An interview with the critically-acclaimed band Once Great Estate

by | Sep 11, 2021

Once Great Estate was formed in 2018 when singer-songwriter/guitarist Tracy Horenbein enlisted the help of four fellow multi-instrumentalists to form a band of Southern misfits. Bassist Jeffrey Chagnon, guitarist/mandolin player F. Matthew Burns, fiddle player/guitarist Christopher Ash, and drummer Steve Burke joined soon after. The members’ varied and vast musical backgrounds melted together like butter on grits.

They have released an album, an EP, and 5 singles, and they perform regularly around the southeast region. Their releases have received critical acclaim, with one writer describing the band’s Americana sound as “cinematic Southern rock”. Normally an electrified 5-piece, they occasionally perform quieter acoustic shows in more intimate listing rooms. Amped up or traditional, the heartfelt, thoughtful songwriting and musicianship comes through in each performance.

When Horenbein is not performing with Once Great Estate, she is composing ambient music under the moniker Tracy Chow. Her instrumental compositions have been featured in numerous documentaries and independent films, as well as meditation and yoga compilations. She was also featured in The Guardian magazine Folk Album of the Month for May 2021, for her solo singer-songwriter work on the Slow Movement Label’s folk compilation “Future Folk”. She also manages the Neve-based recording studio Indianhead Factory in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband.

Tracy Horenbein meets with 1 In Music on behalf of the whole band.

1 In Music: What is unique about Once Great Estate and the Music you create and share?

Once Great Estate [OGE]: We’re a band from North Florida. When people think of Florida, they typically imagine the beaches of Miami, or the central Florida Disney area. North Florida is different and our music reflects that unique landscape. The woods, rolling hills, and crystal clear rivers are an influence.

1 In Music: What or who particularly shaped your music, Tracy and who supports you?

OGE: I grew up listening to my mom singing jazz and my dad playing lots of Willie Nelson albums. They always supported my musical efforts, and I continue to try to make music that they would be proud of.

1 In Music: When did you, Tracy, realise you were going to make music professionally?

OGE: I won a local songwriting contest many years ago with the first real song I ever wrote. It got me featured on a CD, and recording time at a really great studio. That experience made me think that perhaps I could actually do this professionally.

1 In Music: What type of music do you listen to?

OGE: I listen to a lot of very different genres ranging from extreme metal to quiet classical and ambient stuff. I’ve always gravitated towards great story tellers and authentic songwriters, so the Americana genre really resonates with me.

1 In Music: Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?

OGE: There are so many great artists hanging around that mid-tier level, playing the smaller venues and killing it. Someone like Tennessee troubadour Matt Woods comes to mind.

1 In Music: How do you prepare for your performances?

OGE: I learned the hard way that it is important to hydrate. Especially if you’re playing outdoor festivals in the Florida heat. I also typically run through the set by myself, just to make sure I don’t embarrass myself by forgetting a chord or lyric.

1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?

OGE: I’m an animal lover. When I’m not playing music,
I’m hanging out with my furry family members or trying to rescue some.

I’m also a fantasy football champion!

1 In Music: Wow! So, Success to you is…?

OGE: Making music has never been about money or fame for me.

I just want to create and leave behind something that will inspire someone
like I’ve been inspired by artists I discovered along my journey.

1 In Music: What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?

OGE: I wish someone would have told me that it’s ok to be a leader. I wasted a lot of time playing in bands that were run like democracies. If you’re a person with talent, vision, and passion, it’s ok to be the Captain of the ship. You don’t have to be a dictator, but direction really helps a band.

1 In Music: Any upcoming projects?

OGE: We just released a primarily acoustic album called “Even the Undertaker”. We created this album during pandemic lockdown. We challenged ourselves to make a record by going into the studio one at a time and recording our various parts. We were also extremely fortunate to have legendary pedal steel player Jon Graboff on the record. The pandemic created opportunities for people to connect in ways they would not have otherwise.

Our next musical offering will probably be an electric album, just to keep things interesting.

1 In Music: Before we part, where can we find more about Once Great Estate and your music?

OGE: You can find Once Great Estate’s music on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, YouTube, and every other digital platform.