singer-songwriters

The 3rd installment of the Songwriters Spotlight, hosted by Joe Grushecky and Rick Witkowski, featuring Karl Mullen , Margot B., and Jon Belan was held Saturday night at the New Hazlett Theater.

The format: Each of the five songwriters shared stories about their original songs and then performed them. Then, each songwriter chose a song they wish they had written, talked about why they selected it and then performed it.

As one of the hosts, Joe Grushecky began the evening with "I Remember It" from 2002's “Fingerprints”, following up with "Don't Give up the Ghost" and "Talking to the King” from "End of the Century" (which was ironically released in 1992). "Talking to the King" came to him in a dream - he found Elvis Presley looking into his fridge.

The other host, Joe Witkowski said that he was now big with the 3 to 6 year old age group thanks to Nick, Jr. and we sang along on "Happy". Witkowski also did a song that he and his wife wrote with Ann Wilson of Heart in mind. She did not end up recording "The Last Heartbreak", but B.E. Taylor did.

For Karl Mullen (Carsickness, The Ploughman's Lunch) "Love Don't Walk Away" was his first choice. On the second go round, Mullen told a long story about a 13-hour train ride to record a folk album and then couldn't remember the lyrics, so he sang "Family Life" before going back to "True Romance". Mullen lives in Philadelphia now (via Dublin, Ireland) and in 1976 was a fixture at The Electric Banana.

Margot B.'s soulful songs all had one-word titles "Cool", "Timeless" and "Complete". She resides in New York City and had much praise for The Boogie Hustlers.

Jon Belan (of Gene the Werewolf) was introspective, selecting songs from Gene the Werewolf's debut EP. He sang "Superhero", "Light Me Up" (title track) and "I've Got the Love" (which became the 6th song on the EP; even though they recorded 12 songs, this was a new song written just for the EP).

Then the spotlight was put on a song that each songwriter had wished they had penned.

Joe Grushecky choose a Muddy Waters song "Champagne & Reefer". Karl Mullen selected an Ewan MacColl (father of the Kirsty MacColl) song from 1949 that was recorded by among others, The Pogues and Johnny Cash that reminded him of Pittsburgh, "Dirty Old Town". Margot B. went to the Top 40 for "Breakeven" by The Script which she said gives her the chills no matter how many times she hears it. Jon Belan performed a Pink Floyd Song "Wish You Were Here". The Beatles were again the choice for Joe Witkowski.

The final group number was another Beatles song. "Hey Jude", in which the spotlight shown brightly on Joe Belan as he sang and played the piano.

There was then a standing ovation for the songwriters. It was another wonderful two hours of great live music.

Also check out the post Singer-Songwriters Shine... for my review of the January 2010 Songwriters Spotlight.

The next Songwriters Spotlight will be held September 25th.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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Singer-songwriters came into popularity in the early 1970’s and they are still sharing their stories with us today. One such singer-songwriter is Washington, DC based Luke Brindley.

Barb WYEP’s Sunday Mix Host (WYEP): Luke thanks for taking the time to answer some questions via email for the WYEP Music Blog.

WYEP: There are many singer-songwriters out there today pursuing their passion for making music. How do you differentiate yourself from the others?

Luke Brindley (LB): i think what differentiate me is my lyrics and my guitar playing and also my life situation and perspective is different that most of the singer/songwriters out there - i'm supporting a large family doing this.  that responsibility and life experience informs my music.

WYEP: It’s interesting that you put a bonus instrumental track “Dervish” on your CD “Luke Brindley” and recently put out a five-track instrumental CD “Solo Guitar”. As a singer-songwriter, do you enjoy writing songs without lyrics and sharing what you can do with just your guitar (which you built yourself)?

LB: yes!  it's a nice break for me and the audience to have instrumentals in the set.  instrumentals like "dervish" really grab peoples attention because it's something unexpected.  i enjoy playing it every night.  i studied music in school and it's nice to be able to focus on the instrument without words once in a while! 

WYEP: You began recording with your brother Daniel and released a couple of albums as The Brindley Brothers. So how is it out there being a solo act?

LB: it's harder to get attention as a solo act i think - there are so many great singer/songwriters out there!  i enjoy the flexibility of touring solo but i miss the camaraderie of being in a band.  

WYEP: You are in the process of recording a new album. Why did you decide to go the fan financing route to make The New Record?

LB: i debated doing it for a while but then a few of my friends had done it successfully and that was inspiring.  i had put out the last couple records on my own with zero budget and i knew that i needed a budget behind me to record and promote this next record properly.  these are some of the best songs i've ever written and my fanbase has grown a lot since the last release.  the support of the fans has been incredible! knowing that i have them on my side every time i sit down to write or head into the studio is a fantastic and encouraging feeling!

WYEP: Did you ask for advice from other artists who have been down the “fan funding” road? If so, what has been the best piece of advice that you have received so far?

LB: i did.  i talked to a few of my friends who had tried fan funding and without exception they said it's a great way to go.  they gave me advice on how to structure the incentives, how to keep in touch with supporters along the way, etc.  i kind of took all the advice, what had worked for them and made it my own.  i think that's one of the attractive things about the process is each artist's program can reflect his/her personality.

WYEP: You maintain a food blog called What Exit?. What type of food do you look for when you’re on the road?

LB: yeah i did that for fun but i think i'm going to make it a little bigger soon - invite other artists to participate etc.  i'm always on the lookout for inexpensive food that's indigenous to the region  - like primanti bros in pittsburgh,  the nj style sloppy joes at the millburn deli, in millburn nj. philly cheese steaks, bbq in memphis, etc.

WYEP: You were born in Philly, raised in NJ and now call Northern VA home. You also have family in Pittsburgh. What’s it like for you to perform here with family in the audience?

LB: i love it.  my music is very much influenced by family and the spirit of family.  they're very supportive of me when i come to the area and it's cool to see them when i can.  sometimes even my grandparents will come out to the clubs!  

WYEP: Thanks for your time Luke and see you soon!

LB: thanks barb - see you sunday!!!

Luke Brindley will open for Willy Porter on April 18th.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host

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A singer–songwriter is a musician who writes, composes and sings their own material including lyrics and melodies. Recently I had the chance to see a couple of sets of singer-songwriters; from the local and national level.

The quarterly local songwriters spotlight hosted by Joe Grushecky and Rick Witkowski featured guests Billy Price, Carol Lee Espy and Bob Corbin. All five songwriters took turns performing three of their signature songs, old and new. There were stories and laughter and a good camaraderie and mutual admiration and respect. I would watch the other singer-songwriters sing and play along almost spontaneously being caught up in the moment. Grushecky did some older songs “Fingerprints”, and “Pumping Iron” and something new, the title track of his latest release “East Carson Street”. Witkowski started with “Soul Control”, then did a personal song about “Love & Food & Rachel” for the daughter they never had and B.E. Taylor Groups “Vitamin L” became a sing-a-long (taking us back to the MTV video days and a #1 hit in Pittsburgh). In between the guests took their turns in the spotlight. Billy Price offered “Who You’re Workin’ For,” “Eldorado Cafe” and a new song he co-wrote with someone from France “Under the Influence”. Carol Lee Espy kept commenting how hard it was to follow Price’s energetic performances with her laid back country tunes. Espy sang what she called her signature song “My Name is Mary” along with “Cross the River” (written from a farmer’s point of view; she had to think like a man) and “The Allegheny Song”, about the river. Bob Corbin began with a new going away tune “I’ll Be There”, then did “Scooter, Michael, Danny and Me” and one the six songs which he wrote that reached #1, Alabama’s “Fire in the Night”.

The most interesting part of the evening was when each of the songwriters performed a song that they wish they had penned. “You Better Move On”, by a relative unknown (except to the Beatles and Rolling Stones) Arthur Alexander was the choice by Grushecky. Price chose an Al Green song “Love and Happiness”. Espy likes the 3-chord songs by John Prine and sang “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”, a song about the dissolution of a relationship. Another John; Hiatt, was the choice for Bob Corbin, at the piano he sang “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Witkowski went with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

After a standing ovation, the songwriters came back on stage to sing a song from The Band, “The Weight”. Does anyone really know all the lyrics to the song or even the words to the chorus? A sheet was passed around to each performer as they took a verse and the audience joined in on the chorus. It was an wonderful two hours of music and a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Just a few days later Pittsburgh was the first stop on a brief tour for a trio of singer-songwriters. Ben Sollee and Carrie Rodriguez have been joined by Erin McKeown. All three came on stage to start the show, then Rodriguez did a solo set. She used two different guitars and really knows how to play the fiddle. The half-dozen songs included a couple of tracks from her 2008 release “She Ain’t Me”: “Infinite Night” and “Absence”. Her new CD is going to be a covers CD, including the Townes Van Zandt song “Rex’s Blues” (appropriate tune for the venue, The Rex Theater) and a song that her dad e-mailed to her “When I Heard Gypsy Davey Sing”. Ben Sollee’s set was filled with long, lavish instrumental introductions on the cello, proving that songwriters can also compose beautiful music without lyrics. At the end of his set, Sollee was joined by Rodriquez and McKeown and really “electrified” the stage. After a short break, it was McKeown’s turn. Despite jet lag (returning from a European tour), she took center stage. She treated the audience to three tracks from her most recent release “Hundreds of Lions”, by introducing each song as “Track 1”, “Track 2” and “Track 3”. For the encore, the trio played Cat Stevens “Wild World” and rounded out the two hour show with a rousing instrumental. Despite little rehearsal, these singer-songwriters really came together and treated the “school night” crowd to a warm, enjoyable evening of music.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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ben sollee billy price bob corbin carol lee espy carrie rodriguez erin mckeown joe grushecky rick witkowski singer-songwriters

A singer–songwriter is a musician who writes, composes and sings their own material including lyrics and melodies.  They often provide the sole accompaniment to an entire composition or song, typically using an acoustic guitar or piano.  Their lyrics are often personal.  The song is more important than the performance.  The sound can be sparse, direct and reflective, again placing the emphasis on the song itself.  Singer-songwriters came into popularity in the early 1970’s and are still sharing their stories with us as we embark on a new decade.

Join me January 10th on The Sunday Mix as we explore the best of... singer-songwriters.  From the 1940’s until the present, artists from all around the world.  Sunday, January 10, 2010 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host

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Music News Personal Picks

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singer-songwriters

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