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By Jessica Wiantfirstname.lastname@example.org
MAURERTOWN-Local duo Chatham Street have been together for only a short time, but the band's two members go way back.
In fact, they've been married for almost 24 years, and together since they were practically babies, according to the band's songwriter and front woman, Christal Prout.
Of course, there's more history behind the band than just the relationship of the members. Prout and her husband, Pete, also have a long background with music, they explained on a recent day at one of their favorite spots in the valley, North Mountain Vineyard and Winery.
The couple have lived in Stephens City for several years, but both hail from the Detroit area, where Prout once got a gig singing a song for a nationally aired Chevy commercial and her husband worked for a time as a recording engineer.
"I graduated [high school] and joined a band," Prout says.
Despite having "always" played music, the two hung up their guitars for a while when they had their two children, Prout says.
Prout has a federal job with the U.S. Geological Survey, while her husband has spent his career as an automotive engineer.
About a year and a half ago, though, the children were starting to grow up and become more independent, and mom and dad blew the dust off their fretboards.
"We've gone now to being irresponsible again and having fun," Prout jokes.
They started out as Chatham Street -- named for the address of their first home together back in Detroit -- playing the vineyard circuit at places like North Mountain.
At first, according to Prout, they were more of a background-noise kind of band, playing only cover songs.
Then, Prout picked up the pen and started putting all those years of experience (in life, not just music) to work.
In the months that followed, Chatham Street made the transition from cover band to bona fide singer-songwriter duo.
For Prout, it was her first flirtation with songwriting.
It's been an interesting kind of journey," her husband says.
The band released its first CD, "Last One Out," -- containing all original songs -- in October with a party at North Mountain. The good news hasn't stopped coming since then.
The couple have been seeking out venues that are more singer-songwriter friendly -- coffee shops, arts and crafts fairs, and other places where people are more into listening than talking.
Chatham Street, both members say, comes from a more genuine place.
"It feels like home for me," Prout says.
The audience seems to pick up on it, too.
The way the couple play together on stage sets off a "vibe" that people tend to comment on, according to Prout.
There's "something weird about the way we're able to communicate," her husband says, jokingly adding that "they don't see the homicidal tendencies" that are unleashed at home during the recording process.
The duo are already working on songs for a second album that they hope to release this year, but for now the songs on "Last One Out" have not only found audiences at venues up and down the East Coast -- they have been booked from New Jersey to Florida -- but they also are receiving acclaim.
"Happy," placed seventh in the 2010 AcousticRoundtable Songwriting Competition.
That song pays homage to Prout's humble roots as a clarinet player in school, as she performs a clarinet solo in the middle of it.
"Some days you just gotta break out your 5th grade clarinet!!!" the liner notes say.
"Over Now," a tear-jerking song Prout wrote about the death of her brother, has placed in the Songwriter Universe Contest.
Another of their original songs, "Kinder Days," recently was named a top five finalist for the 2010 Peacedriven Songwriting Award.
And though it isn't up for any awards yet, local folks will enjoy Chatham Street's "66 Blues," which Prout says she actually wrote during a traffic jam on her commute.
Not bad for someone who only just started writing songs.
Prout says it is her life experience that has allowed her to take up the craft.
"Yes, I wish I would have done it earlier, but I didn't have much to say," she says. "When you're 45 you've got a lot more to say."
• Chatham Street will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday for First Friday at The Art Group's Bowman-Shannon Cultural Arts Center at 5998 Main St. in Mt. Jackson
• The duo will play from 8 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester.
• For more information, go online to www.chathamstreetmusic.com or www.facebook.com/ChathamStreet