Nashville and Pittstown, New Jersey, are separated by approximately 800 miles.
But within that stretch is an anchor point that will bring together two folk acts with different approaches to the genre who share a passionate enthusiasm for the power of music.
Forlorn Strangers and The Happy Fits will perform Saturday at the State Theatre in Easton as part of the "Stage on Stage" live music series. They will be joined by hometown favorites Blue Heart's Revelry.
"I love that theater so much," said Forlorn Strangers bassist Jesse Thompson, a native of Easton, during g phone interview. "I'm just so excited to be back."
Thompson said the band spent this past winter locked in his Nashville studio, working on their next album, following a lengthy summer and fall cross-country 2017 tour. (Forlorn Strangers released their eponymous full-length debut in 2016.) He said about 75 percent of the new songs have been tracked, with a targeted August or September release.
"It's a big, exciting sound and we can't wait to get it out to the world," he said. "It's been a very different creative process for us."
Thompson said the music of the Beach Boys has influenced the melodic direction of the new songs. "We've been trying out a bunch of different vocal harmony styles. We've been trying to be very mindful of where our musical tastes are and trying to evolve as a band and make sure we're all on the same page," Thompson said. "There's a bit of a psychedelic folk-pop vibe going on. We've always seen ourselves as a vocal band."
Thompson is excited for his second homecoming with Forlorn Strangers. The band headlined the State Theatre's Acopian Ballroom in 2017. "I love that they have been opening up the doors for bands like us. I believe in that (Easton) scene," Thompson said. "Obviously, the production there is amazing and the venue is amazing."
'Simple, but accessible'
For folk-pop trio The Happy Fits, the Hunterdon County natives' approach is all about keeping things simple upbeat, although the group's intricate vocal harmonies are more complex than vocalist-cellist Calvin Langman leads on.
"We fit into many genres, but at the end of the day, we're trying to think of the most energetic, catchy melodies we can think of," Langman said during a March 29 phone interview. "We keep our songs simple, but accessible."
The Happy Fits have created a national buzz with their fusion of traditional folk and bluegrass and modern pop sensibilities. Their debut single, “While You Fade Away," reached No. 5 on Spotify’s Top 50 Viral USA chart during the first week of its release.
High school acquaintances Langman -- a classically-trained cellist -- and guitarist-vocalist Ross Monteith -- a national fencing champion -- initially started out as a duo after discovering they had a mutual love of songwriting. Though they enjoyed fleshing out their own compositions and jamming on cover tunes, Langman felt like something was missing.
"I was always writing original stuff but never really showed it to anyone because I thought I was going down a classical path," Langman said.
After a brief hiatus, Langman and Monteith decided to give the band another shot and recruited percussionist and professional gamer Luke Davis. The Happy Fits released their debut EP, Awfully Apeelin, in 2016.
"For me, because all of my influences, they all had drums in their songs. The majority of the music I wrote needed drums," Langman said, adding he grew up on a healthy musical diet of Billy Joel, Elton John, The Killers, and The Strokes. "We could have tried to see how long the folk string duo would have panned out, but something inside of me wanted to write high-energy music."
Langman said the group is putting the finishing touches on the follow-up to Awfully Appelin'. They are hoping for a late May or early June release. "With this album, we recorded through amps (rather than direct)," he said. "It has this life, this air to it that feels more alive."
In addition to touring and recording, The Happy Fits have also headlined a handful of benefit and charity concerts, which Langman said the band would like to ultimately do more of in the future. "i've enjoyed taking on my true calling," Langman said. "We want people to know our longterm goal is to give back through our music."
Langman also shared his giddiness for playing the State Theatre. "It's a good marker for how far we've come since starting," he said.
Forlorn Strangers and The Happy Fits will perform Saturday, along with Blue Heart's Revelry, during "Stage on Stage" at the State Theatre in Easton. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12.50 in advance, $15 at the door. Tickets are limited.