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As The Wright Kids grow up and one of the four prepares to leave home, the Franklin County-based band continues to evolve its sound.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
The Wright Kids -- Sage Wright, 17, (from left), Selah Wright, 8, and Baruch Wright, 14 -- perform Saturday at Mill Mountain Park in Roanoke Saturday.
ERIC BRADY | The Roanoke Times
The Wright Kids played in the auditorium at Franklin County High School Saturday (pictured from left) Sage Wright, 12, Baruch Wright and Levi Wright. Before the group played Franklin County officials from the County and Rocky Mount recognized the group and their performances on the nationally televised NBC program "America's Got Talent".
Jared Soares | The Roanoke Times
TV personality Jerry Springer visits with The Wright Kids and their parents Friday evening at Pop's Ice Cream & Soda Bar in Roanoke. Springer, last season's host of America's Got Talent, made a promise that he would visit the trio.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
They'll have to change the name at some point. After all, they can’t be The Wright Kids forever.
It’s a fact of which the members of the Franklin County-based band The Wright Kids have become well aware.
It’s been five years since the siblings were contestants on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” The Wright Kids finished in the top 10 in the 2008 season, and it brought them fame and Jerry Springer. The following April, Springer (the show’s host) visited the group in Roanoke.
Now the group’s oldest, Sage, 17, is starting to look at colleges to attend next year while the other members — Baruch, 14, Levi, 11, and Selah, 8 — continue to balance the challenges of growing up while improving their music careers.
The show will go on without Sage, but things will be different. The Wright Kids are growing up.
The Wright siblings — all homeschooled — practice four to five days a week. No one misses a session.
“We get to practice a lot more often than other groups because we don’t have scheduling conflicts, most of the time,” Sage said.
Mornings are for school; afternoons for music. Their parents, Barry and Sue, felt it was better for them. This way they get to spend more time honing their musical abilities while still getting an education.
“The schedule is kind of flexible, yet it’s pretty disciplined too,” Barry said. “There’s lots of time for music. We feel like it’s a big part of their education.”
While Sage, Baruch and Levi all play classical instruments as part of their musical education, during shows each of the children has his or her own role. Sage plays mandolin and fiddle as well as guitar; Baruch plays guitar and banjo; Levi plays the bass; and Selah plays the guitar.
The band has played all over Southwest Virginia, but there’s only one venue the family affectionately calls a match made in heaven. That would be Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar on Memorial Avenue.
It’s where Springer met up with the family in 2009, an event that is fondly remembered by the owners of Pop’s. On occasion a treat commemorating the event appears on the specials menu, called a “Cherry Springer.”
When the group first played at Pop’s, co-owner Anna Robertson remembers noticing their talent as soon as they began .
“We had no idea what they were about to lay on us,” Robertson said.
Pop’s — which serves ice cream, homemade sodas and all types of grilled cheese sandwiches — is the type of place where the Wright kids can’t help recommending half the menu. Barry and Sue admit the couple who own the shop have become like family to the Wrights.
“They’re just a great family,” Pop’s co-owner Brandon Davis said.
The band also takes time to play at area schools.
“We’ll play at like a regular venue in Roanoke and kids will come up to us at our merchandise table and they’ll say, ‘Hey you came to my school.’ ” Baruch, 14, said.
The Wright Kids’ local fan base, which saw them perform at a Roanoke’s Parks and Arts event at Mill Mountain Park in July, has gotten to the point where the kids have been able to notice families who regularly attend their shows.
“It’s really nice to have people that come out just to see us,” Baruch said.
The group’s still evolving, a fact their father is quick to admit. On “America’s Got Talent,” the group went from playing bluegrass to covering pop songs. Currently, their repertoire is a mix of the two. The group has continued to play bluegrass, but generally perform acoustic pop and country songs during their shows.
“That’s the neat thing about a Wright Kids show,” Barry said. “Because they’re growing, you’re always going to get something different. Every time you come out to a show you’re going to get something a little different.”
Perhaps they’ll write more original songs one day, as the band only has a handful of those. Levi said he felt at their age it was difficult to be good songwriters.
“If you try to write a song that you’re going to do for a long time when you’re young, it’s probably not going to be as good as professional songwriters,” Levi, 11, said.
Making up for Sage
The group plans to play while Sage is away at college, but they still hope to include her in shows when she is available. The family is already outlining how they will have to change the group’s sound once she leaves. The goal is to incorporate a piano to help ease the transition.
The youngest in the group, 8-year-old Selah, will have a larger role in Sage’s absence. The group is also making plans to add additional instruments.
“Hopefully the keyboard will help compensate for that big hole,” Baruch said.
A few years ago, the group made their first CD. Only years removed from their debut, Baruch was candid about their sound.
“We sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks,” Baruch said.
So now that the kids are growing up, what do they call the band?
“We’re definitely going to have to come up with a new name,” Baruch said.
“The Wright Trio?” Levi asked
Barry had another suggestion.
“The Wright Quartet?”
They joked about calling themselves Wright Direction or other puns involving their last name.
“There’s already One Direction, so Wright Direction isn’t gonna work,” Baruch said.
No matter what name they choose, one part of the name is guaranteed to stay.
“It’s gotta be something with Wright,” Sage said.
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