Led by a modern-day Linda Ronstadt, Granville Automatic writes songs the Associated Press calls “haunting tales of sorrow and perseverance.” Horses, history and war are just some of the topics songwriters Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins prefer – all fitting subjects for a band named after a 19th-century typewriter. With sonic references such as Lyle Lovett, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, Granville Automatic has created a quiet and lyrical sound devoted to telling stories from the past. After writing together first in the spring of 2009, the pair has more than 100 songs. They have three albums: Live from Sun Studio, Granville Automatic, and the summer 2015 release, An Army Without Music.
An Army Without Music: Civil War Stories from Hallowed Ground is a collection of songs inspired by American Civil War stories from lands that have been lost or threatened by urban development or industry. From the haunting “Goodnight House” (about Dr. James Polk who tried to save wounded soldiers after the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky) to “Mollie Glass” (about a little girl who loses her favorite horse to the army) and on to “Salem Church” (inspired by Elizabeth’s ancestor who deserted on the first day of Gettysburg to walk home to his wife in North Carolina) and “Grancer Harrison” (about one of the most famous ghosts in Alabama) – the record is a throwback to the warm, analog sounds of ’70s country. Produced by Gary Maurer of the band Hem, the nine-song album was recorded at Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn. The band also traveled to the site of each song’s story, recording an acoustic version and video, which will be available online. The album was written when the duo was chosen as the Composers in Residence at Seaside, Florida’s prestigious Escape to Create program.
The girls are now writing their fourth album, Dancing at El Mercado, a collection of songs inspired by Texas and Vanessa’s childhood in the Lone Star State
Granville Automatic recently appeared on the PBS program “Sun Studio Sessions” and also taped a critically-lauded Daytrotter session. They’ve appeared on the PBS/NPR program “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour,” as well as Nashville Public Radio’s “Live at the Bluebird Café” (their photograph hangs on the wall at the famous venue). They have performed at SXSW, the CMA Music Festival, the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, the 30A Songwriters Festival and the Key West Songwriters Festival. Their songs have been featured on ABC’s “American Crime” and ABC Family’s “The Lying Game.”
In 2015, a song they co-wrote was recorded by country superstar Billy Currington on his Summer Forever album. “Drinkin’ Town With A Football Problem” became the album’s second single.
The band loves the road – clocking as many as 200 dates across America each year, always visiting historical sites along the way. The duo has played at Hotel Café in Los Angeles, the Tin Angel and World Café Live in Philadelphia, the Bitter End and the Living Room in New York City, Momo’s in Austin, Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta and are favorites at Pappy and Harriet’s near Joshua Tree, California. They’ve played BMI’s Acoustic Lounge in Los Angeles and appeared on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s “Thacker Mountain Radio” and NBC Atlanta’s “Morning Show.” The band was a finalist in“Mountain Stage”’s NewSong Contest and a semi-finalist in the Unsigned Only competition. They won third prize in Spin Magazine’s Next Great American Road Song contest, made the finals in the Maurice Small Town Sounds competition and USAA’s GarageBand Playoff and were in the Top 50 for the Wildflower Performing Songwriter Competition.
Both girls have a history in the music business: Vocalist/songwriter Olivarez wrote and recorded a Top 10 single in Canada, has three cuts on Sugarland records, including a song on their multi-platinum Enjoy the Ride album, and received a Dora nomination for her work in the Toronto production of “Hairspray.” She was also a top 12 finalist on “American Idol.” Guitarist/songwriter Elkins is a Grand Prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest who has showcased at the Billboard/BMI Acoustic Brunch at SXSW, at BMI showcases in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Nashville, and at CMJ. Elkins’ songs have appeared on more than 40 television programs from “Smallville” to “Rescue Me,” “Jersey Shore” to CNN, and in the film “Mean Girls 2.”