They named their band after the leader of a wolf pack that terrorized Paris in 1450. But that gothic tale doesn’t quite fit Courtaud’s music, which rocks but has a soulful layer, cranked-up acoustic guitar — grooving like Citizen Cope or Ben Harper.
And the Hendersonville-based quartet formed from a chance jam session in 2007, not a medieval citywide takeover.
“It was the open mic out at The Back Room,” says singer Karen Corn. “We miss that sweet spot.”
“Karen sang harmony with me on a song that we both liked, a Ryan Adams song called ‘My Sweet Carolina,’” recalls guitarist Adam Herbst. They realized they should play more together.
“So we did,” he says.
The two benefited from a tight-knit, encouraging Hendersonville scene. “We were getting good feedback, which helped. More than just, ‘Oh, you guys sound good together.’ Kelli [Redmond], from [local band] Letters To Abigail, was a supporter, and that helped our confidence,” says Herbst.
After the Back Room closed, Redmond opened a gallery, Red Step Artworks, and the open mic moved there for a while. It’s currently back at Black Bear Coffee, a venue featuring expanded live music under new ownership.
The two continued playing whenever they could during Herbst’s four-year stint in the Navy. “When he would come home on leave, we would get together and play a few tunes,” says Corn. “And in September of 2013 Adam called me and said, ‘You know, we should have a band.’” They picked up friend Tim Handville on bass and Tyler Wedge on drums.
“I just had the fever, I guess you could say,” recalls Herbst. “I’ve always had that in the back of my mind and I think Karen did too, and it seemed like the right time.”
“I’d seen [Tyler] in several bands over the years [Born Broke, Men On Earth, Slumberjack], so he was my first pick,” Corn says. “Yeah, yeah. We came together and the chemistry between all of us just worked.”
Corn moved to Hendersonville with her family in 1993, and was involved in vocal groups at Faith Christian School. “I would sing in vocal competitions and competed at a state level with my chorus and solo,” she says. “My mother was always very active in church choir and things of that nature, so she was inspirational to me.”
Despite her upbringing around the church, it was something other than gospel that grabbed her. “For me, it was more of the classic country music, even though our band is more rock and roll. Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton,” she says. Her vocal influences include Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Eva Cassidy, Nina Simone.
“I think I have some blues influence as well, yeah.”
“Louisiana blues,” decides Herbst. “[Karen’s] voice could go back to, like, 1967. I love her voice, is all I’m saying.”
Herbst also grew up around music. When he was 13, his musician father — whom he calls “the biggest Beatles fan in the world” — showed him some chords. “I kind of ran with it, pretty much immediately started writing songs,” he says.
After high school, he moved here with his father and stepmother. “I consider myself more of an acoustic player,” remarks Herbst, “although I play acoustic through a tube amp. People are constantly like, ‘What the heck, he’s playing an acoustic guitar, but it sounds like an electric.’ I’ve always been more of a folky guy, you know — Bob Dylan, Tom Waits. And I like old blues players, [including] Son House.”
Courtaud has 20 original songs, and the writing is a collaborative effort. “We don’t want anybody to be necessarily the front man, front woman,” says Herbst. “We want everybody to collaborate as much as possible. We all enjoy writing and we don’t want to stifle anybody when we’re formulating a song, you know. It’s worked out so far.”
Covers include Blackstreet’s 1996 hit “No Diggity,” which gets a rowdy reworking at Courtaud shows.
Everyone in the band sings — including drummer Wedge, for the first time. “He has a good voice. We want him to sing out,” says Herbst. “As a band, we enjoy the energy we get from the crowd. It motivates us.”