Jackson Browne has written and performed some of the most literate and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. He was honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2007.
Jackson's career began in the mid-60s in Los Angeles and Orange County folk clubs. Except for a brief period in NYC in the late 1960s, he has always lived in Southern California. His debut album came out on David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1972. Since then, he has released fourteen studio albums and four collections of live performances. His new studio album, Standing In The Breach, is a collection of ten songs, at turns deeply personal and political, exploring love, hope, and defiance in the face of the advancing uncertainties of modern life.
Beyond his music, Browne is known for his advocacy on behalf of the environment, human rights, and arts education. He's a co-founder of the groups Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and Nukefree.org.
In 2002, he was the fourth recipient of the John Steinbeck Award, given to artists whose works exemplify the environmental and social values that were essential to the great California-born author. He has received Duke University’s LEAF award for Lifetime Environmental Achievement in the Fine Arts, and both the Chapin-World Hunger Year and NARM Harry Chapin Humanitarian Awards. In 2004, Jackson was given an honorary Doctorate of Music by Occidental College in Los Angeles, for "a remarkable musical career that has successfully combined an intensely personal artistry with a broader vision of social justice."
Grace Potter’s epic musical journey reaches a new milestone with the arrival of her solo debut, Midnight (to be released August 14 on Hollywood Records), an inspired work that is surprising, revelatory and wildly original.
Midnight was recorded and mixed at Barefoot Studios in Hollywood with producer Eric Valentine, whose own diverse discography—from Queens of the Stone Age to Nickel Creek—evidences a similarly adventurous spirit and openness to possibility. If Valentine’s studio work has a distinguishing characteristic, it’s his hard-hitting sonic signature, which is on display throughout Midnight’s dozen tracks. The core studio band consisted of Potter and Valentine on most of the instruments, with Burr on drums and percussion. In addition, members of Potter’s longtime band The Nocturnals: guitarists Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco and bassist Michael Libramento contributed to the sessions, as well as former tour-mates and friends including singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter, Audra Mae, Noelle Skaggs of Fitz & the Tantrums, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, and Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age.
“This album is about embracing life as it comes at you – with all its unexpected twists and turns,” says Potter. “I took a much more open approach to songwriting than I have in the past – probably because it was unavoidable. I’ve experienced a huge amount of growth and change in the past two years - both personal and professional, and it can be overwhelming for an artist to find ways to express that in a vacuum. So I tried to strip away the confines of other people’s expectations. I started tapping into some of the deep-running themes that have shaped me into the human I’ve become, and as I went deeper and deeper, I found the results to be insanely satisfying.
“This music means so much to me because it was hard-won. It was a terrifying yet fulfilling process of boiling down what I really wanted to say – peeling back all the protective layers of lyrical metaphor and sonic padding that I’m so used to leaning on. Ultimately the process has fueled` me to share more, learn more, listen carefully, work harder, love harder… Our time on earth is far too short to be resistant to beautiful opportunities as they come our way, so when my inspiration took me somewhere new, I did what I always do: stripped buck-ass naked and ran straight into the fire.”
Citing Miles Davis, Dylan, the Beatles, Bowie, Blondie and Beck as prime examples, Potter says she is drawn to artists who make sonic leaps from record to record—a notion she has explored throughout her career. For an artist who has built a devoted fan base through her electrifying live show, Potter seems hell-bent on breaking out of the box when it comes to studio work. She refuses to be defined by a single genre. Over the last three years, she has seamlessly transitioned from collaborating with the Flaming Lips, for a Tim Burton film, to songwriting and producing for soundtracks and theme songs for film and TV, to multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated country duets with her friend Kenny Chesney, to most recently joining The Rolling Stones on stage for an inspired rendition of “Gimme Shelter.”
“The bands and artists that captivate me,” Potter explains, “are the ones who are always pushing it, always taking risks. A great musician can shine in any genre. I refuse to make the same kind of record over and over—that’s not how art works for me. The worst thing an artist can do,” she asserts, “is what is expected of them.”
The seeds for what would become Midnight were planted by Potter at home, in Vermont, in the fall of 2013. “I had been messing around for a few weeks with making really wacked-out home demos - lots of sounds, beats and melodies that I had never tried before,” she recalls. “It was a dark, stormy, moody day and I could hear the thunder in the distance – these big ominous clouds were rolling in fast. There was something about that threat of inclement weather beyond my control that just made me vibrate with anticipation and adrenaline, so I channeled it into this heavy boogie song—it goes right for the throat and says ‘Own your existence on earth, because who knows what’s gonna happen next.’ That solitary moment guided everything that followed, and “Alive Tonight” was the beginning of it.” Fittingly, “Alive Tonight” is Midnight’s lead single.
Valentine was intrigued by Grace’s sonic experiments in her work-tapes, so much so that they formed the blueprint for a number of the arrangements that made the final cut. “Her demos had an incredible vibe that really captured a groove or mood that would immediately grab your attention,” he notes. “So it seemed like that was the way to chase down this record as an honest representation of what Grace wanted to say and how she wanted these tracks to feel—because she had done such a good job of laying it out herself.”
“Hot to the Touch,” the aggressive, hook-heavy rocker that Grace chose to open the album, was the last song written for it. “When you’re making an album, you rarely have the opportunity to look at the whole thing and ask yourself what’s missing,” she points out. “And “Hot to the Touch” was the song that tied the whole thing together—the culmination of how I felt about making this entire record. It has a sexy, fiery, James Bond kind of vibe to it, and I came up with this snippy, edgy guitar part that fit really nicely. Lyrically, it’s about the tempestuous nature of love and attraction. That type of songwriting doesn’t happen very often when you’re making an album, so it felt like the cherry on top.
“The song “Delirious” was the tipping point of the album in many ways. I was in a really prolific stage of the process. The heart of the record had really taken shape in my mind. I was desperate to get everything down on paper before it left my mind and sleep felt like a distraction - but strange things happen when you haven’t slept in days. I reached a moment where finally, all my pretensions, judgments and preconceived notions vanished. I’d had so many sleepless nights trying to crack the code that my defenses were down, my nerves numb and I needed a real-deal freak-out dance party - an implosion of all the walls I had built around myself.”
Looking at some of Midnight’s other key songs, the stirring “Look What We’ve Become” began with a borrowed premise yet wound up as the album’s autobiographical centerpiece. “The label was really pushing me to do co-writes, which I’ve always tried to avoid, but Eric and I quickly developed a creative trust and symmetry that allowed me to feel more open to the possibilities…a few weeks later he set me up with a guy he’d worked with for years, who does a lot of co-writing, who played me a great demo,” she remembers. “When I heard the chorus, I knew I had to sing it—I found myself really attached to the melody and the message. I love the universality of it; everyone has been made to feel that they are unworthy in some way. So I wrote the verses and the bridge about my own experience with the music industry and the band. It turned out to be an excellent example of how co-writing can expand an artist’s field of play.”
Grace undertook the writing of “Your Girl” with the aim of coming up with a new take on a classic love triangle on this 70’s tinged soul gem. “In one way or another, we’ve all gone through the struggle of wanting something we can’t have…but this particular cliché has been so overdone. If I wanted it to work, I needed a plot twist that was true to personal experience. Then we basically treated it a lot like a hip-hop track and just set it over an undeniable groove with some awesome quirky hooks,” she says. “In chasing down an originality in the confines of a heavily tread genre, Eric and I landed on one of my favorite sonic and lyrical moments of the album.”
With its rippling guitar riff and gospel-choir payoff, “Empty Heart” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. “I wrote “Empty Heart” in the hotel room of a casino in the mid-west somewhere; bored out of my mind after a show. I had a crappy guitar with two broken strings and as I started banging away, hooting and howling, my neighbors one room over started BUMPING Usher... That’s when it hit me: ‘How cool would it be to put a super hi-fi urban beat against this jankytwangy acoustic sound?’ I never expected that it would become the feel-good song that it did…but it just goes to show that you never know where inspiration will come from – or where it will take you. You just gotta take the ride and hang on for dear life.”
The release of “Alive Tonight” was shrouded in mystery, and word of Potter’s creative leap sans the Nocturnals hit the blogosphere quite suddenly causing many devoted fans to wonder if this record signaled the end of an era. Fans and friends had lots of questions, but Potter remained silent. “Yeah. People kinda freaked out, some in really good ways, some…not so much. I knew they would and I understood why; this is a bold new sound and for a hardcore fan, it’s a big deal. Loyalty has always been really important to me and so has evolution. It’s hard sometimes to understand that they don’t need to be at odds. The band is an extension of me. They are my family and a huge part of my life. I have no intention of burning bridges or leaving it in the dust.
“I’ve been a Nocturnal for a decade….but I’ve been a musician forever. I’ve got a lot of different influences and creative impulses and I can’t always use my band as my springboard. Sure, I could’ve called this a GPN record, but why would I slap a sticker on an apple and call it an orange? Just to keep a few people from freaking out? Shit no! I have a responsibility to the legacy we built. It was hard. It was scary, but it was the right time to jump off with my own momentum – to open the door a little wider so the world can see another side, see what else turns me on. I’m mixing it up, doing something different…feels fucking awesome,” Potter says with a smile and a defiant shrug.
“In many ways, Midnight feels like a new beginning, but really, it’s a continuation of my story. I’ve always taken chances and sharp turns. So here I am again wandering into completely uncharted waters—just laying it all out there because ‘why the fuck not?’ I have absolutely no control over how this music will be received, and that’s OK. The risk is mine, and I'm taking it with all my heart.”
Shovels & Rope
Shovels & Rope
It’s not all that unusual for musicians to talk the talk about taking a less-is-more approach to their work – but it’s rare indeed for artists to really walk the walk, and apply that philosophy across the board. Over the better part of a decade, Shovels & Rope have done just that, cutting unnecessary frills from their songs, not to mention the very way they live their musical lives.
Mississippi-born, Nashville-bred Cary Ann Hearst and Texas-born, Colorado-raised Michael Trent forged singular paths as solo artists before connecting – both musically and personally – in Charleston, South Carolina. While they’d both had burgeoning solo careers (Cary Ann earned kudos for her 2006 album Dust and Bones, Michael with his band, The Films, as well as his own solo outings), they quickly found that both their voices – which entwine with eerie beauty in their haunting harmonies – and philosophies matched up perfectly, and a beautiful partnership was born.
“Consciously or not, we’ve always insulated ourselves from outside influences,” says Cary Ann. “The key, for us, is to be authentic to ourselves – and, sometimes to a fault, we’ve managed to do that. I don’t think we’d be able to keep doing this if we backed off from what we were doing when we started.”
There’s no backing off or backing down on Swimmin’ Time, the duo’s much-anticipated sophomore set as Shovels & Rope, an album that brims with the confidence, energy and sinew of a band that’s accustomed to treating their career as a marathon, rather than a sprint. The album, recorded at the studio Trent constructed in the couple’s home, finds them cutting a new path through the sonic thickets they navigated so nimbly on their breakthrough bow, O’ Be Joyful – a disc that won rave reviews from outlets like Mojo (which called it “thrilling”) and Filter, which said “[they] were solid singer-songwriters on their own, but this is truly a thing of magic.”
On Swimmin’ Time – a title that nods to the aquatic theme running through the disc’s songs — Hearst and Trent bob and weave through a combination of witty, playful tales (like “Fish Assassin”) and brooding murder ballads (like the horn-tinged New Orleans shuffle “Ohio”) with a rare combination of intimacy and swagger. They know when to grab the listener by the shoulders and shake (as on the fiercely roiling opener “The Devil Is All Around”) and when to put a caring arm around those same shoulders in order to spin a gentler yarn (like “After the Storm,” a tale of surviving rough waters, both literally and spiritually).
“We weren’t trying to make a particular kind of record, but we knew early on that there would be some evolution,” says Trent, who also produced Swimmin’ Time. “There are all kinds of dark undertones, but there are other colors, too. Every song kind of played off, and built on, the ones that came before, so they fit together really well.”
That seamless construction helps Swimmin’ Time slide past the ears and into the memory banks with remarkable ease, each of its songs leaving a bit of an indelible mark, from the sonically brooding “Stono River Blues” (which could easily pass for a lost Grimm’s Fairy Tale) to the chiming “Save the World,” a sort of semaphore flag signaling hope on the horizon, to the woozy, closing-time waltz of “Coping Mechanism.”
“Our working model has always been to use what we have lying around,” says Cary Ann. “It’s just that this time, we happened to have an organ lying around, we had a piano lying around…we definitely had more resources at hand, but we didn’t want to seem ostentatious or anything. Besides which, we still have to recreate the songs live, so there’s a limit – even though Michael can play five things at once, like a wind-up toy.”
Those live shows have played a huge part in building Shovels & Rope’s reputation among audiences and their peers – the latter of whom voted the duo in for two 2013 Americana Music Awards, Emerging Artist of the Year as well as Song of the Year (for the vivid, semi-autobiographical “Birmingham”). Over the past two years, Cary Ann and Michael kept their sleeves rolled up and their voices raised, an M.O. that helped them eventually sell more than 60,000 albums the old fashioned way – reaching one listener at a time, and making each one feel like part of the Shovels & Rope family.
As a result, they were able to trade their well-loved and road-weary van for an R.V. and segue from tiny, sweat-soaked dives to larger halls, not to mention eye-opening performances at events like the Newport Folk Festival, Coachella and Lollapalooza. They may have had camera crews following them – for the intimate, revelatory documentary The Ballad of Shovels & Rope, which has been making the film festival circuit this past year – but they didn’t cut back on what Cary Ann calls “windshield time,” and certainly didn’t let their egos grow in tandem.
“Word of mouth has been a huge part of our story,” says Michael. “We just toured and toured, opening up for bigger bands and playing anywhere we could. Sometimes we felt more like t-shirt selling long-distance truckers. It wasn’t like we had a huge song that came out of nowhere and was suddenly on the radio all the time. I’d be terrified if that was the case.”
While they didn’t start showing up in the tabloids as a result, “Birmingham” (the number-one song on American Songwriter’s year-end list) and the rest of O’ Be Joyful did put Shovels & Rope on the larger stage in many ways – from an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman to an acclaimed set on Austin City Limits. But as they continue to prove, night after night on tour, they aren’t about to put their blue collars into mothballs. Cary Ann jokingly says, “We keep getting more famous, but we aren’t getting any better,” before turning serious.
“This is something we’ve both always dreamed of doing,” she says. “We enjoy each other’s music and we enjoy each other’s company. We thrive on doing exactly what we’re doing, and we’re making people happy with it. What could be better than that?”
Matraca Berg, Suzy Bogguss & Gretchen Peters
Matraca Berg, Suzy Bogguss & Gretchen Peters
What happens when you put three women - three award-winning singer-songwriters, three old friends, three artists with three unique voices - on a stage together with some guitars and a bottle of good cabernet? You get Wine, Women & Song. All CMA winners, Suzy Bogguss (Horizon Award), Gretchen Peters (Song of the Year for "Independence Day") and Matraca Berg (Song of the Year for "Strawberry Wine") first played a 10 city UK tour in May 2007 to huge critical and audience acclaim. In between solo projects, they’ve managed to tour the UK three times together.
Matraca Berg was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2008 and had her first No. 1 record as a songwriter at age 18. She’s written hits for artists such as Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, and the Dixie Chicks. She recorded three critically acclaimed CDs in 1990-97. Matraca is married to singer-songwriter Jeff Hanna of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Gretchen Peters has long been one of Nashville's most beloved and respected artists, known never to shy away from darkness and struggle in her writing. At her 2014 Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Rodney Crowell spoke on her behalf, calling her "a songwriter and a poet (who) sings as beautifully as she writes.” Her latest album Blackbirds was released in 2015.
Suzy Bogguss is that rare artist who has managed to walk the line between critical acclaim and commercial success for two decades. In the 90’s Suzy recorded nine albums for Capitol records, including one platinum and three gold sellers. Her string of country radio hits include eight top-10’s. Her latest album, “Lucky”, is a collection of Merle Haggard songs.
Of the trio, the Nashville Scene’s Michael McCall says: "together they shatter nearly every Nashville stereotype. They’re three smart, progressive, well-balanced women—anti-divas, if you will—who spin real-life tales steeped in modern love and ripe with wit, depth and spiritual profundity.”
Emerson Hart (Tonic)
Emerson Hart (Tonic)
Beauty in Disrepair
It’s a good album title, Beauty in Disrepair. A telling one, too.
There’s a yin and a yang there. It’s a thread that Emerson Hart, frontman for the multi-platinum band Tonic, comes back to time and again on his new record, his first solo release in over six years.
“Early in my life I learned to appreciate the beauty in things as they grew older,” says Hart. “Houses, furniture, churches, whatever. I think it started after my dad was killed: I lived with my grandfather on his farm, this 19th century mansion. Everything in it was constantly broken, but there was such a beauty to it as well.”
On his new record, Hart touches on loss, but also the beauty of rebirth, newfound love, family and starting a clean slate. Beauty in Disrepair marks a remarkably polished and honest follow-up to his 2007 solo debut Cigarettes & Gasoline, a critically-acclaimed album that spawned two Top 20 singles.
You may very well know Hart from that record. Most likely, you recognize him as the frontman and songwriter for Tonic, the alt-rock band that hit it big with their debut record Lemon Parade, which featured the smash hits “Open Up Your Eyes” and “If You Could Only See.”
A string of massively successful albums followed, including the Grammy-nominated Head on Straight and 2010’s self-titled release.
And Hart is more than happy to talk about his band. But Beauty is a different beast altogether. “This album, and my solo work, is just born out of stuff I don’t want anyone else to say,” says the singer, laughing.
For Beauty in Disrepair, Hart found a willing collaborator in David Hodges, who had found his own success working with the incredibly diverse likes of Kelly Clarkson, Christina Perri and Carrie Underwood. Hart also landed additional support from some trusted friends in LA, as well as his adopted hometown of Nashville (where he, naturally, often writes and records in his 200-year-old farmhouse).
“This record was interesting because I didn’t start out with a template,” says Hart. “My first solo record, I think I wanted to emulate [the Peter Gabriel classic] So. With this one, I wanted a songwriter record, not a Tonic record, but I was having a hard time getting started. I think the people I worked with ended up helping me find my way.”
Collaborators and new sounds aside, Beauty is immediately recognizable as an Emerson Hart record: warm, inviting, accessible. And possessing some killer hooks. “It’s still me,” says Hart. “I could sit here and tell you how much I love bands like Beach House or old Irish music, but I can’t write like that. I have to write songs in my way.”
Lyrically, it’s an intensely reflective album, exposing a lot of personal pain and joy. “Divorce is painful,” admits Hart. “But falling in love again and getting remarried is amazing. And having a young daughter changes your viewpoint. What I learned making this record is that you need to lose the baggage of your last hurt, and focus on the present, making sure you take the steps to make things better in the future.”
That’s an apt description of “Hurricane,” a pop song full of real world wisdom and a killer chorus. For Hart, the single is about “washing away the damage of your youth and having a real awakening.”
It’s also a rich record, wonderfully diverse musically and emotionally. Pianos and acoustic guitars abound. “Mostly Grey,” a favorite of Hart’s, hits the somber notes, while “All is Well” is a pretty, contemplative ballad; and harmonies abound, big and bright on “Best That I Can Give” and “The Lines.”
It’s an album any music fan would love to embrace, including both “Cigarettes and Gasoline” and Tonic fans alike.
[Speaking of... “Tonic will absolutely put out a record next spring or summer. I love my band. They’re caregivers, a pain in the ass, the fuel that keeps me running. All those things.”]
For now, Hart will be hitting the road to support Beauty, playing a mix of intimate venues and (perhaps) a larger tour. “It’s a nice cross-section of fans,” he says. “Fans of my first record. Die-hard Tonic fans. And I’ll play those songs. I wrote ‘em! And then you’ll see those guys who don’t know me, who hear me play ‘If You Could Only See” and their eyes light up and they connect the dots. They’re like, oh, it’s that guy.”
So while recognizing his past, Hart thinks Beauty marks a turning point in his career.
“The whole spark of this record was finding the beauty in healing,” he says. “Learning from the hurt and moving forward. I’ve done that.”
As a singer, songwriter, activist and independent entrepreneur, Ani DiFranco has been setting her own pace—and encouraging countless admirers to do the same—for more than 20 years. But while she has been known as the “Little Folksinger,” her music has grown far beyond her acoustic solo roots in cozy venues to embrace jazz, soul, electronica and even more distant sounds. All of which are featured in DiFranco’s new Righteous Babe release, Allergic To Water, where she also blends abstract imagery and deceptively understated melodies with personal reflections on her life in New Orleans where she is now raising her two children with her partner, producer Mike Napolitano.
“It’s such a humbling, and grueling, thing to raise children,” DiFranco said. “And that makes playing music more precious and makes me more grateful. It’s a real balancing act, but it also has a balancing effect.”
DiFranco adds that becoming a mother has brought her closer to listeners who have followed her music since she began performing in New York City during the early 1990s. But widespread attention never prevented her from holding on to her integrity, and independence. A strong belief in human rights has run throughout her work, including when she played at numerous benefit concerts around the world. At a time when record labels still held an oversized influence, DiFranco stood ahead of the curve in launching her own Righteous Babe Records. The company has released more than 20 of her albums to date, ranging from the popular two-disc live album, Living In Clip (1997), to the expansive To The Teeth (1999), which included such guests as legendary R&B saxophonist Maceo Parker and Prince. Journalist Sylvie Simmons wrote in the British music magazine MOJO in 1998, “Even if her overt politicism and her 200-shows-per-year tours with an acoustic guitar place her in the Woody Guthrie tradition, her music—which has boldly plundered funk or punk, hip hop, rock—doesn’t.”
Some stellar traditional New Orleans musicians and jazz players contributed to her 2012 disc, Which Side Are You On?, and the Crescent City also informsAllergic To Water, which is one of her most intimate and musically expansive recordings. This autumn, DiFranco will tour internationally behind Allergic To Water and the disc’s high-profile guests will accompany her stellar trio of bassist Todd Sickafoose and drummer Terence Higgins on several stops. Violinist Jenny Scheinman will open and sit in at some points. DiFranco has also marked other career milestones this past year. This summer she returned to the Winnipeg Folk Festival, where she received their prestigious Artistic Achievement award, coupled with her first ever honorary doctorate, which was given to her by the University of Winnipeg. She also marked the passing of one of her own mentors, Pete Seeger, through writing a moving essay about the man and his legacy in the Wall Street Journal.
“I think that my one grain of wisdom in my life, which serves me well, is that when I meet a great teacher, I follow them,” DiFranco said. “I invent excuses to be near them. Whether it’s Pete, Utah Phillips, or Sekou Sundiata, it’s made my life pretty great along the way.
Singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins readily admits that several of the songs on his new album, My Stupid Heart, address his perceived relationship failures. In fact, many were written as he was falling out of his third marriage; in the title tune, he actually chides himself for being such a romantic. But it’s also a bit of a joke, he says, because he firmly believes in following his heart — no matter where it leads.
That oh-so-fallible, yet essential part of our being is, it turns out, the guiding force behind just about every song on the album — the theme of which, he says, is summed up most succinctly by another song title: “It All Comes Down to Love.”
He remembers sitting on his porch one afternoon, thinking, “‘I know this is all in my head, but it’d be a lot easier just to blame it on my heart.’ And then I thought, ‘Yeah, it’s my stupid heart.’” Next thing he knew, lines like “my stupid heart it plays for keeps/through hoops of fire it bounds and leaps” just started tumbling out. In the studio, the song took on a classic vibe, with impeccable instrumentation and production that sounds as if George Martin supervised.
In other words, it’s gorgeous. And it carries a momentum that shifts it away from feeling like a woe-is-me wallow in self-pity. Throughout the album, Mullins deftly balances songs of suffering — from the title tune and “Go and Fall,” to the powerful, yet subtle social commentary of “Ferguson” (which contains no mention of guns or police officers) — with songs such as “Roll on By,” co-written with Max Gomez, which strikes an upbeat note of hope.
There’s humor, too. Sure, much of it is wrapped in sardonic cynicism; “It all Comes Down to Love” targets TV preachers, politicians, the NRA, Wall Street and street dealers, and “Pre-Apocalyptic Blues” hilariously lampoons the doom-mongers arming themselves against Armageddon. But the Levon Helm-influenced “Never Gonna Let Her Go” reveals the thrills of riding that afore-mentioned roller-coaster, and even the sigh of resignation that is “The Great Unknown” contains lines so striking, you can’t help but smile at their brilliance and depth. (Example: “They got a mirror back behind the whiskey shelves/Where we don’t dare look back at ourselves.”)
Whether composing alone or with others — including Matthew Sweet and Pete Droge, his bandmates in the early-2000s trio the Thorns — Atlanta native Mullins has always been a dynamic songsmith. Forging influences from folk and R&B to traditional country and even Broadway musicals (the funky ones, like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell) with pop-leaning melodic sensibilities, he crafts memorable, affecting tunes best defined as Americana.
Mullins’ maternal grandfather was a big-band bass player who also played Dixieland jazz and polka; his paternal grandfather, a railroad man, loved listening to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. When Mullins was in the womb, his mom serenaded him with “House of the Rising Sun” and “Ode to Billie Joe,” accompanying herself on ukulele. (To this day, he has a thing for Bobbie Gentry.) His dad’s record and reel-to-reel collection ranged from Kris Kristofferson and Leonard Cohen to Little Richard, Ray Charles and Isaac Hayes, plus plenty of rock ‘n’ roll. It all made an impact.
With a supple baritone that still allows him to channel Prince, as well as wail the blues and growl with grit — not to mention rock those talkin’ rhythms — Mullins has been engaging audiences since he won his first high-school talent contest with his own composition. That $100 check lodged a little lightbulb in his brain. It clicked on when he heard a career-class talk by Amy Ray, then an Emory University freshman but already performing with Emily Saliers (just before they became Indigo Girls).
“She played a few songs and talked about being a performing songwriter,” he recalls. “It helped me focus, because she was so engaging and intense and punk, yet able to perform just with a guitar and her voice. I wanted to be just like her.”
When Chuck Cannon heard “Lullaby” on a Nashville station, he actually did a U-turn and beelined toward a record store. Cannon, who co-wrote John Michael Montgomery’s Academy of Country Music Song of the Year, “I Love the Way You Love Me,” and several hits for Toby Keith, among other country stars, loved Mullins’ work. But when Mullins heard Cannon was slated to open for him at a Nashville club, he thought the pairing was a total mismatch. Until Cannon played.
Cannon wrote “It all Comes Down to Love,” the album’s only cover. It was his attempt to write in Mullins’ style —16 years ago, after he’d heard “Lullaby.” He’d also engineered that opening slot so he could meet Mullins — who didn’t know any of the song’s back-story till he asked about using it for the album. Once he heard it, he was even more determined to include it.
“I usually do one song per record I didn’t write; just a song I like a lot that someone else wrote,” Mullins says. “It motivates me to write more, because it’s something that I wish I’d written.” (That’s Mullins’ kid — and his beagle —on the intro.)
“I’m in a new place in my life, a place of freedom, artistically — and a real grounded place of bein’ a dad,” he says. “I’m really excited about the possibilities.”
Though he may be wearing a little more emotional armor this time, he’s also armed with new insights, so many of which are relayed in these songs. And when he steps onstage each night, he sings them with all the passion he’s got in his anything-but-stupid heart.
Cracker has released their tenth studio effort, entitled Berkeley to Bakersfield, a double-album that finds this uniquely American band traversing two different sides of the California landscape – the northern Bay area and further down-state in Bakersfield. Despite being less than a five-hour drive from city to city, musically, these two regions couldn’t be further apart from one another. In the late ‘70s and ‘80s a harder-edged style of rock music emerged from the Bay area, while Bakersfield is renowned for its own iconic twangy country music popularized, most famously, by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Yet despite these differences, they are both elements that Cracker’s two cofounders, David Lowery and Johnny Hickman, have embraced to some degree on nearly every one of their studio albums over the last two decades. On Berkeley To Bakersfield, however, instead of integrating these two genres together within one disc, they’ve neatly compartmentalized them onto their own respective regionally-titled LPs. As Lowery explains, “On the Berkeley disc the band is the original Cracker lineup - Davey Faragher, Michael Urbano, Johnny and myself. This is the first time this lineup has recorded together in almost 20 years. We began recording this album at East Bay Recorders in Berkeley, CA. For this reason we chose to stylistically focus this disc on the music we most associate with the East Bay: Punk and Garage with some funky undertones. To further match our sense of place we often took an overtly political tone in the lyrics.” “This Bakersfield disc represents the ‘California country’ side of the band. Throughout the band’s 24-year history we’ve dabbled in Country and Americana but this time we wanted to pay homage to the particular strain of Country and Country-Rock music that emerges from the inland valleys of California.” Cracker has been described as a lot of things over the years: alt-rock, Americana, insurgent-country, and have even had the terms punk and classic-rock thrown at them. But more than anything Cracker are survivors. Cofounders Lowery and Hickman have been at it for almost a quarter of a century – amassing ten studio albums, multiple gold records, thousands of live performances, hit songs that are still in current radio rotation around the globe ("Low," "Euro-Trash Girl,” "Get Off This" and “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out With Me” to name just a few), and a worldwide fan base - that despite the major sea-changes within the music industry - continues to grow each year.
Jay Farrar (from Son Volt)
Jay Farrar (from Son Volt)
As a founder of alternative country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, as a solo artist, and as the leader of Son Volt, Jay Farrar’s work often seeks out the ghosts of America’s discordant or forgotten past, converses at length with them, and writes songs that stake a claim to a better future. Most recently, Farrar has added One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur (F-Stop/Atlantic), a collaboration project with Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie, to his long list of critically acclaimed albums.
For many years, Farrar’s songwriting has been inspired and influenced by Kerouac’s compositional style. He called upon this inspiration when writing the songs for One Fast Move Or I’m Gone by pulling passages directly from the Kerouac’s Big Sur and putting them to music with Gibbard. These songs were then used in the documentary about Kerouac of the same name.
Son Volt’s most recent release, American Central Dust (Rounder), marks the apotheosis of both the Son Volt dynamic and the rigorous aesthetic that distinguishes Farrar’s entire body of work, in which classic and contemporary elements are fashioned into arresting new shapes. In the classic sense, the new album exhilaratingly carries on the tradition of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Little Feat circa Sailin’ Shoes, the Rolling Stones of Exile on Main Street and early R.E.M.
“The approach was to get back to more fundamental themes, both lyrically and musically, to make a more focused record,” Farrar explains. “The Search was more about expanding the scope in terms of song structures and instrumentation. This time around, I was going for a kind of simplicity, even in the structure of the songs. I probably learned that from listening to Tom Waits, where simplicity can be a virtue.”
These songs are the modern-day aural equivalent of the photographs of Walker Evans, Robert Frank and William Eggleston: sharply observed yet compassionate images of the telling details of everyday life during hard times. Several of them play out as psychological travelogues, as Farrar captures moods in motion. “I suppose I gather ideas for my songs while on the road,” he says, “but there’s also always the consciousness there that the songs are gonna be played on the road, so it’s intertwined.”
“I wasn’t prepared for the wild, vast power of his voice and his remarkable charisma. This guy can yodel, he can sing a soul song for real, he can preach and he wiggles his leg like Elvis. A star in the making.” - Ann Powers, NPR
“Notably smart, sometimes acerbic, this charismatic new performer… rivets audiences with intense but smooth vocal whoops, cascades and pauses; emotional, blues-based slide guitar with punctuating harmonica; and a sharp, compact band. If he’s doing all this at 21, what will he sound like at 30?” - Wall Street Journal
“His voice has the depth of some of the best blues musicians with a gravelly range that forces you to pay attention, if not to just wonder how the slender, fresh-faced Millsap is doing what you’re watching. He’s got the boyish charms and the wild and dirty sound that comes from a life of hard living. It’s absolutely astounding.” - Tulsa World
At only 21 years of age, Oklahoma native Parker Millsap is quickly making a name for himself with his captivating live performances, soulful sound, and character-driven narratives. Since the release of his self-titled debut album earlier this year, he has garnered a nomination for the Americana Music Association's 2014 Emerging Artist of the Year and has received praise from The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, American Songwriter, The Boston Globe, and NPR, to name a few.
Parker grew up in the tiny town of Purcell (pop. 5,952) where he attended a Pentecostal church with his family three times a week for most of his youth. Though Parker doesn't consider himself very religious these days, the experiences engraved upon him inform his songwriting. Blending that fire and brimstone preaching with rock, country, blues and Waits-ian imagery, he has created a sound uniquely his own.
Parker first picked up an acoustic guitar at nine, then plugged in and went electric after getting into Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, eventually starting a cover band, Fever in Blue, with classmate Michael Rose who still plays with him today. After graduating high school, he moved to Northern California, where he interned at Prairie Sun Recording, the studio where Tom Waits recorded Bone Machine and Mule
Variations. Returning to Oklahoma, he put down the electric guitar and got into songwriting, releasing an indie album, Palisade, which he sold from the back of his van.
A trip to Nashville found Parker playing at the Tin Pan South songwriter's festival, where his performance impressed Old Crow Medicine Show's manager so much that he invited Parker to open a string of dates for the band, later leading to a slot on their prestigious New Year's Eve gig at the Ryman Auditorium. Parker has also opened dates for Patty Griffin, Shovels & Rope, Lake Street Dive, and fellow Oklahoma blues-rocker John Fullbright.
“I like to set goals for myself that are impossible to reach,” he explains. “That way, I always have something to aim for, a better song, different characters, new stories. I just want to pay the bills and feed my dog, and maybe buy a new guitar every now and then. That’s all I need. I don’t want to be Elvis Presley, but I wouldn’t complain if a million girls screamed for me, either. Just don’t tell my girlfriend that.” Parker Millsap is ready to share his Oklahoma roots with the rest of the country, and, hopefully, the world.
“Dan Bern is a throwback, a singer-songwriter who marvels at life’s beauty, fragility, and complexity with a fresh, defiantly uncompromising style. In a perfect world, he’d be as beloved as Dylan or Lennon—he’s that good!” So wrote Stereophile magazine contributing editor David Sokol for that publication’s popular Records To Die For feature several years back.
A remarkably prolific songsmith, Dan has released some two dozen studio albums, EPs, and live recordings since his first acclaimed Sony-distributed CD in 1997. Either fronting the prodigiously talented band Common Rotation or as a solo performer, he is comfortable and convincing, funny and topical, with an unassuming tip of the hat to the spirits Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, the Beatles, and young Bob Dylan—all while sounding thoroughly original and 21st-century. Whether writing about stepping back and appreciating the world around us (“Breathe”) or celebrating the venerable voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers (“The Golden Voice of Vin Scully”), Dan’s songs are always literary, sometimes funny, and often cinematic. And it’s not uncommon at a Dan Bern concert to see and hear fans unabashedly singing along to one song after another with no prompting from the stage.
Dan Bern recordings have featured a host of artists ranging from Ani DiFranco to Emmylou Harris, and he’s devoted entire albums to baseball (Doubleheader), politics (My Country II), and little kids (2 Feet Tall). His singular songwriting has led to stints working on such projects as the Judd Apatow features Walk Hard—the Dewey Cox Story (starring John C. Reilly) and Get Him to the Greek (starring Russell Brand). His songs have appeared in numerous TV shows, and he recently penned the theme song for the Amazon cartoon The Stinky and Dirty Show.
Dan’s new full-length studio album, Hoody, is due in early 2015. The album was recorded primarily in Los Angeles at Pehrspace in the Echo Park neighborhood. Featuring one of his most engaging and eclectic collections of songs, with support from Common Rotation, Hoody digs deeply into Dan’s affinity for country, rock, and folk with a punch and poignancy rarely heard these days. And his voice has never sounded richer and more powerful. The record has a warm, organic feel, with the band usually performing together in the same room, at the same time. Beside Dan, who plays acoustic and electric guitars and some harmonica, musicians on the album include Adam Busch (drums, harmonica), Jordan Katz (trumpet, banjo), Eric Kufs (lap steel, vocals), Johnny Flaugher (bass), Eben Grace (guitar), and George Sluppick and Tripp Beam (drums). And Hoody was co-produced by Dan with his old friend Greg Prestopino, whose long list of credits includes co-writing Matthew Wilder’s ubiquitous Top 5 hit, “Break My Stride” from 1983. Says Dan, “The way we recorded the stuff was a bit rough in spots, and Greg was able to massage it really well.”
Hoody is filled with highlights and surprises, including “Lifeline,” a stunning up-tempo country-rocker. The song, which soberly celebrates resiliency, features guest vocals by original Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson and Common Rotation lap-steel guitarist Eric Kufs, who co-wrote the song with Dan. And somehow Dan holds one particularly challenging note for 20 seconds toward the end of the song. Like the thoughtful “Turn on a Dime,” “Lifeline” would sound awfully good on progressive-country radio.
As would “Merle, Hank & Johnny,” which not only pays homage to those country icons but to Buck Owens, Jimmie Rodgers, and George Jones (and is as loving an ode as his tip of the hat to Vin Scully on 2012’s Drifter). The song is powerfully autobiographical, capped off with the sentiment that no matter what music his young daughter ultimately listens to, she’s sure to hear Haggard and Williams and Cash as she grows up.
Speaking of Dan’s little one, Lulu (who chipped in a few chirps on 2 Feet Tall) has a short but charming three-letter cameo (singing “JFK”) on “Waffle House,” a hilarious live showstopper delineating one of the true dividing lines in modern-day America: “Red states got the Waffle House, blue states don’t.” On Hoody, the song barely clocks in at a minute-and-a-half, but Dan packs a lot into it. Another gem on Hoody is the harder rocking “Welcome,” a three-minute indictment of our modern-day information overload. With an infectious melody belying the song’s powerfully topical message, Dan poses the question, “What’s in your wallet, and which side are you on?” On a lighter note, there’s a charmingly spirited take on Johnny Cash’s novel 1976 country chart-topper, “One Piece at a Time.” The album closes with one of Dan’s loveliest songs ever. “Sky”— with the timelessness that graces “Soul,” the brilliant closing song on 2003’s Fleeting Days—is a heartbreakingly beautiful love song, not just to a true love, but to life itself. “Long as I can see the sky… nothing can bring me down.”
Reflecting on Hoody, Dan confides, “I feel it’s a really strong record. I think it’s got a lot of elements—old folk, classic country, British Invasion—but it all holds together. It’s the culmination of what I've been aiming at for a long time, and also a jumping off point for everything I'm aiming to do next. I feel like the right radio stations could find a lot here to work with. I was aiming high and knew what I was after, and with a great team was able to achieve it. I hope people will hear it.”
Hoody is fresh and contemporary, and certainly deserves to be heard… a lot. Dan is clearly standing on the shoulders of giants as he observes the world around him and puts all the bustle and the craziness into perspective. He’s a songwriter’s songwriter and a lyrical genius with a huge, optimistic heart, as anyone who’s heard his songs can attest to. (Who else could write songs as diverse and pithy as “The Fifth Beatle,” “Osama in Obamaland,” and “Year-By-Year Home Run Totals of Barry Bonds”?)
Like we said, Dan Bern is a throwback to the days of exemplary songs and extraordinary songwriters. He’s one of the very best, and we sure could use more of his kind these days.
Steve Poltz is not normal.
He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) but has lived most of his life in Southern California and those geographic poles are quite likely responsible for his unhinged genius. He is a dual citizen - Canada/USA - but has often said that, "should a hostage situation arise, I become conveniently Canadian."
Over the course of his life he’s met Elvis Presley (who hugged his sister for far too long), trick or treated at Liberace’s house (each finger had a diamond ring), was Bob Hope’s favourite altar boy (according to him), bravely traveled the world busking before he knew how to do it, famously co-wrote “You Were Meant For Me” with Jewel, pissed off David Cassidy and can count some of the world’s coolest people as fans.
He’s also an ex high school wrestler (98 pound class), an obsessed baseball fan, a yoga practitioner, a hopeless romantic, a smart-ass philosopher and a child-like adventurer/observer with an absurdist’s view of this crazy world and the various life-forms that inhabit it. He's interested in it all - the big and the small, the sublime and the ridiculous, the terrestrial and the cosmic. He doesn't just love life, he rides it bareback, naked, at a full gallop with one hand clenched deep in its mane and the other waving to anyone watching as he flies by. Time is ticking and he has work to do...
As a recording artist, he’s fronted the semi-legendary Rugburns and is responsible for a critically lauded body of work on his own: One Left Shoe, Chinese Vacation, Answering Machine, The Barn (a children's album), Tales From The Tavern (a performance DVD), Traveling, Unraveling, Dreamhouse, Noineen Noiny Noin and most recently the soundtrack for the acclaimed Sundance-screened documentary film, Running Wild - The Life of Dayton O. Hyde.
As good as his albums are (and they're very, very good), Steve positively owns a crowd when he's on stage, where the proverbial rubber hits the road. His shows are the stuff of legend – no two are alike – and can take an unsuspecting audience from laughter to tears and back again in the space of a single song. He is a master of improvisational songwriting and works without a set list to be free to react instantly to the mood of a room. It's also worth mentioning that he is an astonishing guitar player on top of everything else. He is quite possibly the most talented, and engaging, solo performer on this planet. That's what 250+ shows a year on three continents will do for you.
Whether he's Canadian, or American, or simply from space there's no denying there's only one Steven Joseph Joshua Poltz and to know him is to love him.
Hayes Carll is an odd mix. Wildly literate, utterly slackerly, impossibly romantic, absolutely a
Carll connects with music lovers across genres lines. Playing rock clubs and honkytonks,
“I guess you could say I write degenerate love songs,” Carll says. “That, and songs about
Letting reality do the work has sure worked for the lanky Texan who walks slow and talks
Fiercely individual, Carll’s banged-up take on classic country is honed by the road –
“It comes down to the songs and the people,” he says. “You write about what you see, the
Hayes Carll is the transmutable jester whose incisive songs and funky beats play
Maybe it’s the influences – Kerouac, Dylan, Guy Clark, John Prine, Hubbard… Maybe it’s the
But for whatever reason, over a decade into a recording career, Hayes Carll shows no signs
Thickheaded. Avaricious. Squalid. Hungry. Angry. Getting by.
Like so many Texans before him, there’s no agony in the ecstasy – just the wonder of
“History and legend have often found their way into my songs” reflects Grant-Lee Phillips. “But sometimes, I don’t have to look quite so far to find inspiration.” Walking in the Green Corn, is the newest album by Grant-Lee Phillips. It’s ten songs are drawn from Phillips’ intensive investigations into his native lineage. Phillips, who is Muskogee (Creek), elliptically explores the intersection of past and present, personal and political. While the songs delve deeply into the subconscious mystery of his own back-story, they simultaneously reveal the resonance and insight of ancient myth in parallel to contemporary man’s emotions, actions, and errors.
Composed in a concentrated burst over the course of a few winter months, Walking in the Green Corn came about almost too quickly to censor—the unfiltered sum of years of rumination and discovery. As the days became shorter, the nocturnal Phillips became more productive. “I’m pretty good in the morning,” he says, a smile emerging, “which for me is about 2pm. I find that in a half-awake state, I can make a little bit of headway. Then I become more conscious as the day goes on…I have to wait until the evening and the rest of the world has quieted down to resume.
”What initially began as off-the-cuff home recordings, designed to capture the songs at the moment of conception, soon took on a life of its own. “Initially I figured that, somewhere down the road, I’d get some musicians together in a cathedral-like space and re-record these songs,” Phillips explains. But the disarmingly warm, bioluminescent quality of his simple home recordings had the certain weathered elegance that, in Phillips’ words, “would have driven me mad if I attempted to recreate them in a professional studio environment.” With the exception of violin and vocals by Sara Watkins (formerly of Nickel Creek) and an understated vibraphone part by Alexander Burke, everything on Walking in the Green Corn was performed, sung, and engineered by Phillips. “I do my best work when nobody’s paying attention – including myself,” he recalls.
“That’s what happened: it really snuck up on me. By the end of the year, I had most of the album written and recorded. Little by little I’d play the songs back for my wife, Denise (Siegel), on long drives up the San Joaquin Valley. She’s an artist and writer with uncanny ears and instincts. She kept me aimed in the right direction, brought a lot of objectivity to the project. Denise was my co-producer here.”
The mix of euphoria, wonder, and caution brought about by fatherhood—a heady emotional cocktail that fueled Phillips last album, the critically lauded Little Moon—also played a hand in this projects, as his thoughts turned to his own mixed heritage. He has always found his ancestry, which encompasses both Native American peoples European settlers to be a fertile source. “Connecting to my ancestry is like having this deep trunk that’s embedded in the earth, with deep roots. It was always something that was important to my grandmother, who was Creek, and to my mother.
So, after becoming a father, I wanted to be able to answer all those questions I know I’ll be asked one day, when my daughter takes an interest in where we come from.”
The opening “Vanishing Song” functions equally as an ode to rediscovering the ancient songs of his forefathers and as a longing for a purity and wisdom long corrupted by modern man’s material lust. A similar theme pervades “Fool’s Gold,” of which Phillips says, “Perhaps there is no other kind of gold. Look what it does to us, look how it drives people mad. Look how it drove a whole nation westward and all the suffering that came with it.”
Exploring timeless myths and rituals also lead Phillips to discover a certain palpable awe and majesty in life around him that mirrors his ancient inspirations. The loping “Grey Horned Owl” celebrates a beast long associated with insight and wisdom, equating its constancy and calm strength with the unwavering dedication of a devoted partner.
“Thunderbird,” perhaps the album’s most stark and intimate performance, finds Phillips overwhelmed by the mighty bird of myth—and equally enchanted with the mysteries and uncertainties of earthly attraction.
Since first emerging in the early ‘90s as the front-man and songwriter of the internationally acclaimed trio Grant Lee Buffalo, Phillips has been drawn to the conflicts at the heart of the American experience. The resulting body of work, which consists of four GLB albums and six uniquely divergent solo albums, has placed Phillips among the most revered and admired songwriters of his generation. His post-GLB career in particular has found him exploring a wide range of palettes and textures, from the roiling synthscapes of Mobilize to the rootsy clarity of the pedal steel-laced Virginia Creeper.
Walking in the Green Corn shares an elemental purity and richness with Virginia Creeper, but further pairs down both the performances and the compositions. “It comes down to the purest form of expression that I can offer,” Phillips explains. “I have to get off on my own, allow myself to disappear to do my best work.”
Walking in the Green Corn comes together as an evocative penetration into our own troubled era. And yet, the album’s optimistic title track completes the album on a meditative, redemptive note—implying that the potential for change and betterment is within reach, and that perhaps the best solutions can be found by looking backwards and forward simultaneously.
In the heavy Texas summer heat, Bob Schneider stands in his garage, splattered in paint. Thick leaves pulled from fine art books soak in water baths as he prepares layers for a new collage. Intestines swirl on faces, haunted eyes peer out, and paintbrushes coat layers upon layers of glue as images transform one atop the other until Bob steps back, done.
The collage will find itself as the cover of Bob’s latest album, a curated collection of three thematically-linked five song EPs, collectively titled King Kong. The album hearkens back to his earliest releases, Lonelyland (2001), I’m Good Now (2004), albums that brought the essence of Bob—good songs, all genres, fun and harrowing, sharp and insightful. Songs to dance to, to laugh with, to mourn through.
Fans who buy the physical album are treated to an artistic masterpiece, a collector’s dream, with prints of Bob’s art wrapping the music.
Bob Schneider is the best artist you’ve never heard of. But this year alone, he’s headlining every premiere venue in Austin—the Paramount, the Bass Concert Hall, Dell Hall at the Long Center, and ACL Live/Moody Theater. Sure, he’s struggled to break out of the Texas bubble, but this doesn’t stop him. “If I were to listen to the gatekeepers—the critics, the charts—I’d never have done anything.” And though the media barely grants him sidelong glances, the audiences keep coming.
Bob packs houses, he croons, he makes everybody swoon.
Bob Schneider is tenacious, constantly churning out new work. He’s thinking ahead, two albums down the line. “When I’m recording a record, when I’m mixing a record, I’m still writing songs. I’m always writing songs.” He’s known for his prolific catalogue, more songs than most other bands on the charts have…combined. He brims with projects and ideas: a demo bible—a collection of 1000 original demos with lyrics—is long in the works, a way for his longterm fans to access all of his songs and all of their lyrics, from the deeply poetic to the tangled and twisted to the flat-out profane. He’s also hard at work developing The Across The World Symphony.
Bob doesn’t sleep. At least, it seems like he doesn’t sleep. He’s working on an arrangement at four a.m. He stays up all night filming and editing videos to accompany the songs on King Kong, releasing new videos weekly.
Offered a new project—a cameo appearance in a film, the chance to judge the Literary Death Match, and Bob’s all in: “That sounds terrifying. I’ll totally do it.” He thrives on the challenge, happier to tackle projects that teeter on the edge of failure than return to the mundane sure successes.
Tell Bob that he can’t do a project, and he’ll just stop talking to you about it. “I have a complete inability to take no for an answer,” he laughs. If he’s got his mind set on it, he’s going to make it happen. Ideas, projects, art pours out of him.
One spring afternoon, he arrives at a friend’s yard to haul off a six-foot-tall tree trunk that blew down in a storm. Coming straight from a photo shoot, he’s dressed to the nines, but quickly gets covered in mulch and bark as he lugs the giant logs around, investigating which one he wants to bring home. He’ll work it on his back patio, sanding and sawing and sanding until he’s got another in a series of haunting wooden sculptures, phallic, monk-like, a wooden choir of silent song and prayer. Trees fall, Bob crafts, sawdust in his hair.
Then he crashes into bed, catches just enough downtime to revive him, and wakes again, moving at top speed. He showers, drinks a pot of coffee, and races off to a gig. He arrives onstage, fully present and ready to play.
Audiences around the world can now peek into the sacred heart of the Austin live music scene, as Bob has begun livestreaming his Monday night residency at the Saxon Pub. Here each week for over fifteen years, he’s gathered up his band Lonelyland, and taken over this Austin institution. Bob presents his newest songs, plays with fresh arrangements, and charms the pants off of everyone in the room.
Bob Schneider is always pushing himself. And he’s pushing his audience. His songs are alive, fierce, hilarious, raw, crass. And then soulful, haunting, sweet, good.
He’ll leave you breathless. He must leave you breathless. He pushes himself to breathlessness, howling into the mic, playing his fingers raw, the room awash in thick waves of sound.
Then he’s jaunty, silly, laughing at his own jokes and tossing around a flyaway tune. Listen closely, and the lyrics speak of loss, betrayal, sorrow. But he’ll sing it to you with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
David Ryan Harris
David Ryan Harris
David Ryan Harris is a Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter.
Born in Illinois and raised in Georgia, Harris’ style incorporates elements of rock, rhythm and blues, and folk, paired with a soulful voice, and masterful guitar work.
He has released three albums of his own; David Ryan Harris (1997), Soulstice (2003) and The Bittersweet (2007). His fourth; the highly-anticipated Lightyears was released October 2015.
Known and sought after for his abilities as a performer and collaborator, Harris has worked both onstage and behind the scenes with John Mayer, Dave Matthews Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Marc Broussard, and Carlos Santana, among others. Additionally, Harris has worked as a writer/producer for artists such as India.Arie, Guy Sebastian, Dionne Farris, Christina Perri, Phillip Phillips and Natasha Bedingfield.
David Ryan Harris can currently be seen with his band and in solo configurations in support of his album Lightyears.
Bobby Bare, Jr.
Bobby Bare, Jr.
Bobby Bare, Jr. could’ve phoned in a career. He could’ve exploited the fact that he’s the son of iconic Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare, was born into Nashville’s Music Row elite, and counted artists like Shel Silverstein as close family friends and George Jones and Tammy Wynette as next door neighbors. Instead, Bobby blazed a path of unique songwriting craftsmanship with a voice that blows through you like an unyielding wind on the desolate prairie.
With a big-as-the-room persona, an ability to rock the doors off the most jaded of clubs, the heart to hold a room completely still with just his guitar, and a genius for arrangement, Bobby Bare, Jr. and his band of merry makers are one of the most unique bunches around. They are adept at abandoning common sense in favor of laying themselves at the feet of a rambunctious, freewheeling, and unfettered and unhinged muse.
In the late 90's, he fronted the boss hog rock band, Bare Jr. With their two records,Boo-tay and Brainwasher, they memorably rocked out on a Nirvana-on-Skynryd-not-Sabbath groove, more indebted to the homebrew than "The Other H." He keeps himself even busier by appearing on albums by indie rock heroes like the Silver Jews and Frank Black and My Morning Jacket. Few that we have found can combine humor, pain, and anger in such an effortlessly well-crafted manner. If encountered in public, beware: Bobby is a big, gregarious, good-natured fellow who will giddily talk music (from the Smiths to Roger Miller to Metallica to Dolly Parton--sometimes in one breath) until the bartender is tossing you both out.
Look, we LOVE Bobby's records and we want people to hear them. Maybe our descriptions are making you scratch your head or are scaring you off. Forgive us, his music is ahead of its time and we are not sure what to say about it. All the years we all wasted getting English degrees are powerless in coming up with suitable words to describe his projects. When someone around the office is absent-mindedly whistling a tune, chances are real good that it's, "I'll Be Around" or "Valentine" or "Borrow Your Cape." Bobby's music is ample proof that commercial radio wouldn't know a genre-bending smash hit if it ran up and bit it in the ass, and, if radio programmers weren't all neutered corporate lapdogs, his songs would be in the broad canon of rock.
Watch the new Bobby Bare Jr. documentary Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost) via these outlets:
Born in Boulder, Colorado, raised in Paris, France and Los Angeles, California, Chris Stills infuses his multicultural influences into his work as music artist and actor. Since his debut as a recording artist with his album "100 Year Thing" for Atlantic Records produced by Ethan Johns, Chris has toured the world performing with a variety of brilliant artists including, Ryan Adams, Government Mule, Smashing Pumpkins, Don Felder, Lucinda Williams, Paul Weller, Ricky Lee Jones, Angela McClusky to mention a few.
Recorded over the last 2 years, Chris has woven an emotion evoking collection of tunes across an eclectic range of styles that encompasses his newest album - "Let it Rain". "Leaving You Behind" and "In the Meantime" bring a softer tone while, "Calling the Underground" and "Don't Be Afraid" herald a grittier, alternative sound that distinguishes his exceptional diversity as an artist.
Upon completing "Let it Rain", Chris was cast in a recurring role on the hit Showtime series "Shameless". Chris's character is a musician and the show features songs from "Let it Rain". "Shameless" Season 5 begins on Showtime Sunday January 11th at 9pm and airs through March.
Chris is also a producer for "Light Up the Blues", an annual concert that for the past 3 years has helped raise money for Autism Speaks. You can watch Chris perform "Don't Be Afraid" live by buying the concert film "Light Up the Blues" on iTunes. All proceeds go to Autism Speaks.
"I grew up watching my mother and father bring people together through music... and as I learned to this myself and develop my own identity as a musician, it became my passion and what I love to do most." - Chris Stills
The Money, the final volume in Charlie Mars’ Texas trilogy (out Oct. 14 on Rockingham Records/Thirty Tigers), opens with a scene of cinematic vividness. “Looking out a rainy window/In a hotel in Caroline/Drinking free coffee, smoking that smoke/From an apple by the exit sign.” He called the song “Hell Yeah,” a Rebel yell from this Oxford, Mississippi, resident not of celebration but of recognition. Maybe you, too, have found yourself far from home and feeling very alone, seeking relief in the substances at hand, exhaling out the open window as a practical measure. In those four lines, jotted down in a Hampton Inn in Greenwood, South Carolina, moments later, we find Mars (or a protagonist who closely resembles him) resuming his zigzagging trek through the darkness in search of the light. It’s a theme as old as The Odyssey, laid out in crisp contemporary verse over a lowdown, hickory-smoked backbeat, in the tradition of fellow Southern minimalists Tony Joe White and J.J. Cale.
The Texas trilogy (so named because the first two albums were cut in Austin, the latest one at Sonic Ranch outside of El Paso, all with Billy Harvey as producer and core musicians J.J. Johnson, John Ginty, and George Reiff) began with the ironically titled Like a Bird, Like a Plane, released in 2009, two years after the record label Mars had been signed to went out of business, leaving him no choice but to go DIY. It was the best thing that ever happened to Charlie because, out of necessity, 12 years and five albums into his career, he found his true voice, just as he was beginning to experience life more fully. His eyes were opened to culture and possibility while spending much of the last half-decade in New York and Austin, hastening his artistic and personal maturation, reflected in the songs that were coming out of him along the way.
Mars followed that initial revelatory effort with 2012’s Blackberry Light, which served as my reintroduction to his distinctive artistry and character. I’d met and connected with him eight years earlier, when I was asked to write the bio for his self-titled V2 Records album, a smart and hooky piece of work, though not, it turned out, as deep or subtle as the three gems that would follow. “Making records in semi-obscurity for 15 years, Mars has come upon the ideal musical vehicle for his achingly soulful, Gram Parsons-like drawl and languorously meditative songs,” I wrote in my Uncut magazine review of Blackberry Light, taking note of the “aural seductiveness” that rendered such songs as “Nothing but the Rain”, “Back of the Room” and “Great Wall Of China” so memorable. “Nestled among these incandescent pearls is the hyper-funky, badass ‘How I Roll,’ an unrepentant, all but defiant admission of extreme rock ’n’ roll misbehavior.” At the time, I thought the last-named tune, with its delectably funky, righteously Southern deep gut groove, was the best thing Charlie had ever recorded.
“There’s something universal about groove music, whether it’s world music or Moby or Widespread Panic,” Charlie says now. “There’s something trancelike about sitting your songs on top of a groove that I’ve always liked. It’s allowed me to sink a little deeper into the material.”
The Money contains a track with a groove that’s just as seductive. That groove, on “Danger Danger,” is married to the meter of the lyric and the syncopated way Charlie sings it, locked in with JJ Johnson’s high-stepping drums, George Reiff’s spare bass line, John Ginty’s pillowy piano chords and Billy Harvey’s rhythm guitar lick, which flits over the track like a hummingbird. These four superb musicians have served as the core band throughout the trilogy, providing it with its feel, and Charlie has dubbed them the Comma Squad–“because I know one day those guys are gonna help me get some commas in my bank account,” he quips. “They are so good.” The tightly woven rhythm the five of them lay down is also at one with the premise of the song. “I was young and I took my heart/I took my heart and gave it to a stranger,” it begins. “Didn’t listen to myself when I knew my heart was in danger... Everybody here tried to tell you/But nobody here could tell you.”
“They have the ability to show restraint,” Charlie says of his cohorts, “as well as being in the places they need to be and playing things that matter in those places. Also, their playing has a sensuality to it that’s rare in rock. There was a period back in the ’70s where it was hip to leave stuff out, to make it sound like it was hands on skin and dust on the floor. It was high-fidelity recording, but it was done in a very organic way. So those are the kind of records I’ve made and will continue to make.”
According to Charlie, “The Money isn’t about the money. It’s about stripping the chaos down to essentials, and letting what’s left shine.” To put it another way, “Life has a tendency to become cluttered, and in order to see things more clearly, it’s really good to do away with that.” These declarations apply not only to the prevailing theme of this song cycle but also the sound of the music, from the reggae-fied lilt of “Things You Don’t Wanna Know” to the languor of the disarmingly tender “Oh Girl,” so restrained, and so in sync with that tenderness, that the recording seems to be hiding in plain sight.
Mars inserted the bridge from a song on his very first album into “Oh Girl,” one of several intriguing choices he made on the album. He recorded “Silver Buttons” for the third time because he felt the first two attempts had missed the mark, and he now had the players and the thematic context to finally get it right. He also cut his first-ever cover, “Rainfall,” from an obscure EP released by the short-lived Alabama band Bentley Tock that Charlie had discovered as a teenager, serving as a catalyst for his own writing. The song was penned by Paco Ahlgren, who went on tobecome a novelist of some repute. These choices are all integral to an album about the choices we make in our lives, and their consequences.
“I always felt that music was gonna let me escape from those things in life that had let me down,” Charlie reflects. “I grew up in a bubble within a poor, impoverished state, with limited access to the outside world. And so my worldview was very Mayberry. And then, when Mayberry falls apart, you realize maybe you’re not gonna find the girl of your dreams and live happily ever after, and you’re not gonna score the winning touchdown–maybe that’s not how life pans out. All these things that you grow up believing are true, some of them are not. So Like a Bird, Like a Plane was about trying to rise out of all that, and Blackberry Light was more of a rejection; it’s a dark record. I would say that this album is about looking at those things and feeling disillusioned, but still finding the humor and the beauty and the inspiration that is inherent within them.
“I’ve realized that these are the only things in life–love, friendships, conflict, marriage, children,” he continues. “You can’t reject this stuff; there’s no escape from it. It’s not gonna be perfect, it’s not gonna be like you want, but it’s gonna be fulfilling; it’s gonna be an emotional roller-coaster, and that’s OK. Like in ‘Pride Before the Fall,’ which is the song I pored over the most, because it’s the most revealing. It says, ‘If you really love somebody/You know they could break your heart/And if you’re telling the truth/You knew it from the start.’ It’s a commentary about these things that are inherent in all our neuroses.
“But there’s also a sense of humor on this record that was absent on the last two. I’m trying to move toward something more positive, more lighthearted. Like, isn’t it all a mess, and can’t we all laugh at it and celebrate it together?”
The narrative that plays out in the final chapter of Mars’ trilogy doesn’t have a perfect ending, because perfect endings are pipe dreams, as he notes. It concludes instead with the protagonist missing someone and hoping she’s missing him too, while at the same time imagining the daughter they didn’t have going on to repeat her parents’ mistakes, winding up with a boy like him–“running nights through Alabama/Running nights through Tennessee/Some nights she’ll be waking up/She’ll be looking over her shoulder/But don’t worry momma, don’t worry, don’t cry, cry, cry.” Now, that may not be a perfect ending in the aforementioned “happily ever after” sense, but in a literary or cinematic sense, it’s absolutely devastating.
So Charlie Mars has been through some things, just like everybody else in this mortal coil, and he’s turned it into something emotionally raw yet beautifully rendered, deeply personal yet universally relatable. Way under the radar, this guy is making serious art–and you need to know about it. You need to sit down, put your phone on airplane mode, mute the sound on the TV, crank up the stereo and listen. Because Charlie Mars is telling it the way it is.
David Hodges is a multi-platinum Grammy and BMI award winning, Golden Globe nominated, songwriter & producer. He has the rare talent of being a both songwriter and producer, as well as a multi-instrumentalist and an artist. David cut his teeth as one of the founding members of the Little Rock, AR based rock act Evanescence. Their debut album went on to sell over 18 million copies, but in the height of the band’s success, he left to focus on songwriting and production. Over the past decade, David has worked with some of the biggest artist’s in the world from writing their hits to creating successful end titles for film. From the haunting piano melodies of Evanescence’s My Immortal to Christina Perri’s 6 million selling Twilight end title, A Thousand Years… Hodges signature sound starts on the piano and can be heard across many of the song he’s written. David also co-wrote #1 smash singles Kelly Clarkson’s Because of You, Daughtry’s What About Now, and Carrie Underwood’s See You Again, and many others. David has sold over 60 million records to date. He is currently working with Keith Urban, 5 Seconds of Summer, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera, Josh Groban, Nickelback, Christina Perri, Lady Antebellum, and others.
Kristian Bush (Sugarland)
Kristian Bush (Sugarland)
Kristian Bush has a voice.
And after more than a dozen years as the creative yet largely silent force behind Sugarland — the Grammy, CMA and ACM Award-winning group he formed in Atlanta in 2003 — the Tennessee-born singer-songwriter is ready for you to hear it.
On his debut solo album Southern Gravity (out April 7 via Streamsound Records), that voice is undeniable.
Southern Gravity is a joyous and inspirational album, yet it was born out of tumultuous, even tragic, change. As such, it is a purging of all that Kristian has weathered since 2011 — the year that the stage rigging collapsed during a storm prior to Sugarland's show at the Indiana State Fair. That horrific accident was the first of many challenges, both public and personal, for the heart-on-his-sleeve artist.
Over its dozen tracks, however, Southern Gravity became Kristian's musical assurance that everything was going to be okay.
"These songs are like post-it notes that you might put around your house as inspirational reminders," says Kristian. "I listen to them for that reason sometimes — to remind myself that no matter how hard it gets, you can make things out of the pieces that are smashed."
It's testament to Kristian's gift for writing perfect country-pop hooks that Southern Gravity turned out to be, as Country Weekly puts it, “the feel-good album of the year.” Whether it's the narrator who gives away his worldly possessions in lead single and Top 20 hit "Trailer Hitch," the brokenhearted soul who seeks solace in the Golden State in "Feeling Fine California," or the guy who celebrates the elation of being in love in "Light Me Up," the voices of the record unfailingly live in the moment.
"Music sometimes looks back, and that's what most of us do. But this album is all present tense. It's not I was feeling fine, it's I am feeling fine. It isn't you did light me up, it's you do light me up. It's all happening here," Kristian says. "And I needed to hear that as much as anyone else."
Still, the man who was content to quietly steer the ship in Sugarland and cede the spotlight to the world-class entertainer that is Jennifer Nettles knows what you're thinking: "This guy can sing?"
The answer, in short, is damn straight. "I think people might be very surprised; they may even have low expectations, like, 'I didn't think you had it in you, man!'" Kristian says with a laugh.
But while he knew he could sing — and command a stage, as he did with revered cult band Billy Pilgrim in the Nineties — Kristian wanted to be certain he could write not just serviceable songs but great songs for what would be his debut solo project. To find the honest answer, he posed an ego-testing question.
"I asked myself, 'What if people have been yessing me for the last few years? Maybe the songs aren't that good. How in the world will I ever know if I was getting away with mediocrity?'" he recalls. "So I went wandering."
He traveled to Los Angeles, Stockholm, London, and Nashville — eventually purchasing a home in Music City to more fully immerse himself — writing with some of music's most creative minds across all genres. Finally, he returned to Atlanta, where he recorded the heart of the album's twelve songs. The journey took commitment, as well as the courage to further the Sugarland narrative he started over a decade ago.
"I needed to continue the story of Sugarland, and I didn't know how this would fit in," he says of Southern Gravity. Ultimately, Kristian says, the album became an extension of his country-pop band, which to him felt entirely natural. "This is me continuing the message in my music," he says, predicting that listeners will detect a similarity to Sugarland albums like Love on the Inside. "As people look back through those records, it'll all make sense."
To be sure, tracks like "Light Me Up," the breezy "Flip Flops" and the defiant "Walk Tall" evoke the sing-along anthems of Sugarland, fitting in perfectly on country radio. That, Kristian says, was his intention from the get-go — as well as something to be celebrated.
"I chose these songs to communicate with as many people as I can," he says. “Country radio has an incredible reach and is such a powerful thing. It is unprecedented in our culture. I want to be on the radio because I want people I don't know to hear my music. I've been pestering the ones I do know for years — it's the stranger that I'm interested in.”
Produced by Kristian (a self-confessed studio geek) with help from long-time friend and acclaimed engineer Tom Tapley, Southern Gravity is a true headphones experience, a listening event meant to be explored and savored. Throughout, you’ll find plucky mandolin, resonating guitar, and layer upon layer of delicious harmonies. Empowered by honest, uplifting lyrics, it all adds up to one of the year's most satisfying — and cathartic — releases.
For fans of authentic, transformative songwriting, it will be hard to resist Southern Gravity's pull.
"Writing a happy, inspirational album can be very difficult, and to do it while you're crawling out from the mud is doubly difficult," says Kristian with a been-there smile. "But when that muscle awakens, there's nothing more powerful."
Kristian Bush, one half of platinum-selling country duo Sugarland, has been leaving his mark on music for more than two decades. His debut solo album, Southern Gravity, was released in April 2015, featuring the Top 20 single "Trailer Hitch." The album received rave reviews from Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, and the Sydney Morning Herald, among many others. Country Weekly called it the "feel-good album of the year."
Bush is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist who started his career with folk rock duo Billy Pilgrim in the early '90s. He and partner Andrew Hyra released a much-lauded pair of albums for Atlantic Records (their 1994 self-titled debut and 1995's Bloom), earning multiple Top 5 singles on the AAA charts, rotation on VH1, and a reputation as dynamic live performers who traveled from the tiny stage of Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia, to a worldwide tour supporting Melissa Etheridge in 1995.
Bush founded Sugarland in 2002; in 2004, he and singer Jennifer Nettles exploded onto the music scene, surpassing sales of over 22 million albums worldwide, achieving five No. 1 singles and winning numerous awards, including trophies from the Grammys, AMAs, ACM Awards, CMT Music Awards and CMA Awards. In October of 2012, they were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
To date, Bush has won six BMI Awards for his songwriting abilities, and in 2011 founded the music publishing company and songwriting collective Songs of the Architect. Recent producing/songwriting collaborations include Mike Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Dia Frampton, Ellis Paul, Laura Bell Bundy, Matt Nathanson, the dB’s, Martin Johnson of Boys Like Girls, Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale, and up-and-comers including Kristina Train, Larkin Poe, Natalie Stovall, Canaan Smith, Jaida Dreyer, Alana Springsteen, and The Voice contestant Savannah Berry.
Bush made his solo debut in March 2013 at the inaugural C2C: Country to Country Festival, held at the O2 Arena in London. His first release as a solo act, “Love or Money,” debuted in the UK and Europe the following week, and in October of 2013, he stood by his promise to release “Love or Money” at home in the US as well – the song is now available worldwide, and is featured in the hit mobile game My Singing Monsters, where Bush lends his voice to the green furry "Shugabush."
He is a frequent panelist and speaker at events for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and regularly appears as part of the CMA Songwriters Series in cities across the U.S. and Europe. Bush is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, where he still resides.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Jim Lauderdale is both a "songwriter's songwriter," who's written/co-written many modern classics for iconic artists, as well as an intuitive sideman, who's enhanced the music of a bevy of esteemed musicians. As a solo artist, since 1986 up until now, he's created a body work spanning 28 albums of imaginative roots music, encompassing country, bluegrass, soul, R&B and rock, as well as helping pave the way for the current Americana movement. Jim has written songs and worked with some of the finest artists in traditional and modern music, including Robert Hunter, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, George Strait, Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, John Oates, Solomon Burke, Lee Ann Womack, Old Crow Medicine Show, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Blake Shelton, the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, and Gary Allan among many, many others. He also co-hosts a weekly radio show on SiriusXM with Buddy Miller, "The Buddy & Jim Show," which NPR's Fresh Air described as "...highly entertaining..." He is also co-host of Music City Roots, the weekly live and radio, podcast and PBS series.
Last September, the documentary, Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts, was released, celebrating Jim's unconventional career. In 2010, Jim was honored with the SESAC Inspiration Award. Most recently, he received the prestigious American Eagle Award from the National Music Council along with Kris Kristofferson.
He released his latest project, a double album, Soul Searching: Vol. 1 Memphis/Vol. 2. Nashville (Sky Crunch Records) on Sept. 25, treating his fans to a new adventure, exploring the redemptive traditional sounds of Memphis and Nashville. Both albums feature roots savants Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars playing. Vol. 1 Memphis was tracked at the legendary Royal Studios, Vol. 2 Nashville, was tracked at the historic Nashville Victor Studio A, and produced by Jim and Luther Dickinson, with Boo Mitchell also producing Vol. 1 Memphis.
Originally from the UK Callaghan moved to the USA in summer 2010 to record and tour with Grammy-Nominee Shawn Mullins and has been playing live and building her audience ever since.
Callaghan plays piano and guitar and delivers a stunning vocal which earns frequent comparisons with artists like Sarah McLachlan and Emmy Lou Harris. Her songwriting chronicles the stories, experiences and emotions which are part of everyone’s lives. No Depression recently reviewed her live show as "nothing short of stunning".
A long-time Shawn Mullins fan, she contacted the Atlanta singer-songwriter through MySpace and, after being knocked out by her music, he agreed to produce her debut album. She left her London digs and boarded a plane headed for the American South. Life in Full Colour was tracked in and around Atlanta and released in summer 2012 to a great reaction. The Huffington Post described it as “joyful listening”, while InLiveMusic says “Callaghan’s voice is stunning, clear and perfect for the story telling of her songs”
Since then Callaghan has been on the road touring with artists including Shawn Mullins, Ed Kowalczyk, Matthew Perryman-Jones and more. She’s now headlining shows across the USA.
A History of Now was entirely fan funded via Pledge Music and produced in Nashville by Dennis Matkosky. The new record showcases Callaghan’s gift for melody and impactful songwriting in a collection which ranges from uplifting, exuberant anthems to poignant, mesmerizing ballads. Since its release in April 2015 it has been earning praise on both sides of the pond.
In The UK BBC Radio 2 have playlisted two singles from the album and BBC Radio London's Gabby Roslin described Callaghan's in studio performance as "breathtaking...absolutely incredible, every hair on my body is standing up" In the US Creative Loafing Atlanta calls the record "tunes to make even the most jaded pop fan grin".
Kyle Jacobs moved to Nashville from Minneapolis, MN in 2000 and achieved his first significant success as a writer in 2003 with Kimberly Locke's Top 10 AC single "8th World Wonder." In 2007 Kyle wrote what became the fastest rising single in the history of country music, Garth Brooks' “More Than A Memory”, which debuted at #1 in R&R on 09/04/2007. Kyle also co-wrote Tim McGraw’s Top 10 single, “Still”. Last year he had two songs featured in the pilot episode of the new ABC series, NASHVILLE. He has also produced two #1 singles for Lee Brice, “Hard To Love” and “I Drive Your Truck”.
A staff writer for Curb Music since 2003, Kyle’s songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw, Kellie Pickler, Eli Young Band, George Strait, Thompson Square, Scotty McCreery, Trace Adkins, Clay Walker, Kelly Clarkson, Lee Brice, Randy Travis, Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Kelley, James Wesley, Jason Jones, Craig Morgan, and Jo Dee Messina. Kyle collaborates with many of the industry's top songwriters and artists including Joe Leathers, Phillip Lammonds, Vicky McGehee, Rachel Thibodeau, Billy Montana, Darius Rucker, Kellie Pickler, Clay Walker, David Nail, Lee Brice, and Wynonna. He writes on piano and guitar and is an accomplished vocalist.
Peter Holsapple’s first four decades in the music business have provided the world at large with a raft of memorable song craft, recordings of taste and originality, and travels with some of the finest musicians performing. Holsapple has navigated a snaky course through the annals of modern power pop with quality tunes like The dB’s “Love Is For Lovers” or Continental Drifters’ “Invisible Boyfriend.” His versatility on sundry instruments has made him the go-to auxiliary player for groups like R.E.M. and Hootie and the Blowfish. He's played the Apollo Theatre and the Ryman Auditorium. His songs have been played and recorded by Marti Jones, Don Dixon, the Troggs, Claire Lynch, Nada Surf, Bully, the Golden Palominos, Foster & Lloyd and Megafaun. Recently, Holsapple is a charter member of the songwriter collective podcast Radio Free Song Club, where he has turned in a perfect record for submissions over thirty-one episodes since December 2009. He is still waiting for his gold star.
Music is Medicine.
The night we played Bonnaroo a couple years ago, I sat with my younger brother Sam, my wife Ellie, and a few other dear friends, reclining in plastic lawn chairs in the midnight Tennessee heat outside our tour bus, drinking wine and listening to music. After a decade of touring, (over 1700 shows) and making records, it’s easy to forget the magic of music. We took turns introducing each other to new bands and artists, talking about our lives, our dreams, our failures.
Music has always had a medicinal quality to me, and that’s why I started writing songs and touring in the first place. I first needed the medicine when I was seventeen. I lost a brother that summer, 1999. He was a great kid, lived life from the view of a wheelchair, and was gone without warning a few days before his 14th birthday. I took lots of medicine, from Radiohead and Bob Dylan, from Pearl Jam and Otis Redding, from Bob Marley to the Temptations, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Rage Against the Machine. I played the guitar in my bedroom, learned songs I loved, sang along in my car alone or with a friend.
A year later I went to college in Knoxville and I became an addict. I was introduced to the medicine of Patty Griffin, Whiskeytown, Springsteen, Tom Waits, the Jayhawks, Wilco, Beck and hundreds more that could fill pages. I went and saw their shows and played their records over and over and over. The honesty, the intellect, the stories, the raw emotion, the rhythm, the vulnerability; it all made me feel like I was not alone. Music was a way of saying, “me too,” a way of finding hope and meaning in the sorrow and confusion of life.
Somewhere in those late college years, I started writing songs, at first feeble attempts, but it grew and grew, and I got better and better. I booked shows, I made myself vulnerable and stood onstage and sang earnest songs about love and joy, pain and tragedy. I convinced myself that making medicine was something I could take a swing at. After graduating, over a cup of coffee, I asked my dentist father what he thought about my dream, and he asked me one question,
“Are you going to work hard at that?”
“Yes sir.” I replied.
“Well let’s go to the guitar shop and I’ll buy you the best one I can afford.”
I hit the road, and I hit it hard. I found a band of agile, competent musicians whose musical library is vast and deep and demanding. Along the way, I married the girl I always wanted. She quit her teaching job and joined the band, toured with us for seven great years. We made several records, and spent the majority of the last decade on the road. You may have heard our music on TV. We’ve had our songs on dozens of shows like Nashville, Parenthood, How I Met Your Mother. We have toured with artists like the Avett Brothers, John Hiatt, Needtobreathe, and a host of other kindred souls. We have sold out our own shows in places from Chicago to Austin, LA to New York, London to Denver, on stages we never dreamed we would play, and selling over 100,000 records in the process, all while staying independent. Our music is simple and heartfelt, built to inhabit people’s day to day lives, like so many of the records I have loved over the long haul in my own life.
Medicine is by far the best music we have ever made. When I played it for a respected friend, I asked, “What do you think?” The response was,
“It sounds like it’s always been there.”
We recorded the whole album in eight days, co-produced by the band and Joe Pisapia (Ben Folds, KD Lang, Guster, Josh Rouse) at Joe’s Middletree Studios, in East Nashville, about a mile from my house. We recorded one song at a time, until it was finished. No studio tricks, just me and a great band working together, creating, having fun, embracing the sorrow. It’s always been about the song for us, a community of musicians surrounding that song and bringing it life, trying to make it sound like it has always been there.
The twelve songs on Medicine deal with loyalty, hardship, marriage, friendship, feeling like an outsider, and wrestling with God. “You’ll Always Be My Girl” is a love song to my bride Ellie, who after eight years on the road with us, is stepping away from the band. I came up with the first line when I was playing with our daughter Emmylou before putting her to bed. I wasn’t trying to write a song, just entertaining her and I came up with the first line – ‘from the start of spring to the autumn leaves, and the summers and winters between…” After tucking her in, I dashed off the rest of the song in 45 minutes. It was the night before we went into the studio for the last time. When Ellie got home, I played it for her. She loved it, and we cried together for a moment and celebrated what we’ve got and what we’re grateful for.
The next day, I taught it to the band, and we recorded the 24-hour-old song in one take. Nathan Dugger on piano, Rich Brinsfield on upright bass and me singing, just sitting in a circle. That ethos embodies the whole experience of making this record.
“Shine Like Lightning” is a song about us being an underdog band, never embraced by the powers of radio, major labels, large corporate sponsorships, and in light of that we have a healthy chip on our shoulder. But our music making has brought us, and our fans, a lot of happiness, it seems. This is an ode to ten years of doing it our own way, on our own terms, in spite of the roadblocks of cynicism and criticism, those who would “take something beautiful and make it feel small.” It’s an anthem for our band and our fans, that we are going to “Shine Like Lightning!” critics and cynics be damned.
Breaking with my previous autobiographical songwriting bent, I wrote songs like “Heartbreak” and “Sister Brothers,” based on the experiences of friends instead. Elsewhere, “American Beauty” looks back on the nostalgia and loss of a teenage romance. The grooving, call-and-response “Here We Go” was inspired by that particular night shared with friends at Bonnaroo.
Medicine closes with “When It’s All Said and Done.” It’s about questioning whether God is real and whether he cares about us or not … and not walking away from that, but holding on to it like you’re hanging on to the side of a cliff, and that’s where I find myself at this point.
More than anything else, Medicine is born out of the stories we are told.
The email from a fan who was on the verge on suicide but our song gave her glimmer of hope to keep hanging on. The story by the bus of fans who danced their first dance to another one of our songs. The mom who sings our music to her kids before they go to sleep, begging for peace and health and a happy life. The people who dance in the back of the rock club and have a moment of joy in a world of suffering. We only hope to add to the soundtrack, in the same way that all those artists and bands have done for me. Making medicine,
Music, it makes you feel good, makes you feel understood
like you’re not alone, not a rolling stone, you’re not the only one on the road.
“Exceptional lyrics and captivating voice” –Utne Reader
“Deeply felt songs held close to the chest, full of dusky memories … and hope for a bright future.” –The Boston Globe
“Light as air, Delmhorst’s voice soars…” -No Depression
On May 13th, Delmhorst released her seventh album, BLOOD TEST (Signature Sounds) – her first of original music since 2008′s critically acclaimed album SHOTGUN SINGER. A prolific writer and constant collaborator, Delmhorst continues to share her unique perspective in this new work. The album describes a moment of reckoning and centering in the songwriter’s life, and in society as a whole. In a collection of songs that move between triumph and heartbreak, restlessness and responsibility, Delmhorst acknowledges the weary work of an intentioned life – and the new American dream of presence and perspective in a frenetic time.
BLOOD TEST’s fresh perspective was realized sonically by Delmhorst turning to a totally new collaborator – friend and fellow songwriter Anders Parker (Varnaline, Gob Iron, New Multitudes). Parker brought two band members to Delmhorst: drummer Konrad Meissner (Brandi Carlile, The Silos) and multi-instrumentalist Mark Spencer (Blood Oranges, Lisa Loeb, Laura Cantrell, Son Volt). And together, the four shaped BLOOD TEST’s landscape:
“I was focused on paring things down to their elements, less flesh, more bone. So it’s just the four of us on BLOOD TEST, with very few overdubs, playing the songs and letting the imperfections be part of the story. We were new to each other as a band, and the songs were new to everyone, many of them even to me. So there’s a freshness and spirit of discovery in the tracks which I think shines through and which gives them a lot of life. It’s a situation that requires intense focus, listening, responsiveness if it’s going to work. Everyone involved brought these things and more.”
The spareness of the arrangements allows a wide range of dynamics in the songs, from the delicate duet of nylon-string guitar and pedal steel in “My Ohio,” to the glowering Hammond organ and brittle electric guitar of “Saw It All.” “Little Frame” floats the listener on a sonic hammock of easy drums and simple piano riffs, while “Temporary Sun” takes less than a minute and a half for Mark Spencer’s scorched-earth country-rock guitar to lay waste to the place. And Delmhorst is not afraid to take dynamic leaps within a single song, as evidenced by “92nd St,” which travels all the way from a single pulsing note on an acoustic guitar to a churning wall of distortion out of PJ Harvey’s playbook, and all the way back again.
That song, drawn from Delmhorst’s New York upbringing, had particular resonance during the recording, as the sessions were taking place just a few blocks from her childhood home.
“The studio where we made the record, Brooklyn Recording, turned out to be right in my old stomping grounds… I was getting coffee at the deli I used to go to high school, and then walking to the studio. It was a kind of vertigo feeling to be working there, a little dizzying, but also really satisfying; it somehow completed the circle.”
Geography aside, “92nd St” may also contain the thematic heart of the album – with its soaring chorus “There ain’t no real mistakes.”
For all the big questions that BLOOD TEST asks, it offers this conclusion: That everything we have done and seen and been and felt has led to this day. Who we are now. In this moment. That we have arrived. And we are right on time.
The product of a musical family, Delmhorst released her debut album, Appetite, in 1998 and has since recorded and released multiple albums and EPs spanning a range of musical genres— both as a solo artist and as a band member/collaborator. She has recorded vocals, fiddle and cello on over 50 albums from artists such as Peter Wolf, Mary Gauthier, Chris Smither and Lori McKenna, and also records and performs with Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey as Redbird.
John Driskell Hopkins
John Driskell Hopkins
John Driskell Hopkins has walked the musical path for the last 20 years. As a bass player, guitar player, singer and songwriter for several bands of the rock variety, Hopkins rooted himself in the Atlanta, GA music scene in 1995, producing records and touring with his band Brighter Shade.
Hopkins met Zac Brown in 1998 at an open mic hosted by Hopkins. Over the next several years, they remained friends and with Hopkins lending a production hand, they released the first Zac Brown record, “Home Grown,” in 2004.
Hopkins became a founding member of the Zac Brown Band in 2005 and has enjoyed engineering and songwriting credits on hit songs such as “Toes,” “It’s Not OK,” and “Sic Em On A Chicken,” from the triple-platinum selling record “The Foundation,” as well as “Nothing,” “I Play The Road,” and “Settle Me Down,” from the platinum selling record, “You Get What You Give.” Hopkins also co-wrote the second single from the Zac Brown Band’s third platinum album, “Uncaged,” entitled “Goodbye in Her Eyes” which was the group’s ninth Billboard number one single.
As the ZBB continue to garner critical and public success through numerous awards, including 3 Grammy Awards, 1 CMA, 2 ACM and 2 CMT Awards, Hopkins continues to share the spotlight on stage with his band of fellow songwriters and friends. He has added the title of multi-instrumentalist to his ZBB resume, playing Banjo on the group’s recent single “Homegrown,’’ which became their 11th number one on Billboard Country charts in March, 2015. “Homegrown” is the first single from their latest album, “Jekyll and Hyde,” released in April 2015. The band enjoyed making news again when they debuted the second single from “Jekyll and Hyde” just weeks later; “Heavy is the Head,” for which Hopkins is a contributing writer, features Chris Cornell and debuted at No. 37 on Billboard Mainstream Rock chart, marking their first appearance on that chart. The band played both singles as musical guest on Saturday Night Live, March 7, 2015.
Hopkins can be seen and heard in the 2015 internationally-released film “Careful What You Wish For” featuring Nick Jonas, Paul Sorvino, & Dermot Mulroney, produced by Elizabeth Allen.
When off the road, Hopkins works in his home studio, songwriting and producing a growing crop of regional talent; he often shares these tracks with BMG/Chrysalis Nashville, whom he’s partnered with in an administrative deal since 2011. He continues to perform at music festivals and venues across the country with his band Brighter Shade, and also collaborates with other musicians as often as possible.
In 2015, Hopkins was elected as an advisor to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Atlanta Chapter, and was subsequently voted in to a Governor Seat for the 2015-2017 term.
In late summer, 2015, Hopkins fulfilled a dream when he collaborated with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra on a Christmas album, titles “In The Spirit: A Celebration of the Holidays,” recording 12 tracks of timeless holiday tunes with soaring arrangements and wonderful special guests such as the Indigo Girls, Balsam Range, and actress/singer extraordinaire, Laura Bell Bundy. The album was released on Fri, Nov 13th and Hopkins will join the APO for a handful of shows in the southeast this December.
You can catch 11 episodes of Hopkins’ ongoing Podcast , “Under The Influence with John Driskell Hopkins” on iTunes, most of which were recorded while on the road with other band-mates or fellow tour-mates. Another favorite activity during any touring downtime is taking his Harley out for a lap of the city du jour.
He shares his life on and off the road with his amazing wife and three beautiful daughters.
Kristy Lee is an Alabama based singer-songwriter that has been burning it up on the underground scene for years and now on a national level. Known for her powerhouse vocals, Lee delivers pure, raw emotion. it has caught the attention of fans and industry names alike. She has shared the stage with internationally renowned artists including The Zac Brown Band, Michael Franti, Dickey Betts (The Allman Brothers), The Indigo Girls, G-Love and Special Sauce and the legendary Leon Russell. Just naming a few, you can clearly see she reaches out across many genres of music. She has birthed a new sound, uniquely her own...Dirt Road Soul!
"Kristy Lee has one of Alabama's most powerful voices. Her voice calls to mind long gone blues belters, Southern soul shouters and gospel divas.” - Lawrence Specker (Press Register)
"Kristy Lee is a triple threat. She has the unique ability to speak to souls, break hearts, and mend them all at the same time. Her music is a breath of fresh air in a smoke filled bar packed tight with anticipation." - (www.EBUrban.com)
"An Alabama girl full of emotion, who’s acoustic guitar, and rich vocals prove she is as passionate as Aretha Franklin circa Soul 69! Lee is highly underrated yet managed to pull in an impressive crowd during each of her three performances. Playing originals and covers including Bill Withers’ Grandma’s Hands, her harmonization with her all female band the Hussy Hicks was impeccable, and had people bragging for days" – Ultra Underground (BluesFest, AUSTRALIA)
A lot happens in five years. Marriages start, marriages crumble, daughters run away, innocence is lost, husbands punch their wives in the face, and those lost causes we’ve resigned to the wind get sober and start over. Children are born – but some don’t make it past five.
During the five years since her last album of original material, BettySoo zigzagged her way across the North American and European continents more than a few times. Mostly, she toured. Every other minute, she was flying to visit best friends in rehab, driving for days with friends whose family lives were crumbling, visiting mental hospitals, going to houses and cleaning kitchens and bathrooms when friends had no will left to do it themselves.
As an insomniac and someone who understands depression from her own life-long struggle, maybe she was exactly where she and her friends needed her to be: in the thick of it, reminded of how fragile the balancing act can be for people like herself whose mental health isn’t solid as a rock. And perhaps she did exactly what she needed to do: she wrote dozens of songs – capturing those seemingly endless moments of grief, loneliness, and loss, and those fleeting moments of joy and love – and she recorded twelve of those songs on her new album When We’re Gone.
Produced together with Brian Standefer at his studio in Buda, Texas, When We’re Gone is an intimate look into private spaces in life. Wall-hung sinks (“The Things She Left Town With”), cluttered floorboards (“Josephine”), packed suitcases at the door (“Hold Tight”), and crumpled clothing at a young girl’s feet (“Summertime”) – these are the furniture for the setting, but center stage is BettySoo’s voice, her melodies, and the unmistakable texture of Brian’s cello.
BettySoo and Standefer performed the bulk of the record themselves, layering cello on cello, voices on voices, guitars on guitars, and piano whenever it begged to be played, but the album also features several of their closest friends (who happen to be some of Texas’ finest players): Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Dave Terry and Rick Richards on drums and percussion, Joey Colarusso on clarinet and flute (“Lullaby”), Will Sexton on guitar (“The Things She Left Town With,” “Summertime”), and Lloyd Maines on pedal steel (“Last Night”).
Previous albums have garnered successively greater and numerous positive reviews. The Austin American-Statesman says BettySoo has “exceptionally well-arranged songs, as easily equal in precision to, say, Patty Griffin or Alison Krauss…a confidence that speaks volumes,” and KUT praises her “beautiful, heart-wrenching songs that are also edgy and unwavering.” BettySoo’s last album, Heat Sin Water Skin, received a great deal of radio airplay, including spins at influential Non-Comm/Triple A stations WFUV, KUT, WXPN, KGSR, KDRP and SiriusXM’s The Loft.
When We’re Gone builds on this previous success, brimming with what feels like new-found confidence and strength. Perhaps all the shared brokenness from the past five years is paying its dividends.
Gifted singer-songwriter, guitarist, pianist and American troubadour, Peter Karp, is a master songsmith with an art for spinning true-to-life emotions, humor, and candor. With an upbringing that was equal parts southern Alabama and the swamps of New Jersey, Karp’s music is fueled by the Yankee-Rebel juxtaposition.
He first caught national attention with help from Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor who recorded and toured with Karp on his first label release The Turning Point. A show Peter did with his band and Taylor at the Bottom Line in New York City has just been released for the first time called The Arson’s Match as part of a double CD for Ovarian Cancer Research with Sue Foley’s Change. The Arson’s Match was recorded live at a sold-out performance in 2004. Originally broadcast live on Sirius Satellite Radio, Karp and his Roadshow Band perform Karp’s finest original songs, with Mick Taylor on guitar. Says Taylor, “Guys like Peter Karp, James Taylor and Bob Dylan embody Americana Blues, and us English guys are inspired by it. It was a great night of music.”
Karp further established himself on the national scene as a critically acclaimed songwriter, and accomplished guitarist and pianist with the release of his Blind Pig debut entitled Shadows and Cracks. From 2009 till the present Peter Karp has struck gold with a partnership with Canadian songwriter/guitarist Sue Foley, and they have put out two very well received CDs on Blind Pig Records. On the road across the U.S. and Canada, Karp repeatedly transfixes his live audiences. Critics compare his songwriting to John Hiatt and John Prine, with impressive guitar and slide licks infused by his love of Freddie King and Elmore James. Peter Karp personifies the amorphous Americana sound, seamlessly blending blues and roots music with a high sense of entertainment.
“Karp’s one cool cookie, all right — from his muscular slide guitar soloing to his observational and oh-so-true songwriting and, most of all, that soulful expressive voice of his, dripping with innuendo. Dude’s entertaining as hell.” Mike Greenblatt, Goldmine Magazine
Contact: Nancy Lewis-Pegel, Brilliant Productions 404-312-6237
Randall Bramblett’s distinguished body of work is defined by a triple threat career as an acclaimed solo artist, an in-demand songwriter and a first call sideman. Among the artists who’ve recorded and performed Bramblett’s songs are Bettye LaVette, Hot Tuna, Delbert McClinton and most notably, Bonnie Raitt, who opened her 2014 Grammy winner, Slipstream, with one of his songs. In the '70s he was a member of the seminal jazz/rock group Sea Level and as a sideman has toured with Gregg Allman, Widespread Panic and Levon Helm. Steve Winwood was such a fan of Bramblett’s keyboard, sax and vocal performances that he made Bramblett his go-to tour mate for 16 years, including the '94 Traffic reunion.
"We just wanted to do soul music because that’s what we all loved,” he recalls. “I used to listen to [Nashville-based] WLAC late at night because they played all this great soul and blues and R&B, and sermons and gospel music. That stuff just grabbed me and it still does." His high school bandmates stuck together even after Bramblett went off to UNC Chapel Hill to college. "I'd be hitchhiking to Mississippi or Alabama for weekend shows and have to scramble to get back for Monday classes."
The protagonist in “Angel Child” comically tries to lure a lover into the seedy web of his
broken down life while the character in “Bottom of the Ocean” dreams of escape. These songs gain further impact from their construction and many are built around a single chord.
“I’m pullin’ from a deep well on this album,” Bramblett concludes. “It’s my experience of black and white culture in the south, and how it feels to grow up here with all the religion and pain and conflict and joy—and then there's all that dancing…”
Randall Bramblett Devil Music is available September 18 from New West Records on LP, CD and Digital.
Griffin House was born and raised in Springfield, Ohio. His father worked in a tire shop and his mother helped place children with foster families. In high school, the athletically gifted House landed a role in a musical and was surprised to learn that he had a natural talent for singing. House bought his first guitar for $100 from a friend, turned down a golf scholarship to Ohio University and instead went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and started to teach himself how to play the guitar and write songs.
House began writing and recording and issued his first independent release, Upland, in 2003. His music attracted attention from Nettwerk, a Vancouver-based management company and record label, and House partnered with the label’s American branch to issue Lost & Found in 2004. In August 2004, on CBS Sunday Morning, music journalist Bill Flanagan (MTV/VH1) raved about Lost and Found, putting the newcomer on his short list of the best emerging songwriters in the U.S. “I bought House’s CD after a show in New York City,” said Flanagan, “and this never happens: I took it home and must have listened to it 20 times that weekend. I was knocked out.”
Several self-released albums followed, and in 2008 House released Flying Upside Down, produced by Jeff Trott and featuring Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. House has released the majority of his records on his imprint label, Evening Records. House has toured extensively, opening for artists such as Ron Sexsmith,Patti Scialfa, Josh Ritter, John Mellencamp, Mat Kearney, and The Cranberries. Since 2007 House has been a national headliner.
He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Jane and two daughters Emma and Clara.
Jennifer Knapp’s beautifully intimate new album Set Me Free puts her uncommon honesty front and center, solidifying her return to a music career set on her own terms. Set Me Free, coming October 14 on Righteous Babe Records, is Knapp’s second mainstream folk rock release after she left her Grammy-nominated Contemporary Christian Music career behind, returning seven years later with the refreshingly straightforward Letting Go in 2010. While her transition away from Christian music and public coming out as a lesbian have made her a lightning rod for controversy, Set Me Free is an album full not of anger but of love, with intimate arrangements providing the backdrop for stories of romance, friendship, and faith. Coinciding with the release of her candid memoir Facing the Music: My Story on Howard Books/Simon and Schuster, this refreshing new album once again demonstrates Jennifer’s uncompromising willingness to be open in the spotlight.
Set Me Free focuses on how we interact with one another, how we affect others and how other people, places or life events affect us, shaping us into who we are and how we hope to be heard and understood. “Much of this record centers around intimate conversations between two people,” explains Knapp. “Some songs are between lovers, others friends and some who are going separate ways. Each song is a moment of some pivotal point of declaration or need for understanding from one person or one idea to another.”
Since coming out as a lesbian — a noteworthy story that made her the featured interview subject of an episode of Larry King Live — Jennifer’s poised willingness to speak on behalf of LGBT people of faith has created a new role for her as one of their foremost advocates. In 2011, she launched the Inside Out Faith series to engage this social justice dialogue. At these presentations, conducted mainly in churches and universities, Jennifer weaves her narrative with her music while sharing candid revelations of her experiences as a gay person of faith. Her memoir Facing the Music furthers the conversation about the importance believing in one’s own story, whatever that may be. “An uncommonly literate songwriter” — People Magazine
In a music world strewn with noise, Toby Lightman's pure and soulful voice cuts through the clutter. “No small talent... Toby Lightman continues to shine a light on her knack for making rich, soulful pop” - PEOPLE MAGAZINE. From her major label debut in 2004 to her current independent spirit, Toby has mastered her own sophisticated urban pop. With each song, recording or collaboration, Toby continues to hone, craft and perfect her unique sound.
Now Toby, in collaboration with Vertusent Music Group and RED Distribution, has released her first full length album in 4 years - Every Kind of People. This 12 song set has been highly anticipated by Toby's fans as demonstrated by an extremely successful Pledge Music campaign. The album is inspired by her experience of living in a hustling, bustling city and the human experience all its inhabitants share and is brought together by her intensely soulful voice and immense talent.
While going without an album release for a number of years, Toby Lightman still engaged her fans and enjoyed tremendous success with the placement of her music in film and TV. So much so, that her longtime co-writer and friend Simon Perry (Echo and the Bunnymen), has dubbed Toby the "queen of TV and film." Some of her songs used in television and films include “Everyday” on Fox’s Bones, “Holding a Heart” in numerous shows such as WB’s One Tree Hill, Vampire Diaries, 90210 as well as the feature film What’s Your Number? Her winter evoking “Snow Day” was the soundtrack to a KMart commercial. “Addicted” was used in the promos for ABC’s Desperate Housewives series finale as well as the trailer for the movie Playing For Keeps. Amazingly, eight of Toby's songs were highlighted in a single episode of the ABC Family series The Fosters. Most recently, Toby and her song “We Are” are featured in the demo for the new Microsoft BING software
In 2003, "Devils and Angels" the first single from her debut album Little Things (Lava/Atlantic) immediately made noise at radio and a career was born. Toby went on to record Bird On A Wire, a second album for Atlantic Records, before breaking away from the politics and constraints of corporate record companies and launching her independent record career with her self-released album Let Go in 2008. The title track was picked up by Home Shopping Network for use in the network's marketing campaign, with promos featuring the song airing on dozens of television channels for six months, letting Lightman know it would all be okay. " Being an independent artist in today’s music business can be a scary and daunting thing" says Toby, "but getting constant positive feedback that people are into what you're doing inspires you and keeps you going. I've been lucky to get that feedback."
Over the course of her career, which includes four albums, an EP and numerous individual tracks, Lightman has performed on a large number of national TV shows including the Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’ Second Cup and many more. She has also toured extensively, both solo and sharing the bill with renowned artists such as Rob Thomas, Jewel, James Blunt, Gavin DeGraw, Train, Marc Cohn, and one “I could quit tomorrow” evening opening for the legendary Prince, an artist that Toby grew up idolizing. Prince happened to be watching the night Toby appeared on Conan and was so taken with her performance he invited her to open for him.
Toby "..oozes spirituality, if not outright womanly sensuality...a voice smooth as molasses” -BILLBOARD
People Magazine has stated that “No small talent... Toby Lightman continues to shine a light on her knack for making rich, soulful pop”.
Liz Longley confides with you as though you’re sitting on the sofa with her in a talk that’s intimate and vulnerable. And now, the Berklee College of Music graduate and award-winning songwriter is set to share her confessional songs with listeners on her self-titled album—her first after signing with Sugar Hill Records in December 2014.
While Longley’s songs and vocals invite complimentary comparisons to Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole and Nanci Griffith—all artists she’s supported live—her latest effort spotlights a style all her own. Her voice and tone, touched with the slightest of country inflections, pours out like clean, crystalline water.
Longley first felt the magic while growing up outside of Philadelphia. A song she wrote in ninth grade—her first ever—earned a standing ovation when she performed it for the student body: “I was unprepared for that sort of reaction and it was life-changing moment,” she says. “That’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.”
The track record she’s assembled since shows just how much Longley grew into her dream. She’s taken home top prizes at some of the most prestigious songwriting competitions in the country, including the BMI John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship Competition, the International Acoustic Music Awards and the Rocky Mountain Folk Fest Songwriting Competition.
But it all traces straight back to Longley’s first song. She says she’ll continue to open her soul in the service of her art because that’s what matters most to her. “Every time I get into these songs they resonate with me because they’re based on something I went through,” she says of the new collection. “I hope they connect with people and that they’ll help with whatever they’ve gone through. That’s what music does for me, and I hope I can do that for someone else.”
“Her music is riveting, her voice adventurous, her lyrics thought-provoking…”
“Heather Maloney is one of the most talented tradition-based singer-songwriters I have heard in some time… The writing is stunning.”
Heather Maloney is an American songwriter who has received numerous accolades for her startlingly soulful voice and literate songs exploring themes of spirituality, transformation, and impermanence.
Critics are quickly discovering Maloney’s talent with No Depression raving “her music is riveting, her voice adventurous, her lyrics thought-provoking…” while Blurt Magazine wrote “Heather Maloney is one of the most talented tradition-based singer-songwriters I have heard in some time…the writing is stunning.”
Although she went to school for music and had done plenty of singing she only began writing songs in 2009 after living and working for three years in a silent-retreat meditation center in central Massachusetts.
Maloney has had a breakout 2014, sharing stages with Anais Mitchell, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Lake Street Dive, Shakey Graves, and more. Her joint EP with indie-folk quartet Darlingside, Woodstock, gained national attention in the New York Times for their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” which Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young) lauded as “Delicious, really excellent.”
After a year of extensive U.S touring, Maloney will begin work on her next full-length album this fall with producer Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses, Lissie). The album is due spring 2015 on signature sounds.
Joe Crookston … From Ithaca, NY…
Artist, writer, guitar picker, painter, claw hammer guitar player, eco-village member and believer in all things possible. You’ll be pulled in by the magic and musical world that he creates and you’ll end up in the moment, celebrating together with the rest of the audience. He’ll sing to you ~ You’ll sing with him…His music embraces the universal, connects us, is masterful and downright fun.
Come to a show. You’ll travel with him along mystical, historical, and humorous roads, and twist through personal stories along the way. Amber eyes, Oklahoma towns, rattlesnake tails, Grandmother Moons and silver crowns. At the end of the night, you’ll likely leave inspired, taking home a renewed sense of what’s possible. In Irish culture, there is phrase called the “The Long Note” ~ “The Long Note” is that place of resonance and transcendence where the music, the voices, the instruments, and the community ALL come together and unite…There IS a “Long Note” and Joe is courting it and always reaching for it.
From the first strum of his 1948 Gibson, through stories of ruby red dresses, Tinian Island, Dylan Thomas, Taoist parables and drunken roosters you’ll be drawn in and deeply moved by his music. It happens every time. Watch a YouTube video. It’s good, but it’s not the same. You gotta come to the show.
Through his spirit and playfulness and his unwavering courage to be himself, you will be moved in ways you didn’t expect. He is literate, poignant and funny as hell.
No doubt you’ll be glad you came.
In April 2014 Joe released his fourth recording, “Georgia I’m Here.” 12 songs, beautifully crafted sonic sculptures and landscapes. As a listener you are not just an observer, you are IN the song. You ARE the window washer on the 42nd floor. Joe believes in creating the world we want, and he is reaching towards the sublime, both cruel and beautiful. Georgia I’m Here was the 6th most played recording in 2014 and Joe’s song Riding the Train was the 6th most played song in 2014 on the Folk DJ charts.
Joe’s song “Blue Tattoo” is the inspiration for “Blue Tattoo,” a documentary film that relates how Crookston and Holocaust survivor Dina Jacobson of Elmira, NY came together to form a unique friendship with a common sense of purpose. The documentary recently premiered at the Buffalo International Jewish Film Festival.
The new upcoming volume of Rise Up Singing will include three of Joe’s songs. Fall Down as the Rain, Good Luck John and Bird by Bird, along with 1200 other songs, will be printed and become part of the canon of American Folk Music.
Joe’s CD, “Able Baker Charlie & Dog” received the most airplay of any folk acoustic recording and was awarded:
“Album of the Year” by the International Folk Alliance in Memphis, TN.
He recently signed to Tamulevich Artist Management with fellow songwriters, John Gorka, Red Horse, and Peter Yarrow.
He received a year-long songwriting grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel throughout New York State, collect stories, and write original songs.
Joe made the Top 10 Artists of 2014 list on the Folk DJ charts, along with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, John McCutcheon, John Gorka and the Stray Birds.
His favorite quote about his music is:
“I hate folk music, but I absolutely LOVE Joe Crookston’s music!”
“I am learning to trust that my voice as a songwriter is a combination of my conscious and unconscious mind. More and more I find that when I tell my story from both of these realms, it has wider breadth, deeper impact, and resonates more clearly.
After years of creating, I do feel as though I've honed a way of writing and performing that has identifiable themes and expresses my quirky uniqueness.
There is a Georgia O'Keeffe quote that I love, and I'm paraphrasing: "The parts of ourselves that we are most self-conscious of, are the parts of ourselves that are most uniquely true to who we are!"
I see my job as an artist to have the confidence to sing, play and perform from this deep/true place inside of myself despite what is hip and cool at the moment.”
I have been remembering this quote by Woody Guthrie: "A SONG has to be more than GOOD.....it has to be GOOD for SOMETHING." When my songs are played at births, funerals, Quaker retreats, grade school history classes, weddings, and are being placed in museum exhibits and films...I feel like I'm making Woody proud.
Kelsey Waldon is an American country music singer and songwriter. The 27-year-old Kentucky-native moved to Nashville, TN from a tiny Kentucky town called Monkeys Eyebrow. She released her critically acclaimed debut LP, “The Goldmine”, in late 2014. Goldmine has received hefty praise, with note in the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, USA Today, Billboard, and many more, as well as being included on many of the year-end’s “Best Of” lists. She is an artist that feels at home on any stage.
“Many of the tunes on “The Gold Mine” sound written from either the bottom of a bottle or a bank account; they’re crushing songs, liable to coax out a few tears if you listen too closely. But even Brett Resnick’s aching pedal steel couldn’t sap the joy from Waldon’s face; she sang her saddest lyrics with an indefatigable smile. Is that showmanship, or just the pleasure that comes with a performance drawn right from the soul?” - Ally Schweitzer, The Washington Post (on Waldon’s show @ Hill Country, Washington D.C.)
“If you have the chance to see Waldon live, it’s an opportunity to see talent kept front and center. Each member of her band brings their own set of incredible musicianship, which has morphed together over the past year into one of the most stellar backing bands in Nashville.” – Wide Open Country
“On her debut LP, The Goldmine, Waldon makes music like someone raised on both “White Lightnin’” and Wilco, tackling troubled pasts, cheatin’ hearts and what happens when we don’t all worship the same American dreams.” -Rolling Stone, “10 New Artists You Need to Know”
”Taking off now and doubtless lasting a long while.” – The Fader
“Overlooking Kelsey Waldon should be a misdemeanor inside Davidson County lines. The Kentucky transplant’s work is full of sterling examples of everything that’s right about Music City’s traditions, with songs about trials and troubles that come across as personal to any audience, sung in a rich, full voice with a twang that she neither plays up nor plays down.”
- STEPHEN TRAGESER, Nashville Scene
“Kelsey is hands-down my favorite young songwriter in Nashville. She’s a razor-sharp lyricist and a singular singer with the biggest heart in town. Listen. You’ll hear. Kelsey’s delivery and depth have a stunning natural beauty so very few possess and absolutely no one can manufacture. Her music needs to be heard. Now.” – Brian T. Atkinson, author of I’ll Be Here in the Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt/CMT Edge.
“I promise this is country’s coolest young voice.” -Joe Heim, The Washington Post
“If you’re looking for the country music female revolution’s representative for true neotraditional country, yet one that gives up nothing to her peers in songwriting, if not setting the current standard, Kelsey Waldon might just be your perfect match.”– Saving Country Music
“While Waldon draws comparisons to an array of women from country’s golden days, the Kentuckian’s unfeigned southern drawl is uniquely her own.” - The WKU Herald
“Dripping with the most sought-after currency of authenticity." -Larson Sutton, Relix Magazine
Guthrie Brown is a young buck, up and coming songwriter based out of Nashville TN. His song's paint pictures of wild western skies as well as colorful love stories. His songwriting is always expanding along with the sound of his band "The Family Tree", in which there is indeed a family dynamic between Guthrie and back up singer/sister, Maddy Brown. Though the other band members, John McNally (Guitar), John Ogelby (Drums), and Will Honaker (Bass) are not blood related, the musical chemistry between the bunch is as dynamic as a family band. Guthrie Brown and the Family Tree have been a band since the summer of 2013. Guthrie first released an EP that was recorded in his bedroom of a small house in North Nashville in 2012. He went on to release a second EP with "The Family Tree" that was collectively produced by Stuart Mathis of (The Wallflowers, Lucinda Williams) and Trey Grey of (Ronnie Dunn). This EP was entitled "Spirit of the Elk" and can be found on Spotify and ITunes.
Brigitte DeMeyer is a very noticeable artist in the Americana movement. Her work has stirred accolades in national media. She performs frequently at home and abroad. She writes songs as weavers thread tapestries, her most vivid colors being a Southern feel, a churchy soulfulness in her vocals, and a way with words that bears comparison to literature as easily as to the best contemporary lyrics. She has even opened for Bob Dylan, among others. Brigitte DeMeyer is busy.
With CD number six released April 2014, Savannah Road, DeMeyer has built a solid foundation with her first five albums, collaborating with giants of the Americana world-world class drummer/producer Brady Blade, Buddy Miller, Sam Bush, and more recently, guitarist/songwriter Will Kimbrough—and has shown herself to have a wonderfully natural feel for soul-steeped, blues-infused roots music, right down to her supple, peppery singing.
The daughter of Belgian and German immigrants, she was born in the Midwest, and at a young age moved to Southern California with her family where she started latching onto rootsy sounds, from Etta James, Mavis Staples and Sly Stone, to her discovery of The Allman Brothers, Steve Earle and Patti Griffin. Though DeMeyer took to soulful southern-tinged music and had a gift for it, she also early on, acquired a non-musical Bachelor’s degree and pursued Post Baccalaureate studies working assorted jobs to produce a steady income, all the while making music on the side.
It did not take DeMeyer long to find kindred musical spirits. Brady Blade and DeMeyer hit it off after DeMeyer approached him to guest on her 2nd CD, Nothing Comes Free. He signed on to play, and produced her following two CD’s, Something After All and Red River Flower, and co-produced DeMeyer’s 5th CD, Rose of Jericho, with DeMeyer, all along bringing in a small army of masterly players and singers he knew would appreciate what she was doing. Players like Buddy Miller (with whom she’s since shared the stage on more than one occasion), Steve Earle, Ivan Neville, Daniel Lanois, the Indigo Girls’ Emily
With a 2010 relocation from California to Nashville with her family, DeMeyer has been delving deeper into southern musical territory. Gaining momentum and visibility as a performing artist, she has built a strong partnership with guitarist/songwriter Will Kimbrough, with whom she has toured and performed with extensively since her last release. The songs DeMeyer has been writing, primarily with Kimbrough, are a thick and swampy blend of steel and slide guitar, fingerpicking, blues inflection, and literary imagery. “Acoustic soul” as they like to call it. The songs stem from DeMeyer and Kimbrough’s musical chemistry, and are brought further to life with additional players Brady Blade, keyboardist Jimmy Wallace, guitar/mandolinist Guthrie Trapp, and bassist Chris Donohue. Also featured are friends the McCrary Sisters, and Ricky and Micol Davis of Blue Mother Tupelo, Bassist Michael Rhodes and Wood Brother, Jano Rix.
With DeMeyer’s lyrical skill, ease with melody, and expressive vocals, combined with Kimbrough’s mastery of strings, the result is Savannah Road, a spooky and soulful collection of songs, taking the listener to another time and place. Savannah Road is sure standout in the coming year’s musical landscape.
Like a character in a dreary West Coast short story by Raymond Carver, Nashville songwriter Andrew Combs moves through a hazy modern world, trying to find the meaning in life on his sophomore album, All These Dreams. “I sometimes find myself wondering what the hell I am doing with my life and what it all amounts to,” Combs says, explaining the album’s opening track, “Rainy Day Song,” which sets the narrative tone for the album.
“Although I don’t know the answer to this, I believe it lies in the path I take, not the actual destination,” says Combs. “I can’t say whether I’m looking for a god, or love, or art, or all of the above, all I know is I am wading through some murky water trying to find the answer.”
While the album may adhere to this darker internal script, its musical inspiration comes from vintage 1970s production: California-tinged AM Gold; the Laurel Canyon tones of Jackson Browne and The Eagles; and Paul Simon’s Muscle Shoals-laced R&B funk.
And with its sweeping string arrangements and sophisticated charm, the album evokes other earlier eras, like 1960s Hollywood or Roy Orbison-era Nashville Sound. Listeners may also hear the faint glimmer of male vocalists like Jim Reeves, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Webb, perhaps even Frank Sinatra.
All of it amounts to a huge step forward for the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who released his debut album, Worried Man, in 2012, which American Songwriter named one of the year’s best, while Southern Living praised Combs for being “well on his way to becoming a preeminent voice in his genre.”
For the new album, Combs worked with producers Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson — who recently co-produced Caitlin Rose’s The Stand-In and have worked with Justin Townes Earle — and recorded the album in Nashville with many of his longtime musical collaborators, including lead guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal steel guitarist Spencer Cullum Jr. (of the instrumental duo Steelism).
“I feel like this record has a much different thread that ties the songs together than my first album, Worried Man, which was more raw and bare-bones, in songwriting as well as production,” says Combs. “All These Dreams explores more complex arrangements, lyrics and musical tones.
With straight-talking narrators and glimpses of poetic realism, All These Dreams at times might recall the gritty Southern literature of writers like Larry Brown and Barry Hannah, both of whom Combs cites as influences. On “Pearl,” the songwriter celebrates the underbelly of society, while on “Suwannee County,” his narrator strikes up a mundane conversation with a Florida fisherman at a gas station, which leads to a deeper discussion about spirituality.
There’s plenty of dark humor here too. On “Strange Bird,” Combs sings about an elusive lover, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and uses a buoyant arrangement to explore some unusual musical effects, such as a whistling solo.
Combs has been identified with a new crop of Nashville-based songwriters, who have also looked back to the ’70s for songwriting inspiration. Combs is featured in the upcoming documentary Heartworn Highways Revisited, alongside Nashville-based songwriters like John McCauley, Jonny Fritz and Robert Ellis — as well as one of his heroes, Guy Clark.
While he acknowledges his debt to fellow Texans like Clark, Mickey Newbury and Townes Van Zandt, Combs is also moving in a new direction, carving out his own singular path as an artist. The 28-year-old songwriter is also quick to point out that though there is a similar sense of camaraderie in Nashville today, “The songs and writers were much better in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.”
“I’m not saying there aren’t talented people in Nashville now, but I don’t think we pay near as much attention to the song as they did back then,” adds Combs. “Maybe it’s ’cause we’re too busy tweeting about our latest gig or wardrobe purchase.”
Ultimately, All These Dreams finds Combs in a league of his own, wholly focused on perfecting his own songwriting and storytelling, and delivering it all in a rich musical style that’s much more than the sum of its parts.
Among his many accolades over the past few years, Jeffrey Steele has been named to the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame (2013), awarded BMI Songwriter of the Year (2007 and 2003) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Songwriter of the Year (2006, 2005 and 2003). CMA has twice awarded him the coveted “Triple Play Award” for three No. 1 songs in a year (2010 & 2007). His country and A/C megahits include a string of chart toppers including: “Raise ‘Em Up”, “Knee Deep”, “Here,” “My Wish,” “The Cowboy In Me,” “These Days”, “Everyday” and the groundbreaking “What Hurts The Most,” nominated for Best Country Song at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Additionally, he has won numerous BMI Country and Pop awards, was nominated for a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Award for Best Original Song “I Thought I Lost You” for the Disney/Pixar animated feature BOLT, performed by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, been named one of Billboard Magazine’s top 5 writer’s 8 years in a row, as well as Music Row Magazine’s 2006 Songwriter of the Year Award. Steele was featured as an artist and writer on Colt Ford’s song it’s all off his latest Billboard no. 1 Country Album declaration of independence. BMI has recognized Jeffrey for 63 million airplays for hits he penned for a multitude of artists including Montgomery Gentry, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Steve Holy, Phil Vassar, LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts and Van Zant. Jeffrey’s compositions can be found on recent and up and coming releases by Keith Urban, Cher, Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw and more!
Drenched in sun-kissed natural beauty both inside and out, Deana Carter didn’t take a seemingly easy route to stardom, but instead chose to defy the conventional expectations of the typical Nashville artist blueprint and make her own mark. And she did, undeniably taking the industry and fans by storm with her wildly successful multi-platinum international debut Did I Shave My Legs For This? more than a decade ago. Anchored by the dreamy super hit” Strawberry Wine” , Carter showcased her own blend of country and retro-rock sprinkled with the folksy singer/songwriter qualities that have garnered Deana Carter well-deserved respect and wild acclaim.
Today, as she readies her latest bundle of uniquely crafted tunes for upcoming release on Southern Way of Life , Carter explores many subjects commonly shared over a quaint dinner, afternoon coffee or a sunny day hike with a good friend.
The songs weave through the sometimes rocky terrain of adulthood, including loss of love, relationships on many different levels, trials, tribulations and simply put – life. Instinctively autobiographical, the subject matter mimics the interesting ride of Carter’s own life – so far.
The daughter of famed studio guitarist and producer Fred Carter, Jr., Deana grew up exposed to the wide variety of musicians her father worked with, including Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, and Simon & Garfunkel. Their strong influence would eventually seep into Deana’s own country-pop style, which reflects qualities that can also be heard in similar artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sheryl Crow.
Developing her songwriting skills by trial and error at writer’s nights throughout Nashville, Carter eventually signed a writing deal with Polygram and soon after a record deal with Capitol Records. One of her demo tapes happened to fall into the hands of none other than Willie Nelson, who remembered Deana as a child. Impressed with how she’d grown as a songwriter, Nelson asked Deana to perform along with John Mellencamp, Kris Kristofferson and Neil Young as the only female solo artist to appear at Farm Aid VII in 1994.
Her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs For This? boasts six songs co-written and co-produced by Carter and was released to strong reviews in late summer 1996. By the end of the year, the record had climbed to the top of both the country and pop charts, quickly achieving multi-platinum status. A “first” for the genre, Deana’s celebrated debut held this distinction for more than 5 years. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright followed in late 1998 and in 2001 Carter realized her dream of performing with her dad on a holiday album aptly titled Father Christmas. Making a strong move towards adult pop Carter released I’m Just a Girl on Arista Records in 2003, the same year Capitol Records released a Greatest Hits compilation. Follow-ups The Story of My Life in 2005 and The Chain in 2007 were both released on Vanguard Records. In an effort to pay homage to her musical roots and preserve her legendary father’s label Nugget Records, that famously presented some of the best in country music some 40 years ago, Carter recently opened her own label, Little Nugget Records, on which her latest album Southern Way of Life will be released.
Carter now divides her time between Los Angeles and Nashville, writing and producing for both the pop/rock and country markets when not on the road touring. Her superstar success continues to be evident as last year’s chart topper “You & Tequila” , co-written with Matraca Berg and recorded by Kenny Chesney, was nominated as CMA’s “Song of the Year”, as well as two Grammy nods, notable the coveted “Song of the Year” , and, also, received a nomination as ACM’s “Song of the Year”. Carter also recently co-wrote and produced a new album for recording artist Audra Mae while putting the finishing touches on her own Southern Way of Life .
Singer, songwriter, producer – Deana Carter continues to defy conventional expectations, making waves as she makes great music.
Six decades in, it’s clear that guitarist and songwriter Tommy Talton is still making music for the sheer joy of it. He manages to perform with both the energy of a music-obsessed kid and the restraint of a seasoned veteran – because, at heart, he is both.
He began his musical career in Central Florida and in 1966 was a founding member of a group called “We The People.” The group had several top ten hits throughout Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky. Recording with RCA Victor Records, they gained much critical acclaim and are still considered to be in the top three of the most listened to and appreciated “garage band” genre groups of all time. To this day they have re-releases of recordings from the ‘60’s with Sundazed Records from upstate New York, sales being reportedly steady.
In 1970, Tommy Talton, along with Scott Boyer, was a founding member of Capricorn Records group “Cowboy.”
From 1971 through 1977 Cowboy recorded 4 albums for Capricorn - “Reach For The Sky", “5’ll Getcha Ten”, “Boyer and Talton: Cowboy” (1974) and “Cowboy” (1977).
Talton also recorded an album titled “Happy To Be Alive/ Talton, Sandlin and Stewart” with producer Johnny Sandlin (Allman Bros., Delbert McClinton). Essentially, it being a solo effort with all but one song being written and sung by Talton.
While in Macon, Ga. through most of the 70’s, Tommy was a studio musician recording with artists such as Billy Joe Shaver, Bonnie Bramlett, Martin Mull, Corky Lang (West, Bruce and Lang/ Mountain), Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Clarence Carter, country music legend Kitty Wells, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Arthur Conley of Sweet Soul Music fame, Johnny Rivers, and more.
He toured extensively throughout the U.S. with Cowboy and with Gregg Allman’s “Laid Back Tour” as Gregg’s ‘Special Guests’ from Carnegie Hall to Fillmore West in San Francisco and most cities in between. Tommy was also the guitarist on Gregg Allman’s certified Gold “Laid Back” studio album.
Throughout the ‘90’s, Tommy lived and toured in Europe and formed a group there called “The Rebelizers” with members of Albert Lee’s band, Hogan’s Heroes.
Also at that time, he was guitarist on a Belgian television program, “Sommer Kuren” (“Cures Summer,” translated,1997) and played with numerous European musicians such as Toots Thielemans (jazz harmonica) while gigging in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain.
In 2005, after returning to the States, Talton formed “The Tommy Talton Band.” He connected with Southern Music and Allman Brothers Band (news) magazine, “HittinTheNote.” Currently Tommy has 4 releases of all original songs on “HittinTheNote Records.” All are available on Amazon.com and ITunes.
Tommy will begin recording a fifth album of all original songs in Oct. of 2015 for a release date sometime in the Spring of 2016. He continues to tour the Southeast of the USA, with occasional visits to Chicago, New York and Europe, as a soloist and with a full band of 3 to 6 pieces.
Think of Will Kimbrough as the Sherlock Holmes of songwriting — a sharp-eyed observer of humanity who notes every detail and spares nothing in his analysis. His new case study is Sideshow Love a dozen songs that play out like a collection of smartly crafted short stories, laden with generous melodies and arrangements that balance virtuoso playing with just the right amount of space to let each of the characters within them breathe.
The theme is a familiar one: love. But what’s novel is the telling. Kimbrough’s perspective shifts effortlessly between sharp- and misty-eyed, from laughter to tears, as he weaves an arc through the stages of a romance over his eighth solo release’s course.
“A good album really should be like a volume of short stories,” Kimbrough affirms. “It should have a beginning and an end, and what happens in between is up for grabs, as long as it fits the theme. The idea of this album is that everybody wants somebody to love and somebody to love them, and what you get when you find that is a lot of responsibility. If it’s going to succeed, you’ve got to work it out over the long haul.”
Kimbrough found the axis for Sideshow Love in the song “Home Economics,” a cynical, tongue-in-cheek take on the differences between men and women inspired by a friend’s divorce. The tune employs a 1920s New Orleans string band jazz sound conjured by Kimbrough’s banjo and slide guitar and Paul Griffith’s dusty snare drum. Lisa Oliver Gray, who completes the album’s core trio, adds her sweet ‘n’ salty voice to the mix.
“When I wrote that song I knew that I really had something. It felt like an album could be built around it,” Kimbrough explains. “So I started going through the 50 or 60 songs I’d written over the past few years and began pulling together the ones that seemed to fit.”
Kimbrough had accumulated those songs while he was authoring a new chapter in his distinguished history as a sideman, playing guitar in Americana icon Emmylou Harris’ band. He’s also accompanied such songwriting luminaries as Rodney Crowell, Kim Richey and his longtime friend and accomplice Todd Snider — all the while never letting his own pen-craft lag.
As Kimbrough assembled Sideshow Love’s tunes, musical themes began emerging, too. “The songs I was culling combined elements of blues and country, and there was a vein of soul music running through a lot of them, which all made sense to me, because I’ve always been eclectic and I enjoy those styles a lot. Between that music and the Beatles is where I usually gravitate.”
He chose “When You’re Loving Comes Around,” with his blues guitar licks and whispered-gravel singing, to set the album’s musical and conceptual tone as the opener. A celebration of the “empty magic moment” when love ignites, it begins the disc’s arc, which traces a romance through the stages of limerence, dissatisfaction, acceptance and, perhaps, at the conclusion, new hope. “I didn’t want these stories to have an unhappy ending, so I chose ‘Emotion Sickness’ as the last tune,” Kimbrough relates. It’s a country song with a strong soul feel conjured by the gentle tremolo of Kimbrough’s electric guitar, an airy arrangement and a molasses pace that underscores the promise of heartbreak’s passing.
Kimbrough produced and recorded most of the album in his home studio, which he’s primarily used for demos in the past. He played acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and mandolin. In addition to kit drums, Griffith added Indian clay pot to “Let the Big World Spin,” a smoldering riff-mad blues about lust and sex. Griffith is a frequent collaborator of Kimbrough’s who has played on all of his albums since 2006’s Americanitis and a fellow member of the band DADDY. He has also joined Kimbrough on stage or in the studio with Harris, Snider and many others. Lisa Oliver Gray, who completes the album’s core trio, lends her sweet ‘n’ salty voice to the mix. And Chris Donohue, who is also a member of Harris’ band, added bass to “When Your Loving Comes Around” and “I Want Too Much.”
Although Kimbrough’s previous album Wings was released nearly four years ago, he’s been working like a locomotive. His exceptional abilities as a player, singer and performer have kept him in-demand. Until early this year, when Kimbrough decided to redirect his energy into his own projects, he’d spent most of the time since early 2011 traveling the world with Harris. He’s played guitar on tour and in the studio with Crowell, Richey, Gretchen Peters, Marshall Chapman and a host of others, plus Snider, with whom he still writes and plays. Kimbrough has also provided plenty of self- and co-penned cuts for a list of artists that includes Little Feat, Jack Ingram and a dozen numbers cut by Jimmy Buffett.
“To have an ongoing relationship at that level in this business is really a gift,” Kimbrough says of his writing for fellow Gulf Coast native and entertainment world powerhouse Buffett. He also notes that his experience as a touring sideman has provided invaluable lessons.
“I’ve learned a lot about how to conduct myself in front of an audience,” Kimbrough relates. “I’ve seen stars backstage totally freaked out about not knowing the lyrics to a song, and then step into the spotlight looking totally cool and collected. You’ve got to take away the fear. And Rodney taught me that you’ve got to write every day — even on the days when you can’t sit down in a room by yourself with a note pad for three hours. You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open 24/7, and when something interesting happens or gets said, write it down. I try to write a song first thing every morning, just to keep my chops up.”
Kimbrough’s chops have been up for a long time. He traces the beginning of his rich and varied career back to his twelfth birthday, in 1976. That year his parents bought him a $20 electric guitar and amp and a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” tour at the local theater in his native Mobile, Alabama.
“That was a big deal, because my mom and dad had spent $32.50 on my presents, which was a lot for them, and from that day on I’ve never had a job except for playing guitar and writing songs,” Kimbrough says. “They probably figure that was the best or worst $32.50 they every spent.”
As a budding guitarist he embraced KISS as much as Dylan, plus the Allman Brothers, Springsteen and a host of others who blended instrumental prowess with well constructed songs. Within six months of first plugging in he was playing paying gigs at skating rinks and high school auditoriums. At 16 he dived into the punk and post-punk sound, learning tunes by Television, the Clash and Talking Heads, and then logged years in cover bands along the Gulf Coast.
“One of the reasons I’ve been in demand for sessions and touring is that I learned to be able to ape any playing style,” Kimbrough offers. In addition he’s developed a uniquely textural approach that allows him to extend his guitar’s tonal palette, which explains why the battered $30 Silvertone acoustic he plays on “Home Economics” sounds like an expensive vintage electric arch top. In 2004 the Americana Music Association presented Kimbrough with its Instrumentalist of the Year Award. Other recipients include Dobro giant Jerry Douglas and the genre’s proverbial MVP Buddy Miller.
In the early ’80s Kimbrough moved to Nashville with his first original band, Will and the Bushmen, and was quickly signed to a major label deal. “We were swallowed up and passed out the other side,” he says, chuckling. Next came the Bis-quits, with fellow songwriting kingpin Tommy Womack, who released a CD on John Prine’s Oh Boy! label in 1993.
Kimbrough met Todd Snider on the same night the Bis-quits signed their record deal. They quickly became co-writers and musical compadres. Their collaboration has yielded a host of songs and two Kimbrough-produced Snider albums, East Nashville Skyline and The Devil You Know.
Kimbrough began his string of solo albums with This, released in 2000. Since then he’s formed another band with Womack, the critically heralded DADDY, that’s cut two albums. The DADDY tune “Nobody From Nowhere” drew Buffett’s attention, and the world’s most famous beach bum recorded that number and three more of Kimbrough’s tunes on 2009’s Buffet Hotel, including “Wings,” the title track of Kimbrough’s 2010 album.
Kimbrough’s recently added another band to his resume. Willie Sugarcapps, an aggregation of all-star indie songwriters that also features Grayson Capps, Corky Hughes, and Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee of the duo Sugarcane Jane, was formed last year after a particularly fertile meeting at a songwriter’s night at the Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama. The group released a debut album, called Willie Sugarcapps, in August.
“I have a lot going on and I work really hard, and I value the time I have with my family,” Kimbrough reflects. “But I think that if I worked in an office at a day job somewhere I’d work just as hard at that. So when it comes to taking on new projects like Willie Sugarcapps or playing with artists of the stature of Emmylou or working on new projects with Todd, I consider all of those things opportunities — to write new songs, to grow, to make new albums. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Willis Alan Ramsey
Willis Alan Ramsey
Willis Alan Ramsey’s debut in 1972 on Leon Russell’s Shelter label was mined by many artists for their own recordings, including Jimmy Buffett (“Ballad of Spider John”), Jimmie Dale Gilmore (“Goodbye Old Missoula”), Shawn Colvin (“Satin Sheets”), Captain & Tennille (“Muskrat Love”), Jerry Jeff Walker (“Northeast Texas Women”), Lyle Lovett (“Sleepwalkin’”, “North Dakota”) and Eric Clapton’s recent recording of “Positively”.
His second album, “Gentilly”, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2010.
In the days of AM radio music only had one genre, today there are labels for all different kinds of music, but Hannah Thomas has never liked labels, or playing just one kind of music. Amy Ray (of the Indigo Girls) describes Hannah’s music best. (Hannah has) "the soul of old country, and that will always be there, but she's also a diehard rocker with some punk thrown in the mix" (Spring 2013 issue Georgia Music Magazine)
And Hannah has been playing that music for everyone who will listen. Having played over 200 shows in the past 18 months in more places than she can count, she also made time to record the 7 songs on her newest studio CD, “Goodbye on Wasted Time”
“Music is all I think about” says Thomas. And you can hear that dedication in her songs. From the soulful bluesy “Church on Friday” to the tale of life in the country (“Watch Out for the Deer”) to rockers like “Goodbye on Wasted Time and “Pacifier” (the latter featuring Amy Ray on guest vocals) Hannah keeps her audience’s attention by never having two songs sound the same.
And there is no denying Hannah has what it takes to move to the next level. Eddie Owen (founder Eddie’s Attic, now at Georgia’s Red Clay Theater) was asked about Hannah for a recent issue of Georgia Music Magazine and said “For any performing songwriter to advance through the levels, several common variables are required – talent, an unending discipline and work ethic, no hesitancy in self-assurance and self-promotion, and an unending desire to learn and become better. If one has all that there is still the ‘being in the right place at the right time’ factor. Hannah has the first four factors, so when that opportunity comes, she’ll be ready.”
- Winner of The GA Lottery All Access Music Search
- Performed during Halftime for The Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers Game at The GA Dome.
- Shared the stage with Indigo Girls, Terri Clark, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Kristian Bush (of Sugarland), Bree Sharp, Amy Ray, Michelle Malone, Antigone Rising, Jen Foster, Danielle Howle, Caroline Aiken, Sonia Leigh, Charlie Worsham, Rachel Farley, Jennifer Nettles, Zac Brown, and Mother's Finest
- Music featured on the Americana Music Show (North Carolina), Locals Only on 105.7 (Atlanta), Studio 30A Radio (Florida), Homoground favorite artist 100th episode (New York), Cathy Is In (Los Angeles, CA), WXRY Unsigned (South Carolina), Long Drive Home AM 1690 (Georgia), Radio Free Americana and more.
- Various TV appearances including Fox 5's Good Day Atlanta , Time Warner Charlotte's "The Naked Truth" songwriter series, "Dirty South TV", More at Midday in Nashville, Close Up with Jaquitta Williams in Atlanta, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, MI, FOX 8 in Cleveland, OH, Charlotte Today in Charlotte, NC and NBC's 11 Alive Action News in Atlanta.
On the front cover of singer/songwriter David Olney’s new studio album, When the Deal Goes Down, a stone-faced Olney deals you an ace of spades, the mythical Death Card. A similar photo sits inside, but in that one he smiles wryly as cards fly crazily around him. The counterpoint is apt: The music inside mirrors those contrasting faces.
From comedy (“Mister Stay At Home,” “Servant, Job”) to tragedy (“No Trace,” “Scarecrow Man”), the new album features Olney’s trademark dramatics, convincingly covering both the bitingly funny and chillingly stark sides of the street -- and doing a fair bit of jaywalking in between them, too.
When the Deal Goes Down (Deadbeet Records, July 2014), produced by Olney and bluesman Mark Robinson with associate producer Daniel Seymour and a complementary cast of players, cuts a wide swath across the roots music landscape, from raucous rock (“When The Deal Goes Down,” “Big Blue Hole”) to whisper-soft folk (“Little Bird”). Olney lauds the willingness of all involved to embrace the unusual. Or as he says, “You can never get enough tuba.”
Or enough Shakespeare, apparently. Not only will Olney play Lord Amiens for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival in this summer’s As You Like It (a production for which he’s written new music), he also riffs on Hamlet in the new album’s photography, and includes an original Shakespeare-inspired sonnet in the package.
“If I were a poet, I’d want to write sonnets,” says Olney, who in fact recently filled a notebook with them. “I appreciate a good structure. In songs, the melody and rhythm act as an editor, throwing out the extraneous stuff. Sonnets seem really close to that to me.”
In his twenties, Olney left his native Rhode Island for the South -- where the music he loved was made -- settling in Nashville in 1973. His songs found favor with Music Row publishers and resulted in several songwriting deals, but commercial success was elusive. Ultimately that was a good thing.
“Anonymity allowed me to follow my muse,” says Olney. He tells a story of a long-ago night at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. “Inspired” by the safe and shallow hits sung by their composers, he went home and wrote “Titanic,” spinning a chillingly lusty love story from the iceberg’s point of view.
Olney spent the early ‘80s fronting his band the X-Rays, channeling the side of himself he calls “the rock ‘n roll animal” and landing a 1982 slot on Austin City Limits. But he was writing a lot more than rock songs and, seeking an outlet for his full range of expression, he released 1986’s Eye of the Storm (Philo/Rounder), his first solo album.
Things started to click. Olney’s next Philo/Rounder album -- 1988’s Deeper Well -- generated big ripples: over half its songs were recorded by others, including Emmylou Harris’ covers of both “Jerusalem Tomorrow” and the title track, and Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Women Across the River.” He had found his niche, and the series of critically acclaimed solo albums that ensued continues today.
But his recordings are only half the story, because it’s in performance -- whether solo, as a duo with the brilliant and versatile Sergio Webb, or with full band -- that the globetrotting Olney shines brightest. As the Bard said, “The play’s the thing.”
“I’ve always been aware that this is show business,” he notes. “I needed to be doing something to justify the fact that all the chairs in the room are pointed toward me, the lights are aimed at me, and I have this device that makes my voice louder than anybody else’s. You better go up there and break a sweat, somehow or other.”
With his self-described “theatrical” songs serving as script, David Olney does just that, one inspired role after another, and his fellow singer/songwriters could want no better role model.
Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes
Grayson Capps and Corky Hughes
Grayson Capps' fifth studio album, The Lost Cause Minstrels finds the Mobile, Alabama-based singer-songwriter coming of age. This doesn't mean, however, that his oft-unholy tales of the Southern Gothic have lost any sting. Quite the contrary, Capps' Tao-tinged, philosophical reflections—revealed deep inside songs shuddering with spit, stomp and snarl—are as potent as ever. It's just that this time his bark and bite is more conciliatory towards the unanswered questions mucking up the universe, while country soul-tinged textures and gospel harmonies ease the raw edges. Occasionally, even a celebratory mood prevails like the horn-fueled romp "Ol' Slac," an ode the rebirth of the Mobile, Alabama Mardi Gras; or "Coconut Moonshine," a character sketch based on Mr. Jim who inhabits the hallowed roadside barbecue joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. As well, two rare, but classic, American roots' numbers are born again here: Taj Mahal's country-blues paen "Annie's Lover" and Richard “Rabbit” Brown's jaunty "Jane's Alley Blues," (the original recording preserved on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music). Grayson Capps' real life situation has evolved since his previous release Rott 'n' Roll, and those developments are felt in both the album's sound and spirit. In 2010, he dissolved his band The Stumpknockers, re-assembling a new cast of musicians, fittingly dubbed The Lost Cause Minstrels. The line-up features a who's who of the finest players on the Gulf Coast music scene, including Corky Hughes on guitars, Chris Spies on keys, Christian Grizzard on bass and John Milham on drums. In the middle of recording the album, Capps moved back to Alabama where he was born and raised. He'd been residing in Nashville since 2007 after leaving his longtime New Orleans' home following Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, Capps co-produced the effort with his partner and Grammy Award-winning engineer/producer Trina Shoemaker (Queens of the Stone Age, Dylan Leblanc, Sheryl Crow). All of these factors coalesce into a collection of songs timeless in their pursuit of truth yet well aware of how hard the truth is to find in these times. The Lost Cause Minstrels is the highly anticipated next chapter from one of the finest Southern troubadours of the day. Grayson Capps first discovered music in Alabama where he was born and raised. His father and friends would sit around the house getting drunk, telling stories and strumming acoustic guitars. They’d run down songs by Hank Williams, Tom T. Hall, Glenn Campbell and Woodie Guthrie to name but a few. The idealism of those “Cannery Row” experiences would come to define his outlook on the world. Heading off to Tulane University as a theater major on scholarship, Grayson also took up playing music. Over the course of four critically acclaimed studio albums and cameo appearance in the Golden Globe Award-nominated film A Love Song For Bobby Long, one will find a stunning depth to his discography, authenticating Grayson Capps as a rare American gem, equal parts country singer, bluesman, rock star, philosopher and poet. As Jambase recently declared, "New Orleans' marvel Grayson Capps is alive and well and slowly building one of the most phenomenal songbooks in America today. Grayson Capps is currently touring internationally with Corky Hughes, solo, or with his band Willie Sugarcapps. Corky began his professional career playing throughout the South in the 70’s with R&B artist Theodore Arthur Jr. and then later with his own rock group, Excalibur. In 1984, he became lead guitarist for legendary rockers, Black Oak Arkansas and toured throughout the U.S. Currently he tours with Grayson Capps and/or with his Awarded Americana band Willie Sugarcapps.
His words and voice hold down center stage with a craft so deeply in the artistic pocket that it obscures anything outside.” - No Depression
Thirty years of celebrated live performances and songs covered by artists as diverse as Alison Krauss, Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, John Oates, Blackhawk and Dierks Bentley, Jeff Black is recognized as a pioneer in the modern music industry. Boston s WUMB listeners voted Jeff Black as one of the top 100 most important Folk artists of the last 25 years. After critically acclaimed commercial releases on label homes, fan favorite independent releases on his own Lotos Nile Music imprint, song placement on numerous independent films, Black continues to evolve as an influential artist on the who's who list of post-alt troubadours. A master songwriter and performer in the tradition of the great storytellers, his passionate, soul driven live performances of songs from his vast catalog are not to be missed.
Carson McHone is an alt-country/americana songwriter from Austin, Texas. Her debut self-titled EP (released 2013) has drawn much acclaim as McHone toured nationally and internationally in its support. Her vocals are featured on Shinyribs‘ newest album (Okra Candy, 2015), as well as on Ray Wylie Hubberd’s newest song “Chick Singer Badass Rockin”. In 2014 McHone was selected as one of six songwriters to represent the city of Austin in “Project #ATX6”. The group played showcases in Toronto, Canada at NXNE (North By Northeast Festival) and toured Northern Germany, culminating in a sold out out showcase at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. She has shared the stage with Ryan Bingham, Lydia Loveless, Charlie Mars, and in May appeared with Shakey Graves during his ACL television taping, following up as direct support for his June tour. Carson will be touring for the rest of 2015, promoting her upcoming full length album “Goodluck Man”.
Before there were Kings of Leon, Keys of Black or Whites of Jack in Nashville, there was Webb Wilder.
Rock ’n’ roll, from Nashville. Formed from Mississippi mud, tinged with British mod. Bruised by the blues.
Baptized by Buck and Chuck.
Psychiatric psycho-rootsy. Sizzling, glistening, uneasy listening.
As it has been for three decades, it is now and ever shall be.
Mississippi Moderne. Pronounce it however you like, but Webb pronounces it “Moe-durn.” Hybridized and improvised.
“I hate to use the word ‘mature,’” Webb says. And so we shall not.
Born more than 60 years ago in Hattiesburg, Webb Wilder is not mature. He is the last of the full-grown men, and the last of the boarding house people. He is a unique presence among the peasants. He is a force for good, and a friend to animals.
And he has just made an album of uncommon uncommonness, of unusual unusualness.
Mississippi Moderne. Again, pronounce it however you like. The main thing is to listen, and in your listening you shall hear a marvelous encapsulation of things right and righteous, wistful yet wild, strange at times but always strong. Garage rock and bluster blues. Fuzz-tone and fury, and, in many ways, a full and unbroken circle back to the days when Webb Wilder was a boy possessed of the mind of a full-grown man, listening to The Kinks and The Move, an Anglophile in Mississippi.
“It’s a journey, and one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I haven’t grown up,” Webb says. “The good news is, I’m a musician. The bad news is, I’m a musician.”
The journey has taken Wilder from the Magnolia State to Music City, with some hazily important, 1970s gestation time spent in Austin. Mississippi Moderne reflects stops along the way, and suggests future flights.
“Don’t try to tell me I ain’t tough enough/ I’ll be rockin’ ’til the day I die,” he sings in “Rough & Tumble Guy,” written with John Hadley, the sage who crafted “Poolside,” one of the standout tracks on Wilder’s groundbreaking 1986 album It Came From Nashville. That album—which came out on Landslide Records, the same label that is home to Mississippi Moderne—put a spotlight on Nashville as an ecumenical city of song, not merely as Country Music City, USA.
“Back then, your advisers would say, ‘Don’t tell ‘em you’re from Nashville,’” Webb says. “And Bobby Field, (friend and partner in crime) said, ‘No, let’s tell ‘em it came from Nashville.’ I’m so glad we did.”
On Mississippi Moderne, Wilder sings Field’s “I’m Not Just Anybody’s Fool,” and he sings “I Gotta Move,” a song by the Kinks he used to perform with The Drapes, back in Hattiesburg (Field produced that band’s EP). He also delivers “Yard Dog,” a beautiful obscurity that Biloxi garage rock band The One Way Street recorded in 1966. Explorations of Charlie Rich’s “Who Will the Next Fool Be?,” Conway Twitty’s “Lonely Blue Boy,” Frankie Lee Sims’ “Lucy Mae Blues” and Otis Rush’s “It Takes Time” are dunked in deep blues, and performed with a crew of cohorts that have been delivering Wilder music for years: interstellar bass man Tom Comet, drum daddy Jimmy Lester, and guitar slingers Bob Williams, Joe V. McMahan and George Bradfute. Wilder wrote “Only a Fool” with the legendary Dan Penn (“The Dark End of the Street,” “Do Right Man”), and he and Hadley reached back to Mississippi roots to pen “Too Much Sugar for a Nickel,” a phrase Webb heard from his mother.
“My mother was from rural Mississippi, and she had a tough time growing up,” he says. “If something was too good to be true, she’d say ‘That’s too much sugar for a nickel.’ Hadley and I wrote that one. The song starts kind of Wilbury-esque and ends up Rolling Stones-ish.”
That’s not to say that Mississippi Moderne is only about looking back. Wilder and Williams spend much of the album weaving future-ready solos and rhythm guitar work, and the singer’s mighty baritone sets every melody in the visceral present.
Once again, it comes from Nashville. But it brings a world of swampadelic, Wilderized wisdom, bluster, and mayhem. It’s Mississippi Moderne, right on time.
By Peter Cooper c. 2015
Singer-songwriter and folk musician Joel Rafael has been writing and performing for over 50 years, beginning as a drummer with his first band, a jazz combo, in the 6th grade. After transitioning from jazz to surf music in junior high, Rafael soon found himself swept up by the rise of folk music in the early sixties. He began learning chords on a cheap guitar he picked up in Tijuana, until he was able to afford a more respectable instrument by selling an expensive rifle he'd been given. He soon became the resident folk musician of his high school, performing in hootenannies, benefit shows, and on open stages, polishing his style. He began incorporating his own lyrics and melodies into the folk format, and by his senior year he was gigging in clubs his classmates were too young to enter.
Rafael enrolled in college at Cal State Fullerton, because the Vietnam War was raging, and the draft was very real, but only stuck it out for two semesters, before moving to Los Angeles, where he could perform on stages at the Troubadour and the Ash Grove. Eventually those clubs started catering more to rock groups, and, after losing his student deferment, his draft status was again 1A, so Rafael headed north with a group of outlaws, artists, writers and mystics, eventually landing in Oregon.
One year later, Rafael was busted for hashish in Portland as part of a citywide sweep of the entire underground. He was released with two five-year probations (ten years) to be served concurrently, and was forbidden to reside in the State of Oregon. Still intending to avoid the draft, he relocated back to Los Angeles where he found day work at North Beach Leather to support himself, while honing his songwriting in the musically fertile hills of Laurel Canyon. An opportunity to assist a friend open an "old world" leather shop took him north to Seattle. From there, he eventually retreated to the mountains where he worked on his songwriting, and learned to live simply.
The draft board caught up with him, and demanded he report for a physical. Instead he relocated and settled in North San Diego County where he learned to grow avocadoes on a newly planted ten-acre ranch. Life in rural North County presented new opportunities, and each one seemed to inspire a song. Finally, with the ending of the draft, and his probation behind him, Rafael's songs no longer reflected the idealism of his teen years; he now wrote about his life and his family and what he saw in the world around him. In nearby Encinitas, he began to play his songs in front of a real audience again, at the Blue Ridge Guitar Shop, where he also began a lifetime friendship with Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin.
During the late 1970s, Rafael performed around Southern California in various groups including as a duo with Rosie Flores. In the early 1980s, he found a niche in San Diego County as an opener for nationally touring acts at several local venues, which allowed him to grow as a performer of his own original songs. Jesse Colin Young added Rafael as an opener on a tour of the Southwest in 1981, shortly after he recorded his first album, Dharma Bums, with San Diego songwriter Richard Bowen. In the early 1990s, with the mentoring support of Paul Rothchild, the Joel Rafael Band was born.
After releasing two albums with the Joel Rafael Band (Joel Rafael Band (1994), Old Wood Barn (1996)), he was invited to join Jackson Browne's Inside Recordings for a third album, Hopper (2000), which would end up being the band's last. In 2002, with his daughter Jamaica Rafael on violin and guitar-player Carl Johnson, he wrote and performed the entire background musical score, including five original songs, and two co-writes with John Steinbeck, for a new radio play of The Grapes of Wrath. After a week of performances in Los Angeles, the live recording became part of NPR archives where it surfaces annually.
Having performed for five years on the Woody Guthrie Festival, he decided to release an album of all Woody Guthrie tunes, Woodeye (2003)—which included one song for which he composed the music, and one original talking piece combined with a Woody Guthrie song. Shortly after, he turned his focus to another album of Woody Guthrie songs, Woodyboye (2005)—this one including four more Woody Guthrie co-writes with lyrics given to him by Woody's daughter, Nora Guthrie.
Now with six years devoted to recording Woody's songs, Rafael found himself again touring the country, but this time as part of a road show of songwriters dedicated to presenting Woody Guthrie through his songs and prose. And it was time to return to his own songs, so with more than an album's worth of material, he went to Austin and put together 13 songs with a band of musicians who backed Stillwater, Oklahoma native, and Austin icon Jimmy LaFave. The resulting Thirteen Stories High (2008), introduced a new musical collaboration embracing his original work and including the songs of Steve Earle (Rich Man's War) and Jack Hardy (I Ought to Know).
By the time he released his next album of original songs, America Come Home, it was 2012 and the year of Woody Guthrie's Centennial. Two of Rafael's co-writes with Guthrie were published in Every 100 Years: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Songbook, and he was asked to perform on several tribute concerts around the country, the most notable, and an admitted high point of his career, was the final 2012 show at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
As a solo performer and with his band, he has opened shows and shared stages throughout the southwestern United States with respected artists including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, John Lee Hooker, John Trudell, Laura Nyro, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Sheryl Crow, and Taj Mahal.
Baladista, Joel Rafael's ninth album (April 2015), delivers ten essential ballads that embrace and celebrate the human spirit and reflect the half-century journey of an American Songwriter.
"Dude's a juke-joint professor emeritus"--Rolling Stone
In September 2015 Kevin Gordon releases Long Gone Time, the long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed Gloryland. Produced by Joe V. McMahan, the new record further explores an awkward post-Civil Rights Act American south, with narratives and meditations
Over the course of twenty-five years of writing, recording and touring, Gordon has built an impressively consistent catalog of songs, a critically-acclaimed stack of albums, and a reputation for dynamic live performances. His 2012 release, Gloryland, received significant
"There's nothing else around today quite like Kevin Gordon’s music. I'm a huge Kevin Gordon fan. Think of John Lee Hooker tied to the hard, imagistic poetry of William Carlos Williams, and you get a little bit of an idea. . . you just have to listen. And listen again. For the pure emotional pleasure of it. For the unmistakable, hard-driving passion of words and music, rocking together in rhythm."
From The New York Times: "'Gloryland' [is] an often harrowing tour of the back-roads South with scenes of burning churches, a serio-comic brawl after a ZZ Top concert in Shreveport, La., and — most memorably — the time the Klan showed up when his seventh-grade marching band performed about 90 miles from there in Colfax."
Gordon's songs have been recorded by Keith Richards, Irma Thomas, Levon Helm, Hard Working Americans, and others. His duet with Lucinda Williams, “Down to the Well”, was featured on the Oxford American Southern Music Sampler.
Count This Penny
Count This Penny
Count This Penny is a singer-songwriter duo born in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. They've appeared on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion and charted in iTunes' singer-songwriter Top 10. They recorded their second album at Madison, Wisconsin's storied Smart Studios just before the doors there closed for good. In 2014, they were named one of Wisconsin's '10 Bands to Watch' by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and were voted Madison's favorite folk band in 2013 and 2014.
They closed out 2014 with a national Communion tour in support of their most recent EP, and were included on NPR's Austin 100 list for SXSW 2015. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Kacey Musgraves, The Head & the Heart, Shovels & Rope, The Lone Bellow, and Sarah Jarosz.
BROKEN WINGS HEAL (ALBUM BIO)
Pete Sallis writes for Shakes Spear Music. He has cuts by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, Maddie & Tae, RCA pop star Betty Who, 3x Grammy Winner Americana/Blues artist Keb Mo, Ronnie Dunn, Bucky Covington, and a CCMA Single Of The Year by Universal Canada artist George Canyon.
“Contemporary and timeless.”
I first saw Foucault play in a little Missoula theatre years ago, when many of us who grew up spinning our elders’
A show played perfectly to an empty bar. A singer with life and death on his shoulders, swinging a microphone like Samson swung a jawbone. The real ones who die with nothing half the time. With SALT AS WOLVES, Jeffrey Foucault gives us in sound and image what poet and author Chris Dombrowski calls in the album’s liner notes, “that rare artistic combination of a voice and a world”: a tough, spare collection of darkly rendered blues and ballads, like a field recording of a place that never existed. In a series of letters to lovers, friends, heroes, and family, Foucault deftly weaves together disparate strands of sound and experience, raw love, and hard wisdom.
One of the finest songwriters of his generation, Jeffrey Foucault has taken, in his own words, ‘the small roads;’ building a brick and mortar independent international touring career of ten studio albums, countless miles and critical accolades. He’s been lauded for ‘Stark, literate songs that are as wide open as the landscape of his native Midwest’ (The New Yorker) and described as ‘Quietly brilliant’ (The Irish Times), while catching the ear of everyone from Greil Marcus to Don Henley (who regularly covers Foucault in his live set), to Van Dyke Parks (who offered to play on Foucault’s 2011 offering, Horse Latitudes, after catching a live radio interview). ‘Salt as wolves’ is a line from Othello describing boldness; a fitting title to frame a record of blues played bold and loosely, without rehearsal or cant. With his fifth collection of original songs Foucault stakes out and enlarges the ground he’s been working diligently all the new century, quietly building a deep, resonant catalog of songs about about love, memory, God, desire, wilderness and loss. SALT AS WOLVES gives us Jeffrey Foucault at the height of his powers, fronting an all-star band, turning the wheel of American music.
Jeffrey Foucault was 17 when he learned to play all the songs John Prine’s eponymous debut on his father’s mail-order guitar, spending long evenings in his bedroom spinning piles of old records on a hand-me-down turntable, lifting the needle to transcribe every line of ‘Desolation Row’. At 19 he stole a copy of Townes Van Zandt: Live and Obscure from a friend, and a few years later, having quit school to work as a farm-hand and house-carpenter Foucault began writing the songs that became his first record (2001’s Miles From the Lightning). Since that release he’s been everything from solo country-blues troubadour to frontman for a six-piece rock ‘n’ roll band, along the way compiling a discography remarkable for its visceral power and complex poetics. Yet it wasn’t until he paired with former Morphine drummer Billy Conway that the final piece fell into place and Foucault found the Luther Perkins to his Johnny Cash: the truly sympathetic collaborator to both frame and fire his terse brand of minimalist Americana.
SALT AS WOLVES is not an exploration but a statement: here is the man in full, extending his musical reach in the toughness and precision of his electric guitar work – as he distills a modal, hypnotic electric blues reminiscent of John Lee Hooker and Jessie Mae Hemphill – in the mature range and depth of his singing, and in the intimacy and vulnerability of his songwriting. Cut live to tape in just three days in rural Minnesota, SALT AS WOLVES moves like a vintage Chess record, with an openness and dimensionality that beckons the listener further in. In language richly simple and profound, Foucault plumbs the implications of a life spent looking for The Real, in a series of epistolary songs that locate the transcendent moment or its seeking, the love we don’t understand, the thing that is lost when a great spirit dies. At the heart of the record the song ‘Slow Talker’ frames the whole in it’s refrain: ‘There’s one note / If you can play it / There’s one word / If you can say it / There’s one prayer / If you can pray it / And each one is the same.’
SALT AS WOLVES reunites Jeffrey Foucault with legendary electric guitar player Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown), and bassist Jeremy Moses Curtis (Booker T, Cold Satellite), as well as longtime drummer and tour partner Billy Conway (Morphine). Caitlin Canty, whose breakout 2015 release, ‘Reckless Skyline’ Jeffrey Foucault produced and played on, joins the band on backing vocals. It’s a hand-picked lineup whose natural affinity – Ramsey’s economy of phrase and raw simplicity the perfect compliment to Foucault’s elegant lines and weatherbeaten drawl – is evident from first moment, the whole ensemble notable for an instinctive restraint and use of negative space. These aren’t kids copping riffs: these are grown men drawing from the deep, strange well of real American music, and they have nothing to prove.
Jamie Lin Wilson
Jamie Lin Wilson
When describing Jamie Wilson’s voice, two aspects come to mind: that honeyed tenor twang that’s become known as one of the sweetest instruments in modern folk music, and that poignant, poetic, down-to-earth point of view she brings to her songwriting. The spotlight shines brighter than ever on both with Holidays & Wed- ding Rings, May 2015 release. Even fans may be surprised to realize it’s the first full-length solo album from one of brightest and busiest stars in her recent years amid the folk/Americana/independent country music scene.
An artist of unique talent and restless creativity, she broke into the Texas country/folk scene as one of the co-lead vocalists of the Gougers before the band gradually gave way to not only Wilson’s solo work (the fine EP Dirty Blonde Hair was released in 2010) but also higher-profile musical adventures with The Trishas, an all-female singer-songwriter band that has toured through some of the state and nation’s best venues.
Both deeply personal and solidly collaborative, Holidays & Wedding Rings is an evident labor of love from the sort of songwriter who can delve into the sweetness of family life without hitting sap. Someone who can dig into heartache without wallowing in it, go slow and subtle and still leave a listener rapt.
Multiple approaches, countless gigs, several years and nearly a million miles into what promises to be a grand career, Jamie Wilson not only runs with a good crowd: she never fails to stand out.
“I come from a family of artists. I come from the middle of nowhere. Now I’ve lived in New York for eight years and that changes a person,” says songstress Sonya Kitchell. Her new, self-produced album, We Come Apart, explores the remnants of things, the space in between our atoms. The shape shifting between dualities—light and the dark, death and decay—compose the core of the record. The journey to completion of the twelve songs on the record took Sonya from her home base in Brooklyn, NY to Los Angeles, Paris, upstate NY and rural Massachusetts, where she grew up, after a whirlwind tour of the world with the legendary Herbie Hancock. In search of a retreat, rest and new inspiration, Sonya found herself neither here nor there as We Come Apart emerged.
Time spent on a windswept island off Cape Cod in the winter led to the songs “Mexico,” a dream pop ditty reminiscent of Francoise Hardy, and “Swallowing the Rain,” a sparse, brooding, live recording about a girl who escapes to New Orleans, to “get out of her skin.” Sonya conquered the quiet solitude by embracing the snowy wilderness. “The beautiful thing about that time for me is that I’m afraid of the dark and all it holds. It terrified me, which was why I had to do it. After a few weeks, I realized the fear was gone.” Sonya found solace in the island’s beauty. She returned the following winter, this time with her wolf dog, running, howling at sea lions and getting lost in the woods. Together, they sat on frozen beaches and watched the tide come and go.
We Come Apart echoes eons of wisdom, yearning and soulful reflection, influenced by these stark landscapes. Sonya sings folk melodies touched by electro and a raspy rock & roll spirit. The album’s opener, “Follow Me In,” was written in her friend’s “hippie commune” in upstate New York. Surrounded by artists, Sonya wrote songs that people could sing along to. Says Sonya, “I sang ‘Follow Me In’ at a funeral, and it took on this meaning I never knew it had—follow me into the afterlife. Then I married two friends, and they wanted me to sing that song, at the same house. We try to write about universal truths but when you hit on something simple and true, it applies to everything.” “At First” follows suit, a bright, welcoming chorale, mirrored later in the record by the country-inspired, late-night musician’s romp, “Hurricane.”
The quiet, lovelorn moments in “Stay for a While” depict Sonya’s purist, acoustic side, and in “James,” she’s the eternal lover and dreamer, whose voice comes from a place of spirits, the woods and the earth. Shahzad Ismaily, a catalytic force on the record, coproduced "Swallowing the Rain" and "Fight or Flight,” a cinematic, string-laden ballad for heartbroken boys. Sonya’s lyrics tell an intimate story: You come upon a woman/ You follow her around the bend/You follow her quite closely/But she is not your friend/She hears you pray against the sky/is getting dark/it’s darkness/that unfolds us/that makes us wish for braver hearts…
“This Feeling” unleashes Sonya’s inner wild child, channeling Patti Smith. “The Dust,” is an energetic, pop-laced tune full of the classic indie nostalgia. The lush hymnal “We Come Apart,” is a haunting, sacred finale.
Many notable friends lend their talents on the tracks, including the Dap Kings horn section, Nate Walcott (of Bright Eyes), Findlay Brown, Gyda Valtysdottir (of Mum), Neal Evans (of Soulive), Skye Steele, Adam Deitch, June Millington & Alex Chakour.
Sonya grew up in a family of serious, talented artists in the vast countryside of rural western Massachusetts. Her father is the noted fine artist Peter Kitchell, her mother, Gayle Kabaker, is an accomplished illustrator, and her younger brother is a photographer. Her time in Los Angeles, with bass player Tal Wilkenfeld, working alongside Jackson Brown, shifted Sonya’ approach to songwriting. Tal’s meticulous revision process juxtaposed with Sonya’ usual free-flowing spirited style, taught her a lot about her creative process. As Hunter S. Thompson rewrote Hemingway, “to feel what great writing feeling feels like,” Sonya reworked
We Come Apart’s songs until their essence revealed itself. “We Come Apart is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to learn how to do a lot of things.” Indeed, Sonya has already had a prolific, illustrious career, collaborating with beloved, respect artists, including Herbie Hancock to Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Ben Harper, Susan Tedeschi, Kaki King, The Barr Brothers & Danish Band Blue Foundation. She has two internationally selling albums under her belt, “Words Came Back to Me,” produced by Steve Addabbo (Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin) 2006; and “This Storm” produced by Malcolm Burn (Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris) 2008). Her EP, “Convict of Conviction,” was produced by Stewart Lerman (The Aviator, Antony and the Johnsons, Ron Sexsmith) in 2010, in collaboration with long-time friend Garth Stevenson.
She toured across the US and Europe in support of Herbie Hancock’s Grammy-Award winning album River: The Joni Letters, which garnered Sonya her first Grammy. She won her second Grammy for songwriting on Tedeschi Trucks Bands’ blues rock record, Revelator.
We Come Apart represents years of Sonya’s learning from masters, unlearning expectations, and re-emerging as a vivid, fresh voice. Unexpected twists led to a realization that Sonya would have to produce the record herself. She says, “I headed up to the woods & turned an old barn into a studio to make the album. The house I was staying in felt full of spirits, more than any house I’ve ever been in.” Her lyrics in “The Dust”— now I stand in the dust, the still that comes after the rush, and I wonder how long I’ll dwell in the desert here—evoke the retreating, the struggle and triumph of the past year. Now she is ready to embrace the rush once more.
“Everyone smitten with Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch should run, not walk, and immediately spin A Million Stars, the latest album from this Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter. Taken into the open air at High Sierra in a lovely day-starting Grandstand set, Flynn’s newest songs stomped their boots, plucked heart strings and generally charmed the britches off folks. Flynn is funny and slyly sincere, a storyteller able to snag details from the immediate moment, the night before, and whatever else floats into view to forge stage banter filled with off-handed wisdom and earthy understanding – fitting given how her tunes bulge with both traits.” - Jambase, 2014 High Sierra Music Festival Live Review
Ashleigh Flynn grew up in Kentucky and cut her teeth on local bluegrass music. A prolific songwriter, Flynn is also an electrifying performer blessed with unbridled charisma. Flynn has performed at Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, Delfest, High Sierra, Sisters Folk, Vancouver Folk, 30A Songwriters Festival; traveled the globe, peddling her wares, warming tours for Todd Snider, The Wood Brothers, Nanci Griffith, Black Prairie; and been featured on Mountain Stage, WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, and NPR.
It’s hard to believe that Hayley Reardon can be considered a seasoned folk artist before even completing high school, but the impressive career she has built thus far is only the beginning.
Noted for her thoughtful, vivid songwriting and engaging stage performance, Hayley has spent the past five years sharing the stage with acts like Tom Rush, Peter Yarrow, Buskin & Batteau, Christine Lavin, and opening for the likes of Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli, and Catie Curtis. She has been selected for official showcases at Folk Alliance International and New England Regional Folk Alliance, as well as The Boston Folk Festival, New York Songwriter’s Circle, and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Showcase.
In 2012, The Boston Globe Magazine named her a Bostonian of the Year for both her music and her work to pair it with a message of teen empowerment. The feature article characterized her as "a confident, radiant teenage singer/songwriter who is helping to pen the next chapter of the Boston folk scene....while Reardon is rapidly making a name for herself under the stage lights, it could be said that she's having a bigger impact on her peers across the country as an effective teen-to-teen ambassador, sought after by schools nationwide.”
Upon the release of her latest CD, Wayfindings, iTunes Editor’s Notes cited “the fact that her music is not American Idol-like pop but in the singer/songwriter tradition of Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Erin McKeown, and Mary Chapin Carpenter illustrates an already well grounded artist. She sells out concerts and snags rides to them from her parents.”
Performer Magazine describes her music as “brilliantly moving folk/pop with a lyrical depth and soul,” while American Songwriter Magazine refers to “Numb and Blue,” the lead single off of Wayfindings, as “a melancholy little masterpiece.”
In a live setting, these soulful songs are carefully intertwined between thoughtful stories and soft, clever humor to form a comforting, yet commanding, stage presence. Hayley Reardon is full of heart, and what’s even better is that she has proven her ability to share that heart and make an audience feel her songs and stories just as strongly as she does.
Pain, suffering, and loss…
three elements baked deeply into the fabric of love, or rather, a true love lost. These are the things of which the greatest artists of all time have feasted, in through their uniquely experienced and engineered pores, and out to the world après time served within the walls of the artist’s hearts and minds. Such are the autobiographical, painstaking roads traveled by Davin McCoy’s eloquently crafted, individually wrapped soulful pieces of art, his songs, tied together, so ever tightly, by a grief stricken fueled common thread, by cigarette stained fingers avec a not yet finished quarter left high ball. A personal compilation of emotions wrapped with and by a heart-wrenching bow known as McCoy’s sophomore effort Whiskey Sexy.
Caroline Spence is enamored with words and songs. Though countless singer-songwriters boast the same simple claim, few have been lifted up by their passion the way Caroline has. Her passion led the Virginia native on a pilgrimage to Nashville, where the 26-year-old honed her writing and her coy, dusky soprano across folk, Americana and alt-country genres. That same passion resonates throughout every track on her first full-length solo debut, the magical and meditative Somehow, released on March 3rd 2015.
With songs that wrap the truths of life up into personal vignettes of clever wordplay and catchy hooks, it’s no wonder that in 2013 Caroline won American Songwriter Magazine’s June/July lyric contest as well as the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest songwriter competition later that year. Caroline also had her songs recorded by up-and-coming independent singer songwriters Andrew Combs (“Heavy”) and Annalise Emerick (“A Good One” and “Somewhere In Between”). But when American Songwriter named her the grand prize winner out of all song submissions for all of 2013, she began to feel her passions validated.
So, with help from producer Michael Rinne, Spence selected 13 original songs out of about 30 to record at Farmland Studios with some of her favorite musicians, including Danny Mitchell (Kim Richey) on keys, Kris Donegan on electric guitar (Matthew Perryman Jones, Amy Speace), Daniel Parks (Kelsey Waldon, Lucy Hale) on acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo, producer Rinne (Rodney Crowell, Andrew Combs, Steelism) on bass, Christian Sedelmeyer (Jerry Douglass, 10 String Symphony) on fiddle, Justin Schipper (Josh Turner) on pedal steel, Evan Hutchings (Escondido, Rayland Baxter) on drums and Andrew Combs, Erin Rae and Anderson East all providing additional vocals. The band lives and breathes with Spence’s guitar and vocals, masterfully navigating a breadth of genres with a perfect sense of intimacy and style, at times with the rock of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, the twang of Lower Broadway, or the sensitivity of swelling pedal steel and simple percussion.
Once the album tracking was finished, Spence went on to win the Kerrville Folk Fest songwriting contest in May and in August was one of the headlining acts at the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest alongside The Stray Birds, Hooray for the Riff Raff, John Fulbright, Josh Ritter, and Brandi Carlisle. She also visited the acclaimed Daytrotter studios in October to record an exclusive acoustic set.
Since it’s release Somehow has been featured by publications and press outlets such as Rolling Stone Country, American Songwriter Magazine, CMT Edge, The Bluegrass Situation, Elmore Magazine, and Folk Alley. Melinda Neumann of Rolling Stone wrote, “The songs on Spence's debut release, the stripped-down, beautiful Somehow, delivered in her haunting, gossamer-winged voice, capture life's fragility, while celebrating our humanity.” CMT Edge declared Caroline’s sweet voice and disarming honesty” made her “a bright spot on Nashville’s local music scene.”
With all the courage, grit and passion that pervade her 13 new tracks, Spence is more than ready to share Somehow and take her place in the world of professional songwriters. Still, she does so without losing touch with her reality: “It just feels like all of this happened somehow, making these songs, this record, just somehow happened, kind of magically. And I know what I want and I just know that somehow I am going to make it happen.”
Originally from New York, accomplished singer/songwriter/guitarist Dean Johanesen has made his home in many parts of the US including, Indiana, Nevada, Georgia and now residing in Florida.
Johanesen's mother delivered motor homes when he was young and the family traveled around listening to many different artists and kinds of music. Led Zeppelin to Simon and Garfunkel, classic country to musical soundtracks provided the soundtrack to his youth and his diversity of influences had an effect on Johanesen's interests musically as well as giving him a feel for the road.
After being in bands for many years with rotating members and differentiating musical influences, Johanesen decided to pursue a solo career. In 2013 Dean released his first solo record A Time and A Place, a collection of songs that fit more of a personal storyteller type influence. In 2014 the solo release was accepted by Pandora for Dean's own radio station which can be heard here -Dean on Pandora.
A recent passion for gypsy jazz music in the vein of Django Reinhardt has put Johanesen on a musical path with a focus on new stories of old times. Non fictional characters from the '20s and '30s, circus performers, the side show, Prohibition, the war of currents all placed in a backdrop of gypsy swing. Dean is currently in studio working on this record due out some time in 2015.Creative Loafing - Tampa - Feature Article
In 2014 Dean performed 275 dates including festival performances at SXSW in Autsin-TX, The Decatur Arts Festival in Decatur-GA, Smoky Mountain Songwriters Festival in Gatlinburg-TN, MS Songwriters Festival in Ocean Springs-MS. More festival dates and a consistent touring and performing schedule are in the works for 2015 along with the release of Johanesen's new record and 2 live CD's being recorded in January of 2015. Stay tuned...
Opened For * Robbie Krieger (The Doors / Jam Kitchen) * Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Mason Jennings
Festivals * Multiple unofficial showcases at SXSW - 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 * Florida State Fair - 2009 * Suwanee Songwriter Competition Finals - 2006 & 2008 * Orange Blossom Jamboree - 2012 & 2013 * Sarasota Folk Festival - 2012 * St. Petersburg Folk Festival - 2013 & 2014 * Mississippi Songwriter Festival - 2013 & 2014 (scheduled for 2015) * Smoky Mountain Songwriter Festival - 2013 & 2014 (scheduled for 2015) * Groovefest WMNF 88.5FM - 2013 * Back 40 Music Festival - 2013 * Bayfest - 2011, 2012, 2013 * Friday Fest - 2009 * Gasparilla Music Festival - 2015 *
"I’ve reconciled the fact that I’ll never live a simple life,” she says plainly, “and that’s alright with me. This is the life I chose for myself.” For Annalise Emerick, it isn’t just a brush-off. The self-starting, twenty-something, singer-songwriter has been on the road virtually non-stop for three years solid. This summer alone, she plays to sold-out crowds at over 150 shows in 90 different cities with the aid of nothing but her guitar. Choosing to leave behind any semblance of a normal life for the day-to-day of a traveling independent musician, however, was always a no-brainer for the Nashville spitfire. “It’s all about building on something and getting out there in front of people,” she explains. “If you’re going to do it, then you have to really go for it.” And that’s precisely what she’s done.
Gathering material from her life experiences and seemingly infinite travels, Emerick compiled the aptly named Field Notes, her debut, full-length album and subsequent road diary. Recorded with her heart on her sleeve and a collection of autobiographical tunes in her pocket, the album exhibits the raw vocals and heartfelt lyricism that have situated her among fans of Brandi Carlile, Patty Griffin, and Natalie Maines alike. For Field Notes, it’s Emerick’s effortless aptitude to blend pop songwriting sensibilities with pristine Americana overtones that really shines through, highlighting her incredible penchant for spinning tales that are uniquely personal and universally recognizable.
In 2011, Emerick released her first project, Starry-Eyed, to heavy critical acclaim after it debuted at #9 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart. The seven-song EP featured adult contemporary pop tracks sprinkled with twinkling production value that Performer Magazine hailed as “undeniably good.” Skope Magazine praised the record’s “mellow and moving” tunes, while The Deli New England celebrated Emerick for “crafting melodies as pretty as her name.” The album went on to also catch the attention of American Songwriter Magazine who premiered her first single and music video, “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart.”
Show by show, one crowd at a time, Emerick has built quite a following for herself by taking charge of her own career. She dove right in, booking all of her own performances, self-promoting her music, and amassing fans from all over. “A lot of artists get lost in the business side of being a musician, but I love it,” she confesses. “I love booking shows, traveling, and making relationships with promoters. I think it’s important to know how to help yourself as much as you can.” Emerick’s undeniable work ethic and thirst for knowledge has been widely praised throughout the music community with Sonicbids crowning her an “indie songstress with a head for business” in a recent blog feature.
Now, three years after the release of her first EP, fresh off of a first place win in the New England Songwriter’s Competition and a relocation back to Nashville, Emerick returns with Field Notes, a folk-inspired, markedly more mature turn for the singer that demonstrates just how much her endless days on the road and years of hard work have fostered her growth as an artist and performer. “This album really means a lot to me,” she shares. “In a way, it’s a compilation of all the exploring I’ve done over the past few years... songs from being out in the world and experiencing life. These are songs about love, dreams, childhood friends, and stories I’ve picked up from traveling. The whole time I’ve been compiling material for this record, I’ve imagined an explorer out in the wild with a notebook just jotting down ideas, theories, and drawings. And that’s what this album is to me. These are my thoughts. These are my field notes.”
On Sugarcane Revival, (May, 2015) singer-songwriter Beth McKee offers fiery-sweet songs full of tenacity and promise, sung to a deep southern groove all her own, a composite of regional impulses from places she’s called home; Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina.
The appeal of her honest vocals and roots-y piano style was evident on McKee’s previous solo albums, Next to Nowhere (2012) and I’m That Way, the 2010 tribute to New Orleans songwriting legend Bobby Charles. In her adopted hometown of Orlando, McKee used the albums to establish a solo career, after her 1990s success with New Orleans-based MCA Records act Evangeline.
“Bobby Charles mastered simplicity and universal truth in his songs; Beth was his favorite interpreter of the bared-soul truth his songs communicated,” says Jim Bateman, Charles’ longtime manager. “Everything she does taps into that universal thread that everyone understands without thinking.”
As her indie career burgeoned, McKee embraced the sense of community she enjoyed while living in New Orleans, establishing her legion of Swamp Sistas, 2,500 strong on Facebook. She leads the group in a rally against hunger by organizing a roving music festival called the “Swamp Sistas La La,” a re-vamp on the traditional Creole house party to benefit communal causes.
The Mulligan Brothers
The Mulligan Brothers
The Mulligan Brothers are: Ross Newell (lead vocals, guitar); Gram Rea (fiddle, mandolin, viola, harmonica and vocals); Ben Leininger (bass and vocals) and Greg DeLuca (drums and vocals). Via Portland is the second album for the band from Mobile and Baton Rouge that met playing in bars in Mobile and took a name that means second chances. When we made the first album , The Mulligan Brothers, we didn't know we were making an album people would be so passionate about or that we would be so proud of, Via Portland has been equally well received, reaching #7 on the Relix/Jambands chart and #16 on Roots Music Report Alt. Folk Chart.
Armed with a violin, acoustic guitar, drums and an upright bass fashioned from two old suitcases, the Mulligan Brothers, a quartet from Mobile, Ala., stand dead center at the crossroads generally defined as Americana, the music is a blend of Folk Rock and Alt. country. The band has grown beyond local weekend gigs into festival appearances, including the New Orleans Jazz Fest and weeks crisscrossing the country and overseas tours for the armed forces.
Old Salt Union
Old Salt Union
Old Salt Union is known for playing music by their own set of rules. While the men who make up this group are not complete rebels, they are certainly thinking about the future of music. They find influence in the bluegrass roots of The Del McCoury Band and Sam Bush, but also draw inspiration from Bill Evans, Danny Elfman, Punch Brothers, and many more talented musicians. What makes Old Salt Union so special is their ability to stretch the boundaries of traditional bluegrass music by incorporating in-depth musical arrangements, a catchy hook, and an uncanny pop sensibility. They truly are a new generation of bluegrass in the industry.
Established in May of 2012, Old Salt Union recorded their debut album “Western Skies” in October of the same year. While their album was independently released in March of 2013, it was clear by the overwhelmingly positive response that their fan base would grow rapidly in the following months. In January of 2014, Old Salt Union began exclusively touring the country, so that their reach would expand, exposing more fans to their type of complex, high energy, and well-executed sound.
With the release of their second studio album, “Bridge”, in August of 2014, Old Salt Union tells a tale of transition. The two years that they have been together has shown that they are a force to be reckoned with in the world of music. They have established solid roots, winning the STL Riverfront Times “Best Bluegrass Band” in 2013 and “Best Country Band” in 2014, all while traveling the country. They have made appearances at the John Hartford Memorial Festival, ROMP, Wakarusa, LouFest, Stagecoach, and Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival, sharing the stage with The Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, Jeff Austin Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Ricky Skaggs, and more – and no ma’am, they ain’t stopping yet.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Eliot Bronson’s latest self-titled album was tracked entirely analog in Nashville by acclaimed producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Rival Sons, Jason Isbell, Nikki Lane). It’s a vibey, ten-song album with an uncluttered production aesthetic that highlights Bronson’s songwriting and his achingly beautiful vocals.
The story goes that after Bronson completed writing this cycle of songs, he sent Dave Cobb an unsolicited email with a sample track attached. Bronson was inspired to reach out to Cobb because he was intrigued by the spacious vocal production on the Jason Isbell record which Cobb had produced. Bronson felt Cobb could help him realize the atmospheric and timeless qualities he wanted for his songs. Cobb was impressed with Bronson’s music and replied back. “I was stunned when I got a response. It was really validating for me because I sort of had him on a pedestal,” Bronson says candidly.
Eliot Bronson was recorded in one week at Cobb’s home studio and Cowboy Jack Clement Studios in Nashville. “It all felt really natural and effortless,” Bronson recalls. “Dave would be in the room playing right along with us during tracking.” The album was mixed the following week.
"It was quite a pleasure workin' with Eliot," says Cobb. "He's a brilliant lyricist and poet. We did the record live all together and the album feels timeless."
J.T. Harding was born an orphan in Nashville but soon was adopted and raised in Detroit. While other kids were on the baseball field, J.T. was in his basement jumping around to MTV and trying to write his own songs and put together several bands in high school. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream and made his first demo with prize money he earned by winning the TV game show VH1 Rock N Roll Jeopardy. He has written several hits including the 3 million selling “Smile” with Uncle Kracker, and the number one chart-topping songs “Somewhere In My Car” with Keith Urban, Alone With You for Jake Owen, Somewhere With You for Kenny Chesney and the Blake Shelton single “Sangria.” JT has recently been asked by the to perform his songs in a show to be presented by the prestigious Nashville Ballet the week of Valentine’s Day 2016.
Chris DeStefano is a Grammy Award Winning American singer/songwriter, record producer and multi instrumentalist, raised in Mt. Laurel, NJ and currently residing in Nashville, TN. As a songwriter, he has multiple #1 songs with artists Carrie Underwood (“Good Girl”, "Little Toy Guns"), Billy Currington (“Hey Girl”), Brett Eldredge ("Don't Ya"), Luke Bryan ("That's My Kind of Night", "Kick the Dust Up" ), Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood ("Somethin' Bad"), Rascal Flatts ("Rewind") and Jason Aldean ("Just Gettin' Started").
Underwood's "Good Girl", which DeStefano co-wrote, reached number 1 on Hot Country Songs in 2012. DeStefano also co-wrote and produced Brett Eldredge's number 1 single "Don't Ya".
Chris also co-wrote the Carrie Underwood, 7 week, #1 song “Something in the Water”, the 3rd longest running female #1 Hot Country song in chart history.
Louisiana native and country artist CJ Solar is quickly making a name for himself in Music City, USA. Hailing from Baton Rouge, CJ moved to Nashville in 2010 to attend Belmont University. A few months shy of graduation, CJ inked a publishing deal with Sea Gayle Music—two time ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year founded by Brad Paisley, Chris DuBuois and Frank Rogers. CJ is a “triple threat” artist: a gifted singer, guitarists, and songwriter. He has writer credits on Sony Music Nashville recording artist Jerrod Niemann’s current single “Blue Bandana”, as well on other songs by Jerrod and Justin Moore. CJ is currently hard at work on his debut EP. While not writing or in the studio, CJ takes his high energy show on the road—including stops at Big Barrel Festival, CMA Fest, Bi-Mart Williamette Country Music Festival, and opening dates for artist such as The Cadillac Three, Michael Ray, Randy Rogers Band, and Stoney LaRue.
Hailey Whitters has an endearing habit of suggesting she’s perennially late to the party. “I’ve always just felt like a late bloomer,” she says, with a sigh that turns into a laugh.
She’s awfully hard on herself.
Whitters grew up in Shueyville, Iowa, population just shy of 600. “It’s such a little town. It’s getting bigger, but we don’t even have a post office,” she says. “We have two bars, a wine cellar, and a church.”
The oldest of six children born to a large Catholic family, Whitters grew up a determined but unexpected artist, drawn to songs and singers but unsure why. “I didn’t grow up in a super musical family,” she says. “I just had a weird inkling to do music.” The Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, and other women who drove 90s country radio were her gateway heroines, which led to a deep dive into classic country, and ultimately, Americana storytellers such as Patty Griffin, John Prine, and Gillian Welch.
“I took my first trip to Nashville when I was 16 and fell in love,” Whitters says. “I immediately knew I wanted to move here.” A year later, she did. She also enrolled in college, and paid her proverbial dues as a nanny, waitress, and salon receptionist before signing with left-of-center lighthouse Carnival Music in 2012.
“When I was younger, I just mimicked people that I admired,” Whitters says. “I learned how to tell a story.” With an arresting voice effortlessly rooted in honky tonk’s long tradition of angelic sopranos who are equally comfortable mourning and raising hell, she has spent the last several years discovering that she has something of her own to say - - along with a unique way to say it.
Whitters writes and sings songs that detail the search for and acceptance of her own life -- sometimes dreamily, other times with rollicking irreverence.
“Black Sheep,” written with the Wrights’ Adam Wright, moodily canvasses the rewards and frustrations of sticking out, and ultimately offers a defiant resolution keep going her own way. “I feel that way a lot, especially in this town,” she says. “To do what nobody’s doing...it’s kind of cool, fuel for the fire. It’s invigorating to be different.”
The guitar-soaked stroll “Late Bloomer” is an autobiographical ode to lollygagging in a variety of situations. “I was the oldest of six, so I was very naïve, I felt like,” she says. “But I finally came to accept that it’s actually okay to figure out who you are and what you want later in life.”
Whitters penned live-show standout “One More Hell” alone after her little brother was killed in a car accident. “He was 19. It was awful,” she says. “I went home to be with my family, and we went out West that summer. We had no plan, just got in the car and drove. It was really therapeutic and good being all together -- we all just kind of disappeared for a month.”
She sat down to write when she got back to Nashville, and “One More Hell” came quickly. “The first time I ever played it live, this stranger in the front row was bawling,” she says.
“It’s a sad song, but it’s kind of a happy song, I always say -- people just feel it.”
In her late teens and early 20s, Whitters performed almost exclusively around Nashville, starting with dive bars and storied Lower Broad honky tonks, singing cover songs for tourists and tips. At local writers’ nights, she began ditching others’ songs in favor of her own. The town noticed: Music Row critic Robert K. Oermann praised her, urging, “Keep your ears on this newcomer,” while the Nashville Scene declared Whitters “summons the space-country aesthetics” of 90’s Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson.
Winning over a crowd delivers an inimitable high for Whitters, who relishes connecting live. “I love performing ‘One More Hell,’” she says. “You think no one’s listening, and then the middle of that song, you see them raise their beer glasses in the air and know that they’re listening and that you’re all on the same page.”
Lately, Whitters’ taken to gigging all over the country. She’s opened shows for a broad range of big draws, including Chris Knight, Randy Houser, Josh Thompson, Jana Kramer, Granger Smith, Casey Donahew Band, Jo Dee Messina, Sean McConnell, and Shenandoah, and is sincerely grateful for every opportunity. “I will play just about anywhere,” she says with a laugh. “There’s something about getting out on the road and traveling that I just love.”
When she’s not touring or writing, Whitters is in the studio, hard at work on her debut album. “I’m a risk taker,” Whitters says. “My friends always laugh because I’m kind of one extreme or the other. I’m not really a middle ground kind of person. You take these risks, and then the reward is just...” She trails off for a moment. “I feel like the part that feels so awesome about it afterwards is knowing that you were scared to do it, but then you did -- and it paid off.”
Elise Davis is a singer songwriter originally from Little Rock, AR. She has been writing songs since the age of 12 and formed a band in high school called "The Sandbox Lizards". However, as a senior she embarked on a solo career and put out a record a year throughout college as well as touring clubs and dive bars throughout the south. After graduating she made the move to Nashville. In March of 2013, Elise signed her first publishing deal with Horipro Entertainment. The opportunity was presented as a prize for winning a songwriting contest through American Songwriter and Martin Guitar in which over 800 songwriters entered. In November 2015 Elise finished recording a new album entitled "The Token" that will be out early 2016.
Jon Nite is a singer-songwriter from Amarillo, Texas, who moved to Nashville, TN at the age of 18 to write songs. Jon's songs have become platinum selling number one hits for some of music's most celebrated artists.
In 2015, Jon received a CMA Triple Play award for three number one singles in a one year span.
Songs include the three week number one (Billboard Hot Country Chart) and CMA Vocal Event Winner, "We Were Us" by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert; Platinum number one "Whatever She's Got" by David Nail; The summer anthem and platinum number one, “Beachin’” by Jake Owen; Career breaking number one hit, "Smoke" for A Thousand Horses; Critically acclaimed hits "Tip it on Back" by Dierks Bentley and "Glass" by Thompson Square have been widely noted for their lyrical strength. Jon has a handful of International number ones including the two week number one "Wasting Gas" by Canadian Dallas Smith.
Iconic artist Tim McGraw has recorded one of Jon's songs on each of his last three records, "Book of John", "Still on the Line", and current hit radio single, "Top of the World". Entertainer of the year, Luke Bryan, has recently released the Nite co-written sultry throwback single "Strip it Down". The song marks a new direction and tone for a superstar finding the next chapter in a historic career.
New artists such as Chase Rice, Brett Eldredge, Frankie Ballard, Maddie and Tae, and many others have worked heavily one on one with Jon in the process of finding the songs which help start their careers.
Current radio hit "Gonna Wanna Tonight" by Chase Rice is one of a handful on Chase's Gold debut.
Brett Eldredge has recorded multiple Nite songs for the first two records including "Tell Me Where To Park," "Fire", and "If You Were My Girl."
Singles on new artists such as "Party Like You" by Cadillac Three, "Trouble" by Gloriana, and numerous others have helped craft the sound of the next generation of country artists.
Debut single "Bad for You" is currently climbing the chart for new artist Waterloo Revival.
Nite's songs have been in numerous television shows and movies, including True Blood, CSI, Vampire Diaries, Mob Wives, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Jon's song written with Florida Georgia Line, was used in all televised, 2014 SEC football games.
As a singer, Nite's vocals have been featured on Grammy and Dove nominated projects.
"I didn’t think I was going to live past 20 years old," recounts Liz Vice. It's a surprising revelation considering the vitality and energy she exudes onstage, but it brings context to the utter joy and gratefulness and humility and magic that imbues her soulful voice throughout 'There's A Light,' her debut album. Vice is an unlikely breakout artist—she'll be the first to tell you that she never intended to share her singing voice with anyone—but she's overcome the odds with a survivor's spirit, discovering that sometimes we have to travel dark roads and long nights before the sun can illuminate our true path.
Born the middle of 5 children and raised by a single mother, Vice grew up in Oregon with dreams of becoming a filmmaker. She faced an unthinkable plot twist at the age of 15, though, when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and her kidneys began to fail. By 19, she'd begun what would turn into three-and-a-half years of dialysis, during which time she faced down congestive heart failure, dangerous weight loss, and a series of hospital-borne infections that could have proved fatal to someone in her condition.
"Instead of praying that I would be healed, I was just so tired that I would pray for death every day," she confesses. "But every day I woke up, I decided to live that day to the fullest."
When well enough to work, she put herself through medical assisting school and was blessed with a much-needed kidney transplant. The new lease on life encouraged her to pursue her dream of filmmaking, long-since put on hold in the face of her struggle to survive.
"I decided I was going to make films and put people of color in them with no stereotypes attached," Vice explains. "I wanted to make movies that encouraged people to go out and do something in their lives, that wouldn't make them feel limited because they grew up in a certain neighborhood or family situation."
While working in film, she began attending a new church in Portland and inexplicably found herself compelled to audition for the worship team, a small group of singers and musicians who led the young congregation in contemplative, folk-inspired songs. Overcoming her intense stage fright, she auditioned for Josh White, the pastor of the church and who wrote much of the material for the worship team, and their connection was immediate. Vice began singing in smaller, laid back services during the week, until one Sunday, Vice was called to sing solo in front of the full congregation of nearly 400 parishioners.
"I remember as I was singing, it felt like every pore in my body opened up, and I was just covered in sweat like I had water poured on top of my head," she says. "I was so overwhelmed with the adrenaline of singing a song of that magnitude by myself in front of that many people. It felt like I just went to a new place and everyone disappeared, and then the song was over. There was so much emotion happening I had to sit down. My friend walked onstage in tears and she said, 'What was that?' I looked at her and started crying and said, 'I don’t know.'"
It was a life-changing performance. White decided to give Vice songs he intended for his own solo project. After just one rehearsal, she and the band headed into Jackpot Studios to record all of the instrumentation live to tape. The buzz about the music they were creating was so strong that when they announced a local release show, it sold out almost instantly. Her riveting performance led to dates with Cody Chesnutt and St. Paul & The Broken Bones, as well as a slot at the prestigious Blues Fest, and now, an international release for the album on Ramseur Records.
'There's A Light' opens with the funky R&B of "Abide," Vice's voice sounding like something straight out of the Stax vault over top of a slinky bass and drum groove. On "Empty Me Out," the keyboards take over front and center as Vice's voice grows in rich, expansive layers of harmony. It was hearing the recording of the slow-burning "Entrance" for the first time, though, that convinced her she was creating something special with White.
"When I first listened to the final mix, as soon as it gets to the first 'ooohs,' I couldn't believe that voice was mine," she remembers. "It was the first time I ever heard the things that people kept saying they heard when I sang. I started tearing up and had this moment of, 'Can I cry to my own song?'" she laughs. "It felt like an out of body experience."
The wailing vocals on "The Source" are the stuff that goosebumps are made of, while Vice found herself channeling Michael Jackson on "Everything Is Yours" and pushing deep into the kind of questions about faith and spirituality that one rarely has the courage to ask in church on "Enclosed By You."
Though it's not filmmaking like she originally dreamed of, Vice has found music to be a vehicle for the same type of positive social influence she hoped to have as a director. She imagines the up-tempo gospel of "Pure Religion" as the kind of song a mother might sing to her children to keep them on the right track, and "All Must Be Well" is a message of resilience and survival through hard times. It's perhaps on the title track, though, that we hear the purest expression of love and hope, with Vice joyfully singing "There's a light shining over me" throughout the two-minute, feel-good album closer.
There is indeed a light shining over Liz Vice. It saved her all those years ago just when she thought her life was ending, and it shone down upon a new calling, one in which she gets up onstage every night and shares that light with the world. Come what may, Liz Vice is gonna let it shine.
So, what to make of this Rick Brantley? This seeker of the life-changing novel and the perfect pair of beat-to-hell boots; this connoisseur of the cool classic movie and the greasiest dive-bar cheeseburger, disciple of the museum's masterpiece and the panhandler's wiliest street-pitch? This guy who lives it, loves it, takes it all in and pours out something so tight and right you just gotta hear it again and again? Well, let's just tell it straight: Rick Brantley is a singer-songwriter who can seriously, seriously write and sing; a rocker who can really, truly rock. A young man worth listening to.
Rick Brantley was born and raised in the musical mecca of Macon, Georgia, a preacher's son, soaking up the strains of gospel music, fire-and-brimstone sermons and the echoes of musical legends: Blind Willie McTell, Otis Redding, The Allman Brothers. "My Dad dug the local heroes, and was big on pop/rock hitmakers of the 70's, too, like Three Dog Night. We had a little home recording studio; music was such a part of everything", Rick says. He was also inspired by singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. "You learn from those guys and they lead you to Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt," he adds. Brantley learned his lessons well: barely out of high school, his own songs and red-hot band performances led to a publishing contract and new home base in Nashville. Since then, his songs have been covered by artists ranging from Meat Loaf to country crooner David Nail, while he's continued honing his stage chops as both full-tilt rock-show frontman and acoustic solo performer, opening for acts as diverse as John Hiatt, Zac Brown Band, Better Than Ezra, and Steve Earle.
Brantley's brand-new EP, LO-FI, leans into his thoughtful, thought-provoking side. “I was on the road last year with Hiatt -- just me and an acoustic guitar -- and only my previous rock record to sell.” The difference in styles influenced a conversation with award-winning songwriter Mark Selby, Rick’s producer. “We had these songs that were never going to be on the full-band rock record we're working on -- more like singer-songwriter stuff. So, we just decided to make a live-in-the-studio record of those tunes, with just us playing.”
With LO-FI, Brantley achieves a raw but rich acoustic sound. “Almost everything you hear on the record is live and in the moment. It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I got to do songs that I really loved, with one of my best friends in the world. It was just a blast. I hope everybody likes it.”
LO-FI includes a cavalcade of emotions: the world-weariness of “40 Days,” the romantic yearning of “Claudette,” and the jaw-dropping "Enough Rope," a flawed-narrator character study ruminating on a life's worth of foibles: "Money talks, and liquor whispers, and I have listened to them both. . . I've learned less than I've forgotten, and there's still more I wish I didn't know. And a man will hang himself most likely, if you give him enough rope." Then there's the stunning cover of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness,” which Brantley admits was more than a little daunting. “That was terrifying. Mark had to really twist my arm on that. It’s definitely in my top two or three favorite songs, but who would want to follow Otis Redding? But Mark talked me into trying it on the road with John Hiatt, and it went over like gangbusters, so we decided to put it on the record.”
Brantley will be hitting the road to promote LO-FI while continuing work on his next full studio album. He’s looking forward to sharing the inspiration behind his lyrics, both onstage and in a series of podcasts. “That’s the plan. We’re booking solid right now. I love being up there and telling stories, which is what the show is all about. It's a different energy than with my band, but we're getting a really good response with it, and having a lot of fun!”
So back to our original question: what to make of this talented Rick Brantley? If enough of us hear him, see him, watch him own another stage. . . well, we might just make him a household name.
Eric Erdman was recently recognized as “Best Solo Musician” by Lagniappe magazine for the second year in a row (2014 and 2015), but his journey to being a singer songwriter began long ago. Eric grew up on Mobile Bay. He sailed around Gaillard Island during the day and played guitar and wrote songs with his brother and friends at the end of his mother’s pier at night (they wrote almost 40 songs by the time he was 14 years old). Creating songs was a part of his everyday life. Writing songs was as natural to him as breathing.
Time passed. Eric continued writing.
Eventually he joined with a couple of like minded musicians to form the funk rock band, The Ugli Stick. The Ugli Stick's powerful live shows and unique songs have captivated audiences worldwide. They have performed 3 USO tours for the US Military overseas as well as released four albums and had their song "Put It On The Wood" used as the theme song for "Drag Race High" on the SPEED network.
During his time with the Ugli Stick, Erdman worked as a songwriter at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals.
However it is obvious there has always been something more to Eric Erdman that had yet to rise to the surface. In 2012 he recorded his solo album, "My Brother's Keepers”. A song from this album, “Bird on a Powerline” , was recognized by the Australian Songwriting Association in 2012. It was also a finalist in the Great American Song contest, and it was recently selected as the song of the month on songwriteruniverse.com.
Eric toured the world playing the songs from “My Brother’s Keepers”. As has always been the case for Eric, more adventures equalled more new songs.
These songs became "Color the Silence" (which was recorded while on tour in Australia and released in 2013).
The subsequent touring produced yet another collection of tunes. And these songs screamed out to be produced in a more gritty , funky style than the previous two albums.
Eric knew there was only one place to go if he wanted gritty and funky, so he took the collection back to his old stomping grounds, Muscle Shoals. It was in Muscle Shoals at The Nutthouse Studio, where Eric Erdman recorded his songs of death and murder, the struggles of a wounded veteran, and love stronger than addiction for his new album, Not Slowing Down, released on January 13. From the loose, relaxed atmosphere in the studio where musicians added jazz piano solos or played bass with a river rock, to background vocals and instrumentals recorded by musical friends from Mobile to Australia, Not Slowing Down is a reflection of Erdman’s personality and his joy in making music.
“This is the first album that I had the time and resources to make the songs like I hear them in my head,” says Erdman. “We went big and the quality is what I have always hoped for, getting the songs right and not just approximations. They are eclectic, but everything I’ve ever done is like that. I don’t want to hear the same songs over and over or be pigeonholed into a sound or I will get bored. This album is a mix of pop rock, ballads, a reggae murder mystery, and a Mardi Gras parade song. These songs are exciting to me.”
The title song, “Not Slowing Down,” is about living life so vividly that it seems like a dream. A survivor of childhood cancer, Erdman lives his life with his foot on the gas, driven by music and the songs he wants to write.
Erdman is more than a singer/songwriter. He co-produced the album, recorded some of the background vocals in the recording studio in his home, and worked for weeks adjusting and cleaning tracks before sending them to mixing and mastering.
“Being the singer, artist, writer, and producer is a lot and it is hard to wear all of those hats at once, but Eric is one of the few people that can do it,” says Nutt, owner of The Nutthouse and co-producer of the album. “My job was to be Eric’s ears in the control room and give him a fresh perspective to get the best tracks that fit his vision for the album. He has great ideas and he is easy to work with.”
“I have to create music. It is what comes naturally to me and where I get my energy,” Erdman says. “Not Slowing Down started because I had a catalog of 30 songs that I hadn’t recorded and it was time to do something with them. I already have plans for two more albums after this.”
Erdman picked the songs that fit the funky, gritty Shoals sound and fattened them with horns, drums, cowbells, backup singers, saxophone and guitar solos, bluegrass and mandolin. “The album has a subconscious retro style because I grew up listening to ‘70’s music with horns and big, lush harmonies,” he says. “There may be a stylistic schizophrenia but the production and the players give it a sonic uniformity.”
“Eric’s voice is smooth as leather,” says good friend Sally Taylor (founder/curator of consenses.org). “The honesty of his lyric writing and the integrity of his spirit combine with his mischievous sense of humor to form the most heartwarming and intriguing songs. Eric is a great, compelling and authentic voice in today’s music scene.”
“The songwriters I look up to, such as James Taylor and David Wilcox, are open channels for the emotion that comes to them,” Erdman says. “To me, being a true artist is being a tracker, hunting for that next spark that electrifies you, then genuinely listening to where it is going. l wouldn't say it is leading you per se, but it will tell you where it is headed. It is then up to you to catch up .... So I search for those sparks every day, in every situation...whether it be serious, sad, or happy. When I find one that lights me up .... the chase is on. It is this chase that keeps me from slowing down.”
Jonathan Mitchell’s love for music started at a young age. His family speaks of him singing harmonies at the age of 5, far before he knew the meaning of it. Raised the son of a preacher, music was a monumental part of his life, first beginning with an affinity for old hymns and later finding influence in the music of Tom Petty, The Band, Hall and Oats, and his sister, Aslyn, also a recording artist. Jonathan began writing and touring in college with several bands, his travels expanding the US into Europe. After playing 4 years of college golf and graduating, he moved to Atlanta to further pursue songwriting and within a year, joined forces with his brothers to form a band called Georgia. The band landed a record deal with Atlantic Records and began recording their debut album, Slow Down Easy with Mike Daly (Whiskeytown) and Joe Chiccarelli (Brandi Carlile, My Morning Jacket, The White Stripes). Jonathan has toured and shared the stage with Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Need to Breathe, Zac Brown Band, Ryan Bingham, Better Than Ezra, Ed Roland, Bob Schneider, to name a few. Jonathan now runs Ohana Records, a modern music program for the students at Ohana Institute in Rosemary Beach, FL. The students form bands and experience inspiration, growth in confidence and team building through the medium of music and songwriting. Jonathan is also the worship leader for the Chapel at the Beach in Rosemary Beach. Bryan Kennedy, writer of numerous #1 hits said, "I rarely meet someone so talented, humble and more generous with their gifts than Jonathan Mitchell. He's a hidden treasure. What a great singer/songwriter, teacher and human being. I'm a Jonathan Mitchell fan!"
Grammy winning songwriter Josh Osborne hails from Virgie, a small town in Kentucky near US Highway 23. Known as “Country Music Highway,” the US route delivered many legendary country artists from towns along that road including Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoakam, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Loretta Lynn and The Judds, just to name a few.
Osborne’s song “Merry Go ‘Round”, co-written with Kacey Musgraves and Shane McAnally, became a Top 10 Country Airplay hit for new artist Musgraves, and has sold over 1 million copies to achieve Platinum status. The song went on to be awarded the coveted Grammy award for Best Country Song of the Year, in recognition of the songwriters, at the 56th Grammy Awards.
In 2014 Josh was honored with inclusion on the aforementioned US 23 “Country Music Highway”. He became one of only a handful of members of this prestigious club and it is one of the highest honors given to a Kentucky native that excels in the field of music.
Josh recently scored number one hits on the Billboard Country Airplay charts with the songs “Drunk Last Night” recorded by the Eli Young Band, “My Eyes” performed by Blake Shelton featuring Gwen Sebastian, “We Are Tonight” sung by Billy Currington, the first two singles of new artist Sam Hunt’s career, “Leave The Night On” and “Take Your Time”, the Kenny Chesney single “Wild Child” (written with Chesney and frequent collaborator Shane McAnally) as well as Blake Shelton’s latest #1 single, “Sangria”. Josh currently has singles with Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”, Jake Owen, “Real Life”, and Tim McGraw’s latest, “Top Of The World”. In addition to the radio singles Josh has had songs recorded by Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Evans, Thomas Rhett, Craig Morgan, Rodney Atkins, Chris Young, Kellie Pickler, Love and Theft, Faith Hill, Randy Rogers Band and many others.
Kyshona Armstrong has a natural gift for using music to tap into emotion. She began her career as a music therapist, working in mental health hospitals and correctional facilities, writing music with her patients and using music to redirect behaviors and emotions. Kyshona soon found the need to write music independently to help her process her daily experiences with her clients. Audiences will often find a common thread of overcoming, hope, and empowerment in her songwriting and storytelling. She uses her emotional intelligence to create her unique bluesy and soulful style of music. Her latest album, Go, shows off vocal stylings that are reminiscent of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Al Green. She has three independent releases under her belt, 2008’s EP “Music”; 2011’s EP “Home Again”; and 2014’s crowdfunded full length album, entitled “Go”.
As she has traveled across the country the last 5 years, Kyshona has had the privilege of sharing the stage with Lake Street Dive, Meiko, Lera Lynn, Hope For Agoldensummer, Angel Snow, Randall Bramblett, Dwayne Shivers, Anthony David, Cracker, and many more. She currently resides in Nashville, TN where she is writing, performing and donating her time to youth empowerment programs in her community and performing for the incarcerated.
Jeff Cohen is an multi-award winning songwriter/producer/publisher based in Nashville and New York whose songs have appeared on over 20 million albums sold, over 10 million video games and over 100 placements in tv/film... Songs recorded by The Band Perry (Hit single/BMI Award - Postcard From Paris), Evan and Jaron (Hit single/BMI award - Crazy For This Girl), Big and Rich (Hit single/BMI award - Holy Water), Sugarland, Josh Groban, Laura Bell Bundy (Hit single - Giddy On Up), Richie MacDonald (Hit single - Turn To You), Teitur, Macy Gray, Nick Lachey, Mandy Moore, Marc Broussard, Spin Doctors and many more... Songs featured in movies Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Stuart Little 2, Aquamarine, Grandma's Boy… TV shows such as - The Exes (theme), Jack and Jill (theme), I Married A Princess (theme), Dawson's Creek, Party of Five, One Tree Hill, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live... He is also founder and songwriter of the critically acclaimed band Pancho's Lament... In a previous life Jeff was a music executive at BMI working with such talent as Jeff Buckley, Kara DioGuardi, Lisa Loeb, Joan Osborne, Ani DiFranco, Spin Doctors and many more.
Referred to by Billboard Magazine as "One of Music Row's greatest veteran tunesmiths," Jerry Salley, the "2003 SESAC Country Music Songwriter of the Year" has had over 400 songs recorded in his multi-award winning career.
From Sir Elton John's only chart single to appear on the Billboard Country Chart ("Where We Both Say Goodbye" - duet with Australian artist Catherine Britt) to a Gospel song so popular it has been included in Church Hymnals ("His Strength Is Perfect"); from songs recorded by country music legends Loretta Lynn and The Oak Ridge Boys to some of today's biggest country stars like Reba McEntire, Toby Keith and Brad Paisley, Jerry's long list of accomplishment's speaks for itself.
Born in the small southern Ohio town of Chillicothe, he signed with Performing Rights Organization SESAC at eighteen years old. Writing and singing in Nashville since 1982, he has written multiple hits in Country, Bluegrass and Gospel Music and may well be the most successful songwriter to have earned equal recognition from all three genres of music - not to mention his recent activity of songs (and awards) recorded by some of the best artists in the "Americana" music genre.
His country hits include the Reba McEntire smash "I'm Gonna Take That Mountain", "Breakin' New Ground" (Wild Rose/Universal Records), "I Fell In The Water" (John Anderson/BNA Records), "How Do You Sleep At Night" (Wade Hayes/DCK/Columbia Records), and four other Billboard chart records. He has written Three #1 Gospel hits, several #2 Gospel hits and over a dozen other top ten/top twenty gospel songs. In addition to songs recorded by the previously mentioned artists, he has had songs recorded by Patty Loveless, Joe Nichols, Darryl Worley, Travis Tritt, Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Mark Chesnutt, Cece Winans, The Whites, and many others. He is a nine-time Dove Award nominee, having won a prestigious Dove for the 1990 Inspirational Song of the Year "His Strength Is Perfect", recorded by and co-written with Steven Curtis Chapman.
Internationally he has penned no less than seven (7) #1 Country hits in Australia. To date Jerry's songs have sold in excess of fourteen (14) million records worldwide.
As an artist, Jerry has performed on numerous stage shows, including the honor of performing as a soloist many times on the world famous GRAND OLE OPRY. His television appearances include LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, REGIS AND KATHY LEE, NBC'S TODAY SHOW and several different TNN (THE NASHVILLE NETWORK) shows.
In addition to his Dove recognition from the Gospel Music Association, Jerry has received numerous awards from different associations for his songwriting accomplishments (IBMA, NSAI, SESAC, GOSPEL VOICE MAGAZINE, etc.). In 2006, Jerry received his second IBMA Award for his contribution (as an artist) to the 2006 IBMA "Album of the Year" - "Celebration of Life" (Skaggs Family Records).
Along with friends Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle, the trio (Cordle, Jackson & Salley) recorded the song "You're Running Wild" on the Louvin Brothers Tribute on Universal South Records, which features numerous country music stars singing songs made famous by the legendary duo. Entitled "Livin', Lovin', Losin' - Songs Of the Louvin Brothers", this project won the 2003 Grammy for Country Album Of The Year.
In 2007, Jerry released his first solo project, "New Songs, Old Friends" on the Mountain Home Records Label. A Bluegrass CD which includes all new songs written by Jerry and performed by him along with some of his favorite singers - all of whom have recorded his songs. Guests like The Oak Ridge Boys, Rhonda Vincent, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White, Darryl Worley, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Sonya Isaacs, Alecia Nugent, Jamie Johnson, Lisa Shaffer and buddies Carl Jackson and Larry Cordle. The project was one of the final nominees for the 2007 IBMA "Recorded Event of the Year".
Jerry Salley followed up his debut,” New Songs, Old Friends”, with yet another outstanding lineup of original tunes, entitled "Showing My Age". This project was released in 2012, with tracks that appeal to lovers of Americana, gospel, bluegrass, and country. It contains never before recorded songs and others with his own take on hits he has penned for chart-topping artists such as Reba, Brad Paisley, The Isaacs, The Lonesome River Band, and more!
In 2015 Jerry released his third solo project, “Jerry Salley – Gospel From My Grassroots”, an all bluegrass gospel project. This highly anticipated 13 track CD has guest vocalist Steven Curtis Chapman, Dale Ann Bradley, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Val Storey, Bradley Walker, and Maggie Salley singing with Jerry. All penned by Jerry, the CD is comprised of 10 previously recorded songs by other artists and 3 brand new, never released songs.
Multi-Grammy winning producer, musician and songwriter, Carl Jackson says:
"Jerry is not only a friend, in the truest sense of the word, he is also a songwriter's songwriter... an artist that completely understands the idea of "painting a picture" using the marriage of lyric and rhyme; someone that fully grasps the art of crafting a song, rather than throwing words against the page. His paintbrush is a pen, his canvas a legal pad and his goal always another masterpiece."
A proper artist struggles to influence life’s signal to noise ratio. Under the right kind of concentration, the static grows quiet. The extraneous and the superficial are pared away. And precious human qualities are held still, carefully turned over and inspected for illuminating details. In Robby Hecht’s case, this effort emerges as music that invites and even induces the listener to a similar place of serenity, clarity and patience.
“When I’m writing by myself something can take three years until I get past my own self-editing phase,” says Hecht about his meticulous approach. “Everything I write I’m trying to capture some kind of truth that I haven’t heard anyone say in that way before.”
And that’s what we hear on Hecht’s third album, a self-titled collection of twelve lovely and insightful songs. Those who give it time will be seduced by a quality that fellow songwriter Steve Poltz once compared to “a warm blanket that wraps itself around you.” And Poltz is but one of many peers in the folk music community who’ve testified to the magnitude of Hecht’s talents. Catie Curtis, Anais Mitchell, Julie Lee and others have gushed about the “natural beauty” of Hecht’s tone, the “honey in his voice” and his “authentic gifts” as a lyricist. Prizes from songwriting contests at Kerrville and Telluride have further confirmed Hecht’s stature as a musician’s musician. Now, with several circuits of the nation under his belt and a widening base of support in the songwriter world, Hecht is worthy of wider recognition by fans of observant, immersive music.
Raised by Midwestern Jewish parents in the conservative South, he became accustomed to – but never comfortable with – frequent questions about which (Christian) church he attended. His tastes in music in his teens ran the gamut from Def Leppard to The Grateful Dead. More songwriter-centric material took root a little later, and at age 18 he made a “strangely confident and final” decision to commit to music as his calling and career. At college in Madison, Wisconsin his class notebooks became scratch pads as he poured out his first wave of ideas. As he approached performing though, there were doubts. As fascinated as he was by a life in music, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being a stranger and an outsider – even to himself.
It was not until the mid 2000s – after travels in Europe, a time in San Francisco where he formed the duo AllDay Radio, a move back to his hometown of Knoxville and a final shift to Nashville – that he made the most significant discovery of his life as a person and an artist. Thanks to insights from the woman who was on her way to becoming his wife, he learned he’d been suffering for years from bipolar disorder. Besides a large measure of personal contentment, dealing with that head on had truly practical implications for an aspiring performer.
“My condition made it hard to really commit to anything,” Hecht says. “It made it hard to want to record a record. It made it hard to tour or to co-write with somebody. Because at some subconscious level, I didn’t know what version of myself I was going to be when I showed up.”
Robby’s newfound consistency and stability were rewarded with a rush of opportunities and victories. He placed second at the prestigious Telluride Troubadour Contest, a contest he would later win. He took a title at Kerrville New Folk Competition, a national nerve-center of contemporary songwriting. These and other contests were, Hecht says, “an entry point to the world of performing. They put me in front of people on a bigger stage than I had been able to book by myself. And they made me feel like I could perform in front of a lot of people and it would be okay.”
It was more than okay. Hecht’s debut album Late Last Night, made with notable Nashville friends and colleagues such as singers Mindy Smith and Jill Andrews plus producer Lex Price, was flagged by numerous critics and colleagues as a top release in its genre. Maverick magazine called it “gorgeous” and one blogger flagged it as one of his five favorite discs of all time. The album’s lovelorn tone gave way to a brighter mood on its follow-up, Last Of The Long Days in 2011, which was tapped by CMT as a “mellow and beautiful effort.” The buzz around Hecht was substantial, but the world, as we established earlier, is a noisy place and the path to the top in contemporary folk music is long and steep.
Now comes a third album, self-titled as if to announce a true arrival. Again Hecht turned to Nashville’s Lex Price, a low-key sonic master who’s worked with with k.d. lang, Mindy Smith and others, as producer. The honestly recorded, elegantly mixed record is well positioned to stir the hearts that have been stirred before and more besides.
Some songs here feel chiefly the product of craft, while others the product of heart. Among the former is the allegorical song of impossible love called “The Sea & The Shore,” a co-write with Nashville writer Amy Speace. Working under self-imposed rules about symbolism and rhetoric to maintain a consistent voice, they worked over several sessions and many weeks to compose this finely honed masterpiece. Another craft song is “Soon I Was Sleeping” which has the shape and cunning of Hank Thompson or Harlan Howard and the melancholy honesty of Townes Van Zandt. Steel guitar comes out from the background here to give the record a country ease and sway.
The heart songs include “Feeling It Now,” a deceptively simple profile of that evanescent mood when you’re heading out for a night among friends and all is clicking. It’s a celebration of life and more personally a retrospective of the manic experience. And then there’s “Cars And Bars,” a bittersweet postcard from an encounter that promised romance but which became a mere one-off memory.
There are many moments like that on Robby Hecht – moments that provoke recognition and memories of our own. It’s not a debut album per se, and yet for many, it will introduce an important artist who’s hit his stride and learned a lot about teasing out meaning in a noisy world.
Going your own way means living with without the certainty of safe choices, until you get where you’ve been going. It’s been a long and crooked road, but with her transformative new release, I’m Changing,
Lisa Mills has gotten there.
Mills’ 2010 album, Tempered in Fire, won her an enviable degree of success: Growing fan bases on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and critical acclaim from observers in the United States and the United Kingdom. Graham Rhodes, writing for U.K. music site Blues in the Northwest, described her as “a full-throated female Otis Redding, with some Muscle Shoals soul and Nashville country touches for good measure.” A Nashville Blues Society review praised her “unique vocal ability to make one feel the good times and bad times in every song,” comparing her to Lucinda Williams.
The next step was obvious: Give ‘em more of the same. Take a safe half-step forward. Put out some fresh songs, and stick to the proven recipe. But Mills decided that the way to advance was to take a step back and reconsider the past. Specifically, to melt down her 2005 album, I’m Changing, and recast it as a more pure expression of her artistic desires and capabilities.
Was this a crazy thing to do? Two facts suggest that it was not. Firstly, her fans backed an ambitious Kickstarter drive for the project, pledging more than $30,000. Secondly, Mills put the project in the hands of groundbreaking producer Trina Shoemaker. Shoemaker is the first woman to win the Grammy Award for album engineering; in fact, she’s shared in three for her work on albums by Sheryl Crow and Steven Curtis Chapman. She’s worked on albums or singles by Beth Nielsen Chapman, the Dixie Chicks, Andrew Duhon, Dylan LeBlanc, the Indigo Girls and other artists of note.
The results, on the re-recorded, re-engineered, reconsidered I’m Changing, are explosive.
Mills is a Mississippi native who resides in Mobile, Alabama. The Gulf Coast is a region where Southern musical influences that easily can be taken for granted come together in ways that can’t. Yes, Mills often sings the blues – but to call her a blues singer would be to miss the point entirely. Her blues influences aren’t always the ones would expect, including a healthy measure of country blues, a sadly neglected genre. She can sing straight-up gospel, as she does in daringly a cappella fashion on “Tell Me.” She has toured with Big Brother & The Holding Company, singing the songs of one of rock’s most revered female vocalists, and her understanding of Janis Joplin’s gifts is far more insightful than the superficial norm. Just listen to the fragile balance of vulnerability and indomitability she brings to “Better Than This.”
The project was a major undertaking that brought back together almost all the musicians involved in the original 2005 recording sessions and added John Milham on drums. The returning players included U.K. bassist Ian Jennings; the plane ticket was worth it just for the blend of his upright bass and Corky Hughes’ resonator slide work on “Wish I Was in Heaven.”
You can call Lisa Mills a blues singer, or a gospel singer, or a torch singer or an R&B singer and not be wrong. But with Mills, none of those labels are true in the way you expect. Listen to “I Don’t Want To Be Happy,” when she sings: “Act a fool/ it’s all I ever do/ take each lie you make and believe it to be true/ and I kneel at the altar in the church of the painful truth/ I don’t want to be happy/ I just want to be with you.” Listen to the way the deceptively simple arrangement surrounds the raw vocal like the setting of a jewel; hear the way Shoemaker lets it breathe. Listen to the way Mills’ vocal on the title track conveys tenderness and power at the same time. Listen to the rhythm of “Shake It” the soft beats like stalking footfalls. Listen to her deep-blues take on “Little Wing.” You’ve heard the song before, but you’ve never felt it send shivers up and down your spine like this.
Lisa Mills is changing. She’s changing the way we hear things. And nothing is going to stay the same.
––Lawrence Specker, Mobile Press Register
Beth Wood is a modern-day troubadour and believer in the power of song. Her exceptional musicianship, crafty songwriting, and commanding stage presence have been winning over American audiences for eighteen years. Beth’s music is soulful, organic, intelligent, barefoot, high-energy communication of joy.
Picture a home-body with an ever-present wanderlust, an introvert with a passion for performing, a creative free-spirit with enough discipline to rework her dream year after year, calloused little hands and a big pile of curly hair…and you’ve got Beth Wood.
Beth Wood began her musical journey in Lubbock, a high plains Texas town with a uniquely rich musical heritage that includes Buddy Holly, Natalie and Lloyd Maines, Mac Davis, and Joe Ely to name a few. When she wasn’t dodging tornadoes and dust storms, Beth was studying classical piano, violin, harp, and voice and contemplating the greatness of her Dad’s record collection. With big dreams of becoming a musician, Beth left west Texas to study voice and piano at Brevard College in North Carolina. A detour from her classical studies led her to Austin, where she picked up a degree in literature and a guitar. Beth began writing her own songs and quickly discovered a feeling of musical freedom that she has been hooked on ever since. Eighteen years, thousands of shows, nine albums, three cars, and numerous awards later, Beth has never looked back.
Beth has been featured on OPB’s “Artbeat” and on “Troubadour, TX”, a nationally syndicated documentary-style singer-songwriter reality television series airing in almost 40 million households and 140 U.S. markets. Beth has also been a three-time featured artist on Cayamo: A Journey Through Song, a week-long Caribbean songwriters’ cruise along with Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, John Prine, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson and many more.
In May, 2013, Beth launched her Song of the Month Club, an innovative way to engage fans and offer a steady stream of new work recorded in her adopted home town of Eugene, OR with rising star producer and singer-songwriter Tyler Fortier producing. The result of that work is “Sometimes Love,” Beth’s ninth album, released in June 2014.
Beth lives in beautiful Eugene, OR and is loving the Northwest life. Beth has immersed herself in the northwest music scene, including working on staff with the Sisters Folk Festival and Americana Song Academy for four years as an instructor and host of the Sunday Community Celebration. Beth’s work has expanded to include teaching voice and song coaching as well as leading workshops at festivals, retreats and beyond.
“A superb singer/songwriter whose versatility discourages labeling.” — Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Beth Wood is a musical triple-threat — a thoughtful songwriter and talented multi-instrumentalist with a supple, soulful voice.” — Washington Post
“Wood is about as good as it gets if you appreciate the singer/songwriter genre.” –Charlotte Creative Loafing
“Lord have mercy…Wood is a down-home, old-fashioned girl with a wicked streak” — Indie-music.com
“…when you come across a recording like Beth Wood’s “The Weather Inside” you take note and recognize that this is the work of a genuine artist with a remarkable voice determined to make meaningful and lasting art.” –Lone Star Music Magazine
Watch a pitcher out on the mound, on any team, from a nine-year-old kid in the Babe Ruth league all the way up to a million dollar ace in the majors. There's a look in his eyes, an intensity, that goes right to his core.
And when you see that look in Brett Young’s baby blues, it isn’t too hard to understand what took this California boy from a ball field to the recording studio. His gritty vocals and impassioned lyrics are built on the same firm foundation that had him as a pre-draft selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays straight out of high school—hard work, sheer talent and that thing music industry execs and baseball talent scouts alike simply call heart.
Those same qualities have gotten Brett’s songs placed on television shows like MTV’s The Real World and Kardashian pop culture favorite Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and his feet planted firmly on some of the most well-known stages in the world—The Roxy, The Troubador, The Viper Room, sharing those stages with some of pop music’s best and brightest, from Colbie Caillat to Gavin DeGraw to Katy Perry.
Not bad for what Brett Young once thought would just be a “hobby.” But when a major elbow injury and reconstructive surgery took him off the pitcher’s mound for good, he found out that his love for music became so much more, and what he thought was the end was only the beginning.
“Everyone leaves a trail of ‘almosts’ and bittersweet memories behind on the road to ‘the one’,” says Brett. “It happened to me on my journey—it happens to everyone. Now I use those moments when I write music. I guess it is fortunate for me that people most easily relate to heartbreak. I’m an over-emotional, hopeless romantic who feels everything, and that shows in my songs.”
With three independent albums already under his belt, Brett recently took his newest batch of songs into Blackberry Studios in Nashville, with David Hall at the production helm, known for his GRAMMY Award winning work as an engineer, with artists of nearly every genre. And true to form, showcasing that intensity and emotion in his recordings, of songs like “Fire” and “Breathe Again.”
“I grew up with Al Green, Marvin Gaye—soul singers. I like that the emotion carries the songs, where the music is almost secondary,” he says. “Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’—that’s just timeless. They influence me; as a songwriter and a performer, I want to connect like they did. And when your audience feels like they can relate, then you have something much more special than a show, or a sale. You have a fan.”
When it comes to Brett Young, it isn’t so far from a pitcher’s mound to a major stage, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of Big Show you’re talking about. Because in the end, when you have that thing called heart, it shows. You may see it in his eyes, but you’ll hear it in his voice.
Brett has since played venues ranging from House of Blues to Troubadour, and shared the stage with such artists as Mandy Moore, Tyrone Wells, Jason Reeves, Gavin Degraw, Tyler Hilton, Katy Perry, Hoku and many more. Brett recently came off of a 40 city National Tour with Tyrone Wells and is currently traveling and playing all over the country.
Established Singer/ Songwriter, Jessi Alexander, is the writer of some the chart topping hits on country radio. Alexander has penned four #1’s including “I Drive Your Truck” recorded by Lee Brice which one Song of the Year from the 2013 CMA Awards, 2014 ACM Awards, and 2013 NSAI Awards. Additional #1’s include Blake Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You” and “Drink On It”. Alexander’s career skyrocketed with her song “The Climb”. Miley Cyrus recorded the song and it soon became the anthem for her box office hit “The Hannah Montana Movie” and won the 2009 MTV Movie Awards ‘Best Song From A Movie’. Jessi’s 9 song album, “Down Home” is now available on iTunes.
Spend 5 minutes with Brian White and you’ll quickly figure out, he’s a passionate man. Whether it’s about his home town Cincinnati Reds baseball team, his wife, his music, or his relationship with God, there’s no denying he’s all in. A veteran of the music industry, Brian has had the success that’s rewarded by such passion. As a touring artist signed with a major record deal, he fronted the Christian rock band “Brian White & Justice” for 15 years, recording 5 projects. As a writer his songs have earned him Fourteen #1 songs, 2 Dove Awards for Song of The Year (Michael English -”Holding Out Hope To You” & The Martins- “The Promise”), SESAC Country Song of The Year & Billboard’s Most Played Song of The Year (Rodney Atkins- “Watching You”) as well as ACM and CMA nominations.
With over 300 cuts to his credit, his songs have been recorded by such Christian artists as Avalon, Danny Gokey, Point of Grace , Mandisa, 4 Him, Larnelle Harris, Karyn Williams, Selah, All Star United, 33 Miles, Pure NRG, Jaci Velasquez, Cliff Richard, and many more. Brian has also experienced success in the Country and Pop market with his songs being recorded by such artist as Rascal Flatts , Trace Adkins, Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins, The Swon Brothers, Steve Holy, Earl Scruggs, Terri Clark, Kix Brooks, Blackhawk, Canadian Country stars Chad Brownlee, Tim Hicks, Brett Kissel, The Lovelocks, Livy Jeanne as well as Russian Pop Star Avraam Russo and many others.
Brian is a frequent speaker / worship leader for conferences around the country as well as a featured clinician at songwriting seminars. Married to Christian artist Karyn Williams (Inpop Records), Brian is often found playing guitar for her on the road as well as sitting behind the console producing records in Nashville.
Brian makes his home in Hermitage, TN. and writes for SB 21 Music Publishing.
Matt Jenkins is a singer/songwriter from Aledo, Texas located just outside Ft.Worth. He made the move to Nashville 12 years ago. As an artist he’s made several appearances on the Grand Ole’ Opry and opened up for acts such as Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band and Lady Antebellum.
Matt has been honing his craft as a songwriter over the last decade….Matt writes for the publishing company Combustion/Warner Chappell in Nashville. Over the last few years Matt has had over 50 major label cuts….He penned the Top 10 hit “Cop Car” for Keith Urban and the 2 week #1 Hit “Where It’s At” for Dustin Lynch…which was the 3rd most played song of 2014.
He has recent cuts by artists such as Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bentley, Jake Owen, Billy Currington, Florida Georgia Line, Randy Houser, Old Dominion, Joe Nichols, Michael Ray and multiple songs on the show Nashville
Ken Johnson’s songs have been recorded by many artists including Harry Connick Jr., Uncle Kracker, Tyler Farr, Chris Janson, Craig Morgan, Clare Bowen, Josh Thompson, The Farm, Joey and Rory, Ty Stone, Josh Grider, Lisa Lambe of Celtic Women Group, Walt Wilkins, Wayne Newton, and Paul Sanders with Vince Gill among others… Past hits include Josh Thompson’s “Beer On The Table” and Craig Morgan’s “Still A Little Chicken Left On That Bone”. More recently, his songs "Summer and 16" and “White Van” both went #1 for 2 weeks each with popular Texas artist Josh Grider. He has written multiple songs for television shows like "Nashville" and “Hart of Dixie". In 2012, Ken released “Dang Good Day” in association with Warner Chappell Music and Combustion Music. The album features collaborations with singer/songwriter’s like Randy Houser, Frankie Ballard, Josh Thompson, Brothers Osborne, Sarah Buxton and Eric Paslay to name a few. Ken has performed on TV's Good Morning America as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Look for new releases this Fall with Harry Connick Jr., and Chris Janson. Ken’s song “You Dream I’ll Drive” with Josh Grider is now approaching top 10 in the Texas regional market.
The music of Leah Edwards grew from the ground, like the sprouting of a wildflower: natural, delicate and strong. It resides where a stark tree branch catches a ray of sunlight. The natural marries the poetic. At times, it’s pleasant, and, at times, haunting as the secrets resting beneath the baseboards of an old farmhouse. A new kid with an old soul on the music scene, Leah Edwards, has taken her classical piano background and combined it with poetic lyrics to sculpt her own version of Southern Americana-Folk. With a voice that stands as an instrument alone, she exhibits both a soulful longing and at times a quick-witted force in her music.
Raised in the heart of Texas, her writing originates from a place that resonates with motifs of home, travel, relationship and adventure. Beginning her career in Austin, Texas, she began playing around town. Traveling eastward, this journey eventually led her to call Nashville, Tennessee home. Considering herself a lyric artist, she takes great care in selecting the words that weight her songs. With a love of folklore, English literature and a curiosity-induced wanderlust, she also encapsulates adventure through song.
Leah’s future vision includes implementing an innovative touring model where she partners with various non-profits, sharing their vision and raising awareness about causes from fair trade fashion to adoption. Not allowing others to determine the direction of her music career, she pays careful attention to her performances. She handpicks the venues that support her vision and independent branding including farms, creative arts schools, independently owned coffee shops, vintage stores, local restaurants, living rooms, schooners and festivals.
In the last year, Leah has played the renowned Bluebird Café during their monthly series, Chick Singer Night. She was also awarded as a Semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition for “Boxcar Betty”, a song featured on her debut EP titled Pursuit. “Boxcar Betty” was also featured in The Invisible Man, a 5-part mini-series, produced by Waterfoot Films in California. Leah continues to book shows in Nashville and other states at unconventional and intimate venues where she can connect with others, share her craft and draw from her experiences for new songs.
The Cactus Blossoms
The Cactus Blossoms
When my brother and I started making music as The Cactus Blossoms there wasn’t a big plan. We cut our teeth performing some well known and obscure country songs that were popular or unpopular pre-1960, partly out of curiosity and deep appreciation, but mostly because it was fun. Early on we were given a residency at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota. We got a band together and it became our weekly practice-in-public where we would pull out every song we could think of, no matter how well we knew it. It was our first chance to play all night and do whatever we wanted. Over the course of our year and a half at the Turf Club our repertoire had snowballed into an amalgam of original songs and a bunch of gut wrenching, tongue-in-cheek heartbreakers, that were 30 years older than us. Not everyone could tell what was new and what was old, and it didn’t really matter. People just seemed to enjoy it. That’s when the wheel got going and gave the illusion of spinning backwards. We weren’t born in the wrong era. We just got into some music from a different era and found a way to make it our own.
Good fortune has followed us every step of the way, offering opportunities that seemed just beyond what we’re ready for. It always stretches us out and makes us feel lucky as hell. When JD McPherson called and said he was interested in producing our record, it was the latest in a series of serendipitous events that brought us to where we are today. We opened for him at a gig in our hometown Minneapolis a few months earlier and had met him briefly, but never could have imagined that within a year we would be collaborating on a new album and criss-crossing America on tour with his band. JD is a music connoisseur with the singing voice of an angel, the boundless creative energy of a child, a scholar’s mind and the auditory perception of a wolf. This guy was the guy. He wanted to do something sparse and rhythmic with simple melodic arrangements and it lined up perfectly with the direction our new songs were leading us.
We wanted to record live with the best rhythm section we could find, in one room, playing together while we sang. It’s not the easiest process, but it’s the way we wanted to capture the music. JD pointed us to Chicago and enlisted the talents of engineer/drummer Alex Hall, guitarist Joel Paterson, and bassist Beau Sample. It felt like a musical dream team, but we had no idea what would happen. We barely knew these guys and they barely knew our music. On the morning of our first session Alex was setting up microphones and running cables through his vents from the living room down to the control room in the basement. The rest of us were drinking coffee in the kitchen and making small talk. JD was running back and forth cracking jokes, trying to decide what song was best to do first. Within a couple of hours “Queen Of Them All” was finished, and everyone knew we were in the right place at the right time.
The result, You’re Dreaming, is the culmination of several years of songwriting and the kindness of thousands of miles and friends. With a cast of characters, experiences, and personal perspectives, set in simple rhymes and sung in harmony, we try to paint a picture in your mind.
Jack Torrey and Page Burkum
It takes a bit to find our path.
Or to know when we’re already on it.
Austin Plaine wasn’t looking to become the next great singer-songwriter. Sure, the 23-year old Minneapolis native loved music. Played guitar since he was 13. Revered Ryan Adams and Bob Dylan. Idled his teenage days writing songs in his bedroom.
But... “Being a musician full-time was the last thing I thought I would do,” Plaine remembers, on the eve of his album release, a folksy, immensely satisfying self-titled debut on Washington Square/Razor & Tie. “I mean, at one point, I was studying for my LSATs to be a lawyer. But as I was writing more songs, I realized I could see myself doing this.”
On his debut, you can hear why Plaine’s plaintive lyrics and calming rasp have earned early praise. His music, at times both unsettling and a comfort, has been hailed as “the soundtrack for nostalgia-drunk road trips.” And his voice: “Like worn flannel and faded jeans.”
His influences are varied: the storytelling of Dylan, of course (“Coming from Minnesota, it’s hard not to be influenced by him....“Boots of Spanish Leather” is one of the first songs I really felt a connection with.”). You’ll be reminded of the breadth and genius of Conor Oberst. Listen closely, and you’ll hear bits of his other childhood heroes: Kurt Cobain, Springsteen, Ryan Adams.
Plaine’s journey from unknown to rising talent started innocuously. He was invited down to Nashville to record a few tunes. No pressure, no expectations. Just him and producer Jordan Schmidt (Quietdrive, Motion City Soundtrack), out to try a few songs.
Somebody caught on early. MasterCard starting featuring his track “Your Love” in a national commercial. Song appearances on the CW shows Hart of Dixie and NBC’s The Biggest Loser followed. Remembers Plaine: “It’s about that time I was like, hey, maybe this is something I should pursue.”
New songs were written. Others took new shapes. Album closer “Beautiful,” for example, is almost orchestral in its reach. “Some songs started differently in my head,” says Plaine. “And that song ended up being a really unique, bigger production when we started working on it.”
Plaine’s debut is certainly diverse: the thumping “Hard Days” is an uptempo, handclapping anthem, while “The Hell If I Go Home” and “Never Come Back Again” embrace beautiful pop harmonies. “Houston” has the breadth of an Arcade Fire song, while “Your Love” is a folksy foot-stomper.
Lyrically, Plaine teeters on the autobiographical, with the singer’s personal life mixing seamlessly with his knack for colorful storytelling. Take “Houston,” for example. “We just started with a chord progression I was working on and two lines: ‘Losing don’t mean nothing when there’s nothing to lose/living isn’t living when I’m missing you,” he explains. He later adds, laughing, “No idea why I chose Houston for that song, except I love Texas”.
When Plaine tours later this year, expect a more stripped-down affair, just a man, his guitar and some stories. “It’s definitely more folky, more Dylan-esque,” he explains. “Sometimes there’s a band, but sometimes it’s just me, my guitar and my harmonica.”
In the end, Plaine is happy with his unexpected new path.
“This album is my real start in life,” he says. “My beginning. I want to make music and hope people connect with it. And then make more music from there.”
Growing up with seven kids in the house and a father who loved listening to Irish music, Kat Higgins remembers pushing buttons on the family’s tape deck, learning songs like “Fields of Athenry” and “Danny Boy.” It wasn’t long before she and her brothers and sisters were performing them together for her parent’s friends. What started out as a song or two at parties quickly grew into full on tours.
“We looked like a scene from The Sound of Music,” Kat remembers. “We wore matching outfits, and stood in order of height.” By the time she was ten years old, she was earning money at it, and by 13, she had bought her first guitar.
She learned to play that guitar and eventually began honing her skills as a songwriter. The group became more popular, and signed a record deal with Open Road/Universal Music Canada. They soon had songs in the top ten on Canadian country radio. After a short while though, some of the siblings had started to lose interest in being in a band. Kat had written or cowritten most of the bands material and always loved the craft of songwriting.
She made the one-way trip to Nashville and never looked back. “Music is the true constant in my life,” says Kat, “the only relationship I’ve known how to maintain.”
Like some of her influences, The Dixie Chicks, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac and Emmylou Harris, she knew the importance of crafting a song. Kat thrived on producing the music, not just singing it.
Having caught the attention of Nashville music industry veteran Pat Higdon, she was offered her first publishing deal with Patrick Joseph Music. A young uninhibited spirit blended with old soul wisdom, Kat knows how to tell an emotional story. Her vulnerable lyrics compliment her smoky and unique voice. She has had several of her songs recorded by other artists including most recently, Carrie Underwood. You can hear Kats song, "Mexico" on Carries new album entitled "Storyteller".
While many things have changed for Kat in the last few years, the motivation of her craft has stayed the same. “It’s a simple goal, whether through a lyric, a melody or a performance, I just want to make people feel.”
Hamell on Trial
Hamell on Trial
The musical alias of New York-based anti-folk hero Ed Hamell, Hamell on Trial is a one-man punk band that plays loud, fast music informed by politics, passion, energy and intelligence. His caustic tongue and devil-may-care attitude has long been a favorite of anti-establishment musical icons Henry Rollins and Ani DiFranco and the critical elite and incited Rolling Stone to call him “bald, bold and superbad”, describing his signature sound as “attack-dog protest folk and ferocious staccato strumming (think Husker Du on Folkways Records).”
He has been described as “Bill Hicks, Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Strummer all rolled into one” by Philadelphia Weekly and a “one-man Tarantino flick: loud, vicious, luridly hilarious, gleefully and deeply offensive” by the Village Voice.
His ninth album, The Happiest Man In The World, has just been released on the prestigious New West Records. The album sees Hamell still as uncompromising, fearless, insightful, absurd, hysterical and as poignant as he was when he descended upon the music world with his debut 25 years ago. The LP is chock full of Hamell’s biting wit, rapid fire strumming, motor mouth rants, spoken word interludes, genre hopping and comedic one-liners and features collaborations with Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches and longtime friend and mentor Ani DiFranco.
He played Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Hangout Fest and the Voodoo Experience. He performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and toured alongside AC/DC, ZZ Top, Grace Potter, and Kid Rock. His 2010 LP Pardon Me for Atlantic Records with backing band The Northern Lights reached No. 8 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. His songs were featured in such television shows as Boardwalk Empire and Friday Night Lights.
It was everything he thought he’d wanted. It was everything he’d signed up for. But it wasn’t really him.
“I knew what I was getting into,” Tyler says now, removed enough from that whirlwind to have gained some perspective on it. “I knew what would happen when we signed with Atlantic. Then I got over it.”
These days, Tyler really does come off as a changed man – in person and on record alike. He’s more introspective, more focused. His shoulders are less slumped, as if a heavy burden has been lifted. It has: Holy Smokes, his forthcoming third proper LP, finds Tyler shed of major-label constraints, bearing his soul as songwriter who’s seen the top of the mountain and now seeks a different kind of climb, one filled less with flash and more with substance. The album’s an open look into who Tyler is at this very moment – and, most of all, who he feels he’s always really been.
“I’m in this for the long haul,” he says now with certainty -- and Holy Smokes, filled with songs that fill every emotional nook and cranny, very much plays out like a testament to this fact.
A native of Memphis, Joe’s “Memphis Thang” influences are diverse and that diversity is evident in his songwriting. Having been awarded numerous BMI and ASCAP awards, some of Joe’s hits include, "Tough" by Craig Morgan, “Where I’m From” by Jason Michael Carroll, Tim McGraw's "Still" and Steve Holy’s “Love Don’t Run.” Joe also landed the title cut to the Kenny Chesney Platinum release “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” and Clay Walker’s “Jesse James.” The critically acclaimed “Nashville Without You” is on Tim McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom album and Thompson Square released “I Can’t Outrun You.” Among the artists who have recorded Joe's songs include Trace Adkins, Clay Walker, Lee Brice, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Trailer Choir, Halfway To Hazard, Rio Grande, Lisa Brokop, Brian Davis, Thompson Square, Kellie Pickler, Jerrod Niemann, Randy Houser, Gary Allan and others. Joe’s approach to life and the craft of songwriting can be summed up by his own words, “swing hard, you might hit it.”
You don’t have to be around Karyn Williams long before you see that there is one word that describes her: REAL. Her faith, her smile, her heart and her music. “I’m not very good at being anything but exactly who I am,” Karyn laughs. “I was fortunate to grow up with parents who never let me get too far from my roots.” And those roots have always run deep in the soil of faith.
A dynamic woman with a powerful life story, Karyn is the eldest daughter of Orlando Magic Senior Vice President & Founder, Pat Williams. Her international family includes nineteen children, fourteen of which are adopted from all over the world.
After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Karyn felt a calling to head to Nashville to pursue a career in music. “My dad always taught us through his example to be your own person, don’t be afraid to take huge risks, and then trust God with the results.” Armed with nothing more than big dreams, a trusting heart, and unrelenting determination, Karyn took the leap of faith and left home.
In the Fall of 2011, Karyn signed a major label record deal with Inpop Records becoming label mates with the Newsboys, Jaci Velasquez & Matt Kearney, and released her first full length studio album Only You in 2012. Only You is a collection of songs that are more like pages from a diary reflecting on the amazing journey she has been on. Written with some of Nashville’s best songwriters (Sarah Hart, Ben Glover, Brian White, Barry Weeks) it is a project that reflects her heart in every way and the record’s lead single Rest In The Hope spent more than 30 weeks on the charts.
She was chosen as one of Billboard Magazine’s “Best Bets” in 2012 and other gatekeepers have been singing her praises, yet it’s not industry accolades that fuel Williams’ artistry. It’s her desire to encourage people with the good news of God’s grace and mercy. Her unrelenting trust in God provides the foundation for her life and is woven throughout every song she sings. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is write and sing songs that encourage people and share hope. Anyone who knows me knows I’m passionate about Jesus, people & music…in that order!” Karyn laughs. “My prayer every morning when my feet hit the floor is that my words, my music and my life would honor God in every way. That’s all I really care about.”
Karyn has been busy writing and working on her sophomore project "Letting Go Of Perfect" with Nashville hit makers Pete Stewart (Toby Mac, Macklemore, Gramma Train), Brian Bunn (Third Day, DecembeRadio) as well as her husband Brian White, and up & comer Evan Sieling. Her new CD is due out in September of 2015 and includes a duet with fellow CCM artist Danny Gokey.
Never one to sit still for very long, Williams recently wrapped up the filming of her first movie, The Power of the Air set for release in 2016, she made her Grand Ole Opry debut in December 2014 at the historic Ryman Auditorium, and added her vocals to the newly released Third Day album, singing a duet with Mac Powell on Born Again.
In addition to her own artistry, Williams is a gifted songwriter with cuts in the CCM & Country markets, and experienced her first #1 song in 2013 with “He’s Already There” recorded by Darin & Brooke Aldridge. She is a nine-time marathon runner, and is also the author of the highly acclaimed book The Takeaway (HCI 2009) which she co-wrote with her dad.
Karyn currently makes her home in Nashville and is married to award winning songwriter Brian White, best known for penning 14 #1 songs, including the multi-week #1 country hit Watching You recorded by Rodney Atkins.
“A magnificent collection of Americana.”
“Bragg applies her decorous voice to the material she wrote for
“Honey, you ain’t got nothing to say. Go out there and live a little—come back to me in 10 years.”
Those stinging words from a Nashville music executive to wet-behind-the-ears singer-songwriter Mary Bragg years ago couldn’t have stung more. But she took that blow-off advice into a journey that transformed the south Georgia native from pop-country wannabe into the striking, vulnerable voice she wears on her new album,Edge of This Town, drawing comparisons to Americana luminaries Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin.
But her story, and her songs are her own.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but a little rejection was just what I needed,” Bragg said.
Barely out of high school, Bragg spent six months in Nashville as a sprite, eager singer, chasing the dream. Like so many do. Sent on her way to the University of Georgia where she was classically trained in voice, she put Nashville behind her and focused on developing her craft on her own terms. After college, New York became her muse, her trouble, her chaperone. Several years into growing acclaim in Brooklyn’s Americana scene, she attracted overflow crowds for a yearlong residency at New York City’s famed venue The Living Room. She has been honored in the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, and such prestigious songwriting contests as Telluride Troubadour, Kerrville New Folk, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Wildflower Festival, and the International Songwriting Competition.
Now having recently been accepted into the world-renowned circle of songwriters at The Bluebird Cafe after a 60-second audition, and also recently recording aDaytrotter session, Bragg finally has been embraced in Nashville. The 2011 release of her Lee Alexander-produced album Tattoos & Bruises, met with critical acclaim by USA Today, No Depression magazine and others, didn’t hurt.
Bragg recorded the album after winning the inaugural BandPage/Zoo Labs Music Residency Contest, which enabled her to create the album at Zoo Labs Studios in Oakland, California in November 2014. This is Bragg's fourth studio recording and her first since moving to Nashville in December 2013. The Zoo Labs Music Residency is an immersive program that supports entrepreneurial music-making teams in bringing their creative power to their business plans.
Songwriter/Producer Corey Crowder grew up in Loganville, Georgia, and began his musical career as a touring artist. Focusing his early music on TV and film placements, he secured placements on shows like One Tree Hill, The Biggest Loser, and a variety of MTV reality shows. He moved to Nashville in 2010 after signing an artist development and publishing deal. Following years of touring, Corey decided to focus solely on songwriting and production. Since then, he’s had songs recorded by artists such as Chris Young, Eric Paslay, A Thousand Horses, David Nail, Justin Moore, The Cadillac Three, Jon Pardi, James Otto, Jamie Lynn Spears, Kenny Rogers, and more. Corey currently has five singles out at radio with Chris Young’s “I’m Comin’ Over,” Eric Paslay’s “High Class,” A Thousand Horses’ “(This Aint No) Drunk Dial,” James Otto’s “Somewhere Tonight,” and Jess Moskaluke’s “Kiss Me Quiet.” Corey has also produced albums for Chris Young, Jamie Lynn Spears, James Otto, and Jess Moskaluke. Corey continues to have success with film/TV placements with shows like ABC’s Nashville, as well as writing the theme song for CMT’s new hit show Gainesville. Corey is currently a staff writer at Liz Rose Music Publishing in Nashville.
Daphne Willis – “Get It”
“Get It’, the new six-song EP by Nashville-based Daphne Willis is her boldest effort yet as she breaks new ground in the field of Indie-Pop. The EP features the single, “Done with Being Done,” a crossover (pop/rock-rap) hit co-written with Meagan Trainor and produced by Chris Gelbuda.
In June, 2015, Willis was signed to a publishing deal with Sony ATV and has been writing extensively for major artists, films, TV, and commercials. “Get It” is the product of years of co-writing sessions, her most frequently used creative process, and she is among the most sought after co-writers in Nashville.
After recording two albums for Vanguard Records (L.A.), Willis chose the independent route. She has since released a third full-length CD, “Live to Try”, largely co-written with John Oates (Hall & Oates), who also appears on the album and has said:
“Daphne Willis has a voice that you can't deny and will blow your mind...” –John Oates
Born in San Antonio, Willis grew up in Chicago and began singing at a very young age, starting to perform extensively in 2007 while a student at Depaul University. She performs live on a regular basis all over the country, and is a sound you don’t want to miss.
When Derik Hultquist declares, “my life is defined by parallel lines” one is tempted to assume he/she is listening to a road weary troubadour who is reflecting on a long musical journey of one night stands playing for tip jars. While Hultquist certainly hasn’t been exempt from these experiences, the twenty-something is sharing more of his narrative of life, than simply recounting his musical reality. An East Tennessee native, Hultquist has always been drawn to a life equal parts imagined as realized.
After leaving Alcoa, TN he spent time at Kentucky Wesleyan College tending to the business of getting an education and defending the net as goalie for the men’s soccer team. After an injury left him sidelined with too much time on his hands, he fell back into the familiar practice of songwriting, which he had been mining since before high school. The next few years, while waiting on graduation, he spent reinvigorated with the art of the song. Upon graduation, on a whim, he migrated to Nashville. While this might seem like a clichéd, predictable move, Hultquist didn’t show up ‘demo tape in hand’ and start beating on the doors of music row. He decided to make his own path and took on flexible jobs (legislative legal clerk, server, handyman, paperboy, pharmacy tech, valet, and others), which didn’t merit much income, but did allow him time enough to write everyday. He continued making an earnest attempt to craft his songwriting into a symbolic tale of the potential in all of humanity. From this writing spawned the self-released, Anthologies and Blue Blues.
Hultquist eventually did find his way to Carnival Music, a multi-faceted company who has established itself as one of the last holistic breeding grounds of the artist/writer in Nashville. Carnival released two EPs on Hultquist, Whether Report, in early 2012 and Leaning On The Rain, later the same year. These releases revisited a few songs on his previous self-released albums in the hopes of honing in on a definitive sound. “I’m a perfect stranger in a strange place,” he laments on “Cowboy Cliché” a track off of the Whether Report set. With such a simple statement, Hultquist immediately invites the listener to identify with his plight. It’s his subtle reflectiveness that is at the core of these songs.
On his forthcoming release, Mockingbird’s Mouth, due out in February 2014, Hultquist builds on the cerebral nature of Whether Report and Leaning On The Rain almost seamlessly; transitioning from the stark atmospheric nature of the 2012 releases to a blithely journeyman’s account of past, present, and future. The opening track, “For The Good Of The Rose” situates itself exceptionally as the tonesetting cornerstone of the seven-song collection and tempts the listener to ponder what might have been if James Taylor had developed his sound in Laurel Canyon, CA.
While the EP is loaded with imagery of life on the road, sonically, the set explores new territory for Hultquist. The upbeat “Give Me The Highway” beckons one to speculate what country radio might sound like if the ‘powers that be’ were willing to promote a more pensive agenda. The entire album juggles an introspective sentiment with an optimistic attitude, one that is certainly a testament to the values of Hultquist. It only requires a first listen to selections like “Strange Love” and “Stay Young” for one to realize he/she is witnessing a complexity that is created by a marriage eager anticipation and brooding carefulness. Hultquist beautifully assumes the role of storyteller on “#29.” He employs the four-minute vehicle to convey his observations of life, instead of letting it become just another train song.
Hultquist’s work could lead one to draw obvious comparisons to the likes of Jack Kerouac or John Steinbeck. After delving deeper into the crux of Hultquist writing, though, one might shift his/her semblance towards a Langston Hughes or Ernest Hemingway association instead, as witnessed when he closes the new project with his own spin on a love song with “Parallel Lines” and the meditative “Country Song.” In the closing number, when Hultquist asserts, “Questions don’t get clearer, just more often asked. If I knew the future, I’d still want to wait, to see if I use it before the past gets in the way” it unveils the spirit of Mockingbird’s Mouth, an album that summons a deeper examination of the ordinary.
Friends of Lola
Friends of Lola
"Every time I hear Friends of Lola they get awesome...er." - Tammy Ragusa, Country Weekly
Shaking around Nashville is 7- piece country band, Friends of Lola, with front members (siblings) Houston and Cyrena Wages of Memphis, and Tennessee transplant, Gabe Rabben of Laguna Beach, California. Pre FOL, Houston was in Los Angeles pursuing acting, Cyrena was in Nashville attending Belmont University, and Gabe was based in Nashville, touring as the drummer for Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers. When the three landed in the same place for a night in Memphis, with no intention of becoming a band, they wrote their first song in ten minutes. Houston immediately left California and joined the other two in Nashville in late 2012…Thus the birth of Friends of Lola (named after a neighbor's 12 year old dog). They spent two weeks writing their debut EP and self released it shortly after, with Rabben playing every instrument (besides pedal steel.) After almost two years of writing and touring, FOL is currently working on their second project, their first studio EP, in Nashville. Core influences include The Band, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, CCR, Stevie Wonder, Hank Williams Sr., and Fleetwood Mac. With Memphis on the mind, the FOL sound is about bringing a touch of old-school soul and 70's rock to a new country format.
It's not a simple thing to describe exactly what Dylan's music sounds like. Drawing on a diverse musical background you can hear remnants of familiar voices, yet the originality of Dylan's music stands alone.
Dylan's musical journey has led him to many places, both figuratively and musically. Originally playing in his band, In Symmetry, he became a fixture on the vibrant Phoenix art/music scene. In 2010 Dylan relocated to Seattle and performed as a solo artist and in the band Moya. Now based out of Tempe, AZ, Dylan has been performing as a solo artist and touring throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest, as well as opening shows for numerous national acts including Neko Case, JD McPherson, Rhett Miller, Ben Sollee, Matt Pond PA, The Dodos, Horse Feathers, and many others.
Dylan has released two CD's: Lifters & Leaners, and Four Songs. He just finished up his latest project, Beg For Fire, which was released on February 18, 2013. He recently signed with Washington Square Music and is planning a record for 2016.
You thought you heard him on “The Voice.” Get ready to hear the true depth of Geoff McBride as he takes a deeper, more expansive exploration after his Journey To The Soul recording. "Journey to the Soul was a collaboration between myself and Trammell Starks. I stepped away from my desires and allowed the album to dictate the songs. I am very proud of the work, but I am ready for the world to hear Geoff, both the singer and the writer."
Having only returned to singing live professionally a few years ago after some years away from the industry, McBride’s rekindled passion inspired his exciting decision to become a recording artist once again.
With a rich vocal palette that taps as deeply into the church music traditions of his youth as it does the romantic power of legends like Seal, Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye and Al Green, the North Carolina raised, Florida based singer brings his uncanny storytelling ability – in the tradition of another of his heroes, James Taylor – to every performance.
Three and a half years after the powerhouse singer blew away millions of viewers – and judges Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, who quickly swiveled around – with his explosive twist on Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” during the blind auditions phase of NBC’s mega-hit talent competition, McBride continues to deliver on the promise and praise while taking listeners on an adventure that goes beyond strict genre boundaries and showcases the depth of his artistry.
“Though my foundation is in soul music, I am not just a soul singer. I believe that all music transcends labels.” Showcasing a multi-layered sense of artistry that McBride only hinted at on “The Voice,” Geoff's voice speaks to the heart as celebrations of life, love, the human spirit while exploring the inner complexities of our relationships.
Immediately after the singer wrapped “Higher Ground,” Aguilera enthused, “The very first note you hit blew me away!” She also emphasized her amazement at his “amazing level of energy” that brought the audience to its feet. Richie was also dazzled by McBride’s incredible vocal abilities. “When Geoff walked in…BOOM!” Richie exclaimed excitedly. “His delivery was unbelievable. It was not coming out of a microphone. There was no speaker. I love it.” Judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine echoed their colleagues with admiration for McBride after each of his appearances.
If McBride seems very confident, self-assured and seasoned for an emerging talent, it’s because he brings a unique history as a onetime Arista recording artist to the mix. After spending his teens in his small town near Lexington, North Carolina as frontman for the popular Top 40 band Whisper Wind, he was inspired by a performance by the legendary Al Jarreau at a local venue called The Mosque to forgo college and head to Atlanta to pursue a musical career.
A demo he worked on found its way to the brass at numerous labels, and McBride soon had offers for recording deals from Motown, Atlantic and Arista. Signing with Clive Davis’ label, he soon found himself mingling with a roster that included Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Teddy Pendergrass and Lisa Stansfield. He also appeared on the competition juggernaut of its time, “Star Search.” The album he recorded for the label, Do You Still Remember Love? was produced by the late Gerald Levert and spawned the Billboard R&B chart hit “No Sweeter Love.” The singer later began recording a second project in the studio at Eddie Murphy’s Bubble Hill mansion. Ultimately, however, McBride chose to leave Arista when he realized his vision for where he wanted to go as an artist wasn’t matching up to the label’s commitment.
Journey To The Soul was produced by music industry studio veteran, keyboardist and recording artist Trammell Starks. Nearly two decades after they had last worked together, Starks reached out to McBride to sing on his cover version of “Summer Breeze.” Their work on the track, which was released as a single in 2013, led to a deeper collaboration that accelerated with the singer’s appearances on “The Voice.”
The most important change in his life was meeting and marrying Lisa (in 2001) and starting a family. For a few years, Geoff wrote and performed with artists such as Ben Holst, Mark Copeland, John Sussewell, Steve Freeman, Rudy Vaughn and numerous others. A spur of the moment opportunity led them to move their family to the Panhandle in 2006. This unknowingly rekindled his career, especially after a meeting with local artist Tim Jackson and then continuing with collaboration with musicians such as Joey Shaling and Ike Bartley. Since then, he’s performed for locals and tourists alike at popular elite restaurants and clubs along the gorgeous stretch of beaches warmly known as "30A," including regular gigs at the The Hub, The Vue, La Playa, The Ocean Club, 723 Whiskey Bravo and the Old Florida Fish House, plus numerous private and charity events, including appearances with Oscar winning actor Morgan Freeman & award-winning chef Emeril Lagasse..
“Looking back on those early career experimentations,” McBride says, “I was probably more interested in finding myself than the type of music I would eventually claim as my own. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, those years of personal and professional discovery were a necessary part of my growth as an artist that, only now, I find paying off in this season of my career.
My dad passed away when I was very young, and he was a gentle soul who used to sing to my mom in the kitchen. I learned from them about the power of music to heal and inspire as the universal language. My mom passed away last year and her impact in my life has never been more evident than in the path I am taking at this moment. They still inspire me to speak to the world through song.”
Bonnie Bishop's songwriting dream came true in early 2012 when her hero blues legend Bonnie Raitt recorded her song "Not Cause I Wanted To" (co-written with former NRBQ guitarist Big Al Anderson), earning Bishop her first Grammy and putting the Austin, Texas native on the map. Voted Song Of The Year by The New York Times, the song went on to gain national attention for the young artist when Raitt had this to say about her: "Bonnie Bishop is very special - I think she is going to be a big star." In 2013, another of Bishop's songs made its TV debut when the hit show Nashville used "The Best Songs Come From Broken Hearts" for its star character Rayna's comeback performance at the Opry. A self-proclaimed road dog with a signature rasp, Bishop first became well-known for her dynamic live performances, making her living as a full-time touring act for well over a decade in clubs, theaters and festivals across the US and Europe and building a loyal fan base beside Americana greats such as Robert Earl Keen, Paul Thorn, Lee Roy Parnell, and Radney Foster. In 2015, she proved that she was unafraid to reinvent herself with the launch of her brand new original series “Story & Song,” a unique storytelling experience that marries Bishop’s writing voice with her heartfelt songs of redemption and healing. This earned her an invitation to the prestigious MFA Creative Writing program at Sewanee University of the South this past summer, where she is now working towards her master’s degree in Non-Fiction writing and developing a screenplay. As of most recently, Bishop returned to the studio with renowned producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton) to record her sixth album, a soul project. The project will release on Thirty Tigers (RED) in Spring 2016.
If you look up the word “troubadour” Google doesn’t give you a whole lot. There is a reference to medieval times and of course traveling, wandering musicians. But if you want a perfect example of a “modern day troubadour”, you need to look no further than the life and times of the 2012 grand prize winner of the Telluride Troubadour Contest, singer- songwriter Reed Waddle.
In a recent show he said “my life is like a gypsy trucker, traveling wherever my music takes me, writing about what moves me: the people and places I encounter” The Destin, Florida native has made his way across America, calling many stops along the way home. After two years of touring and living in New England, Reed’s path pointed to New York City. He quickly found an ally in British producer lestyn Polson (David Gray, David Bowie). Soon they were hard at work editing and rehearsing with a band of handpicked veterans of the NYC music scene. In late May of 2011, they began recording. The result is a potent blend of Reed’s soaring melodies and the bands’ raw energy that results in his most compelling record yet.
“Each album you make is a snapshot of where you are in your life as an artist and a person. There is an energy you can literally feel when you are in New York City and I wanted that to come through in this record. With the sound of the room and the players I found, I couldn’t be happier. We had a lot of fun making this album, doing things that I wouldn’t normally have done. It was cut live, no excuses…..either play it, or don’t. There was an element of danger, a step outside of what I am familiar with, so I played electric guitar almost exclusively. I am excited for people to hear about where my journey has taken me.”
Reed calls Atlanta, Georgia home these days. Earlier this year, he signed his first publishing deal with Bandwagon Red in Nashville. Lots of miles and songs later, he is quickly making plans to make a new record this year.
Reed has opened for or appeared on stage with Hall and Oates, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Shawn Colvin, The Indigo Girls, Graham Nash, Brett Dennen, Mat Kearney, The All American Rejects, The Punch Brothers, Glen Hansard, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Tim Reynolds (Dave Matthews Band), Katie Hertzig, Shawn Mullins, Ryan Montbleau, Jessie Harris, , Liz Longley, and many others. In June 2012 he performed at the 39th Telluride Blue Grass Festival before his largest audience ever, after winning the Telluride Troubadour Contest. His album “Creatures of the Heart” reached number 22 on the I-Tunes Singer Songwriter charts prior to his national tour opening for NBC’s The Voice winner Javier Colon in March of 2012. His songs “Ready to Run” and “Goodnight Los Angeles” were in rotation on “The Loft” for four months on Sirius Satellite Radio. Reed has co-written with John Oates and performed on stage with him numerous times. Oates sang background vocals on his last album, “Piece by Piece”. He considers Oates a mentor and a strong influence on his career.
From Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts . . . to Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys, Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, and Leona Lewis . . .Over the past decade, Brett James has had more than 400 of his songs recorded by some of the biggest artists in the world.
His songs have appeared on albums with combined sales of over 100 million copies. He has had numerous hit singles including 19 #1's, won a Grammy in 2006 for "Jesus, Take the Wheel", was named ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year in 2006 and again in 2010 and appeared on Billboard magazines' year end top ten country songwriters list 7 of those 10 years.
Brett’s most recent hits are Carrie Underwood’s “Something In The Water”, her duet with Miranda Lambert, “Something Bad”, Brantley Gilbert’s “Bottoms Up” and Dierks Bentley’s “I Hold On”. In the pop world, he also had the Kelly Clarkson single, “Mr. Know It All” which went 6 weeks #1.
As a producer his credits include Taylor Swift, Jessica Simpson, Josh Gracin and Kip Moore. A native of Oklahoma where he spent three years in medical school, Brett now lives in Brentwood, Tennessee with his wife, Sandy, and their four children.
It's a long way from a potato farm in Delaware to the top of the country charts, but Chuck Wicks made the journey, and along the way has become quite the Renaissance man. A gifted singer, songwriter, devoted conservationist, triathlon competitor and acclaimed broadcast personality, Wicks tackles his multiple passions with humor, heart and an impressive work ethic.
As co-host of America’s Morning Show with Blair Garner, Wicks has proven he’s equally skilled on either side of microphone. Whether he’s interviewing one of his country music peers during the popular show or delivering a new song from his upcoming Blaster Records debut, Wicks has earned respect as an impressive communicator and multi-faceted talent. “The days of being one dimensional are over,” he says with a smile. Take opportunity and make opportunity. Why do just one thing if you have opportunities to do something else? Go out and do everything you can do. You only get one shot.”
Armed with an abundance of energy, inquisitive nature and fearless creative streak, Wicks first established himself as a songwriter before making the leap to hit recording artist. He’s penned songs for Frankie Ballard, Steve Holy, the Swon Brothers and Jason Aldean, among others, and he co-wrote all but one song on his 2008 RCA album Starting Now. As an artist, his immediately recognizable voice has propelled such hits as “Stealing Cinderella” and “All I Ever Wanted.”
Wicks has continued to engage fans with such songs as “Salt Life,” a celebration of his favorite way of life that put him in partnership with the popular Salt Life lifestyle brand, and the poignant ballad “Us Again,” a Top 40 single which garnered strong digital sales. Those are two of the many highlights on his Blaster Records debut, Turning Point. “The singer and the songwriter part of me has never left and I’ve always been striving to do it at the highest level,” Wicks says of his commitment to his craft. “It’s exciting to have new music.
“If I had one statement around this new record it’s, ‘Hey, I’m back, but I never really went anywhere.’ This is only my second full-length album. I wanted to write songs that vocally show where I am now because I’m in a different place than I was on the first record. I’ve grown so much as a person and I’ve grown stylistically. I’ve come into a new space and I think this record is going to show that.”
That spirit of growth and change is also what inspired the album’s title. “Opportunities are awesome, but sometimes they can be a little intimidating. And that’s where I felt I was with this record. I had the opportunity to do a lot of different things — all rewarding in their own ways — and all a little scary. I didn’t want to take the safe road, and it was kind of a turning point for me. This record captures that raw emotion, that intimidation, that excitement, and the thrill of the unknown.
The songs on Turning Point range from the moody angst of “She’s Gone” to the playful “Salt Life” and the gorgeous ballad “Always,” sure to be a wedding staple for years to come. “I wrote that song from a very honest place,” he shares. “I didn’t want to get complicated with it and have a lyric that nobody understood and had to look it up in a dictionary. It was like, ‘What would you say if she was standing right in front of you?’”
He also serves up his own rendition of “I Don’t Do Lonely Well,” a Wicks composition that Aldean recorded on his Night Train album. “My version is a lot different than his,” says Wicks, who co-produced his new album with Andy Dodd. “Same lyrics, same melodies in the chorus, but the verses are a little different, a little sparse. It’s a little organic, more vibey. The record I cut on it is a little more laid back. It’s a more intimate setting.”
Wicks developed his passion for music growing up on his family’s 1,500-acre farm in Smyrna, Delaware, where he spent time working in the fields, which included planting 12 acres of pumpkins by hand.
His mom flooded their home with the ’80s sounds of Journey, Chicago and Whitney Houston while his dad introduced him to country by way of their local radio station who had artists like Joe Diffie and Tracy Lawrence on rotation. “When I got into college it was Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, all those guys,” Wicks recalls. “I was a huge fan of Bryan White. That stuff he put out was fantastic, and like the rest of the world, I listened to Garth Brooks.”
Working on his family’s farm instilled in Wicks a strong work ethic that continues to serve him well today as he juggles his recording and broadcasting careers while also training for the Ironman triathlon. “It’s a challenge,” Wicks admits with a grin. “It’s really tough, but I’ve always been an athlete. I went to college and wanted to play baseball. The first Ironman I’m going to do is the 70.3, which is also known as the half Ironman. It starts with a 1.2-mile swim, then you go right into a 56-mile bike ride, and then right into a half marathon. I love being an athlete. I love competition. I love staying in shape. This was the perfect thing for me to push myself.”
An avid outdoorsman, Wicks is involved in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which helps protect and preserve the elk population, and wildlife conservation is one of his passions. Somehow he finds time in his busy life to incorporate all the things that matter most to him, and he’s always striving to improve. “I’ve always been a guy who has never been satisfied,” he confesses. “I’m happy and I get excited when I can look back on stuff and say, ‘That was a cool thing!’ But I always want to be better than yesterday. I always want to write a better song than I did yesterday and I always want to do a better show on America’s Morning Show than I did yesterday. In everything that I do, I want to excel and get better. I just want to keep going. I can’t see myself standing still.”
Kyle LaMonica is an acoustic rock singer songwriter who grew up just west of the beaches of south Walton in Niceville, FL. Since 2002 while majoring in music at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Kyle has been performing as a solo musician throughout the region and especially the local area around Destin, FL. Kyle’s music has a feel similar to that of recently popular rock bands such as Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Guster and David Gray. You can always expect Kyle's music to showcase a major emphasis on his vocal melodies and dynamic acoustic guitar playing. Kyle has released two albums (Matter of Time-2003 and Egoliath-2005) as a member of Free Monica, a band that he co-founded in 2003 with his friend and fellow musician, Ben Friedman. Free Monica continues to perform locally in the Destin and Santa Rosa Beach area each year. Kyle was nominated in 2011 and 2012 for the 30A Hotspot Awards “Hottest Local Musicans/Bands” category. He has also been nominated for the Beachcomber Music Awards in 2012 as Musician of the Year and in 2013 for the Best Solo Artist. This marks the sixth year that Kyle has performed at the 30A Songwriters Festival. You can find out more about Kyle and purchase Free Monica’s album, Egoliath, at the iTunes music store at www.KyleLaMonica.com
In 2013, singer-songwriter Crys Matthews released a five-song EP of love songs called The Izzle Ballads as a wedding present for her wife. The sequel picks up after the honeymoon... literally and figuratively. From death and loss to love and happiness, the unique lens through which Matthews captures life coupled with her sincere storytelling makes The Izzle Ballads, volume II play like a novella you can't put down and can't wait to reread.
Armed with the belief that the personal is political and the political is personal, Crys Matthews bridges the gap between contemporary folk and Americana with simple, honest storytelling. She sings about hope, love, perseverance and justice with an ease and candor that one might expect from a southeastern North Carolinian whose mom happens to be a preacher. Rachel Shatto said it best in the September 2012 issue of Curve magazine: "[Crys Matthews' music] sounds like how a glass of iced tea tastes: familiar, comfortable and refreshing..."
Jemina & Selina
Jemina & Selina
Jemina and Selina Sillanpää, sisters from Finland, are performing at the 30A Songwriters Festival for the second time. They sing and play their original songs and some traditional music with strong emotion and edge. Their music has been influenced by Finnish folk music and gipsy music but also American roots music that they listened to and learned while growing up. They are both strong, soulful singers with captivating stage presence. When they sing harmonies, it’s easy to hear that they have been singing together all their lives. They sing in Finnish, English and Roma language and they both play violin and guitar.
During the last 20 years Jemina and Selina have been performing with their band in Finland and abroad. Jemina and Selina have released many albums. The latest one, ́Rajamailla ́ came out in 2012. The album contains Jemina’s and Selina ́s original songs and it was produced by New York- based Tim Ries (The Rolling Stones). After the album was released, Jemina and Selina toured in Finland, USA and Canada and received great reviews and sold‐out shows.
Jemina also works as an actress and has performed in many Finnish movies and tv‐dramas.
Kentucky native, Alan Rhody is one of that group of noted singer-songwriters who were “Americana” long before the name and genre became official. Tagged “too folky for country” or “too country for pop, rock or adult contemporary” by major labels in 1980 Nashville, he stubbornly kept at it and came to the conclusion that he wasn’t cut out to be a mainstream country artist. What he did become however, is a very respected well-travelled singer-songwriter, who seems to effortlessly command an audiences attention and keep it, with his heart-felt ballads (“The Wind in Her Hair”) and all-out charges into blues-infused rockers (“Trainwreck Of Emotion”). Rhody has continued independently over the last 35 years, doing just that and producing or coproducing 9 solo albums, carving a niche for himself in the folk-americana world, while having over 100 recordings of his songs by other artists, both independent and stellar.
Of late, Alan has been hard at work on his next release, due out in January, 2016. It will be an intimate affair, revealing his most personal side yet, without large production or guests artists (which in the past have included friends, John Prine, John Hartford, Sam Bush, Maura O’Connell and others). Keeping it up close and the songs center stage, with voice, acoustic guitar and occasional harmonies or harmonica. One cool surprise he’s said, will be the original full-length arrangement of his most successful song to date, “I’ll Be True To You,” The Oak Ridge Boys’ first #1 hit from 1978. One of their most requested songs, it still receives regular airplay after 38 years and was recently sung in their honor, as a duet by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood at the Oaks induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October, 2015. But back in 1977, Rhody reluctantly whittled his haunting tale down from a six-minute trilogy to around four minutes, at the request of his publisher. And although the edit paid off big and won him instant respect on Music Row, he figures it’s high time the world heard it as he originally intended.
Staunch Rhody fans and newcomers alike are sure to welcome his next installment from this master storyteller and revered songwriter.
Over the years, Alan has made numerous appearances on TNN and CMT in the U.S. and CBC and CTV in Canada, while touring endlessly. In addition to his own recordings, he’s also written and/or produced projects for The Disney Channel and The Travel Channel.
As a covered songwriter, Alan’s hits include: the aforementioned “I’ll Be True To You” plus “Wild-Eyed Dream” (career-breaking single, Ricky Van Shelton); “Trainwreck Of Emotion,” c/w Jon Vezner, (#1 bluegrass, Del McCoury, also a career-breaking single for Lorrie Morgan); “Christmas To Christmas,” c/w Ron Hellard (Toby Keith /Tanya Tucker / Lee Greenwood) and many others by such artists as George Jones; Suzie Bogguss; Lynn Anderson; Kevin Welch; Don Gibson; Kieran Kane; Michael Martin Murphey; Hoyt Axton; T.G.Sheppard; Atlanta Rhythm Section; David Mallett; Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and John Schneider. And despite the fact that his songs have earned him many Gold and Platinum Record Awards and large esteem, what Alan loves most is “connecting with an audience and having great time!” www.AlanRhody.com
Married songwriting duo Rachel and Stephen Mosley stumbled onto the scene after winning an open mic competition. What started off as a clever way to get out of the house quickly evolved into something much more, and they suddenly found themselves recording their first EP at Zac Brown's Crow's Nest Studio in Atlanta. Since the release of Beneath the Trees and Stars in 2014, they have been busy playing festivals and stages, from the 30A Singer Songwriter Festival to the Wire and Wood Songwriter Festival to the Chastain Amphitheater. Drawing inspiration from over ten years of marriage, a deep spirituality, and the struggles and joys of daily life raising five children, The Mosleys blend their acoustic, country, and folk influences to produce deep, organic songs that resonate with the common thread in us all. They have quickly earned opportunities to share the stage with such talent as Liz Longley, Harpeth Rising, and Air Supply, as well as many others. They continue to refine and hone their style as they prepare to get back in the studio to record a full length album in 2016.
Blue Mother Tupelo
Blue Mother Tupelo
Rising up from the dusty Delta lowlands and muddy bayou banks of Indianola, Mississippi through the bluffs of Memphis to the mountains of east Tennessee, comes the unique Southern Soul sound of Blue Mother Tupelo.
Blue Mother Tupelo's newest album - ONLY SUNSHINE - is fresh, exciting and raw. It's BMT's fourth studio album and was released in 2014. It features 10 original songs including co-writes with the award winning and highly regarded Kim Richey, Will Kimbrough, & Ryan Tyndell. North Mississippi Hill Country, Country-Soul, and raw rootsy Rock & Roll are interwoven throughout. Magnetic, familiar, and brand new, ONLY SUNSHINE is American music that'll pull you in to stomp and sway. It's an album in the truest sense and, from start to finish, it meaningfully flows with life's highs and lows. (ONLY SUNSHINE was announced by Something Else Reviews "S. Victor Aaron's Best of 2014 (Non-Jazz)" alongside new albums by Lucinda Williams, Jack White, Seth Walker, Mingo Fishtrap, Me-Shell Ndegeocello and the Drive-By Truckers!)
Ricky and Micol Davis began their musical life together as (The) Blue Mother Tupelo at an open mic night at Sassy Ann's in Knoxville, Tennessee in the Springtime of 1995. They'd been married almost a year. That night turned into a standing Wednesday night gig for a while and as people heard BMT live, a loyal fanbase began. Over the next couple of years they were graced with the gifts of backing musicians of all kinds sitting-in to jam until settling in as an electric four-some for some time, releasing their 1997 debut album, MY SIDE OF THE ROAD.
Several album releases followed:
LOVE LIVE - 5 SONGS FROM THE ROAD, showcases some live favorites recorded between 2001 and 2006 and highlights BMT's penchant for spontaneous musical flight.
HEAVEN & EARTH, critically and fan acclaimed, was released in 2009 and made waves across Americana & Roots Rock Radio stations worldwide. HEAVEN & EARTH debuted at #2 behind Kris Kristofferson on the EuroAmericana Chart, hit the Top 40 on Americana radio in the USA, and remained in the Top 40 of Roots Music Report's "Roots Rock" Chart for a year.
BMT has shared shows and the stage - at theaters, festivals, juke joints, and venues of every sort - and the studio with many wonderfully gifted and successful recording and touring artists. Currently on tour as a duo, Ricky and Micol are traveling roads across the United States bringing their stomp and sway to music lovers ready for something real, soul-filled, earthy and lifted-up.
Ricky & Micol Davis - Songwriters
Ricky & Micol Davis are a soulful husband-and-wife songwriting team who perform and record as Blue Mother Tupelo. The music they create is full of paint-peeled, timeworn truth that shines with driving melodies and sweet, southern tones. Between their tight harmonies and authentically spun lyrics, the Davises take listeners down dirt roads to swamp land...to places draped in lace, covered in burlap, bathed in sunlight or shadowed by night. It’s Americana roots music that’s as ready for radio as it is for next Friday’s barn dance.
Both Ricky and Micol came by their musical inclinations honestly. Micol, a preacher’s daughter, polished her natural talents as vocalist, pianist and writer in church choirs and the like. Eventually she earned her degree in music from the University of Tennessee and set out to make a living making music.
Ricky’s musical family roots set him on the path at a young age. Inspired by rootsy family jam sessions, he was drumming and strumming by age 7 and playing in just about every kind of band imaginable (marching, concert, jazz, cover) by his teen years. He earned his degree in Recording Industry Management from Middle Tennessee State University and his stripes by forming and playing in a handful of working bands.
Ricky and Micol met in the vibrant music scene in Knoxville, Tennessee. A shared love of music proved to run much deeper; the pair married in 1994 and formed Blue Mother Tupelo a year later. They’ve been making beautiful music together ever since.
Blue Mother Tupelo's sound is a Southern Soul stew with Universal appeal - Mississippi stomp, earthy funk, bittersweet melancholy, sunny soul-rock, Appalachian attitude.
Ricky Davis is endorsed by & endorses National Res-O-Phonic Guitars, GHS Strings, and plays Martin Guitars.
Chris Alvarado is an award-winning singer/songwriter and recording artist who calls the beaches of Santa Rosa Beach his home. This year marks Chris’ 6th appearance at the 30A Songwriters Festival. For the past two years, Chris has been named as a finalist in the Nashville Music City Songwriting Competition. His song “This I Need You To Know” was a finalist in the 2014 American Songwriting Awards and a Semi-finalist in the Unsigned Only Music Competition that same year. In 2013, he was invited to perform at the 40th annual Telluride Bluegrass Music Festival in Colorado where he placed 3rd in the prestigious Telluride Troubadour Competition. In May of 2013, Chris competed in the Wildflower Music Festival's Songwriting Competition in Dallas, Texas and walked away with top honors as the Michael Terry People's Choice Award winner. In 2012, he won the National Recording Academy’s Florida GRAMMY® Showcase in Orlando, FL.
Songs from Chris’ self titled album are featured on Pandora Radio and have seen airplay on national web radio programs such as Indie Castle Radio and The Songwriters Network. He performed on NPR’s nationally broadcast program, “Radio Live” on 2014, and receives regular airplay on NPR radio WUWF. GigDog Radio, the official radio station for the 2016 30ASWF featured Chris on their Best Of 2014 Album. Chris’ newest album, "Home" was released in April of 2013, and is available on iTunes. "Home" has also been made available in a limited edition 150 gram vinyl pressing.
Chris Alvarado isn’t just a singer/songwriter along the beaches of 30A, he also owns and operates Driftwood Guitars®, a boutique handcrafted acoustic guitar company. In 2015 his instruments took 1st prize in Garden & Gun Magazine’s “Made In The South Awards” in the craft category. He has been building his one of a kind guitars for over 8 years now and takes pride in performing his original music on instruments of his own creation.
In an ever-changing and diverse environment such as the music industry, Donnie’s career has been as unique and eclectic as the immense portfolio of songs he has written, performed and produced. Providing audiences with a voice and sound that is soulful, funky and always on point, Sundal creates an infectious blend of enthusiasm that is easily spread throughout the stage and audience regardless of the venue.
After attending Berklee College of Music, Donnie immediately began touring throughout the U.S. and Canada - eventually settling in Destin, Fla., where he opened Neptone Recording Studio in 2006; a full-service music recording and production facility. Upon the establishment of Neptone, Sundal began his current collaboration, Boukou Groove, with New Orleans guitar luminary Derwin “Big D” Perkins. While on tour, sharing stages with the likes of Sam Bush, Col.Bruce Hampton and Junior Marvin of The Wailers, Donnie caught the ear of Moog Music and gained an endorsement in 2010. In 2014, he toured with Boukou Groove on Peter Barakans Live Magic in Japan. The sophomore Cd for Boukou Groove "Let The Groove Ride" was released in Oct 2015, during their Japan tour that included Peter Barakans Live Magic, Live Magic Extra in Matsue and 2 shows at the Blue Note Tokyo.
Currently, Sundal spends splits his time as a producer at Neptone Recording Studio and touring the U.S. in support of Boukou Groove's "A Lil' Boukou in Your Cup.” and "Let The Groove Ride".
Donnie Sundal and Derwin "Big D" Perkins original song "Two To Tango" has had 518,000+ plays on Spotify.
With the lively international release of their debut LP in 2012 “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup” and the 2015 sophomore release "Let The Groove Ride" gives Boukou Groove the ability to maintain a dynamic tour schedule. The band provides audiences with a genre-bending collective, touching on elements of New Orleans style Funk, R&B, Soul and Blues
Founded on the stage at Tipitinas in NOLA in 2010, Boukou Groove is the brainchild of singer/producer Donnie Sundal and New Orleans guitar luminary Derwin “Big D” Perkins. Sundal, sharing stages and recording with the likes of Sam Bush, Col.Bruce Hampton and Junior Marvin of The Wailers, creates an infectious blend of energy and enthusiasm as he showcases his multi-octave ranging vocals while sustaining his brand of lavish Moog bass lines. Big D (Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentleman, Bonnie Raitt and Dr.John) provides his smooth and funky guitar licks largely based on improvisation and feel alone. Together, no matter what the venue, the band provides their distinguishing style and creates a kinetic environment that’s easily spread throughout the audience.
As they continue to refine their unique style and build upon the momentum of the release of “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup" with the 2015 release of "Let The Groove Ride", it promises to be an unprecedented year for the band as they continue to log dates at venues and festivals throughout the globe.
"Together, these guys make some beautiful funky music that gets you feeling like takin’ it easy at the guru café. A favorite song of the band is “A lil’ Boukou in Your Cup.” Listening to the groovy song you’ll agree that as far as funk goes, “[They] got just what you need, too much is never enough.” The music has a great rhythm and flow to it that can really give you a kinetic energy to your day" -Alex Diaz Dec '14 Baconandmusic.com
VIE MAGAZINE DOCUMENTARY: http://youtu.be/bjhhaxq5Txk
Features and Festivals
Soul Bag Magazine 2013 France - included on compilation Cd
Brian Hurst Collection 2013 - UK JazzFm.com
Blues and Soul Magazine 2013- Japan New Orleans Feat. Included on Compilation Cd
Bacon and Music Review : Dec 2014 http://baconandmusic.com/?p=1462
Downtown Crowd Magazine August 2015
LivefoLiveMusic.com Full Length Live Video "Let The Groove Ride" Nov 2015
Spotify.com 2015- Boukou Groove's original "Two To Tango" - "A Lil Boukou In Your Cup" Cd - 516,000+ plays
30A Songwriters Festival 30A Fl 2010 -2015
Bayfest Mobile Al 2013 & 2014
Riverbend Festival Chattanooga Tn 2014
Destin Seafood Festival 2013 2014
Spirit of the Suwannee Disc Jam Series Live Oak Fl 2013
Peter Barakans Live Magic in Japan 2014 and 2015
Blue Note Tokyo 2 Shows Oct 2015
Peter Barakan's Live Magic Extra - Matsue Japan Oct '15
LivefoLiveMusic.com Full Length Live Video "Let The Groove Ride" Nov 2015
Boukou Grooves song "Stay Broke" was voted 2014 Song of The Year by Peter Barakan in Tokyo Japan.
The Blu Jays
The Blu Jays
The Blu Jays consist of three individual talents that come together to form a unique sound that is as varied as those creating it. Husband and wife and mother and daughter create something a little bit country, blues, jazz, and funky rock-n-roll.
Jay Gibson, lead guitar, is a former Army RANGER that has decided to spend his time sharing his songs and music with the world. Since the ripe old age of seven, Jay has been entrenched into the culture of the music world. He found himself at home on stage sharing his love of music with all willing to listen. From being the only white boy in an all African American Band (The Black Joy Band) to being the screaming lead guitar for a blues-funk band (Momma Anim), Jay has done just a little bit of everything. These days, however, Jay enjoys writing his songs at home with his band-mate and wife, Amy Gibson.
Susan McGill is a mother, and now grandmother of two. However, she is not your typical granny—she is a bonafide glam-ma. Born and raised in a small town called New Site, Alabama nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, Susan grew up with music all around her. She was raised on good old country music and Sacred Heart (or shape-note singing). Susan began writing and performing her own music at a very early age. She was not only the "teenage guest" at a ball in Mobile honoring the governor of Alabama, but also a featured guest on the Country Boy Eddie Show. Susan also spent several years in Nashville, Tennessee where she learned a great deal about the country music industry from friends in the famed original “Nashville Cats,” and the cast of Hee Haw. However, she spent several years away from music in order to raise children and have a family. Now, she has decided to step back into the spot light once again. Susan's soulful voice and entrancing lyrics have only grown more poignant with time.
Amy Gibson, daughter of Susan McGill, has of course been immersed in music since the womb. Music came as natural as breathing for a child raised in a home that was constantly full of singing and songwriting. As the great-granddaughter of famed Alabama fiddler, Lewis McGill, it was only natural that Amy take up the violin. Although classically trained, she developed a style of playing that is all her own. Somehow, she bridges the gap between the country influence of her mother and the funky style of her husband, Jay Gibson. In addition to playing the violin, Amy also sings harmony to her mother. As Susan likes to say, she didn't have a back-up singer so she just made one! The blood-harmony of mother and daughter, classical violin, and funky blues guitar makes The Blu Jays truly one of a kind.
Since the inception of the band in 2011, The Blu Jays have played in numerous songwriter competitions and festivals. They are currently working on their second CD with top producers in Dallas, Texas, and have songs optioned by top names in the music business. You can catch The Blu Jays playing along the beautiful, scenic highway 30A most weekends.
From her sweet, sensitive lyrics on love and loss, to her witty and relatable waitressing stories, singer-songwriter Kasey Williams is bound to leave an impression and a smile wherever she goes. The self-taught musician launched a career in the music world just a few years ago writing and recording her debut, self-titled EP, which was released in September 2014.
In January, 2015, her song "Out of Breath" was voted top 20 on Women of Substance radio, and in February she went on to release her newest single, "Kiss Me." "Kiss Me" was a part of her "7 Days of Love," series, a project where Kasey released a new song with a video everyday during the week leading up to Valentine's Day. (www.youtube.com/kaseywilliamsny)
Kasey has recently taken her music on the road and played in a number of venues across the country. From Nashville to New York to California and places between, she has enjoyed traveling and sharing her music and story with audiences everywhere. This is her first time at the 30A Songwriters Festival and she couldn't be more excited for the experience! (www.kaseywilliams.com)
Caroline Cotter’s new album, Dreaming as I Do, received national recognition by reaching #5 on the Folk DJ charts in February 2015, with #2 song of the month, Bella Blue. New York Music Daily calls it “evocative, eclectic northern New England Americana.” With stories about love, adventure, and searching for home, Dreaming as I Do offers an eclectic mix of melodic honesty.
The Maine-based singer-songwriter has lived in and traveled to 28 countries on five continents - this insatiable passion for travel inspires her writing and her performance. In addition to writing songs in English, Caroline sings in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Sanskrit, bringing the world to her audience, connecting across cultures through her music.
With a captivating soprano voice and award-winning songwriting, Caroline’s songs take you from an intimate Parisian salon, through the mountains of Colorado, to the coast of Maine, and into the depths of the human heart.
"Ms. Cotter’s new album is brilliant, the range of styles from a cappella to smooth vocals and jazz, back to folk harmonies – the album never ceases to surprise."
Scott Crompton and John Mark Turner have toured with blues-rock band Blues Old Stand for over 20 years now. Formed in Montgomery, AL, BOS has performed at clubs and festivals across the US and in Europe to crowds both large and intimate. The band has released two albums, and JM Turner released an album of his original tunes in 2010. Crompton founded Blade Studios in Shreveport, LA with partner Brady Blade, a world-class recording facility where the duo are session players and writers. Both artists now reside locally, writing and recording new material and spending as much time on the water as possible.
Since forming The WILDLIFE SPECIALS just prior to the 2013-30a Songwriters Festival, The WILDLIFE SPECIALS have become a 30a stable and also play selective venues across the southeast. On occasion a bass player and drummer creating a formidable acoustic powerhouse, join the duo.
Smokin’ Novas debut album masterfully fuses together the world of Americana, Folk and classic southern rock n' roll, a unique and engaging hybrid of styles that sounds nostalgic and new all at once. “The entire album is rich, full and lush. One that fully activates the senses…” Target Audience Magazine.
The band consists of Andrew Hyra, Brian Bristow and Don McCollister, all veterans of the Atlanta music scene. Prior to forming Smokin’ Novas, Hyra, with Kristian Bush of Sugarland, comprised Atlantic Records recording artist Billy Pilgrim. The duo enjoyed both national and international acclaim and received a four star review in Rolling Stone for their debut album. Bristow was a founding member of regional favorites The Tastemakers and most recently Athens, GA based The Highlanders, which released an all-star laden album in 2010. McCollister is a two-time Grammy® winning producer/engineer who has worked with a roster of artists including Third Day, Sister Hazel and Shawn Mullins to name a few.
All veterans of the stage, their incendiary live performances showcase their unique chemistry and are not to be missed. They are frequently joined by Athens legend and multi-instrumentalist John Keane (REM, Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic). The band is currently recording their follow up to "Smokin' Novas" which is due out in the spring of 2016.
Chely Wright rose to fame as a commercial country singer in the 90’s, having released eight studio albums selling more than 1,000,000 copies in the U.S. and charted more than 15 singles on the Billboard charts. On the strength of her debut album in 1994, the Academy of Country Music named Chely Top New Female Vocalist of 1995. Her first hit came in 1997 with “Shut Up and Drive” followed two years later by her first number one single, “Single White Female” and in 2005, the zeitgeist – capturing hit “The Bumper of My S.U.V.”
In 2010, Chely Wright released her eighth album, “Lifted Off the Ground” produced by Rodney Crowell, revealing a dramatic artistic transformation and emerging as a singer songwriter of the first order. The album would never have come to be were it not for an equally dramatic personal transformation which she candidly and painstakingly documented in a memoir entitled “Like Me” published by Random House the same day. Chely made history by being the first country music star to come out publicly as gay. Wright has cited among her reasons for coming out a concern with bullying and hate crimes toward LGBT people, particularly LGBT youth, and the damage to her life caused by "hiding".
In the midst of a tumultuous political climate about the civil rights of the LGBT community, the 2011 award-winning documentary “Wish Me Away” was released. The critically acclaimed film chronicles Chely Wright’s journey growing up and then moving to Nashville to become a country singer. It portrays her preparing for the day she comes out publically and then depicts the aftermath of her decision.
Chely Wright’s soul-searching has led to many rewards. The LGBT role model serves as the national spokesperson for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and speaks out against school bullying. Wright founded The LIKEME® Organization, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance, resources and education to LGBT individuals and their family & friends. Wright also founded The LIKEME® Lighthouse, an education and community center for gay youth in Kansas City, MO. The Lighthouse recently celebrated its fourth anniversary with a sold out fundraising gala at the Folly Theater featuring Wanda Sykes, Judy Gold, Wendy Liebman and Steve Grand.
Chely Wright is married to activist and author Lauren Blitzer-Wright, who is currently Director of Marketing for Sony Entertainment. As of 2013, the two became parents to twin boys. In December 2014, Wright performed an original Christmas carol at the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the White House lawn in Washington, DC with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.