There was some real excitement in the air last night among my circle of South Carolina musicians and fans online as Charleston, SC duo Shovels & Rope made their network television debut on the Late Show with David Letterman, playing their theme song, “Birmingham.” As a performance, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent killed it, visibly impressing Letterman even with their energy and joyful attitude. Those of us who have been watching the pair develop over the past few years and more were prepared but it was still pretty cool seeing our SC music peers on such a big platform.
The question was raised to me on Facebook last night if it would be a career changing moment for S&R, if it was a really big deal, etc, like it was for Hootie and the Blowfish back in the 90’s…My response was that I didn’t think it would make a huge difference for the band, at least not right away, because the ratings and viewership aren’t what they were then, and there are so many more options to find out about music that one appearance on a late night show won’t make (or break) a band any more.
That said, it does give them a more mainstream stamp of approval, where other outlets may take a chance on them and give them more opportunities like this one. Gather those increasing bits together and soon you have a really big snowball that gets harder and harder for the mostly clueless public to ignore.
The bigger announcement this month for Shovels & Rope, I think, is their inclusion on the lineup for the Newport Folk Festival. That’s the kind of exposure in front of a specific subset of music fans who will ‘get it’ right away that the band needs, and deserves. Wish they were playing Merlefest, too, for that same reason.
Here’s the Letterman appearance, if you missed it: