Homeward bound

Runaway Saints' long and winding road leads to the Met
By CHRIS CONTI  |  August 20, 2014

CHASING THE DREAM Scanlon, Gates, Jarbeau, and Cornoyer. [Photo by Matt Blair]

Call it a comeback (literally) for the Rhody-raised/Nashville-bred quartet Runaway Saints, set to swing through for a hometown hoedown this Sunday (the 24th) at the Met. Expect a jam-packed (if not sold out) crowd to welcome back Johnny Gates, Jamie Jarbeau, Matt Scanlon, and our old pal Josh Cournoyer (former Providence Phoenix staffer and Met barkeep).

Gates, Jarbeau, and Scanlon met at Hendricken High School and formed the Invite in 2004 and soon added Josh. The quartet worked the circuit for a few years at local joints like the Living Room and Lupo’s, and toured the East Coast in a van and trailer. The Hendricken trio eventually decided to take their talents to the music mecca that is Nashville, Tennessee. The relocation plan paid off in a big way, leading to a deal with Warner Music Nashville. Cournoyer was busy here fronting the excellent rock outfit Northern Lands, which released one (excellent) album on 75orLess Records titled He Took a Dive. Cournoyer split town earlier this year and rejoined his Runaway pals down south.

“We started reaching out to different producers while still in the Invite, which ultimately led to a decision to move the band to Nashville to chase the dream,” noted bassist Jarbeau. “The energy there makes it feel like anything is possible, and not only are you able to be inspired by some of the best talent in the country, but you’re also able to collaborate with them.”

Lead singer/guitarist Gates jumped at that opportunity, and co-wrote much of the Saints’ new six-song, self-titled EP with songwriters in Nashville and Los Angeles. There are elements of rock, country, and folk along with radio-ready choruses that will have the Met howling along with the gang. Lyrically, Gates is pining for his lady throughout, though the opening line on “Headed Home” may speak to the Runaway Saints’ grand plans: “This heart of mine was made for runnin’/looking to find that dream I’m chasing down, but I won’t find it in this town,” followed by the triumphant hook, “I meant it when I said I’d make my mark and then I’m headed home to you.” There’s also the warm gallop of my personal favorite, “California’s Girl,” and Cournoyer wields a mean banjo on “It’s All Good” while Gates sings, “It’s like I hit the lottery the day you gave your heart to me/I’m a minimum wage millionaire, how’d I get so lucky, babe.”

And though the band may be gearing up for some new major label love, they decided to stay the DIY route by hand-pressing physical copies of the EP, which is only available at the shows.

“As great as it is to mass-market music on the Internet, we felt strongly about building a fan base and a connection to the music one person at a time on these dates,” Cournoyer told me.

According to Gates, the band is currently working on getting out a single to radio and releasing a full album at some point next year. In the meantime, the Runaway Saints will wrap up a short run with blues legend Jonny Lang this week before a pair of headlining shows in Pawtucket and NYC’s Mercury Lounge.

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