Five years ago, Brian Williams jotted down a lofty goal for his band.
The Cold Tone Harvest drummer and banjoist envisioned playing The Ark’s iconic Ann Arbor Folk Festival with his three bandmates Andrew Sigworth (vocals, acoustic guitar), Tony Pace (electric guitar, lap steel, dobro) and Ozzie Andrews (bass). At the time, it seemed like a hazy dream.
“I attended a Zingerman’s training workshop, and it was a five-minute free-write where you had to envision yourself out five years from now on any part of your life that you wanted,” Williams said. “It was five years ago that I was writing about this because a big goal for us was to play The Ark.”
Coincidentally, Cold Tone Harvest learned earlier this fall they had received a highly-coveted opening slot on the second night of the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival. The Plymouth-based Americana quartet will share the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium stage February 1 with Detroit blues songstress Betty LaVette, Mandolin Orange, and Nathaniel Rateliff.
“I think a big part of why we got chosen to play the Folk Festival is our support of The Ark and playing there,” Williams said. “We’re doing fairly well and bringing in nice crowds, and I think they appreciate us because of that.”
With a growing live audience, Cold Tone Harvest has played The Ark three times since 2015. They also have performed at a host of local venues and festivals, including Ann Arbor Summer Fest’s Top of the Park, Kerrytown Nashbash, Holler Fest, The Rumpus Room, 20 Front Street, and Arts, Beats & Eats.
“We had the opportunity to do the Top of the Park show. I kind of thought to myself, ‘Well, maybe some of the folks involved in this decision-making process had the opportunity to see us there,’” Sigworth said. “We talked years ago about what goals we would set for this project and as a band. The Ark was always our focus.”
Back in 2008, longtime friends Sigworth and Williams formed Cold Tone Harvest while writing and performing songs around a campfire. Together, they advocated for a sonic landscape built around Sigworth’s soft-spoken voice and Williams’ percussive backdrop.
Once Sigworth and Williams brought Pace and Andrews into the fold, their sound morphed into soul-searching tunes that poetically chronicle adversity and showcase the inner strength to overcome it. Cold Tone Harvest spent more than five years performing original Americana music live before recording their full-length debut, “After You,” with engineer Ben Daniels and producer Chris DuPont in 2017.
Whiskey songs, personal reflections, and heartfelt anthems are woven throughout the 12 homegrown tracks on “After You.” The album’s title track poignantly deals with the tragic loss of Sigworth’s brother while “Out on the Weekend” is a folky Neil Young cover featuring Pace on vocals.
Cold Tone Harvest will share selections from “After You” during their second-night opening set at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Now, it’s a matter of identifying the right setlist and rehearsing regularly in anticipation of their most prominent live show to date.
“I think we’re close to the stuff that’s tried and true that people know on the record,” Williams said. “It’s all going to feel new to us in a new venue and the way Hill Auditorium makes stuff sound. We’re hoping even the old stuff sounds new in there.”
Cold Tone Harvest
43rd Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival
Doors 6 pm, Show 6:30 pm | Saturday, February 1
U-M Hill Auditorium, 825 North University Ave. in Ann Arbor
Tickets: $45-$110 at muto.umich.edu