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The Brotherly Harmony of TRIPPP
By Audrey Hanes, Photography by Kayla Broadway

Triplet brothers Treyson, JD and Chaz Stafford say they have been singing and playing musical instruments practically since they were born. At just 19 years old, the trio is using their unique family harmony and impressive musical ability to make a name for themselves in Arkansas and beyond after releasing their self-titled debut EP, TRIPPP, earlier this year.

“We’ve been singing and playing together for as long as we can remember,” said Treyson. “We started playing the fiddle in kindergarten but moved on to other instruments at around 8 years old by taking lessons at Back Beat Music here in Jonesboro.

“The years we spent taking lessons from our friend and mentor Zach James played a big role in where we are now. I took bass lessons, Chaz took guitar lessons and JD learned to play the drums. We all took lessons from Zach growing up, and he helped us learn the basics of our individual instruments. But, more importantly, he just taught us to love music. We owe a great deal to Zach for helping us become the musicians and people that we are today.”

In 2017, the brothers decided to take their love of music a step further by forming TRIPPP and playing together wherever and whenever they could. JD says that while it was difficult to walk away from high school basketball and other sports and activities, focusing more on their music was the best decision they’ve ever made.

“We’ve played music together all our lives, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 when we heard about the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Contest – where guys like Elvis, Justin Timberlake and others got their start – that we decided to form the band,” said JD. “We came up with the name TRIPPP, designed a logo and decided to give it a shot. Even though we didn’t win, we made it to the finals and decided that we should take our music more seriously.”

The band has been met with rave reviews from their start, especially when it comes to their ability to harmonize as a family.

“Growing up singing together in church, school and events around the community of Jonesboro gave us the opportunity to work with harmonies from a very young age,” said Chaz. “Being brothers, we pretty much disagree on everything, but when it comes to our harmonies, all it takes is a look at each other and we’re almost always on the same page. We all three have different vocal ranges, so our voices blend pretty well. People always tell us, ‘There’s nothing like family harmony,’ so I think our sound is pretty unique.”

Over the course of the past three years, the Staffords have played more then 100 gigs, including the 2018 Johnny Cash Heritage Festival, opened for artists like Matt Stell and Smash Mouth, and raised more than $13,000 for Make-A-Wish and other local charities.
Although TRIPPP’s roots are in country music, the brothers describe their sound as a unique blend of many different genres and influences.

“Growing up in Northeast Arkansas listening to classic country music and Southern rock, taking frequent road trips to Memphis and being exposed to blues music, and spending lots of time with family in Kentucky and hearing bluegrass exposed us to many different genres of music,” said Chaz. “We try to incorporate all those influences into our songs to create a sound that people haven’t heard before. Country music has always been at the center of the music we make, but we like to push the boundaries and see what we can create by including the other genres and styles of music that we were raised on.”

As the guitarist of the group, Chaz says classic rock guitar players like Joe Walsh, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page really inspire him and made him fall in love with the instrument, and he gravitates towards the sound of blues music and players such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King, as well. Influences aside, Chaz says he likes to play whatever he thinks sounds cool.

Treyson’s preferences are varied; he cites a few of his favorites as Coldplay, Blackberry Smoke, Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers and Post Malone.

“As a songwriter I’ve always been drawn to artists who tell stories and artists that can take a simple idea and express it in a way nobody else would ever think of,” added JD. “When we were first starting out, I was listening to artists like Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Eagles. More recently, I’ve been heavily influenced by singer/songwriters like Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Colter Wall, John Prine and Cody Jinks.

“Sometimes it’s just tall tales and flat-out lies, but I try to write with the goal of making meaningful music that people will listen to for the rest of their lives. I hope that my songs have the same impact on others that the music of my influences and heroes had on me.”
The brothers grew up around music; their dad, Trey Stafford, the president and general manager at Jonesboro Radio Group, exposed them to a wide variety of music from a very young age.

“Our dad has been in the radio business for almost 50 years; he started in radio when he was nine years old,” said Chaz. “Northeast Arkansas is a hotbed of musical talent, and our dad has had the chance to build friendships with a lot of NEA natives that have gone on to become successful people in the music industry. We’ve had the chance to meet and form our own relationships with a few of those people, which has given us the opportunity to play some really cool shows, receive a lot of great advice and guidance and, most importantly, the opportunity to record a professional EP.”

TRIPPP released its EP on the Staffords’ 19th birthday. The band spent two years working on the four-song, self-titled disc, and all of the songs but one, “Every Stone,” were written by the brothers. Their debut single, “Can’t Do the Time,” has a country sound but still gives homage to Johnny Cash.

“After two years of playing shows anywhere we possibly could, whether that be all around the state of Arkansas, Kentucky or even Florida, we wanted to take the next step and start moving away from being a cover band and start writing and playing our own original material to try and start making a name for ourselves,” said JD. “We wanted our first project to represent where we come from, our diversity as musicians and who we are.”

The band worked with guitarist and producer Jon Conley of Paragould, who has been in the music industry as a professional touring musician since he was 14 years old and spent the last decade on the road with Kenny Chesney. The EP was engineered by John Albani at Sonic Eden Studios in Nashville and mastered by John Mayfield at Mayfield Mastering, also in Nashville.

“We were extremely lucky to have the chance to work with our now good friend, Jon Conley,” said JD. “… He produced the EP we released this year, and just having the opportunity to be mentored by him and getting to work alongside him in the studio was a huge growing opportunity for us that we’re very thankful for. We’re pumped to get back in the studio with him in the coming weeks and do it all over again. We’ll be recording some of the songs we wrote while we were stuck in our house, bored out of our minds, when COVID first hit and school closed down.” 

Acclaim for the EP and a growing buzz surrounding the band led to TRIPPP’s second nomination for the Arkansas Country Music Awards Young Artist(s) of the Year.

“We started the band because we love making music together, and that’s why we’re still doing it today,” said Treyson. “We try not to focus too much on awards and things like that, but being recognized with some of the most talented artists in the state of Arkansas means the world to us. It’s something we don’t take lightly, and we’re very honored to be nominated again this year.”

The trio was originally slated to perform at the awards show, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to those plans when the show was changed to a virtual awards show. They’ll be in Nashville on Aug. 3 to prepare for recording several songs they wrote while in quarantine, so the Staffords will be watching the Arkansas Country Music Awards on their laptop in their hotel room.

“We were so honored to be asked to perform on the main stage this year before the show got moved online,” said Chaz. “The Arkansas Country Music Awards are honoring Arkansas native Levon Helm, who was the drummer for the group The Band, and we were part of a group of musicians who were going to perform his song ‘The Weight.’ We were really looking forward to being a part of that and being on the main stage this year, but that’s all been cancelled because of COVID.”

While the pandemic has been difficult for musicians everywhere because most have not been able to perform live for their fans, TRIPPP’s members say there have been some positives of their time at home.

“Live shows have always been what’s kept us going as a band,” said JD. “Not being able to get out and play this spring and summer has been really tough on us, but everything happens for a reason. We feel that we’ve matured and grown a lot as people and musicians during the past few months. We’ve also had a lot of time to practice and write new songs, and we’re excited to record and release a few of them in the near future.”

“The COVID quarantine has given me time to sit back and think about all the things we’ve done as a band, think about my future and just appreciate what I have and not take anything for granted,” added Treyson. “I can’t wait to get my ZZ Top beard back out, put it on and rock the stages in Nashville.”

TRIPPP is ready to take on Music City. The brothers have been accepted to Belmont University, where they will work to balance their college education with their growing music career.

“We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to not only live in Nashville and chase our dream, but to also get a great education at the same time,” said Chaz. “We start college at Belmont University in August. It’s a small college located just up the street from Music Row in Nashville. JD has been accepted into their songwriting major program, I’m majoring in audio engineering and Treyson is majoring in Biblical studies. So, I guess JD is gonna write the songs, I’m gonna record us and Treyson is gonna keep us in line!

“All jokes aside though, we’re beyond excited to make the move to Nashville and see what God has in store for us in the next chapter of our lives. We plan on continuing to work hard, progress as musicians, write songs, make connections and try to make a living doing what we love to do.”

Treyson says he also hopes to use TRIPPP’s music platform to minister to people and reach people for Christ through his music and his actions.
The triplets aren’t the only members of the Stafford family who have a role in TRIPPP’s success; their parents and sister have worn many hats and helped in many different ways in order to help the band get to where it is today.

“We’d be nothing without the support from our family, specifically our mom, Jenna Stafford,” said JD. “As our ‘momager,’ she’s gone above and beyond and put countless hours into helping us with the behind the scenes work that goes into being a band. Whether it be booking shows, ordering merchandise, maintaining our website or – in extreme cases – being our bodyguard, she’s been a vital part of helping us get where we are today.

“Our sister, Ellie Stafford, has always been extremely supportive of us and occasionally will jump on stage and play fiddle for us. She also helps out with social media and is still waiting for the day we can pay her enough to come be our background dancer. We can’t forget about our dad, Trey Stafford. Being in the radio business, he’s had close ties with the music industry for most of his life, so the advice and guidance that he’s given us is priceless and is something we will remember and use for the rest of our lives. Also, for an unpaid roadie and sound man, I’d say he does a pretty good job.” 

Whether they’re in Nashville or Jonesboro, recording new songs or playing live, TRIPPP is appreciative of the support their hometown has shown them from day one.

“The Jonesboro community and the state of Arkansas have been extremely supportive of us even from the very beginning,” said Chaz. “We never thought in a million years so many people would care about us and what we’re trying to do. We recently played our last show before we leave for college. It was in Mountain View, and it was amazing to us how many people from Jonesboro and all around Arkansas sacrificed their time and energy to drive hours to come support us.

“We’ll never forget our roots, and we owe everything we are to all of the local venues that gave us the opportunity to play and to all of the people that supported us whole-heartedly over the past few years. We know that no matter where we end up, we’ll always have people back home who love and support us. It’s a huge blessing, and we can’t wait to come back from Nashville and continue to play shows around our hometown and our home state.”

For more information, visit thebandtrippp.com, find The Band Trippp on Facebook or follow them on Instagram at @thebandtrippp.