So Long Storyland is a unique New Orleans band consisting of songwriter/musician Andrew “Rathbone” DeBuys and the amazingly talented young singer Sophia Preston. The band’s name was inspired by the whimsical Storyland children’s attraction at New Orleans’ City Park, and their music style is a pleasing fusion of folk, jazz and pop, which makes complete sense given their hometown.
DeBuys grew up in the Crescent City’s Lakeview district, adjacent to the 17th Street Canal. He was away at college when Hurrican Katrina hit in 2005, but his family home was destroyed. Memories of that loss inspired him to write several compelling songs that appear on their self-titled first album.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi with degrees in English and Music, DeBuys returned to New Orleans and played with a few bands, including a popular local group, Flow Tribe. He later began teaching music at Sacred Heart School, where he met Preston, a fifth grade student who took his music class only because it was required.
As DeBuys stated in an interview with Bruce Boudreaux for his article on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website Nola.com, “I have always written songs, and I was always looking for the right singer to collaborate with. I’ve collaborated with many singers over the years, but Sophia has the special kind of voice that I had been looking for. Suddenly she became the voice of all these ideas that I had. Sophia’s voice is very angelic, very ethereal, it’s just got a very compelling quality to it. Right away when I first heard her sing, I realized it wasn’t a typical child’s voice that you hear in choir or something. She just stood out to me and I thought it would be interesting to see what she could do with the right kind of material. I think Sophia is heads and shoulders above any other artists her age, and she has only gotten better since we have been recording.”
With a level of maturity that seems far beyond her current age of 15, Sophia remains grounded and humble about their success. She’s quite confident and composed while performing before large crowds, and her vocals are soft and gentle, yet self-assured.
One of my favorites of their songs is “Rathbone’s Nightmare,” a hauntingly beautiful track with lyrics reassuring a child to not be afraid of his nightmares nor take them seriously. The song features gorgeous strings, bells, violin and percussion, Preston’s lovely vocals and DeBuys’ soaring background chorus.
Another good song is “Kingdoms and Columns,” about the impermanence of life and that all things eventually come to an end, set to an upbeat folksy melody.
Here’s a video of a live performance at the Family Gras festival in 2015.
Listen to more of their music at https://www.reverbnation.com/solongstoryland/songs
or https://soundcloud.com/solongstoryland, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.