Sunday, November 14, 2010 Brewing Connections Between Musicians and Coffeehouses

A chef, web designer, event planner and a songwriter/musician with a passion for good food and good music, Annette Warner launched the web site in 2000. Based in Wilmington, N.C., the web site is a free booking resource for musicians who travel the country playing coffeehouses. Annette has made it her mission to help bring quality music to the more than 1,000 venues listed in the CHT database and at the same time connect musicians with an opportunity to perform and perfect their craft. My dialogue with Annette for Indie Mosaic Music.

Indie Mosaic Music: What's the concept behind
Annette Warner:
The concept is simple - to connect the coffeehouses that support and book live music, and the musicians that play in them, all across the U.S. and abroad. The database provides detailed information about these venues.

What was your inspiration for launching

Annette Warner:
My inspiration was solely attached to the fact that I love the atmosphere of coffeehouses and music and I was not able to go to one source and find information to either book myself or others. It seemed like the natural next step, especially being that I was a web designer, to create this resource. I wanted to be a place where others could go and get information for free because I know how hard it is as a musician to find gigs, and even afford the next pair of strings, much less to have to be forced to pay for every resource out there. And, I know the struggle of an artistic environment, and coffeehouses specifically struggle harder than any other venue to keep music programs going if they have to pay for the talent and are not recouping. I strongly believe that new musicians need practice ground as they hone their craft and coffeehouses are a perfect stage for that.

(IMM): What criteria do you consider when booking acts for each of your five Java establishment clients, and what type of genre do you typically book?

I insist on professionalism from initial contact to the end of the gig booked. I want to know the musician is ready to play and can play at least one hour of material. I support original music, and we book only those artists that play original stuff. Depending upon the venue and licensing issues, covers may be permitted, but the musician must be an original artist to be considered.
There’s a wide variety of music played in the venues, everything from solo acoustic preferences, to full band bookings. The one limitation I have for booking someone is if I can't understand their lyrics or melody because of screaming-style vocals, or music that is obnoxious and filled with hate speak, and violence.

(IMM): If a musician wants to submit for one of your clients, what's the process?

(Annette): The musician would simply review our submission guidelines on the site, read information about the venue and be sensible about whether or not they think they are a fit for the place. Next, send us an email indicating they have read the information and are interested in a particular venue, including a link to where we can listen to [their music] or let us know a CD is on the way if nothing is online. From there, the information is sent to CHT's booking manager, Jake Melnyk, who follows up and makes it happen if it’s a fit.

(IMM): Why do you believe coffeehouses are conducive to the indie artist?

(Annette): I not only believe they are conducive, they are necessary to the progress of an indie artist. I don't know of an independent songwriter that hasn't played in one –not one. It's the first stage many artists play on. It's the stage many aspire to from the living room couch. It's the first place I ever saw a songwriter play that I really paid attention to. I was enamored. Coffeehouses are to music what an ingredient is to a recipe, gotta include it, or it’s just off.

(IMM): What's in the works for

te): CHT is continually expanding its database, and we are working on taking on more venues for booking responsibility. We are also working on developing sponsorship proposals to support the printing of the first resource book CoffeeHouseTour Offline, a combination resource manual that includes sample forms helpful to new musicians, the database, tour planning information, locations of hostels by town, and articles focused on touring and making the most of a musician’s budget.

(IMM): What indie musicians/bands make your top five list?

(Annette): Georgia Winfree and Kathryn Jones of Someone's Sister are perfect examples of a coffeehouse-style duo that has gone well beyond that atmosphere, having started at coffeehouses not that long ago. They make the top of my five because of their effort and cause as musicians to stop child abuse and provide resources for survivors.

Next, I'd have to say would be Shirley Logan, a contemporary artist who has the world at the tip of her fingers with voice and style.

Now this one hurts, Nathan Davis, because he was a crazy friend and fellow troubadour with the passion of passion itself who passed suddenly a couple years ago. He was one songwriter's songwriter. The world got cheated out of seeing him grow to certain fame.

Next, an all-around artist, actor, photographer, musician, songwriter, bran to the colon, sun to the wildflowers, yeast to the brew, the artistic world would be severely lacking without Stefan Hajek.

And local favorites around here, that should really be in Nashville, Memphis, out West somewhere, or somewhere famous are L Shape Lot, a new-bluegrass, acoustic-country-rock kinda energy, fun, lyrical kick butt duo consisting of fellow Wilmingtonians Alex Lanier and Eric Miller.

It's all great music and I'm just glad you didn't ask me to pick the top 15. I truly thought about this question in all the music I hear. If I plugged them, they deserved it.

(IMM): Here's the Indie Mosaic Music blog non-music related question: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you want to make sure you have in your possession?

(Annette): Other than the obvious being food and water, beer and a float, I would have to say pen and paper.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Julia Nune's "The Only Exception" is Exceptional

As a fan of the television show "Glee," I first heard the song "The Only Exception." I know I'm behind the curve about this clever Paramore song, but I had to share a cover version of the song by Julia Nunes. Her interpretation is whimsical, stripped down, simple and amazing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Robert Yonke: Painter and Bluegrass Musician

Bluegrass, a hearty mixture of country, folk, jazz and ragtime, is the focus of artist Robert Yonke. During the summer months, when Robert is not painting in his Western Maryland studio, it’s likely he can be found playing in jam sessions with fellow bluegrass musicians in the area. He has translated his love of bluegrass to canvas with The Bluegrass Collection, a series of watercolors “inspired by the people, places and legends of bluegrass music.” My dialogue with Robert for Indie Mosaic Music.

Indie Mosaic Music:
Of the 15 pieces in The Bluegrass Collection, which was the most challenging and why?

Robert Yonke: It's hard to say that any [one] of the pieces was more challenging than the others. None of the paintings in the group were done as a commission. Consequently, they took their own direction and I followed, knowing that I could stop at any point that I considered the painting to be complete. Art produced as a commission is more challenging because I have to work to someone else's expectations or standards . . . which may or may not coincide with my own. I don't believe that I'm alone in this view and that’s why commissions cost more and/or some artists just won’t do them.

Are you continuing to add to the Collection? If so, what piece are you currently working on?

(Robert): Yes, continuously. The Web site shows 15 in the collection, but I have done many more that are in different places, collections, galleries, etc. This is an area that holds a lot of good subject matter, whether it is individual musicians, groups or another subject that somehow links to this genre. A long time ago, I was counseled to stick to a narrow subject area(s) and it seems that with my daughter Becky’s marketing talents we have been able to establish a niche. As far as I can see, I'll stick with it.

(IMM): Being a musician (mandolin, guitar and violin player), how does that influence your work as a visual artist?
(Robert): I'm sure it does. Part of the influence is in my knowing the gestures of a bluegrass musician. I know how the instruments are held, how a hand is angled when picking a stringed instrument or bowing a fiddle. I'm also aware of the dynamics of groups in a jam or on stage and I'm sure that some of that shows in the art. Also, the choice of subject matter and titling of many of my pieces after classic bluegrass songs also springs from this.

(IMM): Who is your favorite bluegrass musician and why?
(Robert): That's a tough one. There are so many truly talented people in this genre who do it more for love than money. If that sounds like I'm avoiding the issue, I am. Do I have a favorite that stands way, way above the rest? I don't.

(IMM): What is it about painting with watercolor that you enjoy?
(Robert): Every painting has a degree of surprise in it that breeds a spontaneity that is hard to find in other media.

What project did you complete for the 2008 International Bluegrass Music Association -- World of Bluegrass?

(Robert): I did a watercolor painting of a bluegrass group kind of waiting off stage, ready to go on. This art was used as the central graphic element in their promotional materials and collateral event printed matter. This includes advertising, a poster, the award show program, marketing materials, etc.

Describe your work environment: do you work most often in a studio space or outside; do you like to play music while you are painting?

(Robert): Well, I almost never work on a painting outside of my studio. I'm uncomfortable working with an audience and my experiences have been that painting on location will attract one, so I don't do it. My studio requirements are simple, so my studios in Pittsburgh and Swanton, Maryland, are kind of simple. I have a painting area, a matte cutting and framing area, a drawing board for sketching and various cabinets for storing painting supplies and paper. I also have source files sorted by subject. Most of my sourcing is done with a digital camera and the source photos are stored on a hard drive. I display these on my computer screen and have a sketch board positioned so that I can do rough drawings while viewing the screen. I like to work from photographs, but they have to be mine. Sometimes, I will use a client’s for a commission, but I'd rather shoot my own because I know I'll get the angles and related things I'll want.

(IMM): For the fun of it, here's a non-music/art related question: What's your favorite movie and why?
(Robert): The only movie I've seen in the last 25 years is Polar Express when I took the grandkids to see it. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do enjoy The Deadliest Catch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dream On! A Musical Tribute To Martin Luther King

A new compilation CD, Dream On!, has been released that celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights pioneers and advocates for social justice. What’s exceptional about this CD is that it creatively blends several genres into a gumbo of positive, inspiring music. Songs from Dream On! can be downloaded for free, but to help the cause, the CD can be purchased online. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to three charities. Kudos to CD producer Maya Armstrong. Daysahead is one of the featured artists on the CD, with their jazz-rock-soul infused song It’s In Your Hands.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lamar Sorrento Tells It All On Canvas

Lamar Sorrento paints what he knows, and he knows music. As a musician and artist, Lamar has created bold, colorful paintings of Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters, Tom Waits, the Beatles, the Ramones, Bob Dylan and others that hang in the homes of fellow musicians, record label execs and art aficionados. For me, his work has an authentic folk sensibility that makes me think Lamar's a really good storyteller. Although he resides in Memphis, Lamar often exhibits in Oxford, Mississippi, his “favorite little big town.” My dialogue with Lamar for Indie Mosaic Music.

Indie Mosaic Music: As a self-taught artist, what was it that made you decide to pick up a paint brush 16 years ago and give it a go?
Lamar Sorrento: I had a girlfriend, Suzie Millions, who was a great artist and one day on a whim I asked for some of he
r art supplies to try to make a painting of Django Reinhardt, who is my favourite guitarist. I had no training or lessons at all, ever. I found it incredibly hard, but I painted two or three, in my crude style and then I found that I could not stop, and people liked them. They were so awful – I guess is why – and basically I haven’t stopped painting since then.

(IMM): Being a musician yourself, how does your personal/professional familiarity with the music industry impact your work?
(Lamar): My love of music and musicians is why I started painting. I have a gillion ideas in my head just based on music I like. Or, if it is something I don’t like and it pays money, I like that too . . .

(IMM): How would you describe your work to someone who is not familiar with it?
(Lamar): Awful . . . but somehow popular.

(IMM): You've painted an eclectic mix of musicians. How do you select the subjects for your paintings?
(Lamar): I often get specific orders. Or, I choose what to paint if nothing else is happening. Over the years, I have learned what will sell and what won’t so I sorta stick to what will. That doesn’t bother me. To me, every time I sell a painting, it’s an economic miracle. In early years, I painted people who were so obscure that only nerds like me would know of them and they took forever to sell. It’s a job. It’s not high art or high concepts.

(IMM): Do you have a favorite musician?
(Lamar): Bob Dylan . . . probably.

(IMM): You've done artwork for CD and album covers. Is there one that you are particularly fond of that translated well to CD/album cover?
(Lamar): The best one was the Sun Records 50th Anniversary CD on London Records. The music itself was kinda lame. It was all new versions of Sun Records music by current famous musicians. But I painted a bunch of cool stuff that was all inside the giant CD booklet.

(IMM): Do you like to play music while you are creating? If so, what kind of music?
(Lamar): Yes, but it’s all kinds of music and it changes as to what music I like to paint to. I often used to listen to whom I was painting [at the time] but not so much anymore.

(IMM): For the fun of it, here's an "off the wall, non-music/art related" question: What's your favorite movie or television show?
(Lamar): Favourite movie, Cool Hand Luke. I identify with Luke when they make him dig that big hole then fill it back in and then dig it back again till he passes out. I hate television except for Turner Classic Movies.
I love that channel.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Covering The Classics: Volume I

I was listening to some of my oldies but goodies recently and thought it would be cool to profile indie artists who have given 70s and 80s classics a contemporary twist. After much research, and I mean a lot of reviewing of YouTube videos, I finally came across an artist who has presented a solid, inventive interpretation of a song that was a major hit back in the day.

Soul/jazz artist Alison Crockett (Brooklyn, NY) has put her own stamp on Janet Jackson's When I Think Of You (1986) and delights with an entirely new groove.

And then there's Eva Cassidy, an amazing vocalist whose talent was short lived. She passed away in 1996 at the age of 33, but left us with numerous recordings, one of which is my favorite - Time After Time (1984) co-written and sung by Cyndi Lauper.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Burkina Electric: World Music On The Cutting Edge

Blending new rhythms, traditional African grooves and electronic dance music, Burkina Electric has created a sound that’s daring, entertaining and provocative. Originating from the West African country of Burkina Faso, Burkina Electric’s newest CD is Reem Tekre. From the time I popped in the CD, Burkina Electric had some part of my body, whether my toe taps to my finger snaps participating in the rhythm -- it was infectious. Led by Brooklyn-based composer/percussionist Lukas Ligeti, Burkina Electric has performed at the Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival, the CitySol Festival and Joe's Pub in New York City, with plans to gig in Italy in 2009. Burkina Electric is made up of singer Maï Lingani, who sings in Moré, Dioula, Bissa, and French; guitarist K. Blass; electronicist/VJ Pyrolator; and drummer/electronicist Lukas Ligeti. My dialogue with Lukas Ligeta for Indie Mosaic Music.

Indie Mosaic Music: The instrumentation on your new CD Reem Tekre is vibrant, lush and colorful. Tell me about the instruments used on the CD.
Burkina Electric: Aside from voice, we use guitar, drum set, and electronics. Everything that doesn't sound like a guitar or a live drum set is the electronics. The electronics consist of laptops, which are triggered by two unusual midi controllers built by the California engineer Don Buchla: the lightning (which looks like two wands that you wave around in the air) and the marimba lumina (an electronic marimba). The sounds are mainly samples of street scenes and other found sounds from Burkina Faso, and of traditional instruments, which we treat in unusual ways using effects processing, looping, detuning, etc. We also use a fairly wide selection of software synths and plug ins.

(IMM): You've described your music as African electronic. What makes it different from most electronic music played in clubs today?
BE: The main difference is that we use different rhythms, beats, and grooves from most dance-oriented electronic music. The usual norm is to use rhythms closely connected to rock: funk, disco, jungle, drum & bass, etc. In our case, we use traditional rhythms from Burkina Faso such as ouaraba, ouenenga, ouire, etc., which are little known but embody the polymetric aspect of African rhythms in a very clear way. We also use other African rhythms, plus rhythms of our own invention - sometimes very strange! – and inspired by African traditions. Most dance rhythms used today the world over actually derive from African rhythms, so we're taking club dance music straight back to the source for some new inspiration.

(IMM): What challenges you most when it comes to composing music for Burkina Electric?
(BE): That's hard to answer. We compose collaboratively and work together really well. Challenges change from piece to piece; sometimes it can be something in the arrangement, or it can be the lyrics, or a's always different. We keep working at it until satisfied.

(IMM): When listening to the songs of Burkina Electric, what do you want your audience to come away with?
(BE): We hope people will discover that there are so many different rhythms out there that you can dance to...that it's good to be curious and to receive new influences, and that that might lead to inspiration, or to new, ecstatic experiences. And we hope to open up different cultures to each other, to raise awareness of the cultural richness of Burkina Faso in particular and Africa in general, but also to educate people in Africa about how outside influences can be used creatively. We always hope to inspire people to think outside the box.

(IMM): Lyrically, what do your songs say most often about Burkina Faso?
(BE): Our songs are about many topics...there are love songs, there's a song about going to the market, all kinds of things. There are also songs about topics relating to Africa, such as corruption, which is a big problem worldwide but has a particular dimension in Africa. And we have songs about agriculture, farming, which is a big issue in Burkina because the climate is so hot and dry, so farmers really have to work hard. Still other songs are inspired by proverbs or traditional tales from Burkina Faso.

(IMM): What is it about the music of Burkina Faso that makes it unique?
(BE): Burkina has a very lively urban music scene, with possibly the second biggest hip hop scene in West Africa after Senegal, and it has lots of different musical traditions that live on. However, it has been notoriously underexposed internationally, while Mali, Senegal, and other countries receive lots of attention. That has also led many musicians in burkina faso to imitate styles from elsewhere rather than forging an original path of their own, whether or not it is connected to local traditions. But local traditional music has beautiful instruments, melodies, rhythms, and dances, which we'd like to feature in our own mix, in which we deliberately try to be as original as possible. Burkinabe traditions also harbor lots of elements that contributed to forming the blues, so traces of predecessors of the blues can be found in various local traditions.

(IMM): I like to include a non-music related question for good measure. Do you have a favorite photographer, painter or other visual artist? If so, who would it be?
(BE): I can't speak for the others in the group of course, but personally, and to remain in Africa, I would mention the South African draftsman, filmmaker, and theater director William Kentridge. His work is a bridge between Africa and Europe and takes on the political situation in South Africa with much sensitivity, depth, and humor. Another artist who exudes the African spirit in a unique and great way is the photographer Malick Sidibe from Mali.