THE TILLERS PROFILE
At Mile 642, Tom Brokaw met with The Tillers for the third American Character dispatch.
The men behind The Tillers - frontman Mike Oberst, guitarist Sean Geil and bassist Jason Soudrette – might be young, but their music has roots that run deep. They describe it as "American Folk or old time depression music," and their timeless songs don't just hearken back to an earlier time, they speak to a new generation of Americans - the kind who weren't necessarily around for the Great Depression, but who have a strong sense of history and perhaps some experience of their own with hard times.
Like much of the music they favor, The Tillers' "There is a Road (Route 50)," written by Oberst, invokes a classic American theme, in this case historic Highway 50. This route that has, as The Tillers sing, "carved her name on America's chest," is a road Oberst knows well: he has been living in Ohio on Route 50 all his life, can trace his family roots along the road back to 1828, and his grandfather even helped pave the road.
But while the band has an appreciation of the past, they are acutely aware of the sometimes unpleasant realities of today's world too - no one more so than Soudrette, a machinist by trade for a company that supplies General Motors, who is justifiably anxious about the current economic crisis and the danger it poses to his day job.
In their lives, and in their music, all three band members embrace a return to simplicity, a longing for freedom, and hope for the future. It is fitting then that these American Characters would devote a song to Highway 50, a road that, like the country it traverses, has seen its share of hardship and history and still keeps pressing forward.