It’s not everyday that you get to talk to an award-winning musician. Amy Correia’s latest album, You Go Your Way, won the 2011 Independent Music Award for the Best Folk Singer-Songwriter Album, and I got a chance to ask her a few questions about her songs, her stories, and her process.

The making of You Go Your Way was completely fan-funded, meaning that Amy sought support directly from her fans instead of working with a record label. “It was difficult deciding to do that, because you’re basically asking for help.” Amy found so much support and excitement among her fans that she raised over $37,000 for making of her album. “It was a great way to reconnect with my fans and find out who and who wasn’t interested. It gave me a great idea of where I am now and where I can build from. I’ve worked with two labels before – and it’s great having that support – but it sort of alienates you from the process. The direct link with fans is at the heart of how we as musicians can keep going.” In the end, Amy is glad that she chose to pursue fan-funding, but would be hesitant to do it again knowing all that it entails. 

For me, what really makes this album stand out is that each song is a story told from a different character’s point of view, making the album an entertaining “compilation of character sketches” as well as compilation of great songs. “Thematically, the album is very diverse. There are songs from the point of view of a little kid whose dad goes off to war (Took Him Away), and there are songs from the point of view of a woman who is trying to pick up guys at a bar (Powder Blue Trans Am).” Amy’s imagination and wit defies the trope that female singer-songwriters only write autobiographical songs.

Since she inhabits so many different characters in her songs, I wondered if there was a certain character that she tends to go to when writing songs. “There is definitely a place that I go to, but I don’t know what character it would be. It’s like you are your truest self, you are the part of you that is most aware of what you want to say or communicate. Whenever I am writing, I try to tap into that space in myself because I think that’s where the best stuff comes from.” 

Come experience Amy Correia’s exceptional musical and storytelling talent at Club Passim July 26 at 8pm, featuring Marty Ballou on upright bass. You can purchase tickets here, visit Amy’s website here, and listen to You Go Your Way on bandcamp.

Insightful, hilarious, and unique, Vance Gilbert certainly gives a good interview. I was lucky enough to get on the phone with him today, as he takes a short rest at home between stops on a tour celebrating the release of his most recent record, BaD Dog Buffet. We chatted about songwriting, his inspirations, his love for comedy, and Miley Cyrus (he came in like a wrecking ball?). Vance will be swinging through Club Passim with two shows this coming Sunday, May 18th

Before we dove into the deep stuff, Vance told me a bit about the track he’s shared here, “Unfamiliar Moon.” The song has been recorded before, but this is a new version for BaD Dog Buffet, stripped down to just Vance, his guitar, and a fiddle. Calling it an “exhausting song to sing, because it’s a song you climb inside of and try to find your way out” of, Vance told me about trying to record the right vocal track for BaD Dog Buffet. A recording error made his first two great options unusable, so he had to record again after a long day of singing had already worn his patience thin. Setting up microphones right in front of the sound board, outside of the studio space, Vance nailed the version you hear on the album today. 

Recording presents its tricks and challenges, and so does live performance. Vance considers himself a “performer’s performer” and spoke about the challenge of finding the right balance between over-performing and under-performing. “Those who know me know I am one with the audience…It is the peak of my milieu to be a performer’s performer…There are so many great songwriters out there who, unfortunately, when they get on the stage, they tuck their chin in the their chest and it’s as if you haven’t heard them.” 

He also had time to give some advice to burgeoning songwriters. 

"The true bottom line is you need to be writing stuff that is undeniable. You’ve got to be better than good…You can look at that song and say ‘that’s a really well-written tune.’ If you can continue putting together a library of great stuff, at least you have a leg up."

A true lover of comedy, and a comedian himself, Vance inserts comedy into his music, even when his songs are tackling serious subjects. He says that he isn’t afraid to mix serious and silly, “because we do that. Hell, we do that at funerals! We show a range of emotions.” This almost subversive dark comedy in his music is something that makes it stand out. 

To wrap up, I asked Vance what keeps him motivated. 

"To have a rich library of great tunes. That’s what inspires me and makes me want to make whatever the next album is."

For those of you who are wondering…it might be an album of jazz standards. Keep an eye out and an ear open. But in the meantime, come to Vance’s CD release concert at Passim on Sunday, May 18th! He has two shows, one at 5:00 and one at 7:30. Both still have tickets available, and it’s sure to be a show you won’t forget. 

A few years ago, something wonderful happened at Room 5 in LA. Maia SharpGarrison Starr, and Adrianne Gonzalez began playing Monday nights together in the round. All successful individual artists in their own right, they found something fun and fresh in the music they made playing together. In fact, they found they liked it so much that they wanted to go on tour.

One successful tour later, these three musicians built their concept into a special kind of show, somewhere between an in-the-round performance and band concert. The three trade off whose songs they’re playing, and bring a full, new interpretation to each of their tunes. The trio concerts play more like band concerts than in-the-round shows, for sure, so the three of them recently put together an EP of their songs that represents the sound they make together.

It should surprise no one, then, that the three of them make great music when they write together. This track, Anchor Me Down, is the first track Starr, Sharp, and Gonzalez co-wrote, and it’s something like magic. Haunting and melancholy, its lyrics sort of tug on your heart in a way that makes you want to listen to it five (or ten…) times a day. The song is featured on their upcoming Trio EP, which can be purchased at the concerts they play this season. 

Lines like, “‘It’s an eye for an eye,’ the loneliest song you can sing. My love is an unforgiving thing,” and “I’ve been a drifter so long won’t you throw me a line? Anchor me down tonight,” carry the song along in a special kind of space. The women’s tight harmony and talented instrumentation make it a truly notable piece of music, worth a focused listen (or several). 

Get your ticket to their concert at Passim right here.

Looking for the perfect way to start your Saturday? Bring your friends, your kids, and your friends’ kids to Club Passim tomorrow morning at 10:30 to see this lively duo!

Fox & Branch are the winners of 3 Parent’s Choice Awards, and they want you and your family to join in celebrating song, dance, family, and friendship. Kids will be able to participate in the music-making firsthand!

Tickets are still available at the url below, but they’re going fast! Don’t forget to check out Fox & Branch’s website too!

http://passim.org/club/fox-and-branch-family-show-0

http://www.foxandbranch.com/

Andy Zipf has been making music for years, but now is doing so under a new name, The Cowards Choir. With the new name comes an evolved sound that’s less aggressive and more honest. 

This new sound is encapsulated in Reach is Wide, a track featured on The Parlor Sessions EP. Zipf released this song originally as a single just as he was finding his voice as The Cowards Choir, and is now touring it as part of The Parlor Sessions. The Parlor Sessions is a unique kind of tour, featuring four impressive indie singer-songwriters (the others are Jason Myles Goss, Eliot Bronson, and Dean Fields) performing new and old work in the round. They’ll be at Passim on June 8th, but if you can’t wait that long you can download twelve free tracks from the artists here

In Reach Is Wide, Zipf creates a highly textured sound. The verses slowly groove and build up to a positively upbeat anthem by the chorus, as Zipf sings of his deliverance through music from old sorrow. He sings, “I’m going up to where my heroes die/let their songs save me one more time/I’m getting covered in the cool tonight/the road is long but the reach is wide.”

The track’s rich production suits Zipf’s voice, which easily conveys both long struggle and a burgeoning optimism. At times his voice seems to float through the track from far off, echoing the sentiment of a “long road” traveled. 

Reach Is Wide is the kind of track that gets better each time you listen. And with so much going on in the pre-choruses and choruses, especially, there’s a lot to keep you listening! 

The Parlor Sessions come to Club Passim on June 8th at 8:00 PM. Get your tickets today!

Down Home Up Here Workshops: A Conversation with Stash Wyslouch

In the next installment of the Down Home Up Here Workshop interviews, Passim spoke with Stash Wyslouch, who will be teaching “Intro to Bluegrass Guitar” during the Festival. Stash has been coming to Passim since the Fall of 2005, when he played at an open mic. Since then, his relationship with Passim has expanded and deepened - he now plays and teaches here occasionally. A member of the Deadly Gentlemen, Stash is without a doubt a strong presence in the Boston music scene and an exciting addition to our festival.

Stash didn’t always play guitar in the bluegrass tradition, though - he started playing heavy metal when he was 12, and continued on the electric guitar through middle and high school. When he was 18, he bought a mandolin and started to get into acoustic music. It was only a matter of time before he picked up a guitar, and transferred from Tufts University to Berklee College of Music. There he began developing his ability to play with others and in many different styles.

Stash’s workshop will focus on playing melodies on a guitar using the flatpicking style. Students will be encouraged to make their own simple melodies and be taught variations and techniques useful to playing bluegrass and country music. The workshop is geared for intermediate and high level guitar players, who are familiar with all open chords and basic picking technique. Stash teaches with a universal approach - rather than just putting notes in front of someone for them to replicate, he tries to help people find their voices.

One of Stash’s strengths is his ability to play with lots of different people.

"Guitar is often in the background, so learning to interact with people, which is often the heart of folk, bluegrass, and country, is really important. Interacting with people is really what it’s all about. It’s about community, which is kind of what Passim is all about too."

Why make Stash your teacher? Besides his fantastic ability, he also has a unique take on this kind of music.

"Bluegrass sometimes gets a reputation as hillbilly music, so as someone who came to it late from Massachusetts, I find ways to make it relatable to people who aren’t familiar with its background and culture."

Sounds pretty convincing to me. Naming the Louvin Brothers, the Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and Willy Nelson as some of his musical influences, Stash will be sure to bring a lot of heart to this Down Home Up Here Festival workshop.

Darlingside is playing two sold-out shows at Passim this weekend, and I can’t stop listening to their music in anticipation. This morning I watched the music video for their single, “The Ancestor”, for the first time, and was blown away by its beauty and creativity. 

Take the time to watch the video - the animation is hypnotic, the story is touching, and most importantly, the music is stellar. 

Darlingside plays Passim on Saturday with Heather Maloney! 

Down Home Up Here Workshops: A Conversation with Fiddle Instructor David Delaney

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With the Down Home Up Here Festival fast approaching, we at Passim wanted to get in touch with some of our workshop instructors to learn a little bit more about them - what they play, why they play, and why people should attend their workshops. First in the interview lineup was David Delaney, a Berklee School of Music grad who has been part of the Passim community for years. A member of The Whiskey Boys, David has played to sold-out Passim crowds. This season he’s bringing his talents into the Passim classrooms. 

So how did David get started on the fiddle? As a child, David went to Irish step dancing classes with his sisters, but quickly realized that he took more naturally to the music than to the dancing. After just one year of classical violin training, he began taking lessons on the Irish fiddle, and the rest, as they say, is history. But it wasn’t until he was a student at Berklee College of Music that he started playing bluegrass.

"Bluegrass was all the rage at Berklee parties. There was always a room that was a jam room, with people just playing." During his time at Berklee, David started playing at Passim open mics, and gradually moved on to headlining shows with his band, The Whisky Boys. 

Last year David was one of the inaugural performers at the Down Home Up Here festival, and so he was excited to be asked to return in 2014 as a workshop instructor. He has been teaching fiddle since his years as a Berklee student, and over time has realized that he likes to teach bluegrass using basic music theory.

"Most people learn to play music through transcription, and though that works well for a lot of people it hasn’t been very effective for me…If you learn the basic theory, that’s how people can be in a jam and play songs they don’t know. I teach these tricks.” 

David spoke excitedly of the way that improvisation allows you to play along with songs you don’t already know. 

"My favorite thing is improvising over a set melody in a group. I also love playing in a 2 piece ensemble. With a 2-piece, you’re reading each other and have no limitations whatsoever. It’s thrilling. And that’s only possible if you know the kinds of shortcuts I’ll be teaching in my workshop."

Want to come to David’s workshop? If you’re fairly new to the fiddle, get a ticket to his workshop for beginners. According to David, if you can make a decent sound on the violin or learn a tune by ear (or transcription), you’ll be prepared for this class. Is that too easy for you? Then come to the class the next level up - if you’re a comfortable violin player but don’t play folk music, or you want to learn to improvise, head on over to How to Play Bluegrass Songs You Don’t Know
Before I let David get off the phone, I asked him for the names of three songs he can’t stop listening to now. If you’re wondering what he said, his answers might surprise you. David Delaney has been listening to a whole lot of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, second movement. He’s also been listening to Montana, a track by a local band, the Summer Villains. And finally, he’s been getting intense with Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine. 
A man of many talents and musical influences, his Down Home Up Here Festival Workshops are sure to impress. Get your tickets to the classes (and the festival!) today.
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