Extra Miles Group hopes to elevate through performances at State College | Way of life
Five years ago, Andrea Miles decided to write a song.
She asked her friend Patty McKenna, who learned acoustic guitar in 5th grade, if she would be willing to play guitar in the song she wrote.
According to McKenna, she initially refused, but Miles “didn’t take no for an answer.”
So they started playing and singing together, wrote the chords for a song, harmonized and formed the band.
Their first gig was an open mic night at Otto’s Pub and Brewery where the late musician Mark Ross took them under his wing and told them to keep coming back, McKenna said, because they would improve and want to share more of what ‘They did.
Miles and McKenna then brought in Ruth Williamson about three years ago to play guitar. She completed the group she is today, and McKenna and Miles said they “loved having her.”
“The cool thing about our band is that we’re all friends — really good friends,” Williamson said. “So it makes it more fun that you can do that extra thing together. It was really fun.
The name “The Extra Miles Band” comes from Miles’ family, who believed McKenna and Williamson were an “extra part” of their family, McKenna said.
The band has played various gigs over the years in and around the State College area, including 814 Cider Works, the Roots Farm Cafe & Education Center, community events, retirement homes, and new locations like Gigi’s Southern Table.
According to Williamson, they learn something in every place they go, and the people they meet along the way are people who are grateful that music is a part of their life and their night.
“We’re also always so grateful to be with people in spaces, because there’s just something about being vulnerable and showing up in front of people,” Williamson said. “I think it just gives people an open door to see you as a human.”
A couple slow-danced to their cover of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” at a concert because it was the first song they’d danced to in 50 years of marriage, Williamson said.
The band plays a variety of covers, including songs from the Eagles, Chris Stapleton and Tom Petty. They also have their own original songs.
Williamson said they were all influenced by various people along the way when it comes to being musicians.
Before the pandemic hit, the band planned to record an album but had to re-record due to technical difficulties. However, the pandemic arrived and the members barely saw each other. They resorted to creating GarageBand videos and playing outside when they could.
“A lot of these places were trying to move things outside to have some normalcy, and it was really cool to be a part of that,” Miles said. “We still had shows, we still played gigs. I’m just really proud of the community for finding ways to at least get together safely. It’s not about gigs and money. It’s really a matter of community.
According to Miles, 814 Cider Works and other venues built an outdoor stage during the pandemic for musicians.
The group Extra Miles hopes to put together an album by the end of the year since the coronavirus has started to subside, according to Williamson.
One of the main things the band wanted to do was have fun and create music to uplift people during such a difficult time, McKenna said.
“Everyone has bad things going on in their life, and you can relate to them in a song. We’ve written songs about domestic violence, and it’s not a fun subject,” McKenna said. “We’ve had so many people come up to tell us that the song resonated with them, because they were in an abusive relationship, and people came up crying that [the] the song really spoke to them.
Miles said that during almost every concert someone would come up to them afterward, motivated or touched in some way by something they had sung.
“For someone to be so moved to open up and share such a hidden and shameful part of their life with us…was truly an honor,” Miles said. “We knew that day that we were doing something right.”
One of the band’s core principles is to have fun making music, because if that’s not having fun, the band isn’t, the three said. They said they wanted to play songs that people would join in, because they wanted to be “authentic and authentic”.
“Songs sometimes have a way of telling a story that we all, in many ways, crave to hear and be a part of as humans, but that’s not the case,” Williamson said. “Sometimes it’s difficult because of all the different obstacles we face, whether it’s shame or having to say something. The music has this cool way of immersing you in the story and seeing you there. It helps us all connect in different ways.
Reflecting on their experiences as a band, Williamson recalled a gig she played at the Root Farm Cafe, and one little girl was so excited because there were three women in the band. They did not realize the influence they had.
“It was her very first gig. It was really cool for her to see that there were women playing guitar,” Williamson said. “There were women in front doing their thing. is the kind of who we hope to be.
The Extra Miles band picked up many stories along the way, and the band laughed together when they remembered getting lost on their way to some of their gigs.
The band as a whole is excited to play more shows this year, especially brunch at Gigi’s Southern Table on April 23. Overall, they’re just happy to keep making music.
“One thing that’s true for all of us is that I think we all agree that music is a gift in so many ways that really helps to heal people and bring them together,” he said. said Williamson. “And I think deep down that’s how we all came together.
“I think our core values are about how we can all uplift each other and how we can share a message of hope.”
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