folk

Blue Eyed Bettys: From Theater Stages to Bandstands

Venues & Businesses
Hangar 9


Who: Blue Eyed Bettys
What: indie-folk-pop
Where:
When: 2017-06-23
The Blue Eyed Bettys bring a blend of indie rock, folk, and bluegrass Friday, June 23 to the Hangar
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

The Blue Eyed Bettys bring a blend of indie rock, folk, and bluegrass Friday, June 23 to the Hangar 9 and Saturday, June 24 to John Brown’s on the Square in Marion.

Featuring Daniel Emond on banjo, Sarah Hund on fiddle, and Ben Mackel on guitar, the group of singers and storytellers from the Sunshine State sends waves through three-part harmonies in each tune.

For more information, check out <http://www.TheBlueEyedBettys.com>.

 

Nightlife talked with Hund about going from performing on stage as thespians to rocking on stage as bandmates, not staying in the confines of music genres, and returning to Southern Illinois.

It’s fascinating that you all met while acting in a play. How long have you been playing together?

We’ve been playing and singing together for about three years. We met doing a new play called Poems, Prayers, and Promises at the Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in 2014. It had a lot of songs by American songwriters of the sixties and seventies, like Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and the like.

Though we all lived in [New York City] at the time, we had never met each other. We all hit it off right away, and we started hanging out and playing music during our off-time. Before long, we were writing songs together and playing open-mic nights in Sarasota. We all had to get back to New York City after the production ended, so we decided to tour our way back, playing shows along the way. And now it seems we just can’t stop touring!

When did you first know that you wanted to pursue a career in music?

I think all three of us decided to pursue acting at first. But we’ve all been drawn to music throughout our lives. When I was ten years old, I asked my parents for a violin for Christmas. They were a bit surprised, as no one in my family was particularly musical at the time, but they decided to rent a violin for three months, wrap it up, and put it under the tree. I’m so glad they did! I’ve been playing ever since. And as an adult, I’ve found that there are a lot more acting jobs out there if you can play an instrument or two.

What are you guys working on now? Any recording projects? Plans for the summer?

We’re in the midst of recording a new original album. We’ve recorded five songs so far, and we’re hoping to lay down another six or seven over the summer. We’ll be back in Sarasota for five weeks this summer— the same theater where we met has hired us as part of their summer cabaret series. We’re hoping to have some time to write and record some new tunes while we’re there.

How would you describe your sound?

Gahhh— don’t put us into a box! Ha!

We describe ourselves as a harmony-driven string band. We’re sort of indie-folk-pop, I suppose. We are heavily influenced by bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but, you know, we play banjo, fiddle, and guitar. And we sing a lot of three-part harmony.

What goes through your mind while you are performing?

Because we are all actors by profession, I suppose we think a lot about the words we are singing. And I love looking at the audience, too, to see how they’re taking it all in.

What would you like to accomplish with this band?

I’m very much looking forward to writing more together. I think the songs we write together are some of our best.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

We can’t wait to play Southern Illinois again! We had a blast the last time we played John Brown’s, and Hangar 9 looks like a very cool spot. I grew up in Saint Louis, so it always feels more like home when we play nearby. I love seeing those Cardinals hats!

who: Blue Eyed Bettys

what: indie-folk-pop

where: Hangar 9

when: Friday, June 23

Chicago Farmer Returns, Harvesting Midwest Side Stories

Venues & Businesses
Hangar 9

More Articles
Chicago Farmer: Arriving South from Backenforth, Illinois
Chicago Farmer: Bringing Somethin' Else to Southern Illinois


Who: Chicago Farmer / Gentle Ben
What: CD release party (folk) / jazz, Americana
Where:
When: 2016-11-05
Chicago Farmer will perform Saturday, November 5 at the Hangar 9 with local heavy hitters Gentle Ben
Brett Haynes
Video Comentary

Chicago Farmer will perform Saturday, November 5 at the Hangar 9 with local heavy hitters Gentle Ben.

Chicago Farmer, also known as Cody Diekhoff, has been a staple in the Midwest folk scene for more than a decade. His music can be described as Dylan-esque singer/songwriter story-folk for a new era. His recordings and performances are heartfelt, honest, and engaging. Diekhoff’s relentless touring schedule and honest music continues to amass countless loyal fans.

He is on tour to support his eighth album, Midwest Side Stories. The full-length album is ten tracks long and is available online as well as at his shows. It’s a fantastic followup to Backenforth, Illinois, and should please fans old and new alike.

According to his press bio, Diekhoff coproduced Midwest Side Stories with engineer Chris Harden at I.V. Labs Studios in Chicago, Illinois. Harden also played glockenspiel and sang vocal harmonies on select tracks. Others on the album include vocalist and guitarist Ernie Hendrickson, drummer Darren Garvey, and vocalist Heather Horton. Find out more at <http://www.ChicagoFarmer.com>.

Gentle Ben will warm up at the Hangar. This local Americana jazz supergroup is made up of Ben West on mouth and guitar, Mike Lighty on guitar, Ryan Martini on bass, Evan Sims on ukulele, Nicole Szczpanik on percussion, Alex Pape on accordion, and Stefan Santiago on violin.

Nightlife caught up with Diekhoff to chat about the album and such.­­ Dig.

How does Midwest Side Stories differ from your previous albums?

While the previous albums have had more of a rootsy and bluegrass feel, Midwest Side Stories is a bit more aggressive and in-your-face. I reflected a lot

of my frustrations in this album, ranging from politics to social issues. I haven’t really felt or performed with this much angst in awhile, but I couldn’t

ignore those feelings any longer about what was going on in my world and the world around me.

How has touring been going? Are there any highlights we should know about? How has the reception for the new album been?

My last album, Backenforth, Illinois, really put me on the map as a songwriter. There was definitely some pressure living up to that album. I knew that, but I refuse to make an album that sounded like the one before. I think the fans realize and appreciate that. I’ve been touring hard since the release on September 29 throughout the Midwest and as far as Colorado. Sharing the Midwest Side Stories is a thrill, and I appreciate everyone who has pulled up a chair to

give it a listen.

What are some of the themes on Midwest Side Stories?

Midwest Side Stories is about hope, depression, job loss, meth, skateboards, a divided nation, used cars, the late shift, farms, factories, the destruction of our environment, and still being around to sing about it.

Do you have a favorite track on the album? If so, why?

I think “Umbrella,” the very first track, is probably my favorite. Playing music and writing songs has been very therapeutic for me over the years:

“I arrived here, kicking and screaming the day that I took the stage

I went searching for some kind of meaning, like words looking for a page.

Came up empty and full of worry that nothing could cover the pain,

Then these songs and stories began unfolding like an umbrella in the rain.”

In my darkest of hours, songs and stories have been a light. This song represents that, and it’s also a tribute to some of my heroes and favorite

songwriters— one of them being Guy Clark, who passed away earlier this year.

who: Chicago Farmer / Gentle Ben

what: CD release party (folk) / jazz, Americana

where: Hangar 9

 

when: Saturday, November 5

Ethan Stephenson: Carbondale Newcomer Finds a Home

Venues & Businesses
Newell House


Who: Ethan Stephenson
What: acoustic rock, singer / songwriter
Where:
When: 2016-02-05
Singer/songwriter Ethan Stephenson will appear in a series of live performances on the first and thi
Alex Kirt
Video Comentary

Singer/songwriter Ethan Stephenson will appear in a series of live performances on the first and third Fridays in the months of February, March, and April at the Newell House’s Grotto Lounge. Stephenson, currently a doctoral student in the SIU English Department, is a newcomer to the Carbondale music scene. Originally from Petersburg, Illinois, a town located north of Springfield, he completed his undergraduate degree at Eastern Illinois University in 2013, after which he completed his master degree in Greeley at the University of Northern Colorado in 2015.

Although he has only been in Carbondale for a short time, Stephenson has already begun making connections with some of the area’s resident musicians. “I really enjoy playing with Nate Graham and Gray Whaley,” Stephenson told Nightlife, “but I have also had the privilege of recently opening for Honey and Tar, Katie Foley’s new project, and for the Jenny Johnson Band, the former at Brews Brother’s Tap [Room] in Murphysboro and the latter at Hangar 9 in Carbondale. Nate Graham and Gray Whaley have been two of my favorite to perform with. Nate is a jack-of-all trades musician and Gray is a solid lead guitar player. Both I enjoy playing with, as it is always nice to have competent musicians around me who can add different dimensions to my music and my set.”

Aaron Chapman, a manager at the Grotto Lounge, heard Stephenson perform and came up with the idea of having him appear at the Grotto on a regular basis during the course of the next semester. “The Grotto Lounge has featured wine and appetizer specials on Friday nights since we took over the business in 2012,” Chapman explained, “and our intention is to complement them by capturing a solo acoustic winery-performance vibe. As far as music venues are concerned, we feel that the Grotto offers one of the most relaxing environments in Southern Illinois. During the winter months, when the wineries aren’t in full swing, that can be very hard to come by. My business partner and I had been kicking around this idea for a while when Ethan moved to town and started playing open mics. After seeing him perform, we decided that he would be a great fit.”

Stephenson elaborated on the concept, saying that “Currently, Aaron Chapman has asked me to play the first and third Friday of each month on a trial basis for the month of February and potentially into the spring. The gig is a pretty standard three-hour set from roughly 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday nights. I played at the Grotto on and off during the fall semester and am excited to get this regular gig.... This standing gig was Aaron’s brainchild, in which he was gracious enough to involve me. He and I both feel that, while the Grotto is known for its wonderful jazz night, a singer/songwriter program would also work well with the clientele and the venue, which is perfect for the kind of low-key music I play.”

Stephenson’s style is largely based in the singer/songwriter traditions of Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, and Townes Van Zandt, with a mellow musical sound and contemplative lyrics. “[My] other influences are Texas singer/songwriters such as Nanci Griffith and Tom Russell, Illinois bands such as Wilco, and I have recently been quite fond of Jason Isbell’s music,” Stephenson said. “My earliest experience with music, however, was with the Beatles and other sixties AM [radio] hits. I, in fact, have an album on iTunes with the band WhoKnew— my high-school band— that demonstrates the strong sixties pop sensibilities of my earliest writing. These songs are rather juvenile in theme and structure, but I am glad to have written them and recorded them for posterity.”

Is Stephenson drawn to this style because he feels that he’s got something to say, such as making political or social comments or criticisms, or perhaps is he drawn to this style because he has a desire to express his own life’s experiences in songs? What is it about the singer/songwriter genre that appeals to Stephenson and inspires him to adopt it as his chosen form of self-expression?

“Though it may sound selfish,” Stephenson said, “I have always played to ease my own conscience rather than to say anything political or social. I found though that in the eleven years that I have been playing live, people have enjoyed my music and that I could earn some extra cash doing so. In this regard, I prefer the live venue to the recorded, especially for the crowd connection that a live performance allows. I also like that live performances allow me the opportunity to play music with friends. I like the uncertainty of live performance as well, because in its free-form nature, I find that more beautiful music can be made, more spontaneous and more risky music than that which can be made through the necessarily rigidified nature of recorded music. For this reason, I do not have an album and do not have plans for recording one anytime soon. Of course, this might change, if I start to notice that crowds want to hear my work outside of a live venue.”

So, for the time being, those who want to enjoy Stephenson’s music should frequent his live performances. Visit Stephenson’s Facebook page for current, up-to-date information about his live-performance schedule, and of course read the Entertainment Guide right here in Nightlife.

who: Ethan Stephenson

what: acoustic rock

where: Newell House Grotto Lounge

 

when: Friday, February 5

Honey and Tar

  
Band Members
Katie Foley - ukulele/vocals - Tanner Troutman - guitar/bass/backup vocals
Contact Info

Harpeth Rising: The Sounds That Angels Make, a Weary Call to an Older Time

Venues & Businesses
Old Feed Store, The


Who: Harpeth Rising
What: folk, bluegrass
Where:
When: 2015-11-12
Americana/nu-folk trio Harpeth Rising will perform Thursday, November 12 at the Old Feed Store in Co
Brett Haynes
Video Comentary

Americana/nu-folk trio Harpeth Rising will perform Thursday, November 12 at the Old Feed Store in Cobden. These gals are a tornado of fresh air (disguised as a mere gust) on the folk scene. One could say they are nearly on their way to defining modern Americana music while staying true to its roots.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, and now hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the band consists of Jordana Greenberg on violin and vocals, Rebecca Reed-Lunn on banjo and vocals, and Maria Di Meglio on cello and vocals. Defined on their website as unapologetic genre-benders, their sound is wholly unique and progressive in the best way. On the folk scene, it’s as fusion as fusion gets, an expert mix of classical, folk, newgrass, jazz, and rock, which hardly comes near explaining how those sounds sound together.

During the past five years, they have released five albums, an ambitious one album per year. Their most recent release, a self-produced twelve-track piece of pure magic called Shifted, came out in August. Listen to this album and the others via at <http://www.HarpethRising.com>.

It is often hard to believe that there are only three humans performing this music when you hear it. The depth and breadth of the sound is emotive, precise, passionate, professional, and imaginative. Their angelic vocal harmonies are a weary call to an older time. Their songwriting and masterful execution set Harpeth Rising’s skill and originality at a level at which other modern folk acts should surely take note.

Nightlife caught up with Harpeth Rising’s Joanna Greenberg— lyricist, vocalist, and violin slayer.

How has the tour been going? Are there any highlights we should know of?

We have been touring almost nonstop this year, especially since the release of our newest album, Shifted. We just returned from a month in England and Portugal, which was full of incredible experiences, venues, and connections. We hiked through as much of the Algarve as we could in Portugal in between our sets at a festival!

How has the reception of the album been?

We are truly happy with how people are connecting to this album. These songs are about the physical and emotional struggles and triumphs of our lives up to this point, and to have people understand and relate to that is the absolute most we could ask for.

How does Shifted differ from your previous releases?

This album is heavily focused on songwriting and on harmonies. The songs are very personal, but somehow also feel more expansive to us. We’ve each become stronger and more comfortable with our roles in the ensemble, be it instrumentally, vocally or lyrically. I think we’re growing into our individual parts, which makes us stronger as whole, rather than each person trying to cover every aspect of the music.

Your lyric writing is strong and colorful. What are the major themes of your music?

This album draws strongly from the idea of becoming one with your world— learning when to fight against circumstance, and when to allow yourself to be a part of it, distinguishing between what is changeable and what isn’t, and what your role is in that.

Do you write the lyrics as a group?

I do our lyric writing, but we arrange all the songs together with each member contributing to both their parts and each others, musically.

What are some of the major themes of your songwriting?

It’s hard to say because I write whatever moves me at that time. But I guess there is a general theme of social commentary and a little bit of politics, and a decent amount of religious commentary.

How does your songwriting process usually work?

I write only when an idea really strikes me. At least to this point, I’ve never sat down and instructed myself to write a song. I am pretty slow to work my way from an idea to a lyric that properly represents that idea, so sometimes it can be awhile in between songs. I find that I am most creative while outside— swimming, running, hiking.

What does the title of the band mean? How did it come about?

Our name comes from the Harpeth River in Nashville, Tennessee, which is where we all moved together when we were starting to tour full-time. The meaning behind river’s name is lost in time, and there is something exciting and mysterious about that. We also tend to use a lot of nature metaphor in our writing, both lyrically and instrumentally, and so naming ourselves after the powerful element of water seemed appropriate.

Who are some of your major influences who do not at all sound like how you sound?

We are all Zeppelin fanatics, as well as Queen, the Beatles, the Doors, most British rock and early metal. We like to think that we emulate their spirit, if not their actual sound.

What is it about music that makes you want to play?

We live in an increasingly fragmented society— we’re separated by politics, technology, class systems, diet, race, religion, you name it. But have you ever seen a really good busker out on the street in a busy part of a city? A huge percentage of people stop and listen, the details of their personal lives insignificant to the experience. Music overrides data, statistics. It bypasses our prejudices and our fears and it connects directly to a much deeper instinct— one that, in my experience, is overwhelmingly positive.

If your music was an animated television show which would it be and why?

Uh-oh... no idea. We pretty much watch The Daily Show and SyFy. Can we say Battlestar Galactica?

If you were incapable of playing music what do you think you would do instead?

I can’t speak for Rebecca and Maria, but I have a million things I would love to do if I had a million lives. As a young kid I wanted to be an astronaut, and we recently met Col. Chris Hadfield, the commander of the space station, who told me it isn’t too late!

If you could live the life and career of any musician living or dead other than yourself who would it be and why?

Bach seemed to have a pretty square head on his shoulders. He lived a long life and wrote music that was both passionate and progressive. So many musicians live incredibly dramatic lives, be it angst, mental illness, or drug abuse. I am in constant pursuit of balance, between my desire to perform and travel and my commitment to my family and community.

If the sound of your music was a mythical creature what would it be and why?

Have you ever heard of a Bunyip?

Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Don’t be afraid to play before you feel fully developed. Learning to perform takes a lifetime, and the performance and connection with the audience will help you improve faster than you can possibly imagine.

who: Harpeth Rising

what: folk, bluegrass

where: Old Feed Store

 

when: Thursday, November 12

Marshall Anderson

  
Band Members
Marshall Anderson - guitar
Contact Info

Guthrie Brothers’ Tribute to Simon and Garfunkel: Are You Goin’ to Scarborough Fair?

Venues & Businesses
John A. Logan College


Who: Guthrie Brothers
What: Scarborough Fair (Simon and Garfunkel tribute)
Where:
When:
When Jeb and Jock Guthrie were kids, they’d stay up all night listening to the radio until their mot
Brent Glays
Video Comentary

When Jeb and Jock Guthrie were kids, they’d stay up all night listening to the radio until their mother made them turn it off. They heard bands like the Beatles and the Everly Brothers and quickly became inspired, knowing that making music was what they were born to do.

“We’d hear a great song and get what we call the tingles and say, ‘Boy, I really want to do that,’” Jeb tells Nightlife.

And now the Guthrie Brothers get a chance to do that for the area Thursday, March 19, when they present their Simon and Garfunkel tribute Scarborough Fair in O’Neil Auditorium at John A. Logan College.

Jeb credits the radio and television for their musical education. “I guess we were in about fifth grade. I was originally a drummer— I got my first snare drum— and Jock got a guitar. We’d slam around. Basically, we were hooked. We started to play, and by the time we were freshman in college we were already playing underage in bars and stuff like that. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We’ve played various different types of music, but we’ve always come back to this sort of harmony kind of sound. The vocal thing is very key to what we do.”

It was during college that they also started listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

“We’re Simon and Garfunkel fanatics, which is the reason we’re doing this show, right now,” says Jeb. “We’ve been touring with this for the past couple years and just enjoying the heck out of it.... Jock is a guitar master.”

“And Jeb is certainly the primary lyricist,” Jock adds. “It takes its course from there. Our skill sets complement each other.”

The show, though a Simon and Garfunkel tribute, also includes some originals. The Guthrie Brothers are working on their second album. (Their first album is self-titled and can be found on iTunes.)

“We’ve gotten some extremely positive feedback when we add a song or two of our own,” Jock says.

“We have a large repertoire of songs we’ve accumulated over the years,” Jeb says, “and our original stuff as well, but I do remember that ‘The Boxer’ was the first Simon and Garfunkel song that we learned. We were like, ‘Holy cow, this stuff is amazing,’ and it just went from there. And we were also getting feedback— when we played that song, people were commenting constantly that we sounded exactly like them— and we thought that was neat, but we didn’t think about doing a show in just their style of music until four or five years ago. It also caused us to be very historical about where they came from, and we got very, very deeply into the Everly brothers. Even going back to the Louvin Brothers, because they all had this kind of simpering sound, and that’s really what confirmed Simon and Garfunkel the most.”

Jeb goes on by explaining that their original music also “shows our connection to the music— why we ended up there— and it’s a unifying thing.”

But it is more than just symmetry and harmony— they like to get the crowd involved, and promise to bring humor to the stage.

“They’ll hear some good music,” Jeb says, “some amazing songs that we love to play, but we hope that they’ll laugh a little, too. We like to include, in our show, a little history, a little trivia. It evolved from something very spontaneous, we were [on stage] talking about family anecdotes, and the audience seems to enjoy it. We’ve had a lot of fun. For the older folks in the audience, we’ve been told that we have a Smothers Brothers vibe. It’s not a rehearsed shtick, but it might as well be because it comes off pretty natural.”

This show will be the second time the Guthrie Brothers have performed in Southern Illinois.

“We played at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois, only about a couple weeks ago,” Jeb says, “and we had one of the most fun shows we’ve ever had, so we’re really looking forward to getting back to Southern Illinois. When we go back to the Midwest [it] is always a treat. Our father was a country doctor, so we grew up in a small town before moving to Green Bay, so country life is in our blood. We’ve been in New York now for awhile now, and sure, New York is great, but, you know, where you grew up is, sort of... feels like comin’ home, even if it’s not the exact same area. There’s a particular kind of directness and friendliness in the Midwest that is not common elsewhere.”

In other words, we Midwesterners know how to have a good time— and March 19 it’s at John A. Logan. Tickets are $15 for the public and $10 for Logan students and children twelve and younger. For tickets, contact Logan’s Office of Student Activities at (618) 985-2828 ext. 8287 or visit <http://www.jalc.edu/activities>.

who: Guthrie Brothers

what: Scarborough Fair (Simon and Garfunkel tribute)

where: John A. Logan College O’Neil Auditorium

 

when: Thursday, March 19

Sabrina and Tony: Live Pandora

Venues & Businesses
Blue Sky Vineyard


Who: Sabrina and Tony
What: blues, folk-rock
Where:
When: 2014-06-07
Nashville duo Sabrina and Tony will perform Saturday, June 7 at Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery.
Brian Wilson
Video Comentary

Nashville duo Sabrina and Tony will perform Saturday, June 7 at Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery.

Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Sabrina Murdaugh and multi-instrumentalist Tony Marvelli, the duo has more than thirty years of combined experience in the music industry. The two met many years ago when they relocated to Nashville from New York and South Carolina, respectively. After performing together occasionally when schedules allowed, they finally made it official two years ago and have been regularly touring together ever since.

Sabrina and Tony perform a wide range of folk-rock originals, as well as an eclectic mix of covers by Lady Antebellum, Al Green, the Eagles, Willie Nelson, and Frank Sinatra.

“We have such a wide range of songs that I think most folks would recognize something,” Murdaugh says.

Murdaugh says her expressive vocal style is influenced by a variety of sources.

“I grew listening exclusively to classical and Christian music, from southern gospel to Christian rock,” she tells Nightlife. “I’d definitely have to say that was the major influence. In the past ten years I started listening to mainstream radio, so I begin to hear what everyone else was listening to. I don’t know if my singing style is truly influenced by anyone in mainstream music per se, but I do have some folks that I admire. Christian singer Bryan Duncan has an amazing voice, and he uses it in conjunction with powerful lyrics to convey a message that goes deeper than just the ears. I also love Patti Cathcart from jazz duo Tuck and Patti. She has a melodic and timing sensibility unlike anyone that I’ve ever seen. She reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald with her ability to make her voice take on horn/instrumental qualities. Additionally, the true grit of Bonnie Raitt has always made me want to believe what I sing.”

Murdaugh says that given their wide musical repertoire, there is definitely something for everyone at their shows.

We’ve been described by some fans as live Pandora,” she says. “Now there are millions of songs and we definitely don’t know them all. But we do provide a good mix of music. People often do double takes because they don’t expect a duo to be able to perform some of the songs we do. We take songs that are fully orchestrated with elaborate arrangements and convert them into a stripped-down version with all of the focal points that stand out in a particular song. We love creating an atmosphere of fun. Some songs will take you down memory lane, while others will pull you out of your seat onto the dance floor. We don’t do cartwheels and backflips on stage, but there is a palpable energy because we love what we do.

Sabrina and Tony’s show is part of the Blue Sky Belmont Stakes festival. The race will show on Blue Sky’s big screen, and the audience will have opportunities to win prizes as California Chrome vies to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed took home the honors in 1978.

who: Sabrina and Tony

what: blues, folk-rock

where: Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery

when: Saturday, June 7

Jonathan Richman: The Legend Plays Carbondale

Venues & Businesses
Hangar 9


Who: Jonathan Richman
What: folk, punk
Where:
When: 2014-03-27
To some, Jonathan Richman is a punk troubadour. Others know him for his singing cameos in There’s So
Josh Stockinger
Video Comentary

To some, Jonathan Richman is a punk troubadour. Others know him for his singing cameos in There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin. For diehards, however, he’s just indescribably Jonathan.

Southern Illinois can decide for itself Thursday, March 27, when the prolific and charismatic songwriter behind underground classics “Roadrunner” and “Pablo Picasso” plays the Hangar 9 with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and drummer Tommy Larkins. The show will take place at 8 p.m., early by Carbondale nightclub standards.

The stripped-down setup is a million miles from the Modern Lovers, the band that solidified Richman as an unintentional pioneer of the punk rock/new wave movement in the 1970s, and fueled the careers of Cars drummer David Robinson and Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison.

But it’s also the embodiment of the free-spirited nature that has come to define the Boston singer’s evolving oddball folk sound for the majority of his thirty-four years onstage.

Partly inspired by children’s music, Richman, sixty-two, long ago shed the angsty, unimpressed persona heard throughout the Modern Lovers’ self-titled 1976 debut, an album hailed today as a punk masterpiece. In its place, listeners found an unapologetically tender and quirky romantic, a serenading poet with tunes about every subject from twilight in New England to his favorite blue jeans (Wrangler).

Richman, whose original Modern Lovers lineup split two years before any of their music was finally released, has said he was “already into different stuff” before his earliest material came out.

“To me, it was just a bunch of demo tapes. It had some good stuff on it. Some of it was just weak,” he said in an interview for his 2002 performance DVD Take Me to the Plaza. “Mainly, I wanted to play acoustic, play real soft. I started playing a lot of children’s hospitals and daycare centers and stuff, and I wanted to do more stuff like that. That’s still sort of where I’m at.”

Richman often credits the Velvet Underground and the Lovin’ Spoonful, as well as Zorro film scores, among his primary musical influences. John Cale, singer/songwriter-producer and Velvets violist, recorded some of the Modern Lovers’ earliest songs after Velvets manager Steve Sesnick befriended the teenaged Richman. Later, Richman became so inspired by music in Spain, he took up the language and began writing, performing, and recording in Spanish. He also sings in French.

Over the years, Richman has released more than two-dozen albums on a variety of musical backdrops, from Chuck Berry-inspired rock (Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, 1977) to semi-traditional country (Jonathan Goes Country, 1990). Critics lauded his most recent releases, 2010’s O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth and 2008’s Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild (both featuring Larkins) for the maturity of their musicality and themes.

For Richman, a notably animated live performer, music is about “life, feelings, people,” he said in the DVD interview. “That’s how it’s always been for me.”

who: Jonathan Richman

what: folk, punk

where: Hangar 9

when: Thursday, March 27

Pete Seeger - Nightlife Interview 2001 - Part III

Nightlife Interview 2001 Part III

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Pete Seeger - Nightlife Interview 2001 - Part II

Nightlife Interview 2001 Part II

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Pete Seeger - Nightlife Interview 2001 Part I

Nightlife Interview 2001 Part I

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Pete Seeger: After More Than Sixty Years in Folk Music and Politics, He Still Much to Say

Venues & Businesses
Shryock Auditorium


Who: Pete Seeger
What: lecture and folk music
Where:
When: 2001-09-06
Pictured: Pete Seeger at Shryock Auditorium.
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

From Nightlife, August 30, 2001:

 

Pete Seeger, along with his grandson, up-and-coming folk singer and radio talkshow host Tao Rodriguez, will bring his prolific lyrics and yarns Thursday, September 6 at 7 p.m. to the stage of Southern Illinois University’s Shryock Auditorium as part of the Public Policy Institute’s Jack and Muriel Hayward Lecture Series. [A quick, last-minute note on the Public Policy Institute: it just signed Coretta Scott King for a lecture Thursday, November 8 at a location to be announced.]

Seeger is a quiet, unassuming man. Hearing his soft, wisdom-soaked voice, you might think you were talking to a simple grandfather and easily picture him in a straight-backed chair on two legs, leaned against the wall of a front porch while he tells typical stories of the past.

But the more you listen, the more you realize that Pete Seeger is everything but simple. And while he is a proud grandfather and revels in telling stories of the past, the past he remembers is anything but typical. It is a past that has been both trying and triumphant. Born into privilege, he made his way in life singing and reviving the music of the common man. He served his country proudly in one war, and stood at the forefront of the protest of another. He stared down Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the communist witch hunts of the 1950s and suffered the backlash that came with standing up for his political beliefs. He proudly took his place as one of the few celebrities (possibly the first white one) in the civil-rights movement, marching alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and even providing the movement with one of its most famous anthems, an adaptation of the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome.”

He was at the heart of the folk-music revival of the early 1960s, giving the world songs that became revered musical treasures, such as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” He once again turned his attention to the political realm, stepping forward as one of the first celebrities to protest the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War. He openly led anti-war demonstrations and spoke freely about his opposition to the policies of the same country he had proudly defended in World War II only twenty years earlier.

In the 1970s, like much of the country, Seeger turned his energies to addressing America’s ever-growing environmental problems, using his fame to call attention to such issues as air and water pollution. He founded the Clearwater Project, which was noted as one of the key organizations helping to stop pollution of New York’s Hudson River.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Pete Seeger became a familiar face to a new generation when he made several appearances on the PBS children’s program Reading Rainbow. He continued to write, releasing an autobiography in 1993 and several albums throughout the mid and late 1990s.

Now, at age eighty-two, after more than sixty years of writing and playing music that has shaped generations, people might wonder, “What has Pete Seeger left to say, left to do, in his life?”

Recently, this writer had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself in an intimate, shoes off conversation. For a fan of his music, the chance to actually sit and talk with him is like a philosophy student getting a private audience with the Dalai Lama; it’s something you wait a lifetime for, and is not likely to come twice. The chance came, and I would not have missed it. Pete Seeger revealed himself to me with candor, not with any the fanfare or mystery that accompanies a legend of his caliber. He was a charming, uncomplicated man who enjoys his family, his books, his music, and talking about everything from communism to Woody Guthrie. Rather than interpreting his words, I felt that it would be better to put them down just as he said them. So, without reservation, without hesitation, here are the answers, exactly as he gave them to me. Dear Readers, here is Pete Seeger:

As a boy growing up in New York, what were the songs you heard and how did that affect the way you felt about music?

My parents were classical musicians, and I heard my mother’s violin students practicing, and occasionally my father playing Chopin or Beethoven on the piano. My older brothers occasionally got popular phonograph records in the 1920s.... I liked to sing Christmas carols, and some of the songs in the school songbooks. When I was about eight I went away to boarding school.

I remember thinking “I’d just like to make music for the fun of it.” At age eight my roommate [at the tiny boarding school of fifty students] went through a book of sea chanteys, and put on an evening of sea chanteys. The forty or maybe fifty other kids and teachers came and listened to us doing things like “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?” and “Shenandoah.”

Attempts to teach me to read music pretty much failed. I didn’t learn to read music until I was almost twenty. My mother gave me a ukulele at the age of eight, and that’s when I started learning pop songs. [Breaking into a sweet, raspy chorus of “A Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia.”] I graduated to a tenor banjo, which I played in the school jazz band at age thirteen.

Was music always your dream, or did you just wake up one day and decide, “This is what I want to do with my life”?

No, I’m sorry, I wanted to be a journalist. I ran a school newspaper at age twelve, and again at ages fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. And again at ages seventeen and eighteen. I tried to get a job as a journalist when I dropped out of college, but I utterly failed, and by quite inadvertence found myself singing. I had an aunt who was a schoolteacher and she said, “Peter, come sing some of your songs for my class; I can get five dollars for you.” It seemed like stealing to earn so much money after an hour’s having fun. But I went, took the money, and the next thing you know, I was getting a job at another school.

Alan Lomax, the folklorist, was a big encouragement at that time. He taught me a whole lot of the country’s best folk songs back when I was age nineteen or twenty. Then I found I could sing in summer camps, and little by little I gave up hope of getting a job as a journalist.

NL: You have been called a lot of different things in your career and in your life. You’ve been called “the voice of a generation” and “America’s tuning fork.” How does it make you feel to know that your words, your works, are still embraced and respected after over half a century?

Needless to say it’s a great satisfaction, but quite surprising. I never dreamed such a thing would happen. I simply made up songs as they came to me, and threw them out there, hoping.

I want to talk for just a moment about your service in World War II. How do you think that affected your music later on? I know that a lot of Vietnam veterans later came home opposed to the war. How do you think what you saw in the war affected you?

I’ve been a lifelong pacifist of sorts, but not a doctrinary one. When other college students were signing the Oxford Pledge, saying they would never pull a trigger at another human being, I felt that was unrealistic. I couldn't conceive it. In 1942, I decided that that was the only way Hitler could be stopped. They put me in the Army Air Corps ground crew, and I spent my first year learning the hydraulic system of the B-24 bomber. Then, Army Intelligence found out my politics and kept me picking up cigarette butts while the rest of my company went on to glory and death. I was allowed to transfer to a special service company, and there my abilities as a song leader were put to use. I sang for troops going overseas on the troop ship, and I was put in charge of hospital entertainment on the island of Sai Pan.

What kinds of songs did you sing to the troops?

I was quite proud that I knew a wide variety of what I call "common denominator songs.” I was able to sing, I think, some three-hundred songs in our two-week trip across the Pacific, and didn’t have to repeat myself once. Every night I’d be leading songs for half an hour or more.

I know you said you dropped out of college, but you seem to be so highly educated. How have you accumulated such a wide body of knowledge?

All my life, I’ve been very eclectic in my reading, I’ll read anything, whether it’s politics or foolish things. I’m just a read-a-holic. The same way with music. I’m curious about a wide variety of music, and probably spread myself too thinly. I’ve always been a jack of all trades and a master of none. I know a little bit about carpentry and stone masonry, woodchopping and hitchhiking [chuckling]. And riding freights.

We’ve talked about the war. Moving ahead, one of the most fascinating things— I couldn't do this interview without asking about your politics in the 1950s.

I usually tell people that I’ve been a communist since age seven, when I read about American Indians. They had no rich and no poor. At an early age I decided that was the way people should live, and the idea of some people getting millions and some being close to the borderline of hunger was kind of foolish. As a teenager I read Henry Thoreau and I joined the Young Communist League in college, but of course I resigned from any connection when I was in the Army. After the Army I joined the Communist Party, and was a card-carrying member until about 1950. Then I decided it was silly being quite so dogmatic.

Speaking of being dogmatic, what kind of religious background did you and/or your parents have when you were growing up? And what are your thoughts on religion? Has it affected your music and the way you view the world?

Well, one set of grandparents never went to church. Another grandmother was an enthusiastic agnostic. I can remember my laughing about religion in one way or another. There was a nice theological seminary up the block from where we lived in New York, and he used to call it “the angel factory.” However, part of the education of my life has been learning from the civil-rights movement. Not a single radical I knew predicted that it would be a twenty-six-year-old Baptist minister who would achieve things that radicals had failed to achieve... for hundreds of years. It was Martin Luther King who achieved things that no one else could achieve.

I’ve read in your biographies that you don’t like to be called a “folk singer” because there are as many different kinds of folk music as there are kinds of folks.

The term “folk song” was invented about a hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, and meant “the music of the peasant class; ancient and anonymous.” It would be an oxymoron to them to have someone who had been to school and lived in the city to try and be a folk singer. Now a folk singer is someone who makes up songs and accompanies them with a guitar or a banjo, standing in front of a microphone singing for pay to people who will listen. According to this new definition, a grandmother in a rocking chair singing a one-thousand [year-old] lullaby to her grandchild is not a folk singer.

Which of those definitions do you tend to believe in?

Well, I was trained with the earlier definition, but in the last fifty years or so, I’ve had to accept the new definition reluctantly. When I speak about it with anyone, I say, “Well, the dictionary will give you two definitions, and you can take your choice.”

One of the things about folk music that has always appealed to its fans is its simplicity and its ability to convey the emotions of the common people. Where do you see folk music going in the twenty-first century? Do you think it will be able to maintain its simplistic integrity as the world around it becomes ever more high-tech and fast-paced?

Well, one hopes so. When people ask me, “Where is folk music going?” I usually answer, “In many different directions at once,” because some people like this and some people like that, and if they stick with what they like long enough, they’ll usually make good decisions about it because what may just seem impressive momentarily, you may think it phony later later on. What may seem noble at one time may seem pretentious later on. So I trust in the good sense of the human race. A good song can be thought of in several different ways, and can have several different meanings. Which is true of most good art.

One of your most famous (and my personal favorite) songs is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” because it describes so accurately the horror and futility of hatred and war. I know that as a songwriter, you’re used to hearing your songs done by many different people. Which version of “Flowers” do you enjoy most?

Tommy Sands and a woman in Ireland recorded it about four years ago and added a beautiful counter-melody. And I’m deeply proud that their song was widely heard on Irish radio and television and everywhere. Then two or three years ago they had that historic vote in Northern Ireland where seventy-one percent voted for peace. And that song played a part in that vote, I do believe.

Let’s talk about your family for just a minute. I know your grandson is now traveling with you. When you were raising your children, what kind of music was around the house? Did you sing to them?

Well, it’s a bad joke, but I’m usually so busy answering mail, answering the phone, that I don’t have time to play much music around the house. Or I’m doing some chore, whether it’s making the bed or washing dishes or splitting wood outside. I occasionally would sing a song to them.

Your grandson, Tao Rodriguez, often travels with you when you perform and lecture. What is it like to have your grandson standing on stage next to you?

It’s a lot of fun. He’s got a good voice, so I told him I’d be glad to accompany him when my voice is completely gone. My voice is about ninety percent gone now. I can lead a song; that’s what I often do now. I’ll give the words to the crowd and they’ll sing it, and I’ll play the accompaniment.

What do you consider to be the highest point of your career, and on the flipside of that, what do you consider to the lowest point, or your leanest time?

Well, I’ve done lots of stupid things, which I wish I could do over again. I didn’t spend enough time at home when my kids were small; I was traveling all over the world. And now they’re all grown up and independent, so they really didn’t learn that much music from me. Now I’m trying to be a little better with my grandchildren.

Do your grandchildren grasp the idea that their grandfather is Pete Seeger? Most people, when they think of Pete Seeger, they think of this amazing songwriter, a legend.

My family thinks of me as “garrulous grandpa”. They tend to say, “All I did was ask Grandpa who was Queen Elizabeth and two hours later he was still talking.”

Tell me about Woody Guthrie.

First of all, he had a very good sense of humor; he was always making puns and jokes, not trying to be funny. It was his general love of life. His best songs often have a combination of tragedy and humor, like “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Ya.”

What was it like to be around him, just to learn from him?

Well, he was a restless and curious guy. Always writing down verses. I remember once we were in an airplane to Pittsburgh. He was looking out the window and writing on the back of an envelope. And then he just leaves the envelope on the seat when he goes.

What did you learn from knowing him?

I think a basic feeling that one should try to solve problems in the world, and not just leave them up to God, to work with other people when you can. However, he wasn’t a good husband, frankly. He’d cut loose and go out and hitchhike somewhere and come back and assume his wife had taken care of the house and the kids while he was gone. But that’s me, too.

Out of all the songs that you’ve done, which one do you feel the most satisfied with?

That’s like asking a mother ‘Who’s your favorite child?’ At any particular time, one captures my attention for different reasons.

At age eighty-two, there’s probably not a whole lot that you haven’t seen. What are the things that amuse you the most when you’re not working, when you’re having time for “just Pete”?

Well, the crazy thing is, I really enjoy working out in the woods. When I have to go get firewood I enjoy it, even though it’s hard work. And I really don’t mind washing dishes; it’s kind of fun, at least when I get my hands clean, as well as neatening the kitchen. When we have a party, quite often we just talk about news of the day, or what good books we have read recently.

You’re looking back over a long life with some amazing things behind you. As far as wisdom is concerned, what do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Well, I think the way the good and bad is so tangled up in the world, use caution when jumping to conclusions. There’s hardly a bad thing that doesn’t have something good connected with it, and hardly any good thing that doesn’t have a bad thing connected with it. To find [the] right path to follow isn’t always easy.

who: Pete Seeger

what: lecture and folk music

where: Shryock Auditorium

when: Thursday, September 6

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