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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 3.0° F  Fair
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John Paul Roney trades loud arena rock for quiet folk
Growing up, sizing down
Roney dials down the intensity — slightly.
Roney dials down the intensity — slightly.

Last year, as an experiment, Nashville musician John Paul Roney pulled the plug on his Twitter-driven existence. During this temporary hiatus, he discovered what he calls an "inherent lie to social media" - that it's not very social at all.

He's found a real connection onstage, with friends. This bond has led to a tour with nine pals from the Madison bands Phox and Sonntag and Nashville-via-Madison act Daniel & the Lion. They'll swap songs, tell stories and unveil new albums at the High Noon Saloon Sept. 5, then hit the road for 15 days. The one-van tour finishes in Baraboo, Wis., where they all grew up.

Rock fans may remember Roney from We the Living, a band he launched in Madison in 2007. After being discovered by a powerful A&R rep, the group appeared on MTV and performed with big-name artists such as Katy Perry and Dashboard Confessional.

These days, Roney plays a style of music he's dubbed "woodland folk," under the moniker Boom Forest. This project is quiet and acoustic. It lends itself to smaller venues, intimate performances and collaboration with friends.

The Baraboo-bred friends have lots in common, musically and philosophically. Their records are "all very twentysomething," according to Daniel & the Lion's Jimmie Linville.

Roney says the crew shares a life philosophy of "finding your own way." For him, this meant jumping off "the conveyor belt" of a conventional life. He was on a path to law school in Madison when he chose music instead.

Things got unconventional fast. We the Living would drive all night after a show, sleep in a Walmart parking lot and wake up to do it all over again, up to 250 times a year.

Roney describes We the Living's shows as "huge," filled with screaming guitars and crashing cymbals. When the band called it quits in 2010, Roney decided to "rest the epic hat."

"Some songs, you just want them to stay tiny," he explains.

That's where Boom Forest comes in.

"It's been one of the best musical experiments I've ever done," he says.

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