Taking a cue from youthful folk revivalists like Laura Marling, Mountain Man, and the Pierces, Watford, England’s the Staves blend the wistful cadences of classic British folk with breezy, Laurel Canyon-era pop. They made their full-length debut with Dead & Born & Grown in 2012. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon produced the follow-up, 2015′s lf I Was, and 2021′s Good Woman saw them work with producer John Congleton on a set partly inspired by both loss and childbirth.
The trio formed in 2009 around the talents of sisters Emily (vocals), Jessica (vocals/guitar), and Camilla Staveley-Taylor (vocals/ukulele), who first learned to harmonize by singing along with their parents’ record collection, dominated by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Emily was only 14 years old when the siblings made their live debut at a neighborhood pub’s open-mike night, but they were well-received and began appearing on a regular basis. The Staves released their debut EP, Facing West, in 2010, the same year they performed as backing vocalists on Tom Jones’ 2010 gospel collection Praise & Blame.
The year 2011 produced a pair of EPs, Live at Cecil Sharp House and Mexico, which brought them to the attention of the major labels. The siblings signed with Atlantic Records and, capitalizing on the buzz created by their well-received debuts, they spent the beginning of 2012 supporting acts the Civil Wars and Bon Iver in North America. Arriving later that year, their first full-length outing, Dead & Born & Grown, was produced by Glyn and Ethan Johns. 2014 saw the release of another EP, Blood I Bled. The title track was a preview of the album If I Was, which was produced by Justin Vernon and released in February 2015. It landed them in the Top 20 of the Billboard Americana/Folk and Heatseekers Albums charts, and resulted in a tour with Florence + the Machine and an appearance at Glastonbury. The EP Sleeping in a Car followed in 2016, and a year later, Nonesuch issued The Way Is Read, a collaboration with chamber group yMusic that featured both Staves originals and reworked yMusic compositions.
They spent the latter part of 2018 touring the U.K. with First Aid Kit, another indie folk act comprising sisters. However, it was the death of their mother — as well as the birth of Emily’s daughter — that led to the slowdown of their public appearances in the period that followed. Their vocals appeared on a number of tracks from Paul Weller’s mid-2020 LP On Sunset before previews of their third full-length began appearing online in the second half of the year. The John Congleton-produced Good Woman followed in February 2021 and reached number 13 on the U.K. albums chart. The following years saw the group celebrate the tenth anniversary of their debut album, Dead & Born & Grown, with a limited-edition vinyl reissue. ~ James Christopher Monger & Marcy Donelson