For a while, I wondered why it took so long to get an Eight Belles episode into the Parlour to Parlour series. After all, I met the band’s leader, Jessi Phillips, very shortly after meeting previous Parlour to Parlour subjects Quinn DeVeaux, Anna Ash and Mark Matos back in the middle of 2010, not very long after she relocated from her home state of Michigan and a past life in New York City. The access was there from day one.
In a way though, it’s only fitting that we get to see and hear from Phillips now. After initially performing as just Jessi Phillips, and then tentatively adopting the band name Yearling before discovering how common a band name it already is, she finally settled on Eight Belles last year. An avid horse aficionado since childhood, Phillips kept her equine interest embedded in her band by choosing the name of a deceased thoroughbred racehorse. It stuck, and the band’s first album – the excellent Girls Underground – was finally released after completing a modest but successful Kickstarter campaign.
Furthermore, when I first met Jessi, she had yet to find the guitarist who would become her perfect foil, a man whose musical sensibilities were seemingly custom made for Phillips’ brand of country-tinged indie Americana and pop music. Henry Nagle’s arrival in Eight Belles truly made this outfit a band. His personal rapport with Phillips is an equally solid match – sarcastic, ironic, self-deprecating, humble, and expertly timed. The two of them could conceivably lead another life as a traveling comedy duo if they wanted, and it would probably be a great success too.
Though they often play with a rhythm section, Jessi and Henry handled this interview all on their own and also gave us a preview of a song from their in-the-works second album. And of course, that natural element of humor can’t help but pop up here and there.