The Flat River Band, a Country Bluegrass group, spotlights three harmonizing brothers Chad, Dennijo and Andy Sitze. The Missouri natives have spent their lives in the music business. They started as children performing in the family band with their parents and grandparents. The multi-generational group held residencies at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri and Dollywood in East Tennessee. Flat River Band has opened for Alison Krauss, Natalie Maines (The Chicks), Ricky Skaggs and Rhonda Vincent to name a few. The brothers have charted a #1 song on the Bluegrass Gospel chart, and have had songs in the 2018 movie, The Least of These – A Christmas Story, featuring Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys, Deborah Allen and Tayla Lynn, Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter. The brothers definitely enjoy the company of each other as evidenced by their social media posts.They take advantage of their tour time by sightseeing and exploring each stop along the way.
When the trio was putting together their latest five-song EP, Sights and Sounds, they wanted to fill it with some special songs; they had no idea how special one of the songs would be. As the brothers brainstormed potential tracks, an idea came to them. They loved the possibility of recording “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” the 1977 hit by the Gatlin Brothers. Chad, Dennijo and Andy also specialize in harmonizing, and the irony is that when they were children, their mother taught them how to harmonize while listening to the Gatlin Brothers. After the Flat River Band recorded “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” a friend suggested that they send a copy of the song to the Gatlin Brothers to see if they would be willing to add vocals to the track. After patiently waiting for a response to their request, the brothers were excited to learn that it was an enthusiastic “YES.” The Gatlin Brothers took it a step further by agreeing to appear in the music video that was filmed in downtown Nashville at the iconic Tootsies. The music video is a must watch for any true country music fan.
The Sitze brothers are thrilled to have a second song on their new Sights and Sounds album that brings in guest vocals. The track, “Shining Though My Window,” features the guest vocals of The McCrary Sisters. The band’s new five-song EP also has a remake of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s classic “Helplessly Hoping.” The brothers were able to take this most recognizable song and give it the Flat River Band touch to make it their own. The song is a perfect fit for Chad, Dennijo and Andy to show their harmony capabilities. They were able to keep the integrity of the song while giving it a new twist and sound. Along with the song, they created an impressive music video that takes you into a gorgeous dark cave, lit with candles. The three brothers gather in the cave to play and sing. By chance, they found the cave location while on a hike. They fell in love with the thought of using this unusual setting for a music video shoot; their vision paid off beautifully.
I had a chance to catch up with Chad, Dennijo and Andy. It was an action-packed interview and we were only speaking over the phone. Their enthusiasm for music, life and love of family comes through in every aspect of the interview.
CN: Hi, how are the brothers today?
FRB: Hi, Catherine. We have all three of us here today. (They each introduce themselves.) We are in St. Augustine, Florida on tour. It’s really nice here and it’s beautiful outside.
CN: Oh, I hear it’s great there. What’s it like traveling with your siblings?
ANDY: When we travel we like to make the best of it and explore the area we are visiting. Yesterday we took out these three-wheel cars and drove all over town. We had a great time. It was pretty funny. We post all of our events on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. You can always see what we are up to wherever we are.
CN: What do you have coming up this year, what are you looking forward to?
CHAD: We have a lot of radio tours planned, we have a new booking agent and we are psyched about that. God willing, our plan is to get into the studio and record a new collection of songs.
CN: What is it like being in a band with three brothers, three different ideas. How do you make it work?
CHAD: I love writing songs, Miss Catherine. It’s like presenting an idea to a board meeting when I give the ideas to the two brothers of mine. It’s a hard sell to try to get them to pass muster. (Laughs.) What it boils down to is that the three of us each have our own ideas and we bring those ideas together collectively and you end up with the Flat River Band, that’s how it works. You get an idea here, and an idea there. To give you an example, I wrote a song about 10 years ago that’s on our Sights and Sounds album. I was hemming and hawing around trying to figure out how we could implement this song. We usually will take turns singing the lead and harmonizing to the songs that are brought to the table. For the longest time, I was hoping to sing lead on this song. Then my little brother stepped up to the plate and the song was made for him. When you hear it, it’s like “ding” all the angels in heaven sing when he sings it. You will hear it being right when you listen to it. We got the lovely McCrary Sisters to sing back up on this song; it is just magical! We have a video coming out soon for that song and The McCrary Sisters are in the video. It’s pretty cool. It was great having them join us on the song.
CN: With your new release of your five-track EP, do you each have a favorite track or do you all agree on one song being the killer song on it?
CHAD: My personal favorites are “Ain’t a Woman Like a River” and “Andy’s Song” and “Shining Through My Window.” But when doing the songs live, all of my body tingles when we do “Helplessly Hoping.”
CN: On “Helplessly Hoping” with the harmonies, do you feel that every time you do that song it is consistent, or each time is it a little different and has its own sound?
DENNIJO: Very consistent song because of its three-part harmonies all the way from start to finish. Every word is harmonized in that song. The only way the song differs if someone is off. (They all laugh.)
CN: What is the next move for the Flat River Band?
ANDY: We currently have a song that we are promoting to radio with the Gatlin Brothers. The song, “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love,” was originally cut by the Gatlin Brothers in 1977. The reason why we wanted to do a Gatlin Brothers song is that they are also three brothers and our Momma taught us how to sing while listening to their music. Obviously they have played a role in our early years of learning how to sing. It’s been full circle for us. We re-cut that song in a studio called Creative Workshop Studio in Nashville, which is the same studio that the Gatlin Brothers cut that song. It’s been so cool and it’s been a full circle learning harmony to their music and now cutting a song and making a music video with them. It’s been a heck of a journey.
CHAD: We were in my basement just jamming around and we said, “Hey, let’s take a novelty song and play tribute to some of the old country acts who came before us.” We went in and recorded it. One of our friends said, “Hey, why don’t you send this to the Gatlin Brothers?” and we did. We sent an email out to them, and, of course, they have about three gatekeepers. We got through the gatekeepers and Larry sent an email back saying name the place and time and we will be there. If we would have known that it “just” took an email to make that happen, we would have done that a long time ago. (Laughs.)
CN: Don’t tell other musicians that it was this easy to get them to join you.
ANDY: It was definitely orchestrated by the good Lord how everything unfolded for this whole project. It was pretty remarkable.
CN: Do you think the Gatlin Brothers were drawn to you all because you are also brothers doing the same thing they did?
CHAD: I think so. When we first sat down to meet Larry, he said, “I’ve looked into you guys and listened to your music.” And we are all three brothers. It kind of made sense.
CN: What was it like going with the Gatlin Brothers to the same studio where they had recorded the original?
CHAD: It was cool, being in the same studio 45 years later recording the same song that went to number one. It was their first number one hit.
CN: It must have been a cool moment for them as well.
DENNIJO: It was, it was super cool and there was something in the air, you could feel it.
CN: What does your Mom think of you recording the song that she used to teach you how to sing harmonies with? With the original brothers who sang it and then to record it in the same studio with them?
CHAD: Our Momma was really excited about this happening. We come from an authentic family band and have been playing music since we were little. Our Momma sang, our Dad played guitar and my Grandpa and Grandma played. All of us played music together.
CN: It’s awesome that your musical talent goes back a couple of generations. Do any of you have kids that are interested or seem to want to continue the family “business?”
ANDY: It’s funny, we all have kids, but none of them play music. (Laughs.) Some of them are trying to play guitar. They are all pretty close in age and we have to start working on them.
CN: Looking back to what you have accomplished already, what would you say has been your favorite moment so far? Do you all share the same favorite one?
ALL AGREE: Because we grew up in an authentic family band. We played for 12 years in Branson at the Silver Dollar City and then we played for about five years in Dollywood in East Tennessee. We traveled around with our families and had a couple of buses. We played some big festivals and I would say playing a big bluegrass festival in Kentucky would be a highlight for me. There were probably around 20,000 people there.
CN: You all have opened for a great list of people as well, like Natalie Maines from The Chicks.
ANDY: Actually Dennijo was in a band with Natalie. Chad and I got a music scholarship to a music school in Texas and Natalie was going to school there at the time. That was before she joined The Chicks. We did a weekly TV show with Natalie in Texas called the Country Jukebox. She had a blues band and I played harmonica in it.
CN: The last question is called “One Grab.” The scenario is this: You have to run out of your house. Everyone is safe, your family and pets are with you. You can run back into the house and grab one thing. What do you grab?
ALL THREE: No hesitation, my mandolin… my bass… my guitar.
CN: Thank you for your time, it’s been fun talking with you all.
FRB: Thank you, Catherine!
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