One spring evening in Ridgefield, Washington, Chad and Rachel Hamar walked onto the Clark County Amphitheater stage as 18,000 spectators sized them up. Three or four songs later they left to waves of cheering and applause, plus a lot of puzzled people turning to friends and asking, “Who the hell was that? And why haven’t I heard of them before?”
The answers were simple. Chad and Rachel were and are partners in music and in life. And this gig, opening for mega star Kenny Chesney, was only the second time they’d ever played as Cloverdayle.
How they won that opportunity is but one interesting detail in the saga of Cloverdayle. Plenty of history preceded that night, going back to the moment Chad, a college freshman, and Rachel, still in high school, locked eyes across a huge, busy room at a jazz festival. (If you remember the words to “Some Enchanted Evening” or the “Dance at the Gym” scene in West Side Story, it was exactly like that.) Before then, their childhoods forecast their eventual union. Both grew up in Oregon, raised by parents who passed their love for music to their kids. They each loved the outdoors and in particular shared a love for biking with friends. She sang in choirs at school and at First Baptist Church in Bend, Oregon; he built his foundation as a drummer, kindling a grasp of groove that would later underlie the guitar rhythms that would anchor the Cloverdayle sound. Carole King, Amy Grant, James Taylor and other singer/songwriters inspired Rachel, not only to write but to sing songs with awareness and respect of their craftsmanship. He drew similar lessons; at age 3 Chad was spellbound by the music of Bobbie Gentry, then moved from there through Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Everly Brothers, early Willie and Waylon and much more.
No wonder they connected at that jazz festival — a connection they affirmed when Rachel enrolled a year later at Chad’s college. Their uncanny creative synchronicity was clear the first time they tried writing something together. “We were at Chad’s parents’ house,” Rachel recalls. “We took some lyrics Chad had already written. He was messing around with some guitar stuff. So I came up with a melody and sang his lyrics back to him. I remember him being like, ‘Oh, my gosh! Dad! Come here! You’ve gotta hear this girl sing!”
“I still remember that first feeling of collaboration,” Chad adds. It was so amazing to have somebody else’s insights and then put both of our ideas together.”
They started performing their originals as a duo at local coffeehouses. A following grew, first in their community but then throughout the Pacific Northwest. Step by step, they scaled to higher levels of visibility, earning opening slots for Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum and Tim McGraw. Yet they left when the time was right for Nashville, to seek the stimulus and opportunity that beckoned from Music City. Devoted fully to music, they subsisted by teaching at home and, for their longtime music and composition students back in Oregon, online. Rachel did voice-over work. They both did some sessions. And they played together whenever they could, at writer-rounds and club gigs.
As Cloverdayle, they developed a routine that served them well. For several years, they’d leave Nashville in their pickup and drive back to their old circuit, playing small- scale, acoustic shows along the way — mostly house concerts and honky-tonks. Once they’d hit Portland they switched to bigger venues, backed by their favorite local musicians and welcomed by the fans they’d won over years before. On the way back to Tennessee they played more intimate shows and then, once back home, poured their earnings into their music. entertaining audiences online through Facebook and Instagram Live streams and winning Women of Country’s 2018 selection as “Group of the Year.”
The COVID pandemic put their road plans on ice for 2020. But their partnership has only deepened over this past year. And soon, later in 2021, they’ll begin releasing what they describe as the most honest music they’ve ever written.
“It’s been a tough couple of years,” Rachel admits. “I had major surgery. Chad’s dad passed away. Several big, big things really shook our lives. So it’s important for us to tell the next story through just our lens. That’s why the project we’re working on now is the first one we’ve ever done where every single song was written by just the two of us.”
“We’ve broadened our perspective,” Chad adds. “We’re less worried about the machine that is the music industry than we’ve ever been.”
Rachel continues: “In the past we’ve had to think about how our production will translate live. This time, we’re more concerned with whether it will translate honestly.”
As they finesse their new tracks, Cloverdayle, with co-producer Steve Sundholm, will follow that mandate faithfully. They’ve also put a lot of thought into finding a way to introduce them to the public — and to thank their army of supporters whose Kickstarter donations will make the work possible. For example, donors are honored on video as Rachel and Chad note each benefactor’s location on giant maps attached to their wall. Rachel adds to the celebration by creating an original piece of visual art for every song they release and feature them on exclusive merchandise for fans to enjoy.
They’ll also challenge tradition in how they release the new tracks one by one before compiling them onto one album. The reason? “A lot of people are so busy that while they intend to listen to a new album, they only get through the first three or four tracks. By releasing one song per month for a solid year we make it easier for everybody to enjoy the whole body of work.”
One thing hasn’t changed through three full-length albums, three EPs and countless miles on their truck’s odometer: Cloverdayle always charts its own course. They are stubbornly independent, always reserving the responsibilities of management, marketing, social media — even some graphic design. Freedom to express themselves through music is all they’ve ever wanted.
“We never had dreams of being a cover band or playing along Lower Broadway. That’s not our style.” Rachel sums up.
Chad laughs and adds, “There’s sort of an expectation in this town of what a duo is supposed to look like & sound like, but I don’t think we fit into that mold. Very rarely will you hear me sing. I leave that to Rach. We’re kind of like the country Eurhythmics in that sense.”
We’d put it more directly: They’re Cloverdayle. Someday very soon, that’ll be clear to everyone.