What is the new magic of music? If you trace the path of a plan back to its beginnings, what do you find? Is it a tree, growing from seed with deep roots planted in fertile soil, branches arcing out in all directions? Or a spark in the dark, an electrical charge? Is it a waterway, with swirling currents raging to create a river? Or is it a snowflake, falling from on high and dropping down to earth with a singular splash?
For Son Little, the genesis of a musical idea -- the magic -- remains largely a mystery. But his kinetic ability to summon that energy all the same, to command it, hold onto it, and set it in motion, is the stuff of alchemy.
"The magic is this well I can draw from; you can't necessarily see it, you just have to believe that it's there," he says. "If you believe, then you can reach your hand down in there and get it wet. But if you don't feel like it's there, it won't be."
Son Little, the singer and songwriter born Aaron Livingston, is the easygoing musical alchemist of our time. He is a conjurer, and much like those of his heroes Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix, his songs are deconstructions of the diaspora of American R & B. Deftly he weaves different eras of the sound -- blues, soul, gospel, rock and roll -- through his own unique vision, never forced, always smooth, each note a tributary on the flowing river of rhythm and blues. The currents empty into an estuary, and into this well water Son dips his bucket -- trusting innately in the magic's existence. And now, with his second full-length album, New Magic, he has delivered a profound statement, a cohesive creation that captures the diverse spirit of American music in a fresh and modern way.
On the heels of his 2015 self-titled debut and the 5-song EP, Songs I Forgot, that came before it, Son Little found his reach steadily growing. His song "Lay Down" had been played over seven million times on Spotify, he had toured the world with artists as diverse as Leon Bridges, Kelis, Mumford & Sons, and Shakey Graves in addition to his own headlining runs, and also became a Grammy Award winning producer, earning a 2016 Best Roots Performance award for his work on Mavis Staples's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." But in the midst of all this success, so too did he find that the window for writing new songs was shrinking. Where his previous releases had been culled from various eras and scattered sessions early in his career, he now craved an opportunity to sit and write a new album in a distinct, unified direction, one that would establish his place in the world of black music. The only problems were: when, and how?
"I was on the road so much and found myself wanting to write, but I couldn't really find time or space to do it in the way I wanted," Son Little says. "I was playing around with beats or messing with chord changes; I had all these little fragments, thinking I would later piece them together. I kept the wheels turning by doing those exercises, but I knew it would feel really luxurious to be able to sit down by myself and write something from scratch. I was really hungry to get in that space and chisel out something new, without being interrupted by sound checks and rides in vans and radio. All that stuff is cool and I was having a blast touring, but a crucial part for me was missing. I wanted the writing to be broken up as little as possible."
In the meantime, all that motion was filling him with both confidence and inspiration for the next step. The limitations he encountered while performing a debut record with so much studio sorcery via a live band onstage each night were influential in terms of how he began thinking about a followup. "I've often been a guy who was somewhat hiding behind the guitar," he says. "Getting used to being out front and exposing the guitar and my voice, and leaving a lot of space in the material, all really inspired me and got the wheels turning for what I would do with the next group of songs."
Sometimes, in order to see the stars, you have to get far away from the city lights. Finally, in the fall of last year, Son Little found himself in such a place, and it was there at the end of a tour in the remote, tropical Northern Territory of Australia that he looked up in the sky and saw the perfect alignment. Benefitting from several hours free on a string of consecutive days as well as the excitement of alien terrain and the inherent magic in a borrowed instrument, he felt things starting to come together.
"The Northern Territory is a place where things are moving a little slower than anywhere else," he says. "There were these big crocodiles and enormous bats, just wild things I'd never seen. I found myself with a few hours to kill a couple days in a row, and I set up in the hotel and just kinda followed the process: I found a rhythmic idea I liked and then sang and played a little guitar over it. Like a tip jar in a cafe that fills up after the first dollar goes in, you need that first little piece to slide into place and then the whole thing comes together. I ran off five songs all in the same day." (Three of those songs, "Kimberly's Mine," Charging Bull," and "Mad About You," would make the album.)
That process to which he refers stems from an experience he encountered while writing a cornerstone of his early material, the soul-scorching, chanty-like "Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches," one of few moments of inspiration he can still visualize. The song came to him while standing in his bedroom; beginning with a couple of words and a tempo, Son Little started to pound his fist on the dresser and made up the song's melody on the spot. "I was banging on the dresser, and then I don't know what happened. There was no melody, no words...and now there is. I know now that if I get part of the melody, a phrase or two, and a tempo, then the rest will follow. So I wanted to follow that pattern for the new songs and let the idea grow from that without worrying about what the production would sound like or which guitar to use. I was more focused on finding the song and the arrangement."
But, as it happened, the guitar seemed to find him, too. "All those songs in Australia were written with one mic and an acoustic left-handed guitar I was playing upside-down," he says. "It was borrowed from the Australian singer Gurrumul, a blind Aboriginal musician with this angelic voice. I needed a guitar and he was nice enough to loan it to me; I took it upstairs and all those songs came out of it. You hear people say guitars have songs in them, and that one certainly did.
Whether or not Son Little was aware at the time of the overt connection to his pair of R & B heroes -- Stevie and Jimi -- that lending presented is unclear. Let's, again, chalk it up to the magic.
"Those two dudes are a little bit alone there; I can't see how there can be a higher level of musical genius after Stevie and Jimi," he says. "I do think of both of them as R & B guys, but neither was trying to contain themselves there in any way. They were letting themselves be influenced by other stuff, be it jazz or Latin music or whatever, but they were just making songs and musically doing what felt good. That's what I wanted to do here. I do see myself that way, in the branches of the R & B river."
(A quick but magical aside: In the winter of 2015, Son found himself invited to a reading a friend was giving at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, the legendary underground recording facility conceived and once owned by Jimi Hendrix himself. After the event he was invited to spin his debut album on the studio's speakers, and while it played an employee asked him if he would like to "see the river" -- a trickling branch of the seldom seen Minetta Creek that runs under parts of Manhattan. "I put my record on -- which was a trip, like I was playing it for Jimi -- and we went back in the corner behind where the amps are set up, and they pulled this panel up, and sure enough, there's running water right under the floor. You can stick your hand in there and get it wet.")
Flowing water is a recurring theme in Son Little's music, in addition to its symbolic inspiration. From his debut's hit "The River" to a lyric in "Mad About You" ("Now you say it's different, baby/ After I took you to the river"), his work tends to be thematically waterlogged. "My well is fed by the different tributaries, the other water sources that pour into it," he says. "When you dip your bucket into it, you're gonna get all kinds of different water. Water behaves that way underground, too; you can dig if you know where it's at, and there are people, like the Aboriginal water diviner, who can find the water. My music has a kind of magic in it, being connected to whatever those forces are."
Having been handed the divining rod in Australia, Son Little was able to connect the dots and finish New Magic by early spring. The trio written Down Under form the heart of the album's vibe, with "Kimberly's Mine" leading the record off with its Old Blues soap-operatic feel, and "Charging Bull"'s funky, fevered groove and the D'Angelo-inspired R & B minimalism of "Mad About You" -- a lovelorn, aching track Son Little claims found itself only when he stripped it down to its barest essentials -- holding anchor in the middle. But the song that serves as the album's true centerpiece is "Blue Magic," a Philly Soul inspired number deconstructed almost like a rap song or the best of production savants like J Dilla, Madlib, and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, complete with chiming glockenspiel bells and old school female backing vocals. With its origins predating the Australia trip, the song has the appeal of an instant classic, a feeling that did not escape its maker, either.
"I knew 'Blue Magic' would be my focal point from the second I made it up," Son Little says. "I was just goofing around before a show -- and I wish I could explain where something like this comes from but I have absolutely no idea -- and I was freestyling with the guitar. The thought occurred to me that people were characterizing my music as this new blues thing, even though I was never exactly trying to heroically 'save the blues' or anything like that, or even put myself in a place where everything had to be bluesy. But suddenly I'm telling you in the song I've got the 'blue magic,' and even though there are things called 'blue magic' I hadn't seen that phrase anywhere or heard anyone say it. But I said it, and then there's a pressure to back it up, to support that claim. I think I'm addicted to that pressure; this thing is hanging in the balance, and the whole thing can go up in smoke if I don't figure this out and put these pieces together in motion. I enjoy the feeling of not knowing what's gonna happen from there; it doesn't always end perfectly but I think you have to resolve that pressure, and not knowing how is really exciting to me. That feeling is somewhat hanging over this whole album: watch me make something out of thin air."
Following that lead are the pair of "Bread and Butter," a playful, modern take on James Brown, and "The Middle," a classic drinking-blues, both deconstructed through a filter of musical Cubism. "ASAP" is Son Little's fiery, direct take on a Hendrix rock and roll song, and "Letter Bound" reminds of a yearning, crooning Bobby Womack joint, with the "little cry" in Son Little's voice, as Mavis Staples calls it, taking the spotlight. The album ends with the ethereal, gospel-tinged number "Demon to the Dark," which serves as the singer's conversation with Washington Phillips, a little known blind musician and church deacon from early in the 20th century whose song "What Are They Doing in Heaven Today" utilized the dulceola, a novelty instrument comprised of two autoharps essentially stuck together. Phillips was a man of strong faith, a deacon in his church, and in his music Son Little found a source of forgiveness as well as an inspiration to carry on. As chiming strains of Omnichord take us out, the electricity in the air is palpable, the belief and trust in the spark at its peak.
What is the new magic? How did that deep well get there in the first place, and what is the source water of all these confluents pouring in? To Son Little, there is an attitude running through his makings and his music, a mighty river of superstition and Spanish castles that runneth over. And despite its murky and mysterious origins, the musician's divination ability is just that -- divine.
"There is this vein of the blues in it, and it can be distilled or boiled down just to the guitar and voice -- or even just the voice," he says. "And that process of me in my bedroom, making 'Your Love' with the dresser as the drum -- I did that same thing as I wrote these songs. It's that same scenario of making something out of nothing. And even if I am capable of doing that, I can't really explain it. That's the gist of the magic. I don't know where it comes from, but it's there, and I can call on it. I can call on it standing by the dresser, walking down the street, driving a car, on a train, a plane, in a hotel room, in the green room, during an interview...it's just there. I'm trying to pay tribute to that fact. It's had a really powerful and in some ways increasingly healing effect on my life. Hopefully other people have that experience with it as well. I'm just happy that it's there, wherever it comes from."
An Intimate Acoustic Evening with Parachute with Special Guest Johnny Balik
An annual project where members of local Pittsburgh bands get together to form one-off super groups and perform as their favorite bands, costumes and all. Featuring tribute sets to Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, INXS, The Smiths
Beats Antique - Shadowbox Fall 2017 Tour with Special Guest ASADI
When the Quebe Sisters from Texas take a stage, and the triple-threat fiddle champions start playing and singing in multi-part close harmony, audiences are usually transfixed, then blown away.
It's partly because the trio's vocal and instrumental performances are authentic all-Americana, all the time, respectful of the artists that inspired them the most.
And whether the Quebes (rhymes with "maybe") are decked out in denims and boots or fashionably dressed to the nines in makeup, skirts and heels, the fresh-faced, clean-cut sisters, all in their 20s, look as good as they sound.
Not surprisingly, the Quebe Sisters win standing ovations at just about every show. It's been that way since 2000, when they started fiddling together as pre-teens.
The sisters' past is as colorful and eventful as their future is bright. Growing up in Burleson, a southern suburb of Fort Worth, Hulda, Sophia and Grace were ages 7, 10 and 12 in 1998 when they attended their first local fiddle competition in nearby Denton, and decided fiddling was what they wanted to do.
The girls earned solo and group accolades early on, winning state and national championships in their respective age groups in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The Quebes' evolution from the whiz-kid Western swing fiddlers they were back then to the smokin'-hot young adult Americana band they are today is a remarkable story, by any measure.
Along with headlining their own shows to ever-growing audiences, they've shared stages with American music legends like Willie Nelson, George Strait, Merle Haggard, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Ray Price, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, Riders in the Sky and many others.
Today, after more than a decade of travelling the U.S. and the world, and recording three acclaimed albums, Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe are pros in a variety of genres, and count many famous musicians among their biggest boosters.
The Quebes' unbridled passion for American music, along with their talent, skills and a lot of hard work, has taken them far beyond their wildest early aspirations.
"One thing is for sure, you don't see a group like the Quebe Sisters come along every day," famed Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs told listeners on his own show on Nashville's WSM. "Give them your undivided attention, and if you're not already, you too, will become a fan."
Race to the Coffin Presents Sean Patton. Hosted by Ed Bailey with guests Joey Marchi and John Dick Winters.
Sean Patton is a comedian based in Los Angeles and New York, by way of New Orleans. He began doing stand-up in the Crescent City and have since performed in comedy clubs across the US and Canada, as well as The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (2011), Just for Laughs Chicago (2013), Just for Laughs Toronto (2013), and Just for Laughs Montreal (2008, 2010, 2012). He's performed on Comedy Centralâs Live at Gotham (2009), Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2010), and Conan (2011, 2013). 2013 also marked the release of his Comedy Central Half Hour. More recently, He's been on @midnight (2014, 2015) and will be on the second seasons of The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail (2015) and This Is Not Happening (2015, 2017), Showtime's Live from SXSW (2017) and TruTv's Comedy Knockout (2016, 2017) As for acting, He's appeared on IFC'S Maron, Comedy Central's Inside Amy Schumer and TruTV's Those who can't.
Those are the things I've done that I'm proud of. For a list of things I've done that I'm not so proud of... yeah right, you ain't never gonna know that! I love what I do, some of you will too (thanks!), and some of you will not (but thanks for coming).
I want to share myself with you, whomever you are.
Girls Guns and Glory with Special Guest Thieves and Lovers
Love and Protest: two concepts that seldom go hand in hand. Until you think about it a while.
That's what singer, guitarist and songwriter Ward Hayden did as he began mapping out plans for Girls Guns & Glory's next album, which happens to be called Love and Protest.
"That title sums up this album and it sums me up very well too," he says. "We've done 10 years of touring, living, learning and growing, maturing and developing a broader world view, a view outside of the small town where I grew up."
That decade began with Hayden and several like-minded musicians getting together. Their love for early rock 'n' roll, true country, raw blues and pretty much any kind of authentic American music branded them quickly as anomalous â and electrifying. Since that time they've barnstormed far beyond their Boston hometown, playing honky-tonks, beer joints and more recently concert venues throughout the U.S. They've amassed a loyal legion of fans along the way. The media have noticed too, including Rolling Stone, which heralds them as a "modern-day Buddy Holly plus Dwight Yoakam divided by the Mavericks."
Now, in this milestone year, with Girls Guns & Glory recording for the first time on its own label, the group has channeled all it's experienced into its most personal and, paradoxically, hardest-rocking release to date.
"Love and Protest is the name of the album because its songs explore the emotion of love," Hayden explains. "And when love is faced with opposition, it's the protest of that emotion. It's alpha and omega â love and protest. There's a lot of ground to cover between those two extremes."
They begin with the album's first single and opening track. "Rock 'n' Roll." With bassist Paul Dilley and drummer Josh Kiggans laying down a no-nonsense, backbeat-driven groove, lead vocalist and guitarist Hayden sings, "I'm a hunter, a collector of things. I keep holding onto bad memories." And yet, when the chorus hits, he proclaims that he's "ready to rock 'n' roll."
Like much of Hayden's work, these lyrics run deeper than they seem at first listen, with a sub current of heartbreak and obsession. "I don't just collect physical trinkets," Hayden notes. "This song is more about experiences and memories, the things you can't see but they stay with you in your head and your heart.
Similar spirits haunt the bitterly self-destructive "Wine Went Bad," the loneliness of "Reno, Nevada" ("I might as well be a world away"), the exquisitely pure honky-tonk lament "Empty Bottles," the painful introspection of "Memories Don't Die" and "Stare at the Darkness," and "Diamondillium," a dystopian meditation shaded by noir guitar and incongruously inspired by an episode of Futurama â really, everything on the album, including its one cover, a resurrection of Gram Parsons' "Hot Burrito No. 1."
"The growth and maturity of Girls Guns & Glory as a band is what led us to take on this song," Hayden says. "Lyrically, I think it's a song that would make Hank Williams proud. Love was, and is, there in the person telling the story, but his love interest has taken the things she's learned from their relationship and moved on to someone else. The storyteller is left to pine over it. It's love and protest exemplified.
To complement the immediacy of Hayden's words, Girls Guns & Glory elected to cut Love and Protest entirely in analog, with Drew Townson, an acknowledged master of that format, recruited to produce with the band.
"There's a nostalgia to working with analog," Hayden says. "There are also limitations â no editing, making sure you don't run out of tape. But those limitations force you to let things go, let things happen. The anxiety begets beauty and makes the band do its best every take, firing on all cylinders and working together as a cohesive unit.
"It's as stripped-down as we've ever been. Even going into it, I didn't imagine it would turn out as pure as it did."
Going back to analog parallels the band's return to its earliest days as an independent act, in control of its career. "This is the first album in eight years where we did everything ourselves," Hayden says. "It's the first album we've co-produced. We don't worry about appeasing a label anymore. We're creating music only for ourselves and our fans."
To illustrate, he points to one track, "Man Wasn't Made," an affirmation that "man wasn't made to just lie down and die," set to a rollicking rockabilly beat and ignited by sparks of steel guitar. "When we were working with a label, they kept telling me that protest songs don't sell so they didn't want to put this kind of cut on a record. Well," he says, smiling, "now we can sneak in a couple of actual protest songs, in a not-so-sly way."
"With this record, we feel almost like a brand new band," he continues. "We take things in a different direction. A lot of that is because a shift has occurred on our tours. We're getting out of the bars and playing more in theaters and listening rooms. Instead of just trying to keep people on the dance floor for three hours, we're crafting songs for people who really like to listen. That's allowed us to dig deeper lyrically, to make more mature music with a higher level of musicianship. We're making the music we want to make. We're not limiting it to any genre in particular. We're willing to do whatever feels right."
"You could say," Hayden concludes, "we're a bigger part of the music itself than we've ever been."
Nothing could be better news for those who have loved Girls Guns & Glory. Nothing can give more hope to all still waiting for their faith in real, honest-to-God American music to be restored.
***SOLD OUT*** Between The Buried and Me - Colors 10 Year Anniversary Tour with Special Guests The Contortionist, Polyphia, Toothgrinder - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
Fans who have been following Charlie Parr through his previous 13 full-length albums and decades of nonstop touring already know that the Duluth-based songwriter has a way of carving a path straight to the gut. On his newest record, Dog, however, he seems to be digging deeper and hitting those nerves quicker than ever before.
"I want my son to have this when I'm gone," Charlie sings not 10 seconds into the opening song on Dog, "Hobo." His voice sounds weary but insistent, his accompaniment sparse and sorrowful. By the second line, the listener has no choice but to be transported on a journey through the burrows of his troubled mind, following him through shadowy twists and turns as he searches for a way out.
It turns out Charlie's been grappling with quite a bit over these past few years. As he prepares to release his new album on Red House Records this fall, he's just as candid about discussing his experiences in
person as he is while singing on the heat-rending Dog.
"I had some really, really bad depression problems over the last couple years," Charlie explains. "I've been trying to get fit, trying not to drink so much, trying not to do the rock 'n' roll guy thing. And then I got depressed. Really depressed. And to me, depression feels like there's me, and then there's this kind of hazy fog of rancid jello all around me, that you can't feel your way out of. And then there's this really, really horrible third thing, this impulsive thing, that doesn't feel like it's me or my depression. It feels like it's coming from outside somewhere. And it's the thing that comes on you all of a sudden, and it's the voice of suicide, it's the voice of âquit.'"
"These songs have all kind of come out of that. Especially songs like âSalt Water' and âDog,' they really came heavily out of just being depressed, and having to say something about it."
Sometimes I'm alright
Other times it's hard to tell
Like finding light in the bottom of the darkest well
- "Sometimes I'm Alright"
In the album's quieter moments, Charlie confronts these issues head-on, using only an acoustic guitar or banjo to light the way. But the incredible thing about Dog is that it digs into dark matter and contemplates serious topics like mental illness and mortality while embracing a pulse of persistence and forward motion; throughout the album, more and more musicians seem to be joining in the fray as the tempo builds, keeping the overall vibe upbeat.
"I was going to do it completely solo," Charlie says. "I was going to go to this barn in Wisconsin, sit there and play my songs. And I was practicing them and I thought, this is devastating. These songs are hard to
hear in this format. I would never be able to listen to them again. And then my friend Tom Herbers, he
saw something was wrong. We talked, booked time at Creation" Audio, and made a plan to flesh out the album with a backing band.
So Charlie called on some longtime friends who he's collaborated with throughout his career: the experimental folk artist Jeff Mitchell, percussionist Mikkel Beckman, harmonica player Dave Hundreiser, and bassist Liz Draper, who traded her typical upright bass in for an electric at Charlie's request. The group found an instant chemistry in the studio, capturing some of the tracks on the first take.
"I wrote all the lyrics on these giant pieces of paper, and I had highlighters, and I assigned them each a color. I was going to be super organized," Charlie remembers. "And then we started playing, and all of a
sudden none of that even mattered. These stupid highlighters, the pieces of paper - I should have just
trusted in the beginning that these friends would know how to take care of my songs."
You claim the bed lifted up off the floor
Well, how do you know I'm not as good as you are? A soul is a soul is a soul is a soul
In the album's more raucous moments, Charlie turns from contemplating his inner struggles to examining his connection to other living creatures. The album's title track, "Dog," and the blistering "Another Dog" were inspired by some of the lessons he's learned from his own pet, and wondering about the way dogs interact with humans and the outside world.
"I have a dog, her name is Ruby but I call her Ruben, and we go for these long, crazy, chaotic walks," Charlie says. "Because I decided a long time ago that I get along really well with this dog, and I was
taking her for walks, and she wanted to go this way, and I wanted to go that way. And then I thought, why
are we going to go this way and not that way? Maybe I should be the one getting walked. Maybe I'll learn something. So I follow the dog."
Despite the album's darker moments, the listener is left hearing Charlie in a more optimistic and defiant headspace, reflecting on how far he's come - and how content he is to accept that some things are simply unknowable.
He was cast by Justin Timberlake to play "the cool guy" in Timberlake's directorial debut.
He finished third on The Voice in 2012, won a record deal in the process, and received more press coverage than any contestant on the show that season... or any season, for that matter.
He made a record with Adam Levine, then toured with Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson.
He was cast on the hit show "Parenthood" playing himself as a rock singer, and performed an original song.
He even starred in an Aaron Spelling prime-time drama and dated Keri Russell for years, winding up in countless gossip mags.
His name is Tony Lucca.
So why isn't he a household name? Maybe he simply hadn't made the right record before.
This time, Lucca believes he has. It's his 8th full-length studio album, his first self-titled release, and first entirely self-produced effort.
"We went in with the intention of making a record that was as live-sounding as possible. I wanted to close my eyes and be able to visualize the players in the room or up on the stage, actually playing the songs together. One guitar over here, the other guy over there, bass, drums, some keys? I mean, that's the rock-n-roll I fell in love with when I was a kid." Lucca pulls inspiration from the heroes he heard on the radio growing up, from Tom Petty, Billy Squier to AC/DC's Angus Young, tapping into a sense of timelessness he places somewhere between The Black Crowes and the Black Keys.
Each of the 12 songs on "Tony Lucca" are deeply personal. The record kicks off with "Old Girl," Lucca's rebuff to the music business treadmill. On the upbeat "Imagination", Lucca recalls the evening where he met his wife... to the best of his ability. Lucca's fans will enjoy the diverse sonic quality of four of his trademark ballads -- the epic and sweeping piano-driven "North Star", the optimistic "Smoke 'Em", the push and pull of love lost and found in "Right On Time", and the sweet album closer that bares his daughter's name, "Sparrow."
Funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign (one that hit its $25K funding goal just inside of 30 hours), Lucca feels strongly that his fans stepped up so that he could make the best record he possibly could -- one he could finally feel comfortable releasing with his own name as the title. To that point, Lucca says "this record is pure. And honest. And hopefully completely refreshing to its listeners."
Tony Lucca was born on the outskirts of Detroit on the heels of Motown's heyday, raised within the loving confines of an enormous family of musicians; his mom was the 10th of 12 kids who all sang and played. At the ripe old age of 12, Tony had his first paying gig as a musician at a Jr. High School dance and by the age of 15, he parlayed his childhood rock-n-roll fantasy into a legitimate career, getting cast among an extraordinary group of newcomers on The All New Mickey Mouse Club, along with Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling and Britney Spears.
Shortly after graduating high school, Lucca wound up in LA and embarked upon an independent recording career that would span over 20 years. Along the way he's toured with artists as colossal as Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, *NSYNC and Marc Anthony, as well as several of his fellow Hotel Cafe kin including Josh Kelley, Sara Bareilles, Joey Ryan (Milk Carton Kids), Gabe Dixon and Andrew Belle. Lucca won the LA Music Award for best male singer/songwriter in 2001 and appeared numerous times on Last Call with Carson Daly, as well as The Wayne Brady Show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Also in 2013, Lucca was the sole entertainment for FOX's NFL Thanksgiving Day telecast for the Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers game.
âI spend a lot of my time waiting,â Derik Hultquist says. âWaiting on life, waiting on a word, waiting on women. Waiting on myself. There is something I want to accessÂÂ. Iâm trying to find poetry, and the only way I know how to do it is to just be as honest and patient as possible.â He pauses, then adds dryly, âAnd tell a couple of jokes.â
Biding time and searching for answers often conjure up of images of sparsenessââlong, barren stretches in between key moments. But on his new album Southern Iron (Carnival Music), Hultquist offers rich portraits of reflection, anticipation, and stillness via lush rock-and-roll that suggest waiting isnât a mere segue: itâs living.
Hultquist grew up just south of Knoxville in Alcoa, Tennessee, a small town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. He taught himself to play guitar on his dadâs old instrumentâââIt was just the worst guitar,â Hultquist characteristically deadpans in his East Tennessee drawl. âWhen I first started playing, you could only make a couple of chords on it. So I had to just write my own songs from the get-go.â
The remark is signature Hultquist: part self-deprecating wit, part sincere observation about the power of working with what youâve got.
Hultquist attended Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he served as goalie for the menâs soccer team. When he headed to Nashville after graduation almost a decade ago, the move was not spurred by a conscious decision to pursue music professionally. He wasnât interested in joining the storied ranks of staff writers who create hits for the cityâs mainstream country music machine, but he did want to develop the sounds and lyrics that had always busied his mind. âIâve sung my whole life. I think I wrote my first song when I was in middle school,â he says. âIt just seemed like the natural thing to do.â
So Hultquist took flexible jobs ranging from pharmacy tech to valet and focused on finding his voice. He has since released three EPs via Carnival Music and Recording Company, his longtime home. His most recent EP, 2014âs well-received Mockingbirdâs Mouth, earned him widespread attention and opening slots for complementary heavy hitters including Sturgill Simpson. Produced by Frank Liddell and Eric Masse, Southern Iron is Hultquistâs first full-length album, and a highly anticipated deeper, longer listen to an artist who, up until now, has primarily offered intriguing snapshots.
âI didnât find my singing voice until my early 20s,â Hultquist says. âBefore that, I would just sing like everybody, whoever I was trying to imitate.â Itâs easy to imagine him playing the chameleon, channeling neo-soul singers and post-punk heroes before relaxing into himself. âNow my voice comes out of the songs I write. Thatâs the best way I know to explain it,â he says. âI just try to find the most earnest way I can to sing.â Honesty sounds good on him: Hultquistâs mellow tenor is easy but plush, forgoing flash in favor of subtlety. Thatâs not to say he doesnât enjoy the occasional surprise attack, carried out via moody escalations and gravelly, provocative whispers.
Southern Iron flirts with psychedelic and roots rock without committing, carving out its own robust pop soundscape. Hultquist wrote all but one of the albumâs songs alone, and the result captures a songwriter wholly comfortable with his calling, more drawn to evocation than linear narrative. âIâm very interested in what a song can do,â he says. âOften, I think a song hasnât achieved its full potential. Iâm trying to find that balance between creating a song thatâs important and compelling to listen to.â
First track âDarkside of Townâ sets the bar high, illustrating just how good Hultquist is at balancing substance and a hook. The song combines crunchy guitar with a rumbling meditation on knowledge, faith, and acceptance. âA lot of what we do here on this planet of ours is just like groping through the dark,â Hultquist says. âYouâre trying to figure it out and take the good with the bad. And there is not necessarily any balanceââpeople often think thereâs got to be good and evil in equal parts. But itâs just life. It doesnât need to mean anything. It is how it is, and that should be powerful enough.â
The idea that lifeâs power is derived from its existence instead of our interpretation of it fuels much of the album. While thatâs heady stuff, Hultquist proves that life for the sake of life is also a formula for a good time: rollicking â1983â and âRacing to a Red Lightâââthe second of which is the only co-written song on the albumââdare listeners to try not to dance.
The gorgeous âStrangeness of the Vineâ contemplates being single againâââbeing re-released into the wild,â Hultquist jokes. He tackles love honestly, refusing to let anyoneââincluding himselfââoff the hook. âThey say no one ever does, that only fools fall down and get back up / so I made fools of both of us, cause I keep falling out of love,â he sings sadly in âFalling Out of Love,â while in âBack When I was Young,â Hultquist goes toe-to-toe with the memories weâll never be able to shake.
âOne Horse Townâ explores the ways in which place defines and even limits us. Hultquist wrote the song with Nashville in mind. âI keep toughing it out,â he says. âIâve had some thin years, and maybe more to come. But I made up my mind that I was going to do this, and I do feel I have a place here.â
Haunting album closer âAmerican Highwayâ leaves listeners contemplating awareness and escape routes. âStuck out on the American highway / with a capo on my vein / Now I think Iâm only hiding, right here in the light of day,â Hultquist sings, his voice echoed by a chorus of strings. âYou canât really think out there, driving,â he says. âThe movement itself kind of pulls you into thinking youâre being active. Itâs like a Cormac McCarthy novel. There is no end to foreverââyou just keep going and going.â Hultquist reveals that on the road, lulled into numbness masquerading as action, itâs easy to hide not just from others, but also from yourself.
In the end, Hultquist has plenty of questions. But while he is constantly reaching for the wisdom to know when to wait and when to act, he is far from lost. âI know a few things,â he says. âI know that beautiful things are worth noticing. Youâve got to be kind, for the most part. And you never know whatâs going to happen.â
Melodime's music merges a slight country twang with rock and roll, successfully blending stunning piano melodies with catchy guitar riffs and sing-along choruses.
Melodime, featuring Brad Rhodes (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Sammy Duis (piano, organ, bass), Tyler Duis (drums), and Jon Wiley (guitar, mandolin, dobro, bg vocals), has performed 125+ shows annually throughout the continental United States, sharing the stage with such well-known acts as Sam Hunt, Jonny Lang, A Thousand Horses, and Sister Hazel. The band has also left its mark internationally with performances in Mexico, Canada, and Europe, all while founding and running a charity, âNow I Play Along Too,â which provides musical instruments and lessons to underprivileged children in the DC area, Florida and Haiti. The band is quickly becoming a fan-favorite in the festival scene, playing four consecutive Rock Boat cruises, as well as Musikfest, Herndon Festival and other events. Around their hometown of Northern Virginia, the group has performed at such popular venues as The Hamilton, The State Theatre, and 9:30 Club.
Melodime's latest single, "Little Thing Called Love,â has received a great response from both fans and critics alike. The Boot describe the track as "catchy, lyrically strong - and perfect to listen to with the windows down during the summertime months," while Tune Collective describes the track as a âfun song bursting with vibrant uplifting energy." Kings of A&R featured the band as a buzzing act, and The Washington Post noted "It doesnât pay for those who want to say âI saw them way back whenâ to procrastinate." Melodimeâs previous albums were recorded with platinum-selling producers, including Where the Sinners & the Saints Collide with Rick Beato (Parmalee, NeedToBreathe), and 3 Reasons For Fighting with Jim Ebert (Butch Walker, Cowboy Mouth).
The Devil Wears Prada â No Sun/No Moon Tour with Special Guests Veil of Maya, Silent Planet, Thousand Below
Ian Abramson is from Moreno Valley, California, where he learned to walk, read, and drive, but not in that order. He studied theater at California State University Channel Islands, which isn't on an island, but has been converted from an old mental hospital, so it's isolated in its own way. While at school he took as many performance and writing classes as he could and after trying stand-up at a couple of campus open mics, he decided to start writing comedy. When he finished school, he briefly lived in Orange County, doing stand-up, and preparing to move to Chicago, where he felt he'd get the best training to begin his career.
When he moved to Chicago, he began taking improv classes at The Second City and iO Theatre, as well as continuing to do stand-up regularly. He also began co-creating web series for Tom Snyder of Dr. Katz fame, making over 50 weekly episodes total over the course of a year and a half. He flew out to Boston to provide a voice over for an episode of Tom Snyder's "Explosion Bus," featured alongside Daryl Hall of "Hall and Oates." After about eight months in Chicago Ian decided to focus on stand-up over improv as he liked the process of writing and refining live comedy. His stand-up has evolved into a mix of precise wordplay, longer emotionally absurd jokes, and larger conceptual pieces. He is also known for producing events he insists are not comedy shows such as "A Funeral for a Prop Comic," and "A Court Case for a Young Comedian" and is a regular contributor for "the Onion."
In the past year Ian has performed at the Oddball Comedy Festival, UP Comedy Club, Milwaukee's Comedy Cafe, The Lincoln Lodge and even recently brought his show "Seven Minutes in Purgatory" to Atlanta's Laughing Skull. "Seven Minutes in Purgatory" is a show where comedians perform to a camera in one room while the audience watches in another room so that the comedians have no idea how they are doing. Because of shows like this, as well as his approach to stand-up, Ian was recently named the "Best Experimental Comedian" by Chicago magazine, which also listed him as one of the "16 Comedians You Should See This Fall" in a different article. Ian, along with his experimental comedy, will be relocating to Los Angeles this winter.
(Early Show) Alex Cameron with Special guest Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders
It's 2016, and it's time for Alex Cameron. Entertainer. Showman. Shaman. Cameron and his business partner / saxophonist, Roy Molloy, hit the road with a live show full of celebration, jubilance and industry know how. Described by Clash Magazine as 'Sydney's most literate song writer', Cameron knows what he is doing, and the creative juggernauts of the international music industry are taking notice. So much so that Jonathan Rado of Foxygen described the first Cameron performance he saw as âone of the most memorable, moving concerts I have or will ever witness', and music icon Henry Rollins described Cameron as being âright out of a David Lynch hell dream!'
You don't want to miss this. Tune in.
***SOLD OUT*** Oh Wonder: Ultralife Tour with Special Guests Jaymes Young - Presented by Opus One & PromoWest North Shore
"From a very young age, I just knew that I was gonna spend my life making music," Sean McConnell states. "I never really questioned it, so I just forged ahead and didn't let anything stop me."
Although his self-titled new Rounder album will serve as his introduction to many listeners, the personable young artist is actually a seasoned, distinctive songwriter and an experienced performer with a quartet of D.I.Y. indie releases to his credit. Having built a substantial grass-roots fan base through tireless touring and old-fashioned hard work, McConnell is primed for a mainstream breakthrough.
Sean McConnell demonstrates exactly why McConnell has already won such a devoted audience. He writes vivid, forthright, effortlessly catchy songs whose incisive melodic craft is matched by their resonant emotional insight. Such instantly memorable tunes as "Holy Days," "Beautiful Rose," "Bottom of the Sea" and "Best We've Ever Been" are both catchy and personally charged, conveying an unmistakable sense of personal experience while exploring universal truths.
"This record's a bit of a step for me," McConnell asserts. "It's a real storyteller record, and it's pretty autobiographical. I'm learning how to be more honest and understated in my writing, and I wanted to match that sonically and vocally. When I look at this collection of songs, I see a lot of nostalgia, and looking back on sacred moments. I'm kind of nostalgic and reflective by nature."
McConnell recorded the album in his adopted hometown of Nashville with producers Jason Lehning and Ian Fitchuk, who also contributed keyboards and drums, respectively. The recording took place prior to McConnell signing with Rounder, with the artist financing the sessions himself.
"This project started," he explains, "when I went to a cabin by myself for a week, with the intention of writing some songs. In that week, I wrote about half of the songs on the record, and I could see the thread of what this record was gonna be. That was exciting for me, because it normally takes me a year to find an album's worth of songs that belong together. The whole recording process was really fun and liberating, and the energy in the studio was really positive."
Songwriting and music-making have been a part of Sean McConnell's life for as long as he can remember. "My mom was a singer and my dad was a guitar player and songwriter," he notes. "They'd play in coffeehouses and I'd go along and watch them perform, and seeing that lifestyle showed me that music was an option. And seeing my dad painstakingly writing songs had a huge influence on me, and gave me license to feel like I could enter into that world."
By the age of ten, he had become proficient on guitar and was writing his first songs. "I fell in love with the instrument first," McConnell recalls. "Learning guitar gave me a feeling of uncharted territory laid out in front of me. And as I got better on guitar, the songs started to come naturally. At around the same time, we moved from Massachusetts to Georgia, and the first song I wrote was about the feeling of leaving the familiar and feeling lost in a new place. Music gave me a focus and became an emotional outlet for me."
His supportive family background helped to instill the confidence and drive to pursue his muse early on. "I started playing in middle school, doing any gig I could get just to get my chops up," he says. "By high school, I would be doing local gigs and really promoting them, bringing out a couple hundred kids to my shows a few times a month and starting to make a decent living at it. That made me think that maybe I could do this in other towns. So I started traveling around the southeast a little bit, and there was always enough progress to take things to the next level. While I was in college, I did a lot of college touring, just me driving all over the United States in a Toyota Corolla. It was hard work, but it showed me that I could do it."
McConnell was just 15 when he self-released his first album, Faces, in 2000. Followed by 2001's Here In The Lost and Found, 2004's 200 Orange Street, 2006's Cold Black Sky, 2007's Tell The Truth, 2008's The Walk Around EP, 2010's Saints, Thieves and Liars, 2012's Midland and the 2014 EP The B Side Session.
"I had a guitar teacher in Atlanta who had a home studio, and he was the first one to say 'Hey, you should make a record,'" he says. "If I go back and listen to that first record now, the songs are kind of crude, but at the same time there's a directness about them that I like. My writing has evolved since then, but at the same time I've tried to hold on to some of that directness."
"I'm really attracted to songwriters who just put it out there honestly, and I feel like I'm getting back to basics and expressing things in a simple, direct way on the new album," he continues. "I'm just trying to learn how to be a more honest storyteller, trying to get my mind in a place where I'm not actually thinking and the music's just kind of happening naturally. When I read interviews with songwriters that I admire, they always say that the best songs are the ones that just kind of happen, like they're operating from the unconscious. That's a place I want to get to."
Having spent much of his life honing his craft and paying his dues, Sean McConnell is eager to launch the next chapter of his career.
"I kind of feel like I've been in a really long boot camp," he concludes. "I'm really grateful for that, because I feel like I've gained enough experience to know the deal and be prepared for anything. I'm excited to see where the next part of the journey takes me."
Broken Social Scene - Hug Of Thunder Tour with Special Guest Frightened Rabbit