggression it's getting energy back and we're starting to feel a bit younger now that our kids are getting older, strangely.
Even though you haven't sold that many records, your label Saddle Creek has been very supportive. What's it been like working with them?
It's been nice working with them. They're people that we've known for a long time so we were happy that they want to put us out.
Working with them as opposed to someone less familiar, I would think, allows you to develop at your pace it seems.
It feels like we don't have to try to come up with a huge hit single. Obviously we'd want to, but we don't feel pressure to do anything in a certain way. I prefer to do it this way than to be on a bigger label. Their priority is to throw a bunch of things at the wall and whatever sticks, sticks.
What's it like touring with your wife? Is it smooth or are there ever any the usual husband-wife squabbles?
There's not too much of that. I've been in bands where there have been worse squabbles. We get along pretty well and it helps that we have the kids around so it's like taking our normal life and getting into a van.
So you bring your kids along with you? How does that work? Do they enjoy the traveling?
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They like it and they're really good in the car. Usually if we can, we'll bring along one of our moms and they can watch the kids at night when we play.
Is it easy to entertain them?
They'll watch movies or play games or draw. We try to make the drive pretty relaxed and stop every few hours and maybe stop at a zoo or go to a park if we can find something like that to do. I've been on tour with adults who are harder to deal with in the car than they are. They're never hungover and don't hold grudges for too long.