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Sarah and the Underground's 'Ripple Songs' A Family Love Affair

 Brandon Mooberry and Sarah Marie Dillard
Beau Commanday
Brandon Mooberry and Sarah Marie Dillard

The new EP “Ripple Songs” from Peoria-based soul-folk trio Sarah and the Underground has actually been around for nearly four years, as it was originally a gift for family.

Underground vocalist/guitarist Sarah Marie Dillard and bass player Brandon Mooberry were married in 2017. She said the limited number of family members who attended the private wedding were gifted with a disc of five love songs on their way out the door. That EP was just released to the general public on Father’s Day.

“So that's been like a three year pre-release so I guess they're in the in-in crowd,” said Dillard.

The title track (and lead song) was written by Dillard as a ballad for her new husband.

“What was so cool about Brandon was that I knew he was the real deal. Both of us knew when we first fell in love that we were falling in love for the last time. And it's about the sustainability of that kind of love and how it's not just a feeling you plan on waking up with, but it's a relationship you have to invest in and you have to work at in order to sustain over an entire lifetime, which is what we plan to do," explained Dillard.

“So ‘Ripple Song’ is our little love note to our future selves. It is such a blessing when we play it on good days together when we're feeling happy and in love. And when we're at a gig and we get to play ‘Ripple Songs.’ And and it is even more of a blessing when we're having a rough day. And we go ahead and play it because we're supposed to, and it reminds us of all the things we need to hear.

Mooberry returns the love on the follow-up song “Cabin.” Before being asked to for the song’s background, Dillard was reminded of their 2019 WGLT interview, when he recalled how he first met her.

“I met her at a music festival. It really was one of those slow-motion movie moments, where I went, 'Man she’s so pretty,'" said Mooberry at the time to the delight of the giggling Dillard.

She once again giggled slightly as she detailed the funny backstory to Mooberry’s love song to her on “Ripple Songs.”

“My darling bass player and now husband wrote this song originally to propose to me,” she said. “After he had finished writing it and was making his proposal plans, I was very randomly talking about people who propose to their future spouses with original songs … going on and on … about what a mistake it is and how they shouldn't do it … how there are so many regrets and it ruins a good moments. And I feel so ashamed of that because that little conversation that just happened on a whim changed his entire proposal plans.”

Brandon obviously got past it and ended up proposing another way, though Dillard reiterated that she is still mortified (though she can laugh at herself) that she unknowingly derailed a well-thought out personal plan.

She said the album name comes from a saying they repeat often: “Don't miss the ripples.”

“I can't quite remember where that came from," said Dillard. “But that's something we say to each other. That's a hashtag we even use. But what we mean by that is ‘be present’ for the small moments … pay attention to the little things … because they are what turned into the big things. So that inspired the title for that song. And then the title for this EP.”

The album's third track also has special meaning for the two and the prime reason the album was released on Father's Day. “Especially for Mom and Dad” was written by her father in the late 60s early 70 for his mom and dad. Dillard is the vocalist on the song that made the album.

“Since my dad wrote it many decades ago, it has been at probably countless Dillard family, weddings and funerals where family is an extremely important aspect. This is a song that our family just loves to hear in those moments. You don't call this a tearjerker. We call it a ‘Pew shaker,’ because you tend to see the entire church pew shaking from one end to the other when the song plays in the sanctuary,” said Dillard.

“I also knew one thing I never wanted to do was sing at my own wedding. But I knew I needed the song there. So, the perfect thing for us was to pre-record it. And then we were able to play it as our father-daughter/mother-son dance. We were able to dance with this with the songwriter … who is my dad … which was so cool,” said Dillard.

“Ripple Songs” is available on various streaming sites. Sarah & the Underground will have a release party Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Peoria Public Library North Branch.

Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.