The first rule of the Womack Family Band is written in faded red letters on a dry-erase board in the kitchen of the Norwalk, Ohio, house that serves as the band's headquarters.
"Our lives are intertwined. One's destiny is another's. Always be mindful of the NOW and how it plays a significant role in the future of us all."
It's been there since the band formed about two years ago and has been joined by one other Womack rule: "Never stop learning."
It's the first rule, though, that gets to the heart of what this band, comprising Tony Schaffer, Cory Webb, and brother-and-sister pair Noah and Haley Heyman, is all about. The group's sound is a deft mix of American roots, folk and rock influences, and everyone does a little bit of everything, from writing songs to singing lead to playing the dozens of instruments that appear on the band's self-titled debut album.
"We're really fortunate that we didn't have to go off to Cleveland or Columbus to find a band," Schaffer says. "We've had all this intermingling, which has been really fortunate for us. There was this magnetism that just sort of happened and brought us all to this one place."
The group has been helped by Chris Castle, a singer-songwriter who spent his teenage years writing country songs in Nashville before coming home to Ohio, where he has become a mentor to many young musical acts trying to get a foothold in the roots music scene.
Last fall, the Womack Family Band teamed with Castle for his Drenched Earth Tour, which visits the Winchester Tavern and Music Hall in Lakewood on Feb. 18. Each show features the members of the Womack Family Band performing with one another and alongside Castle.
Schaffer previously toured with Castle in 2008 and returned home inspired to form his own band. He had been playing with Noah at a bar in Norwalk before adding Webb, who was a bartender there, on drums and Haley on vocals.
A little coercion from Castle pushed the group — named after American folk guru Tommy Womack — to make a demo recording, which Castle loved. It was honest, organic music that strived to be artistic. That, says Schaffer, is what the tour is about, too.
"There is no, Excuse us while we play our great music," Schaffer says. "It was sort of, Let's just sort of give them music. It's the same thing as when you look on a jar of organic peanut butter and you look at the ingredients list and it says peanuts.' If you look at the ingredients on our CD, it would just say music.' "
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