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Outlaw country band Simple Harvest talk cougars, prison gigs

Courtesy of Tyler Hill

This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every week.

The Circleville-based band Simple Harvest might have gotten its name from a box of granola bars, but it couldn’t be a more perfect fit for the country band.

“We tried to find something simple, like us, and something country-ish,” said lead singer and acoustic guitarist Josh Boesiger

Guitarist Ethan Brooks thought of the name, and it stuck.

“We needed a name to throw on our first flier to play a gig, and Ethan saw it off a box of granola bars,” said banjo player Tyler Hill. “We still have the box down in our practice room.”

The country band consists of four best friends who all went to Logan Elm High School in Circleville. The members started playing with each other for fun and formed the band in 2009. Describing its style of music as “outlaw country with a touch of folk and bluegrass,” Hill compared the band’s sound to artists such as Hank Williams III, Johnny Cash and Old Crow Medicine Show. 

“The stuff we play isn’t really mainstream,” Hill said. “Everyone likes Jason Aldean a lot more than Hank Williams III.”

While Simple Harvest usually plays at bars, festivals and fairs throughout Ohio, one of its venues stuck out from the rest. 

“We’ve played a couple of prisons, too,” Hill said. “We go to the yard and set up and play while all the inmates are just cruising around and working out.”

Boesiger said playing shows at prisons help maintain a full crowd throughout the show.

“Those ones are fun because they’re eager to do something besides sit around,” Boesiger said. “People can leave at a bar, but at a prison they kind of have to stay.”

Simple Harvest has played at various places in Columbus including Sandpebble Lounge and Burnzies Tavern, but the band tends to play outside the city. The members of the band, who are all in their early 20s, said it isn’t weird to play for older audiences, which make up a majority of the crowd at their shows. 

“We play for a lot of hillbillies and bikers, usually 40-plus. Older people like our music because we play a lot of old music,” Boesiger said. “We’ve played a lot of nursing homes and they get pretty wild.”

While the band doesn’t mind playing for an older crowd, there is one problem with the older demographic.

“Cougars are crazy,” Hill said. “I don’t know what it is about the beard and overalls, but it’s crazy.” 

Simple Harvest hasn’t always been a country band. When it first formed four years ago, the guys played classic rock and were far from the country-loving band they are today. When Brooks was deployed to Afghanistan to serve in the Army, the three remaining band members decided it was time for a change of pace. 

“During his year in Afghanistan, we were like, ‘What are we going to do?'” Boesiger said. “We kind of took off with the outlaw country and (Brooks) loved it. The one thing he said before he left was, ‘Don’t sit around and do nothing. Get all of my instruments out and beat ’em to hell and play ’em.'”

Brooks returned home in November and quickly adjusted to the genre change.

“(Brooks) learned some country while he was there,” Boesiger said. “He just jumped right in like he never left.”

Despite the band’s drastic transition from classic rock to outlaw country, Simple Harvest didn’t completely neglect its love for rock. 

“We’re still gonna play classic rock too, that’s not out of the picture,” said upright bassist Justin Fox.

Playing a variety of genres comes in handy when the band books shows.

“We kind of put the main things out on a flyer and if a bar wants rock or country, we’ll book the show for whatever they want,” Boesiger said. “The one thing that is cool about outlaw country is that no one does it. People are like, ‘I can’t believe you’re playing banjo and upright bass.'”

Simple Harvest plays original songs and covers at its shows and are looking to record a professional album in the near future. 

“We’ve tried (recording songs) on our own and it’s just not the same,” Boesiger said. “We just really want to get everything solid and pay to go to a studio.” 

Todd Brooks, the band’s manager and Ethan Brooks’ father, helps promote the band while also providing the band with support and equipment. He continued to help Simple Harvest even after his son was deployed to Afghanistan. 

“I do it because I’ve been with these guys from the start,” Todd Brooks said. “I really, really believe in them. They’re a good group of guys.”

Todd Brooks said he sees great potential in the band and is always surprised by its members’ talent.

“Not one show they do is the same. They all surprise me. They’ll switch instruments, they’ll sing something new,” Todd Brooks said. “If I’m surprised and I see them all the time, then obviously they’re pretty talented.”

While Simple Harvest is still waiting for its big break, Todd Brooks has not doubt that will soon change.

“They have it. It’s just (a matter of) the right place, right time,” Todd Brooks said. “We’ll keep doing it ’til we get ‘r done.”

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