When Charleston band Crowfield announced in January that it was splitting up after a six-year run, fans and friends were shocked and confused.
Led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Tyler Mechem, the Americana-tinged quintet had become one of the brightest stars in the Lowcountry rock scene.
Last March, Mechem and his bandmates — drummer Parker Gins, keyboardist Whitt Algar, bassist Ben Meyer and lead guitarist Ryan Holderfield — independently released a well-polished studio album titled “The Diamond Sessions.” And they followed it up by touring heavily throughout the Southeast and across the country through the summer, fall and winter.
Things seemed to be going well for the band by the end of 2012, but an announcement posted on its Facebook page Jan. 4 stated that Mechem and his crew were “moving on to other interests in life,” adding that Crowfield would be performing an official farewell show March 15 at the Charleston Music Hall.
Mechem believed Crowfield already had accomplished its best. “It was tough, but if those words were going to come out of my mouth, I knew I was definitely sure,” Mechem said. “I saw myself as the last one in the band to realize that we should probably quit.”
With the final show fast approaching, Mechem has mixed emotions.
Through a Kickstarter.com campaign, he and the band raised nearly $20,000 to finance “The Diamond Sessions.” With so many fans offering support, it was particularly difficult for Mechem to pull the plug on the group.
“So many people had believed in us, supported us, given money and done so much for us to do what we did. I didn’t want them to feel like we were giving up on them or being unappreciative,” Mechem said. “There was some frustration on the business side of things, but I was just at the point where I kind of started feeling like it was OK if we’d reached the end.”
Mechem formed Crowfield in Charleston in 2007 shortly after he and pianist Joe Giant relocated to the Lowcountry from Indiana.
They started performing as a duo before adding extra players to the lineup, including Micah Nichols on lead guitar, Ethan Ricks on bass and Gins on drums.
In 2008, the band released “Goodbye, Goodnight, So Long Midwestern,” a twangy debut comprised of guitar-based power-pop and alt-country originals.
They followed up in 2010 with a self-titled collection of radio-friendly modern-rock and pop tunes.
Named in honor of late promoter/manager Johnny Diamond, 2012’s “The Diamond Sessions” included more countrified ballads and well-polished guitar-pop tunes. Mechem considers Diamond to be a dedicated supporter who took a chance on assisting and guiding Crowfield through major career decisions and tours.
Mechem and his bandmates spent much of 2012 embarking on one road trip after another, playing new cities and returning to familiar clubs. The turnout was mixed; some shows were exciting and well-attended while others were mild and sparse.
“We wanted to take over the world, and we’d get stressed out if we didn’t get enough ads at radio stations with ‘The Diamond Sessions’ or draw big crowds at shows,” Mechem said. “The motivation for those things started to fade a little bit, not because I didn’t believe in what we were doing, but because those outcomes didn’t dictate whether or not I believed it was a success.
“I think those changing expectations didn’t line up with the kind of band we were. I think I just wanted to change our goals.”
Mechem said he was pleased and relieved that his bandmates were so understanding about his decision to stop, especially his drummer, with whom Mechem had played the longest in Crowfield.
“Parker told me, ‘I wondered when and if you were going to do it, but I was willing to stick with you, no matter what,’ ” Mechem recalls.
“That guy can play anything with any rock band, so that meant a lot.”
Crowfield’s break-up doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the band’s musical adventure. Through Mechem’s work, the Crowfield legacy will continue, one way or another.
As the songwriter and vocalist, Mechem developed a distinctive style that will likely play into forthcoming solo and collaborative efforts.
Crowfield drew from a mix of pop, rock and Americana influences, and Mechem regularly fine-tuned the way he handled writing lyrics, arranging songs and performing on stage, so the Crowfield flavor likely will always accent and enhance his songs to come.
For Friday’s concert at the Charleston Music Hall, Mechem and the band plan to play two sets of early and recent material with a brief intermission, which likely will include a panoramic photo shoot of the audience and the band from the stage.
Guest horn players and various former members of Crowfield will be on hand, as well.
“We’re not going to change our set for the show,” Mechem said. “I’d be tempted to if it wasn’t our final show.
“When it’s the last one, you want to play everything that you really want to play one last time. It’s kind of like kissing each one of your kids goodbye.”