Folk guitarists Nathan Salsburg and James Elkington started out their career as a duo over email and virtual collaboration, but now they’re excited to be playing live shows together for their sophomore album.
The duo is hitting the road for the first time in five years to promote its new album, “Ambsace,” and open for singer-songwriter and friend Steve Gunn. Salsburg and Elkington will be playing two shows at Union Pool in Brooklyn on Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24.
Though the two have been playing music together for over five years, this is only their second album. The first was produced largely by email and virtual collaboration, long after when they first met.
“Nathan is old friends with my wife—they’re both from Kentucky,” Elkington said. “As long as my wife and I have been together we’ve been going down to visit her folks, and I was introduced to Nathan quite early in my visits down. He’s one of the most likable people there is. We got along immediately, but it took a while for me to find out he played guitar.”
The two had been playing music separately for years in other bands and projects, but once Elkington discovered he and Salsburg shared similar tastes in music and a similar style of playing, he was intent on collaborating.
“Nathan gave me a compilation CD with a song of his on it, but when I listened to it, I thought his was the best one on it! He had a style that paired well with mine, so I called him up and asked if he’d be interested in collaborating,” Elkington said. “I wrote some tunes for us to play—well, I wrote my part and sent it to him, and then he wrote his part to go with it.”
“We never lived in the same city,” Salsburg said. “So we both wrote a couple little bits and sent them back and forth over email. Then we finally got together in 2009 or 2010 and started playing around a little on these bits we had sorted out, and we realized we had enough to make a record, so we did. We never had the intention to go on tour—it was just for the fun of it, really.”
Their first record, “Avos,” was recorded over the span of two weekends in a studio in Chicago. The duo played a handful of shows for the album, but both artists led busy lives that called them away from the project. However, it was always in the back of their minds.
“Nathan and I are always busy doing other things, so unfortunately it gets put on the back burner a lot,” Elkington said. “We would have loved to play more shows, though.”
“We always wanted to do another record. It’s just so much fun playing together,” Salsburg said.
That other record finally came about this past September with the duo’s new release, “Ambsace.” The recording process was similar to their first album, with Salsburg and Elkington collaborating virtually before meeting up to work on the new songs together. To ease themselves back into the joint project, they performed some of the songs for the album before they went into the studio.
“The gestation process for this album has been really long. This is the first time we’re playing together since we recorded it. I’m a little nervous—so much of what we record is made up on the spot, so we have to go back and listen very closely to find out what the hell we did,” Elkington said.
To promote the new album, the duo is playing a weeklong run of shows opening for Steve Gunn across the Northeast. Elkington and Salsburg don’t have any more shows scheduled after the tour, but that doesn’t mean the duo will go right back on break.
“We’ve been cramming for the past two weeks to remember our parts, so it’d be a shame to do all this work for only a week of shows,” Salsburg said.
Whatever happens after this tour is over, it’s clear that the two won’t stay apart for long.
“[James is] the best guitar player I know,” Salsburg said. “We bring out the best in each other. It’s rewarding to play with him.”
James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg will be opening for Steve Gunn at Union Pool on Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24.