On the Local Music Scene with Cedar Blue

By Vincent Abbatecola 

Sean McIlhargy, Jillian Walsh, Matthew Mone, Carly Walsh, and Sam Johnson during a performance Saturday, April 11 at the Sportsview 2 Bar and Grille in Tomkins Cove

When you’re in a band, it’s important that you not only see you and your fellow members as a musical group, but as a family. As soon as I walked into Cedar Blue’s studio at the home of Sean McIlhargy in Stony Point, I knew its members were a very tight-knit pack.

Cedar Blue is a North Rockland-born indie/alternative/folk rock group that includes McIlhargy, who plays bass and sings vocals; Matthew Mone, who plays drums and banjo; Jillian Walsh, who plays mandolin and sings vocals; Carly Walsh, Jillian’s younger sister, who plays guitar and sings vocals; and Sam Johnson, who plays bass and sings vocals.

The five have known each other for several years, and through their love of music, they have strengthened their artistic talents.

“I was in my first band with Jillian in high school,” said Sean. “I’ve played music with Matt for six years now. Jillian and Carly are sisters, and we met Sam through Carly.  We started jamming because we’re all local and we all like to play music, and we have the studio at my house, so we started playing some songs, and then we decided that we wanted to make a band.”

The logo of Cedar Blue includes the Celtic Tree of Life, an image that speaks to the bond within the band.

“The meaning of the Tree of Life is that it really brings everything that’s in the universe together, and I feel like that resembles us in a way,” said Jillian.

When a band comes together for the first time, it must figure out what style it would like to pursue. Although Cedar Blue has settled on an indie/alternative/folk style, each member has experiences in other music genres.

“Going back to the Tree of Life, I think it’s actually kind of interesting because we all come from different musical backgrounds,” said Jillian. “It just happened that way. We’re all emotionally connected to this type of music.  It wasn’t a plan. It was just how we started playing.”

“We had the music we wrote,” said Sean. “We liked it and it meant something to us. It’s how it worked out, and we have a lot of fun doing it. That’s what really matters.”

“The important thing is to establish ourselves into one genre,” said Jillian. “Stemming off of that, we do have, on the album that we’re going to be releasing really soon, some songs that are more alternative rock, and we have others that are more indie folk.”

“We go from a song with some clean electric guitar, big vocals, and a big ending, to a song with acoustic guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, and four to five voices,” said Sean.

Now that Cedar Blue has created their sound, the band has its sight set on their first album release. The album is titled “So It Goes,” which is also the name of one of the album’s songs. The band is aiming for a local release in May and plans to have a show to celebrate it, with a date to be determined. Cedar Blue will then have an official release for their album during the late spring or early summer.

“Locally, we have a really good following,” said Sean. “We have a lot of people who come out every time and give good feedback. Those are the people who really know about us right now, but we don’t just want to be known in the tristate area; we want to be known nationally and globally. So, prior to a release, you want to send your music out to radio stations around the country, send it out to blogs, and try to get some excitement so it’s not just being released locally. We don’t want it to stop here. We want it to go further.”

“This local release will be a thank-you to our loyal fans, so this is why we’re doing it,” said Jillian.

“We’re not playing across the country yet, so it’s only fair to show our appreciation and have stuff available for the people who come out and want to get to know us,” said Sean. “But, like I said, we want to get known elsewhere, so we want to hype up the official release so we can expand our fan base.”

As of now, Cedar Blue has built up quite a presence throughout the tristate area. They have played locally at the Sportsview 2 Bar and Grille in Tomkins Cove, Mexicali Live in Teaneck, New Jersey, and The Bitter End in New York City.

Their future performances will be at Cafeteria Coffee House in New Paltz on May 2, Mexicali Live on May 29, The Bitter End on June 5,  Bailey’s Smokehouse in Blauvelt on June 20, the Town of Stony Point Fourth of July celebration, and the Haverstraw Summer Concert Series on July 30.

As for Cedar Blue’s dream venues, they have their eyes set on Madison Square Garden and Terminal 5 in NYC, and the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.

Until they reach those destinations, Cedar Blue has been working to build their fan base, including having Jill and Sean be interviewed on “Independent Minded,” a podcast that features the best in independent music and can be heard on Z100’s Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.

“The guy who does the ‘Independent Minded’ podcast, whose name is Ron Scalzo, heard our band and he was really into it, and he asked if we wanted to get interviewed for it, so it’s on the Elvis Duran website, which is pretty cool,” said Jillian.

The podcast featured Cedar Blue’s song “Burning Young,” which also has a music video on the band’s website and YouTube, and is definitely worth checking out if you want to get a taste of their skills.

“It was a lot of fun making the video,” said Jillian. “We got a lot of support from our friends who came out for the video’s party scene. It was pretty cool having a lot of people involved in it. It was really exciting.  Everybody in it was also local, so it went back to our local fans and our local following, and we owe a lot to them. It was fun, to sum it all up. It’s really cool having our own music video, and there will be more to come.”

Their achievement in this music video really provides a sense that there is a lot more to anticipate from this band. Cedar Blue may be local now, but it might not stay that way. Expect bigger things to come from the band.

For more information on Cedar Blue, visit their website at www.cedarbluemusic.com.