The Sweet Lillies Reflect on Self-Exploration, Social Justice & Evolution in New Album ‘Equality’

Article Contributed by Americana Vibes | Published on Sunday, June 4, 2023

Colorado-based string Americana group The Sweet Lillies have unveiled their new full-length record Equality available now via Americana Vibes. With overarching themes of self-exploration, social justice, and evolution, the quartet presents 12 brand new songs produced by Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters and recorded at the iconic Mighty Fine Productions in Denver, CO. Equality features guest appearances by Jason Hann (drums) and Kyle Hollingsworth (keyboards) further cementing The Sweet Lillies’ upswing with co-signs and collaborations by sought-after musicians on the nationally touring circuit and developing a road warrior reputation of their own.

The band's depth of songwriting and their own evolution as a unit is showcased throughout the duration of Equality. Guitarist and vocalist Dustin Rohleder reflects on his journey of leaving home in search of finding himself through travel experiences that awaken the mind and soul in “Candles” and deepens that exploration in “18 Wheels” which is a metaphor using the concept of a tractor-trailer to describe the experience of being a lone wolf in search of your life. “It is a diesel-soaked narrative of a man reaching further than he has ever reached before to find his inner self,” he reflects. The potency of Rohleder’s self-discovery is affirmed through the unique songwriting process of “Clean Water” where bassist and vocalist Julie Gussaroff asked him to describe his upbringing on his family farm. As he talked, she wrote, describing his journey of being torn between leaving the farm to find his own life and staying with his family of generational farmers and deep roots.

Violist Becca Bisque unfurls words of wisdom when it comes to standing up for yourself and the world around you. The album’s lead single “Words” is about overcoming self-doubt. “In this song, I question the use of language and its implications—asking when it is best to speak up and when it is best to be an observer—what is the result of those choices? Self-exploration and self-discovery as it relates to our words is the nature of this piece.” “Tables Turning” surveys learning one’s place in the community and society as a whole when it comes to societal norms and social expectations. The lyrics traverse through finding your true self examining how you fit in the world around you. Capping off themes of social justice, the title track “Equality” is Gussaroff’s antidote detailing growing up with parents who were social activists and learning how to treat people from all walks of life with love and respect. Affirming the powerful note, she asserts, “I believe someday we can live in a safe and equal society all we need do is work together. We must make reparations where needed and put all people on equal footing. We must fight the ideas that some people matter and others do not. All people are sacred and all people must be equal for us all to live in safety and peace.”

Outside of the examinational and uplifting lyrics, the band’s musical chemistry is firmly on display as evidenced by the careful balance between preparation, detailed songwriting, and organic moments of improvisation & spontaneity in the studio helmed by Chris Pandolfi’s production prowess. On his experience laying down drums with The Sweet Lillies, Jason Hann states, "I had an amazing time in the studio with The Sweet Lillies and Chris Pandolfini. It’s great the way the songs came together on the spot, leaving room for creativity and taking things to another level in the studio. The instant musical communication all around lent itself to a great playing flow. It was beautiful to be a part of this project!"

Of the final product and working with the group from start to finish, Pandolfi declares, “Every band that makes meaningful music over a long career will go through concentrated moments of evolution, where most aspects of their sound and vision take a huge leap forward, seemingly in a moment's time. Equality, the excellent new album from the Lillies, is a coming of age for this up-and-coming band. From hip-hop-inspired writing to an expansive new sound featuring guest Jason Hann from String Cheese on drums, this record makes a powerful statement that will surely catch the attention of new ears. Becca, Julie and Dustin brought their A game, laying down emotive, compelling live tracks in the studio, exceeding expectations at every turn. It was an honor to produce 'Equality,' and I can't wait to see where it takes The Sweet Lillies.”

Pandolif’s statement is backed up by a consistent touring schedule where the band has been road-testing the new songs and promoting the upcoming new album. After a busy spring of club dates, the band has prepared for a handful of festival and summer series appearances including The Peach Music Festival in Scranton, PA and Blissfest Music Festival in Petoskey, MI. Full dates are found below:

6/3 - Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series - Gallup, NM

6/15 - 6/19 - Adrift Adventures Rafting Center - Vernal, UT

6/21 - Central Stage - St. Louis, MO

6/23 - The Coterie - Kokomo, IN

6/24 - The Winchester - Lakewood, OH

6/25 - Togethernessfest - Spencer, NY

7/1 - The Peach Music Festival - Scranton, PA

7/4 - Live on the Lake - Chicago, IL

7/7 - 7/9 - Blissfest Music Festival 2023 - Petoskey, MI

7/19 - Band On The Bricks - Boulder, CO

7/20 - Little Beach Park - Minturn, CO

7/22 - Saturdays in the Square - Buffalo, WY

7/23 - One Legged Magpie - Red Lodge, MT

7/30 - Carbondale Mountain Fair - Carbondale, CO

8/26 - 8/27 - Great River Folk Festival - La Crosse, WI

9/1 - Music on the Green Concert Series - Mountain Village, CO

9/2 - Four Corners Folk Festival 2023 - Pagosa Springs, CO

9/3 - Breckenridge Brewery - Littleton, CO

9/8 - Summer Music Evenings - Longmont, CO

9/15 - The Infamous Weekend - Axton, VA

10/6 - 10/8 - The Ramble Festival - Darlington, MD

Equality can is available for purchase on vinyl and CD with limited edition merchandise available. You can order via Americana VIbes HERE.

To learn more and stay up-to-date on The Sweet Lillies, visit: