Singer-songwriter S.D. Ineson traveled across the Big Pond from England in 1990 to make his fortune in the U.S. record business, and though he’s seen a host of musical projects and collaborators fall by the wayside in the years since, he’s never looked back. For roughly 20 years, he’s been frontman of Raleigh, N.C.-based folk/blues/roots/Americana outfit the Milagro Saints, and Ineson says the Saints have now settled into a comfortable groove, releasing records on their own Moon Caravan Records imprint and touring as the need arises. Ineson recently shared the story of his continuing journey with Scruffington Post, along with some thoughts about the wellspring of his long-running five-piece project’s creative endeavors
SP: How did the Milagro Saints get started?
SD: It started with just a couple of us in New York City in 1996, and then we moved to Raleigh in 1998 to get a record deal with Whiskey Town’s label in 1998. It was a pretty good scene in Raleigh at the time, lots of bands doing the kind of things we were doing. We eventually started our own label, and then we were able to release a record every couple of years, and follow that up with a tour up and down the coast.
SP: How would you characterize the band’s sound then as opposed to now?
SD: We were more folk rock then; we had a lighter sound. Then we started adding electric guitars, lap steel and organ, and more roots rock and blues elements became part of what we do. And we became a much bigger band, which influenced the direction as well.
Moving forward, we were heavily influenced by Son Volt and their first record, and by extension Mother Tupelo as well. Classic Bob Dylan and Neil Young were very important to us, as was Ryan Adams and Whiskey Town. I think we were going back to that thing of having a real band in the spirit of like-minded groups from the 1960s and 1970s.
SP: As principal songwriter, how do you handle the chore of writing for a diverse group of musicians, some of whom may have their own ideas about how the music should sound?
SD: Well, I’m primary songwriter, but they handle the arrangements; it’s something we work out as a group. It takes quite a while sometimes, maybe six months to whip a new song into shape before we work it into the set. Then of course you play live, and continue to rearrange it, and it gets better. That way, when we finally go into the studio, it comes together much better.
It’s best to allow everyone to throw in their piece, to allow the people who play particular instruments to work out those parts. I leave it up to them to come up with something that works. Otherwise, it would become very suffocating for everyone, hurt the band’s creativity.
SP: So how has the band continued to evolve leading into the here and now?
SD: When different people join — and we have had a number of people come and go — you get all kinds of different influences shaping the group’s music. I write the songs, but then we may have a lap steel player in the band who says, ‘Oh, we can do something a little bit different with that song if I add this part here.’
Lately, I’ve been writing in more open tunings, in a more bluesy kind of style. That can get pretty raucous when I bring the songs in to the rest of the band.
SP: Where do you see the band going over the next few years?
SD: Well, I’ve done heavy touring on a more “professional” level, back when I first came to the States. I’ve done all that; I’ve seen the U.S. The other members have also seen the world. We’re happy with what we’re doing now. With our own label, we get to pick and choose what we do and when. We’re not making a huge amount of money. But we’re all a little older. We’d rather pick and choose, then have a chance to enjoy a life in between.
The Milagro Saints will play Preservation Pub Monday, July 9 at 10 p.m.