CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — When Sarah McCombie says, “We are not hipster, we are not cool,” about the music she and her husband, Austin, play, she’s actually trying to sell their product. But, the truth is, the product sells itself.
Sarah and Austin met in Raleigh, while Austin was at NC State and Sarah at Peace College (now William Peace University). They fell in love, got married and started conventional careers – Austin as a financial advisor, Sarah teaching music at a Montessori school. But they kept getting drawn back into music and a few years, ago, they decided to put it all aside and try to develop a career writing and performing their own songs much in the tradition of American folk music under the name Chatham Rabbits.
“There’s a lot of gray hair in our audiences and we really, really try to play to our strengths,” says Sarah.
“No matter how big the space, we try to act like it’s our living room when we’re playing,” adds Austin. And they now have something of a “living room” performance place. They’ve built a structure where they can perform on their farm near Siler City. But it’s been years on the road – as much as 150 days a year – where they built a connection with their fans.
“I also was just really surprised the first time I realized someone who wasn’t a family member friend really loved our music,” says Austin. “I’ll never forget at a show we played – there were like five people there, they just happened to be there. And then we played that same venue again, and there was five times that amount of people there and it was a result of those people telling their friends, ‘Hey, this music is awesome.’”
They attribute much of that success to explaining the story behind each song they write and perform.
“I’ve seen it when we play a song – when we tell a story about the song and then we play it – and someone in the audience is crying. It touches people in a way that words, alone, can’t and music alone, can’t,” Austin says.
So, now, the partners in life are partners in song as they continue to build a career.
“The biggest surprise for me was how well Sarah and I work as business partners,” says Austin, as Sarah responds with a playful, “Shocking!”
“You can be married, you can write music together – all of those things are hard in themselves – but neither of us could predict how we would handle business, together,” he says.
“The challenge of that is, it’s hard for us to turn it off. Sometimes we have to say, ‘Alright, we’re doing a date night tonight and we can’t talk about Chatham Rabbits. And then in the first sentences are like, ‘Hey, what about this show we’re going to book?’ And it just happens.”
Hear some of their songs and where the Chatham Rabbit name came from in this edition of the Buckley Report.