By BROOKE WANSER
Colony House vocalist Caleb Chapman and his younger brother Will, the band’s drummer, are no strangers to the music industry.
Growing up in Franklin, Tenn., the Chapman brothers played with their father, award-winning Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman, on weekend tours, while attending Christ Presbyterian Academy during the week.
Caleb Chapman, 27, spent some time talking about their music and what it means to play a festival in their hometown.
“We joke that we’ve only gone downhill from our start. We were 15, 16, 17 year-olds playing arenas over the weekend. That’s kind of extreme as a high schooler,” Chapman said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
On Friday, Colony House is in New Haven, Conn., where the band, which also includes guitarist Scott Mills and bassist Parke Cottrell, is touring with alternative rock group Mutemath.
The band took their name from the Colony House Apartments in Franklin off 11th Avenue. When guitarist Scott Mills moved from Murfreesboro to Franklin, he lived there along with Will Chapman and, at one point their sister and Caleb’s future wife. “We thought, ‘What’s something that talks about where we’re from and where we started?’” said Chapman.
Though their music takes on many different tones, often shading the lines between pop and rock, Chapman said they always try to fit into the rock category. “In this day and age, there’s so many genres, and we like to say we’re a rock and roll band from Tennessee,” Chapman said. “Straightforward.”
But though the brothers grew up in a loving environment with a father whom Chapman referred to as “the poster child for Christian music,” their story is not so straightforward.
In 2008, Will Chapman accidentally struck 5-year-old Maria Sue Chapman, his adopted sister, while backing out of the driveway at their home. In the wake of her nationally publicized death, the Chapman family stood strong in their Christian faith while mourning. Nearly ten years later, this moment still stands out to Chapman.
“That is such a defining moment in my life, in my family’s life. Even the songs that have nothing really to do with it are steeped in that moment,” he said, pointing to the band’s first EP and early music. “Pretty much 90 percent of those were stories and thoughts around the tragedy of losing my little sister.”
Since those early days of grief, they have evolved, releasing their first studio album, “When I Was Younger,” in 2014, following with “Only the Lonely” which they released in January of 2017.
Now, they’re fresh off their first headlining tour earlier this year, which Chapman said was humbling.
“We’ve been a band for longer than people who read the bio realize. There’s a legitimate kind of innate humility that comes when you’re walking into these venues thinking, ‘Are we going to be able to fill this up?” he said. “And there’s 300 people in the place where last time there were ten people. We’re really grateful that we get to play and see that progression. It kind of feels like it’s starting to pay off a little bit.”
They will continue to tour with Mutemath into the fall, but as Chapman noted, “The Colony House family is growing rapidly.”
Each of the group’s four members is married; Mills is a new father and both Chapmans have a child on the way. Chapman admits that while touring is integral to their craft and creative spirit, family also is a major part of their lives.
“Touring is a part of what our purpose is, and our wives understand that. It’s a juggling act of how can we be really working hard to continue to push this forward, but also protecting what is most sacred,” he said.
It is apparent that Chapman’s father influenced more than his sons’ music: “The person I saw on stage as a kid was the same person I saw at home,” he said. “There wasn’t this act of going on stage.” Chapman saw that people responded to his father’s music, and learned he wanted to have the same level of transparency: “As communicators on stage and being the one who has the louder voice, we’ve challenged ourselves to be communicators and listeners.”
Playing in their hometown will just be another way for the band to relate and connect to their audience.
Chapman was working at the Factory when he heard about the Pilgrimage Festival before its first year.
“I was like, ‘This is awesome!’ It’s a lot different from a mainstream festival,” he said.
“We call Nashville shows hometown shows, but this is like a true hometown show,” Chapman continued. “I have a story for every street that surrounds that farm.” He pointed out that he could canoe down the Harpeth River to the venue, as he lives five minutes away from Harlinsdale Farm.
Chapman said he couldn’t yet talk about what 2018 holds for the band, but hinted it might involve another tour.
As they continue to tour and write, Chapman said Colony House aims for their music to be responsive: “We want people to listen to what we have to say, and we want to listen to what people have to say.”
Colony House performs at the Pilgrimage Festival at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23 on the Southern Comfort Stage.