Photography by: Sam Hanson
You Knew Me When
By: Hawken Miller
Both Cie and Karisa Hoover went to Nashville to pursue a career in music, but it wasn’t until a year after they were married that they realized they could combine their talents in a band.
They haven’t looked back since. You Knew Me When is a representation of their complementary styles. The self-described indie rock and folk husband-wife duos’ tunes bring out the high, sweet and melodic notes of Karisa, playing the piano, ukulele, glockenspiel and percussion and the deep, smooth, rhythmic overtures of Cie’s guitar, vocals and occasional kick drum.
Their music drives forward with a foot-tapping beat, but leaves time for introspective interludes and music-to-your ears vocals. Cie and Karisa accomplish all this among themselves without any auto tuning or technological manipulation apart from the help they get from their bassist when recording. Their talents are unique and special on their own; but when put together each one of them is enhanced.
You Knew Me When’s touring practices are as unique as the husband-wife duo that breathes life into it. They’ve performed in nearly all 50 states but they’ve also performed, at the time of the interview, at 161 different craft breweries in the U.S. and Canada.
“People who like craft beer, tend to appreciate independent music,” Cie said, echoing Karisa’s sentiment. “It’s kind of similar mindsets.”
Cie and Karisa found that most of the people who got into beer walked away from everything to pursue their passions, not so different from many indie bands who try to make a life for themselves through music.
Now that they are focused on their band and touring, life isn’t bound by a geographic box for Cie and Karisa, though they now tend to refer to Ouray, Colorado as home base, nestled in a box canyon nearly eight-thousand feet high surrounded by 13-thousand foot peaks.
“It’s really a place for us to write and relax and have that time to go “ahh” on the couple days where we aren’t playing,” Karisa said.
Where they spend the most time, though, since they decided to devote the past five years to touring, is their trusty, 24-foot Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van, which they transport themselves and their equipment in. The title of their first and second albums, “You, Me and the Rest of the World” and “We Found Roads,” are a reflection of the on-the-road lifestyle.
“We get to be with our best friend, doing what we love, and getting to explore and see more of the country in a year than most people probably do in their lifetime,” Cie said. They get a lot of use out of their National Parks Service Pass.
You Knew Me When didn’t develop instantaneously, but slowly came to be as the relationship between Cie and Karisa became more serious and they discovered their mutual affinity towards writing music.
In 2001, Cie and Karisa met at the small, liberal arts Belmont University, two miles south of downtown Nashville. They started dating the second semester of their Freshman year. Cie and Karisa were together until they got married in 2008.
Cie got a job at Gibson Guitars as a global event manager and Karisa became tenured elementary school music teacher in the Nashville public schools. Their professional life gave them a leg up in their new, artistic-oriented life.
“It allowed us to have a better understanding of how to make it work…versus so many musicians who have the creative side of things but really don’t have the knowhow,” Cie said. “We understand what we need to do to make ends meet and the sacrifices that you have to make.”
After being together for six years, they got married in 2008. It wasn’t until their one-year anniversary in Puerto Rico that they realized they might have chemistry, not just romantically, but musically. They had both been involved in music their whole lives, Cie in bands throughout high school and college (until his equipment got stolen and he called it quits) and Karisa went to school for music education.
“It was one of those aha moments…why haven’t we played music together or written together,” Cie said. Karisa added that “it was quite fun.”
Writing music together started as a hobby while they were both working full-time but it slowly became a bigger and bigger part of their lives until they quit their jobs in 2012 and released their debut album.
You Knew Me When has been quite a busy duo since then. They’ve been averaging about 50,000 miles and 200 shows per year, garnering fans one at a time, in breweries and on the stage.
For both Cie and Karisa it’s a very DIY process. Karisa does all of the booking and Cie is the driver, but they tag team everything in between.
A couple living out of a van and being with each other almost every waking second seems like a recipe for disaster, but they’ve been able to come out of it year after year unscathed. It’s because of their chemistry, but also because of the people they play for.
“On top of getting to play music, getting to share our music and having the feedback of having people, ideally, enjoy our music helps us keep going,” Cie said.
You Knew Me When’s indie rock and folk vibes have propelled Cie and Karisa around the United States and parts of Canada. From McCarthy, Alaska, with a 60-mile road to get into town and a population of 28, to the capital of music itself, Nashville, Tennessee, many a few listeners have heard their raw musical talent and simplistic composition that make You Knew Me When different and refreshing from the popular music we’re used to.
Only oceans have separated them from the rest of the world until now. Next on the map for Cie and Karisa is Hawaii and Europe. They released their new album over the summer, “Into the Looking Glass,” and completed a music video for the song “Waste of Time.” You Knew Me When won’t likely reach the 200 show mark, but they have accomplished plenty this year alone.
Folk music is an amalgamation of the shared traditions not only in the United States, but the rest of the world and independent rock sees no boundaries and creates new musical forms. As Cie and Karisa travel across the U.S. and potentially the world and make new music, they are embodying the exact same adjectives that describe their band, You Knew Me When.
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