Zoe & Cloyd are wife-and-husband musical team Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller. Together, they make what they call “new Appalachian music,” a subtly updated take on traditional mountain music. After leaving popular trio Red June — with whom they still regularly reunite — the duo released Equinox in 2015, followed by 2017’s Eyes Brand New. A third full-length release is due later this year; Zoe & Cloyd’s preview single, “Looking Out for You and Me,” was released in March.
How would you differentiate your “new Appalachian music” from other styles? What makes it unique?
John Cloyd Miller: Natalya and I come from opposite ends of the Appalachian region; our hometowns are 800 miles apart. Within that region, there are a myriad of musical influences. We think of our music as a synthesis of, as well as a continuation of, tradition: bluegrass, old-time, and folk elements with little dashes of other things as well, such as rock and, increasingly, klezmer.
How does your classical background inform your approach to Appalachian folk music?
Natalya Zoe Weinstein: I studied classical violin for 15 years before switching to fiddle music. It gave me a really great foundation …however, I’ve had to “unlearn” many techniques over the years. I’ve had to loosen up my playing to more accurately interpret the subtleties of bluegrass and old-time music.
The new single addresses environmental and other large-scale concerns. What led to the writing of that song?
John: Sustainable environmental and social policies need to part of our future if we are going to survive as a species.
Is it ever challenging being a married couple who also write and perform together?
Natalya: Yes, it’s certainly challenging to balance the needs of your spouse, your child, the business, the music, your personal needs, the needs of your relationship, etc. That said, it’s also uniquely rewarding when it all works out.
You still do occasional gigs as Red June …
John: The Red June sound is very much tied in with [Dobro player/vocalist] Will Straughan. That’s why we chose not to keep the name when Will decided to pursue other opportunities.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of your different types of gigs?
Natalya: Recently, we played in a beautiful concert hall to an audience of 250 people with the full band, and then two days later performed as the duo at a house concert for around 60 people. The bigger venue means more visibility, great sound and lights, but the house concert is a more intimate setting; we’re able to connect with people on a personal level.
Zoe & Cloyd play The White Squirrel Festival in Brevard on Saturday, May 25; check whitesquirrelfestival.com for updates on stage time. The duo also appears at 7:30pm on Friday, June 21, in the amphitheater at Transylvania County Library (212 South Gaston St., Brevard); library.transylvaniacounty.org/summer-concert-series). www.zoeandcloyd.com.