The duo on stage at what used to be Ernest and Scott Taproom are cool and composed under the hot white stage lights. They play song after song in sweet euphony while strumming their acoustic guitars and singing in perfect harmony. The Knotty G’s, Chuck Knott and Gill Henry, are just as much song birds as they are love birds. After a captivating performance, the two shove off to get some shut-eye. The next day, the two would perform what they affectionately named the “donning of the hat ceremony” and would be united as man and wife in front of their friends and family. After they exchanged vows, they would perform with a full band at their own ceremony at the famous music venue, Arden Gild Hall. With flowers in their hats and love in their hearts, they gave what was sure to be the performance of a lifetime.
Editor’s note: To the surprise of most guests, the ceremony actually turned out to be a renewal of vowels on their two year anniversary — the two love birds had spontaneously married in secret…THAT is how they roll.
It’s no secret that Wilmington has a deep history in music and a love for entertainment. With schools like Cab Calloway and venues like the Grand Opera House, it’s no wonder that Wilmington native Chuck Knott was bitten by the showbiz bug as a child. His father taught him to play the guitar at 9 years old and he’s been following his passion learning bass, drums, pump organ, mandolin and more since. Knott has gained fans across the country playing solo and in bands like New Sweden, Jahman Brahman, and sitting in with local favorites Spokey Speaky.
Gill Henry got her start in theater but has loved singing for as long as she could speak. Before the duo formed, her signature smooth and sultry voice had been enjoyed by audiences all around the New York and New Jersey area. Henry plays a number of stringed instruments including ukulele, guitar and a custom made mandolin from her sponsor, Didomenico Guitars.
Music is the magic that brought the two together and what keeps their love ablaze. They met as many musicians do, for as long as music has blessed this world, while sitting in on a mutual friend’s set in North Carolina. The two would become fast friends, bonding through their shared love of art and their passion for classic folk and Americana music. It was only natural that the two would come together with bassist Ryan Kijanka to serve up what their website describes as “hearty original recipe of pan-seared-boot-stomping-upbeat tunes, slow-cooked-captivating ballads, and even a few beaten-battered-deep-fried covers.”
This tasty imagery would make anyone hungry. Who out of the two of you cooks the most and what is your specialty?
Gill: Oh, I definitely love to cook — it’s like music where you have art and science coming together in this awesome way.
Chuck: Gill is a bona fide master artist in a lot of facets of life, and her skill in the kitchen is among the top of those attributes. I’m just lucky enough to pretend to have a refined enough palate to appreciate all of her delicious creations. It’s coincidentally also a prime driving force in my really trying to make this music thing work. That’s about all I’m good at, but I know if music didn’t work out, Gill could just become a world–renowned chef the likes of Emeril, Ratatouille, or Babbish, and put hacks like Boyardee & Uncle Ben to shame, so she’s always got that as a back-up plan.
What was your first time on stage like together?
Gill: Well, I remember looking over at him kind of bewildered because he was the first guitarist I’d ever played with who asked if he should turn his amp down.
Chuck: It felt natural from the get-go. Like we said before, we were each just kind of sitting in on a mutual friend’s show, so it was pretty laid back as far as expectations go. After a quick lookover of a song list, Gill scribbled down and came up with a loose gameplan of what we were gonna play; we just kind’ve winged it through a set of just the two of us playing. It was apparent right away that it was easy to play off of each other and have fun spontaneously onstage, which we think is a main element of how we always try to make music onstage, so that first gig together kind of set the precedent.
You guys met playing music, played a show in Wilmington the night before your wedding, and played a show during your own wedding reception! Music seems to be the cement that holds you two together. Do you ever get burnt out from playing so often?
Chuck: We’re lucky though, and we know that. Being a couple and having such control over our schedules makes it so that we can incorporate music into our plans… well, or really even incorporate our plans into the music. Like last summer, for Gill’s birthday, we bought tickets to go out to Red Rocks in Colorado to see Tedeschi Trucks Band one night and John Prine with the Colorado Symphony the next, and we were able to book a tour out there and back around those shows. I think we actually played the Ladybug Festival one night in July and immediately hit the road west after. We ended up playing something like 18 shows in 23 days in addition to seeing the Red Rocks shows and hiking and visiting with friends. That “constant” of music throughout really fueled the experience even though it seems like nonstop action.
Gill: You know, it is how we make a living, and it is serious work at times but it’s invigorating to see where the music can take us. Rather than getting burnt out, we just look at it as a constant adventure and make sure that we have fun with it, and try not to get too bogged down with all the worky-work aspects, ya know? The fun aspect is really important to us, because it would be a shame to take something you love doing and find a way to make it not fun.
You guys posted pictures of a tiny little cabin called Little Wing. It looked magical and secluded. Where was it? Tell me about your favorite memory up there.
Gill: There’s a small town called Au Sable Forks up in the Adirondacks that’s about two hours south of Montreal, where we play a bar called 20 Main a couple times a year, and the bar owners have a cluster of cabins out in the woods (all named after Neil Young songs) that they put us up in while we are in town. It seems like each time we’ve gone up we try to extend our stay a little longer because it is this magical and secluded part of the country. It’s a stark and sort of harsh beauty up there in the winter, and I mean, the folks up there are a different breed for sure dealing with the winters they do, but for as cold and snowy as it gets, people sure do love to come down to the local watering hole and listen to some live music. It’s something they truly appreciate. So it’s this perfect mixture of just all–around genuineness. It’s this rowdy bar where you’d expect to have to play covers all night, but they are really attentive to, and even request us to play our originals, so it’s a really vibrant place to make music even though it’s this bitter cold small mountain town at first glance.
We’ve written a couple songs while holed up in that little cabin. One of the more “on the nose” ones is Cabin Song that came about one afternoon, which is a great memory because a lot of songs kind of materialize over time, but that one came together pretty quickly and was one of the first songs we truly wrote together, so it’s cool to have a snapshot of that little piece in time. It’s also a show stopper when Gill belts out the outro and the band gets cookin’ behind her.
Chuck: One of my other favorite memories is the first time we played up there as a duo (Gill had played there a couple times before with other players or solo), and since everyone in town knew “Jill with a G” (the town is only a few hundred people and its seems like half of them come out to the shows and take an interest in the artists who travel through), when we were playing our first set she introduced me, and continued to say, “And I do want to let you all know that he’s asked me to marry him!” to which the entire place erupted with congratulations. So it was really warming to feel this group of absolute strangers share a genuine joy for us in that moment, and now every time we go back they feel like an extended family we get to catch up with… so it’s cool to build these ongoing relationships around the country, all through this musical story.
What do you hope audiences will gain from listening to your music and coming to your shows?
Chuck: I think as with any sort of performance–based art, we just hope that people who come to see us, or just happen to be there when we play, are able to just be there in that moment with us aside from whatever else is happening in their lives at the time. This world is a crazy and sometimes scary place, and we certainly don’t want people to “check out” of that reality, but rather bask in a window of unadulterated enjoyment (or heartbreak, depending on the song). To join into a mindset that we’re all in this together is a freeing feeling, and more often than not, tappin’ your foot and boppin’ your head or full on shakin’ a leg, mouthing the words or singing at the top of your lungs makes us feel pretty darn fine… finer than we were before letting loose. It gives us the chance to where we can all add our own little bit of vibrations to the world… and that feels a hell of a lot better when we’re all doing it together, so we just hope that people feel the desire to experience that feeling, and those shared moments with us more and more.
The Knotty G’s are currently working on their next album and taking a brief hiatus from touring. Stay tuned to #inWilm for updates.