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Shawn Mullins ‘lights up’ Iron Horse in Northampton

Shawn Mullins (Photo courtesy of Michael Wilson)

For many career musicians, the challenge of staying relevant to the ever-changing taste of listeners is a lifelong struggle.

While some individuals/ bands attempt to alter their style in order to suit an audience’s mood of the moment, others stubbornly stay the course and slowly fade into the background of public consciousness, or make a living as an underground favorite. However, there are also a rare few who eschew changing the nature of their work but undergo transformations of a more personal nature.     

One of these fortunate souls is singer/ songwriter Shawn Mullins. Though most popularly known for his 1998 breakthrough hit “Lullaby,” Mullins has maintained an enduring career on the fringe, recording 11 albums, and working with fellow musicians like Matthew Sweet and the Zac Brown Band.

The Underground recently caught up with Mullins before his show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass., and asked him his thoughts on music today, songwriting, and what it’s like being a new father. Here’s what he had to say:

 Q. Your newest album, “Light You Up,” marks your eleventh release. How have you managed to stay so productive/ successful for all these years?

A. Well I’m not qualified to do much of anything else for one, but I think I’ve stayed busy with the writing by allowing it to come when it comes. As far as success goes, I think the trick is having your own measure of what success really means. I don’t really mark my success by record sales and hits songs but more by how much of myself I put in to the art.

Q. Also, on the new album you have noticeably opened up your songwriting process by including numerous co-writers. How has this experience changed the way you create music? What are some of its benefits? Drawbacks?

A. It hasn’t really changed the why I write, but by writing with other writers you get another perspective of what you are writing about. As for the benefits of co-writing, I have a lot of fun doing it. It’s kind of like putting together a crossword puzzle with someone you like to hang out with. My favorite part of co-writing is when you get to that place in the song where you are stuck on a particular word or phrase and you both are a part of finding it. The main drawback to co-writing is that once in a while you write with someone and it’s just not a good match.

Shawn Mullins' new album "Light You Up" out October 12.

Q. Speaking of changes, you recently experienced the birth of your first child. What has the past year been like in your new role as a father?

A. Well, it’s definitely different. It changed my outlook on almost everything. I find myself wanting to tour less than I have in the past and I feel a higher level of responsibility. I don’t feel like it’s changing the way I write songs at all. He’s just giving me more to write about.

Q. Your song “Lullaby” famously chronicled life on the west coast, yet you make your home in Georgia. While the influence of both locales is evident on the new album, how do you reconcile the differences between such opposite places in your music?

A. Well first of all, I write a lot about the places that I travel through and the people I meet. “Lullaby” is simply a story – part fact and part fiction – and it probably took an outsider’s perspective to write that song. Especially, the last verse that compares the seedy underbelly of Hollywood to Nashville. My last album, “Honeydew,” was mostly written about Atlanta and the new south. There’s only one “Georgia’” song on the new CD, “Catoosa County,” which is a civil war song. Most of the latest album is set in L.A., but that wasn’t really done on purpose. It wasn’t meant to be a theme. It’s just the way it all came out. I guess geography and setting [are]  pretty major ingredient[s] in my songs.

See the video for “Lullaby” here:

Q. A standout track on the new album is “The Ghost of Johnny Cash.” Did you ever get the chance to meet Johnny while he was alive? And what has his influence been on your life? Do you have any other figures in your life that have influenced you as well?

A. I never got to meet Johnny Cash. I’m a big fan though. I sometimes wonder if people really know how much he influenced rock ‘n’ roll as well as country music. I know Kris Kristofferson pretty well. He’s the ultimate songwriter’s songwriter, and he’s told me some great stories about Johnny. I met Kristofferson in 1995 and gave him on of my records. A few months later, I was sitting at home trying to write and the phone rang. It was Kris. He started quoting lines from one of my songs, and that pretty much blew my mind. Here was my hero quoting my lyric and calling me a great songwriter! That really boosted my confidence at a time when I desperately needed it. We’ve hung out several times and swapped songs. Hanging out with Kristofferson is just as amazing as you think he would be. There are other influences, but he’s always been the biggest for me. That song, “The Ghost of Johnny Cash,” was written by my friends Chuck Cannon and Phil Madeira. It’s the only cover song on the new record. It’s the ultimate tribute and tip of the hat to the man in black.

Q. You find recent chart success via your collaboration with the Zac Brown Band on “Toes.” Have you ever considered branching out into other genres, even those outside the realm of predictability, in order to expose your music to new audiences? If so, what? If not, why? Please explain.

A. Yeah, I’m open to writing any kind of music. I love all good music regardless of genre. Country music is an obvious one because it’s not that different from what I normally write. Some people say you have to “dumb it down” when you write a country song. Tell Kristofferson that! His biggest hits were country songs, and they’re brilliantly written. No matter what type of music it is, you want to communicate so that your audience gets it. I don’t assume that they’re not smart enough to get my meaning. It’s my job as a songwriter to write a song that speaks to the listener and makes them feel something. It’s not about genres to me. It’s about writing really good songs. That’s always the goal.

 Q. Tell us about some of your best and worst gigs. With a career as long as yours, does anything surprise you anymore?

A. My worst gig ever was at a club in Las Vegas, well not exactly. It was outside Vegas, not on the strip. I got heckled, which doesn’t happen too much to me. Anyway, this heckler was doing his best to ruin my show, and all of the sudden this woman jumped up and started giving him hell. It was pretty great. She totally shut this guy up, and the whole audience gave her a standing ovation. I guess that could count as one of my best gigs too now that I think about it. I don’t have a lot of bad gigs. The crowds are usually with me, and the most that can go wrong is a power outage, which has happened a few times over the years. In those situations, I just unplug and sing the rest of the concert totally acoustic. That can turn a potentially bad gig into something really special.

Mullins (Photo courtesy of Michael Wilson)

Q. Though many will forever associate you with a particular song, what else can listeners expect at one of your shows? What might they not expect?

A. If you think about it, most recording artists are known for one or two songs. I don’t mind that a bit. I’m glad to be known for any song I’ve written and recorded. But I like to change it up a bit at my concerts. Sometimes after my shows, people that have never heard me play live tell me that it was different than what they expected. I may do a country song or an old standard from the 1930s. Also I tell a few stories throughout my set. People shouldn’t expect pyrotechnics, dancers, auto-tuned vocals or backing tracks. It’s an acoustic show. I don’t pretend to be anything other than a singer and songwriter. Sometimes I get to play with my band, and that’s a really different show than my solo concerts.

Q. Do you have any advice for others out there, who are seeking to make music their vocation? Do you have any warnings?

A. My only advice to those who want a career in music is don’t be in it for the money. If that’s your reason for writing music or performing or recording, then you’re in trouble. Don’t ever do it for the money. Why? Because most great artists don’t make a lot of money. It’s the publishing companies, record companies (although these days, not so much), lawyers and managers who really earn the most money in this business. If you want to be a musician, be a musician. If you want to be rich, you’d better try something else. These days you can do just as well independently as you can as a signed artist, but you have to be willing to work really hard. Learn as much about the business of music as you can, and try to keep the art separate from all that stuff, that’s the hard part.

Q. Lastly, in the past you have had the privilege of having your music used on television shows and in feature films. And many listeners today hear new music for the first time through these mediums. What is your opinion of this process? What effects do you think this innovation might ultimately have on the way people hear/ find new music in the future? 

A. It’s definitely a big part of what makes music popular. But it has been for over 50 years already if you think about it. There weren’t rock stars before television. But the Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand and other television shows helped launch the careers of the greatest pop stars of the 20th century. It’s an old model with a fresh coat of paint on it. I don’t really see it as a new thing at all. But now there are more ways to be heard and seen, and I guess that’s a good thing.

Shawn Mullins performed November 4 at the  Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com. For more information and tour dates please visit www.shawnmullins.com.

 

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Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers pay tribute to late UMass band director at Northampton Show

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (Photo courtesy of Megan Baker)

When word first broke that UMass marching band director George Parks had died unexpectedly during a school trip to Michigan, one of those affected by the news was singer/ songwriter Stephen Kellogg.

While most popularly known as the lead singer of pop/ rock group Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, Kellogg is also a former UMass student and marching band veteran.

During his time in Amherst, Mass. Kellogg not only got the chance to know Parks personally, but had also recently been negotiating with him to incorporate the school’s marchers into a concert to be played at the nearby Calvin Theatre in Northampton. Now, that show has been turned into a tribute to Parks with the marching band appearing as a special honor to their former leader.

The Underground recently got the chance to speak with Kellogg, and asked him about his thoughts on playing this special show, writing songs about girls, and what he remembers most about George Parks.

Q. Since the story of the Sixers first began in Western Massachusetts, do you feel any special kinship to the area?

A. Western Massachusetts has always felt like the home of the band and in many ways home to me. I haven’t lived there in some years, but I still recognize folks on the streets when I go to these places. A great deal of my family has its roots there too and some of the band still lives in the area, so no doubt it’s a special place.

Q. What are your feelings on playing a show where the group first met?

A. Excited!

Q. What if any influence do you have from your time spent at UMass?

A. Well in recent years UMass has influenced us by being supportive of us. I think I felt officially “old” when we were in Dallas last month and a big group of UMass alumni came out as part of the “alumni association.” It was the place where I made up my mind to throw in with the music career lot and it’s where I met two of the three Sixers whom have forever altered the course of my life…so I’d say it was a pretty influential place.

Q. Speaking of UMass, your upcoming show in Northampton will involve the participation of the school’s marching band as part of a tribute honoring the late George Parks. What memories do you specifically have of George, and how did the idea for this special show come about?

A. This idea was really Georges. When we shot the music video for “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts” last summer, it was George who pushed through the red tape to make it happen. After that he said ‘what else?’ he was that sort of guy, not one to rest on his laurels…so we started dreaming up a show, the where, the when, the how…one night John Sanders and Eric Suher suggested that the Calvin would be great and I was an intern at iheg when the Calvin re-opened in the late ‘90s, so that sounded like a thrill to me. I hit up George with the idea and he loved it. I still have a bunch of emails from George on my computer saying things like ‘this will be great…but we’ll talk later about the details.” I can’t yet bring myself to delete them.

Q. Music on television has certainly changed from the days when MTV was in its infancy. Now many listeners hear songs for the first time when they are played on their favorite television shows. What are your thoughts on this new way to hear/ expose fans to music?

A. I think it is what it is. Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but I prefer radio and even MTV, where it’s more about the music (as a way to consume the music I listen to). When there is a dramatic TV show cutting the song in and out it’s not exactly “ideal,” but hey this is what’s going on and I’m not about to say that it’s bad- it just is.

Q. And what are your feelings on having your song “Shady” used as part of the promotional campaign for TNT’s show “Men of a Certain Age”?

A. My previous answer notwithstanding, I’m totally thrilled to have the song being used here. I think it’s a great fit for a great show and I’m honored by the opportunity.

Q. Like many other bands, you have spent time performing for the troops overseas. What was that experience like?

A. It’s amazing to see the job our military has, amazing to meet those people and to be running across each other all over the globe…pretty wild. It only ups my appreciation for all that we have in America. It makes me want to be less cynical about problems and more focused on problem solving-helping the situation rather than always tearing down.

Q. And how was it performing in front of the Prime Minister of Israel?

A. I don’t think I could say Netanyahu is a SK6ERS fan in good conscience as I’m not sure we had his full attention, but he was certainly there and it was a day well spent.

Sixers (Photo courtesy of Megan Baker)

Q. How important is charity work not only to you, but also to the band? What is like having such a close relationship with the children of St. Jude’s Hospital?

A. The bottom line is that it needs to be even more important than it is. We have this amazing job and ability to reach people who nine times out of 10 would love to “make a difference.” St. Jude is one of the finest hospitals in the country and an inspiration to our band, so they are a logical place for us to focus our efforts, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by one’s own concerns and fears…staying involved with the charity branch of what SK6ERS do helps keep our perspective.

Q. Also on the subject of charity, the members of fellow New England band State Radio are frequently noted for their pre-show activism. For example, the 5k the group runs before their annual Halloween show in Northampton is a fundraiser that raises money for a variety of charitable causes. Have you or your band ever thought about doing something similar? What are some ways you get your fans involved in charity work?

A. Chad (of State Radio) is one of my favorite people and a total inspiration to me and our guys. State Radio is amazing with their ability to bring their fans to action, and when you speak with them it’s evident that it all starts with the initiative of the band. “SK6ERS” causes tend to be a bit more domestic then international, but we’ve actually been involved in a number of “Calling All Crows” events and modeled our “Rellogg Foundation” after theirs…I’m not sure I could run five miles though, so we’ll have to find some other outreach ideas (joking…kind of).

Q. You seem to have a penchant for titling songs after women’s names? Is there any particular reason for this, or do you just naturally turn to songwriting when thinking “About a Girl”?

A. It’s funny you called me out on this! I noticed that for the first time this tour because a lot of the songs we have been playing this tour are the ones with girls names in the chorus. There are usually only one or two a record, but together, it can feel like I’m going through a black book or something. Even since the last record I’ve written a few more…I guess it’s one of ‘my things, but I will say this…the songs aren’t all love songs about ladies. “Mabeline” is about an undercover cop that busted one of my uncles for drug dealing, “Oh Adeline” is about faith, a (with love) teenage pregnancy and the family wheel…so if the name theme is consistent, they are pretty different tunes…do I sound defensive yet? Well played.

Q. Life on tour is a constant rollercoaster, full of ups and downs. How do you cope with that particular lifestyle?

A. I work with some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I mail postcards home several times a week. Eight years ago I hired my cousin Jessica to tour manage our band and it’s one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made-she’s been known to rub Bager balm on the guys temples to help us sleep. There’s no substitute for TLC.

Q. While on the road, do you ever feel like the situation you describe in the song “Lonely in Columbus”?

A. I do sometimes feel that way. I felt that way when i wrote that song-like the world is just not a safe place to be and too exposed-like a turtle with no shell. Thank goodness it’s not all the time.

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers with openers Hoots and Hellmouth, and a special appearance by the UMass marching band, October 28, 8 p.m., $20, The Calvin Theatre, 19 King St., Northampton, (413) 586-8686, www.iheg.com/calvin_theater_main.asp.

For more information and tour dates please visit www.stephenkellogg.com.

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Grand Band Slam Winners Preview – Triple XXX

Photo courtesy of Triple X

To conclude our weeklong series of articles previewing winners for Grand Band Slam 2010, the Underground decided to go hardcore. Luckily, the members of Valley-rockers Triple XXX were up to the job.

Though the group first formed in the late ‘80s, turbulent band relations led to an eventual break-up in 1990. Then, 20 years later video surfaced online of the original lineup in action at a nearby venue. This footage acted as the catalyst for a band reunion of sorts, and now complete with new members Dave Hall and Gina Andia the group is ready to bring “arena rock” back to clubs across Western Massachusetts.

Band name – Triple XXX

Category won – Rock

Members – Gina Andia (Lead Vocals) Dave Hall (Guitar and Vocals) Jake Torrey (Bass) Mike Duquette (Drums) John LaValley (Guitar & Vocals)

Q. What town(s) does Triple X call home?

A. West Springfield, Westfield, and Chicopee, Mass.

Q. What year did the band form?

A. Originally 1988, the current incarnation September 2009.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a musician in the valley? Biggest complaint?

A. Favorite – The people, we have had soooo much support from all of our friends, it’s just amazing! Complaint – Not enough clubs anymore, we’ve seen the demise of some great rooms in the last two years, the recession has taken its toll on the local “Live Music” scene.

Q. Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

A. Best gig – Friends of the Sanders Benefit at the Knights of Columbus on Page Boulevard in Springfield. In August we got the opportunity to share the stage with some of the Valley’s most talented musicians (Bad Magick, Two Suffering Bastards, and Highroller) and help make a difference for an incredible family in their time of need.  Worst gig – Luckily I’d have to say that we have yet to have a “worst” gig. I would say our most recent gig was the toughest, both Gina and myself were incredibly sick, but we got through it. We have been very blessed to have the support we have gotten over the last year!

See video of Triple XXX at the Dawn of Hope Benefit here:


Q. What can fans expect at/ from one of your shows?

A. The unexpected. We will cover anything! You never know what’s going to be on the setlist next. We like to play stuff that you never get to hear in the clubs. And no genre is safe. We’ve gone from Pat Benatar to Megadeth to Judas Priest to Pink. Also, we are trying to re-create that “arena rock” feel in the clubs. Big light shows and production, strobes, and smoke et cetera.

Q. What was the last record you bought/ listened to?

A. Mike Abdow’s (Aquanett) “Native Alien,” hands down the best CD I’ve purchased in a long time.

Q. What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like or look up to?

A. We like them all. There is so much raw talent in the Valley, I’m surprised that we don’t see more artists signed out of this area more frequently.

Q. What has been your biggest/ weirdest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

A. Hmmmm, we haven’t really been around long enough for anything really interesting. I will say that the coolest “rock ‘n’ roll” moment to date would have to be sharing the stage with the guys from Bad Magick and Two Suffering Bastards at the “Dawn of Hope” Benefit, then watching ourselves on TV40 News later that night! That was pretty interesting.

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play? Least favorite?

A. We love any room that will let us make noise in it. You got a deck, patio, gazebo, broom closet we’ll play in it!

Q. Do you have any advice for other Valley artists or musicians who are just starting out?

A. Be true to yourselves, and keep it fun, above everything else it should be fun. No gig is too small/too big. Give every gig 110% whether there are three or 300 people.

For more information and tour dates please visit www.facebook.com/pages/TRIPLE-XXX. And don’t miss the group on stage at Grand Band Slam 2010.

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Grand Band Slam Winners Preview – Jeff Bujak

Jeff Bujak (Photo courtesy of Macallen Coats)

For part four of our series previewing this year’s Grand Band Slam winners, the Underground decided to travel straight to the heart of the party. While typically a subject of great debate amongst music lovers, most fans living in the Pioneer Valley are in agreement when they say that particular locale is ruled by one Jeff Bujak.

As the area’s reigning electronica impresario, Bujak commonly delights audiences across Western Massachusetts with his adventurous brand of “Intelligent Dance Music.” Also, as a defending Band Slam champion he is uniquely positioned to answer questions on subjects ranging from the finer points of area venue appreciation, all the way to the lessons learned by witnessing firsthand the Wu-Tang Clan’s special brand of “vocal exercises.”

Name – Jeff Bujak

Category won – Electronica

Hometown – Northampton, Mass.

Year formed – 2007

Members – Jeff Bujak (keyboards, electric piano, samples, programming, triggering, lights)

Q. Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

A. My best shows are ones where I feel appreciated; by fans as well as the venue. When I show up at a club and have a steep, shady stairwell for load-in with no door shimmy or help, then during load-in they tell you not to prop the door because of the AC, then I look at the house PA speakers and they look like something new from a 1974 Sears catalog. At that point, I don’t feel that any musician is appreciated at that venue. Many venues need work on this and it happens more than not. The music is why people are at your venue, not for the dusty, dingy atmosphere.

Q. What can fans expect at/ from one of your shows?

A. It’s like grabbing a LED Koosh ball, pinching one of the strings and swinging it around while laughing and dancing; that feeling, literally.

See the video for “Persuaders” here:


Q. What was the last record you bought/ listened to?

A. Bassnectar “Cozza Frenzy.” Didn’t buy it though, it’s all about supporting the live show for me.

Q. What other Valley band/ artist do you like or look up to?

A. Any musician in this Valley that enjoys what they do.

Q. What has been your biggest/ weirdest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

A. Backstage at Camp Bisco 9, watching Method Man, Raekwon and the whole Wu-Massacre “prepare” for their show, “La, la, la…LA, LA, LAA…cough, cough.”

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play? Least favorite?

A. My favorite venue has always been in people’s living rooms.  When I rage house parties (silent disco stylee or loud PA), I get to see people in their own element having fun as they see fit without the hassle of a jackass door-guy and hefty beer costs.

Q. Do you have any advice for other Valley artists or musicians who are just starting out?

A. Grow thick skin.  Also, there are only a couple ways to “make it” these days in the industry and live touring is the road I took.  Album sales mean nothing to me. Heads and smiles at a show is everything.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re going to “make it” these days with a new album.  Give the album out for free and get people to the show!

For more information and tour dates please visit www.jeffbujak.com or www.myspace.com/jeffbujak. And don’t miss Jeff’s live set at Grand Band Slam 2010.

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Grand Band Slam Winners Preview – Accidental Groove

Photo courtesy of Accidental Groove

In order to compile part three of our countdown to Grand Band Slam 2010, the Underground slipped across the border to Connecticut to interview Hartford Advocate faves Accidental Groove. However, as of this writing, the group is no more.

Drummer Guy Drapeau had this to say about his band’s untimely dissolution:

“Unfortunately, the band has retired. We did our last show At Rookies in Cromwell, Conn. on August 21. It was a very emotional show for us as we have been playing for more than a decade and [have] seen many great and crazy things along the way.”

Though the music has stopped (for the time being), we at the Underground would like to recognize Accidental Groove for their contributions to the local music scene. Also, we would like to wish all the individual members the best of luck in their future endeavors. Now on to the interview…

Band name – Accidental Groove

Category won – Groove/ Jam

Members –  DeAnna Drapeau (Lead Vocals) Keith La Flamme (Guitar and vocals) Dave Bucalo (Keyboards and vocals), Guy Drapeau (Drums) Tony Barbosa (Bass and vocals)

Q. What town(s) does Accidental Groove call home?

A. Rocky Hill, Conn.

Q. What year did the band form?

A. 1993 was the year of Birth for the Accidental Groove. We have had players come and go through the years. DeAnna and myself are the original members. This final lineup was created in 2006. Dave introduced Dee and I to Tony and Keith.

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a musician in the valley? Biggest complaint?

A. Playing is always rewarding, especially when you have a good crowd in front of you. This latest lineup has never had any issue in “holding the crowd”. The group is tight, personable and plays a wide range of music. Biggest complaint has been (and always will be) load in and load out. Getting home at 4 a.m. on a regular basis knocks the crap out of you the next day.

Q. Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

A. Best gig hands down was Earth day in Hartford, Conn. 1998 with Sean Mullins. 12 thousand people, one hour set, and AG fans were in heavy attendance. Worst gig was in New London, Conn. at a showcase with six bands. 20 people showed up, the band bar tab was $200 (we got paid $50), and my guitar player (at the time) forgot to take his Prozac that day.

See Accidental Groove tackle Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance here:

Q. What can fans expect at/ from one of your shows?

A. AG is a female fronted band primarily, but we have versatility with our two guitar players as they can both sing as well. We like to drink Jagermeister and generally get a little wild as the night goes on.

Q. What was the last record you bought/ listened to?

A. DeAnna buys all the records (downloads) and she is a big Christina Aguilera fan. I have been getting nostalgic lately and been pulling out my old “Boston” records. More than a feeling baby!!

Q. What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like or look up to?

A. I am a Mullethead fan. Those guys (drummer rocks) are doing music they like and people are eating it up. That is a band that has a good time playing music.

Q. What has been your biggest/ weirdest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

A. One of our fans got thrown out of a bar in Boston by a bouncer that was the spitting image of Roger Clemens. One of my rapper/ singers at the time broke out into a verse “Relax, don’t do it,” kind heckling the bouncer. Well, he didn’t appreciate that too much so he waited until after show to deal with his humiliation. As I was walking around the corner to hit the men’s room at the end of the night, he had my rapper/ singer jacked up off the floor by his throat. I tried to be hero and save him, and wound up right next to him jacked up as well. Somehow I talked our way out of a beat down, but it was a close call.

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play? Least favorite?

A. It goes back a few years but my favorite venue has always been Maximillian’s in Springfield. I miss that place.

Q. Do you have any advice for other Valley artists or musicians who are just starting out?

A. Promotions, promotions, promotions. If you don’t promote, you will get nowhere fast. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. If you suck no one will come see you. Be different. People like to be surprised, even if it’s something stupid.

For more information on Accidental Groove please visit www.myspace.com/accidentalgroove.

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Grand Band Slam Winners Preview – Brian Chicoine and the Truck Stop Troubadours

Brian Chicoine and the Truck Stop Troubadors (Photo courtesy of Brian Chicoine)

Continuing our weeklong countdown to Grand Band Slam 2010, the Underground recently got the chance to catch up with the “good ol’ boys” in Brian Chicoine and the Truck Stop Troubadours. While relatively new faces on the local band scene, these old school songsters bring years of experience to the table and hope to convert as many fans as possible to their unique brand of country music.

Band nameBrian Chicoine and the Truck Stop Troubadours

Category won – Country

Members – Brian Chicoine (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Ed King (Drums), Junior Boyne (Bass), Rob “R.G.” Grimaldi (Lead Guitar) Occasional Guests: Ben Edmonds (Pedal Steel/ Tele Guitars), Katie Richter (Lead Vocals)

Q. What town(s) do the Truck Stop Troubadours call home?

A. Chicopee, Mass. /Springfield Area

Q. What year did the band form?

A. February 2010

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a musician in the valley? Biggest complaint?

A. The valley is a great place to play our style of old school country. We are gaining new fans every time we play out and converting people who might not have listened to our kind of music before. The biggest complaint is that some clubs that would be great live music venues rely too much on DJ’s or karaoke.

Q. Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

A. One of our best gigs was just recently at the Mowhawk Trail Campground. The people there were great and kept that dance floor hopping all night and took care of the band and treated us great. Worst Gigs are basically the ones where not a lot of people are there, but even when there are a few people they deserve our best and they get it.

Q. What can fans expect at/ from one of your shows?

A. A Truck Stop Troubadour show is chocked full of classic country songs from the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakam, et cetera. You will hear all these songs with a little bit of oomph behind it. You will also hear original songs in the classic country tradition. The band’s stage show is amazing as well all the players give everything they got and keep the fans going all night.

Q. What was the last record you bought/ listened to?

A. The Last records I bought was actually Miranda Lambert’s “Revolution” and a Classic Waylon Jennings album called “Are You Ready For The Country?”

Q. What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like or look up to?

A. We really enjoy Aquanett and solo artist Josh Friend

Q. What has been your biggest/ weirdest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

A. One of our biggest moments was early on, when we won our round at the battle of the bands at Crossroads in Palmer and another one at Indian Ranch in Webster, Mass.

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play? Least favorite?

A. Crossroads in Palmer, Mass. is a great room to play. As far as a least favorite, [we] don’t have one. We are happy to play anywhere!!!

Q. Do you have any advice for other artists or musicians who are just starting out?

A. Just keep at it and play the music that you love to play. Like the great Ricky Nelson once wrote, “You can’t please everyone, so you have to please yourself.”

For more information and tour dates please visit www.myspace.com/brianchicoinemusic or http://www.facebook.com/pages/Truck-Stop-Troubadours/213208076297. And don’t foget to catch the group live on stage at Grand Band Slam 2010.

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Grand Band Slam Winners Preview – Jamie Kent and the Options

Photo courtesy of Jamie Kent

Ballots went out. Nominations were made. And numerous votes were finally tallied. Now some of the best musicians Western Massachusetts has to offer will get their chance to shine at the Grand Band Slam concert 2010.

This yearly event, sponsored by the Valley Advocate alternative newspaper, is a day-long music lover’s dream and features performances by some of the most talented, unsigned bands in the Pioneer Valley. Acts scheduled to appear this year include Rattlebone, Aquanett, the Tinkers and many more.

As part of a special countdown to this event, we at the Underground are kicking off a weeklong series of articles detailing the stories behind 5 of this year’s Grand Band Slam winners. First up are jazz strumming newcomers Jamie Kent and the Options (pictured).

Band name – Jamie Kent and The Options

Category won – Jazz

Members – Jamie Kent (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar) Joe Boyle (Electric Guitars) Bob Laramie (Bass) Rich Adelson (Drums) Bill Holloman (B-3 Organ, Electric Piano, Sax, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Trombone) Occasional guest: Steve Yarbro (Clarinet) Nick Borges (Trumpet) Tim Boucher (Tuba).

Q. What town(s) do you and the Options call home?A. The Options are all based out of western Mass., and primarily call the great village of Florence home.Q. What year did the band form?A. The band formed February of this year (2010)! 

Q. What is your favorite thing about being a musician in the valley? Biggest complaint?

A. The best and worst part about being a musician in the valley is the amazing music scene here. There are a ton of fantastic venues to play and even more fantastic musicians to collaborate with, and that’s just awesome. However, when there’s great music going on at 10 different places on the same night, that can occasionally be a bit frustrating when trying to get fans out to see your show!

Q. Tell us about your best and worst gigs.

A. Our best gig so far took place this past July in Syracuse NY at the Empire BrewFest. 3,000+ people and 300+ breweries; how can you beat that? Our worst gig on the other hand took place just a couple weeks ago in Hyannis MA. We played to people drunkenly requesting AC/DC covers all night, then were stiffed $50 at the end of the night. So we played on the street of Provincetown the next morning to make up for it!

Q. What can fans expect at/ from one of your shows?

A. If you come to one of our shows, expect to do a little singing with us by the end of the night…

Q. What was the last record you bought/ listened to?

A. John Mayer Live in LA and Jaco Pastorius (self titled)

Q. What other Valley band (or solo artist) do you like or look up to?

A. Martin Sexton. Vocals, guitar, songwriting; he’s got the package. It would be pretty amazing to play a show with him…

Q. What has been your biggest/ weirdest “rock ‘n’ roll moment”?

A. Recently a fan got a tattoo of a lyric from our song “Ama San”. We didn’t really realize the potential impact of our music until that point.

Q. What’s your favorite venue to play? Least favorite?

A. Any place outdoors. There’s not much better than live music on a nice day outside.  There’s also a couple cool places on the rise in Florence…

Q. Do you have any advice for other Valley artists or musicians who are just starting out?

A. Work hard and be persistent. Hard work creates more opportunities.

For more information and future tour dates please visit www.jamiekent.com or www.myspace.com/jamiekentmusic. Also, don’t miss Kent and company live on stage at Grand Band Slam 2010.

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