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SXSW 2018 Interview: Sam Lewis

 
By on Thursday, 21st June 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Nashville singer/songwriter Sam Lewis seemed very much in his element at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion, which took place just outside Austin during SXSW 2018. The weather was sunny, the atmosphere was mellow, and the music was abundant. I heard Lewis perform at the early-by-SXSW-standards hour of 11 AM, and later in the afternoon I had a chance to chat with him about his new LP, ‘Loversity’, which was released on the 4th of May.

Sam Lewis internal(photo by Sarah Bennett)

Despite the afternoon sunshine, a strong breeze was blowing as we found seats on a quaint wooden swing set, and Lewis broke the conversational ice by asking about the windscreen on my voice recorder. “Tell me what’s on your recorder right now, because this thing looks kind of like, remember Don King, the boxing promoter? It looks like his hair.” (He wasn’t wrong; if you’re not American or have no idea who Don King is, check out photos of Don King through here.)

I asked Lewis about the Song Swap he’d played that morning with Courtney Marie Andrews, Caleb Caudle, and Kevin Kinney, and he responded with a wry smile. “With 100 percent honesty, I think all four of us were were asked to come play, and then we found out a couple of weeks ago that it was at 11 AM and it was a Song Swap, so we all kind of got a chuckle out of that.”

Lewis played three songs on that set, and I was surprised that none of them were from his new record. His explanation was disarmingly candid: “I didn’t feel like playing any of those.” But he continued, talking about the songs he chose to play instead. “I played ‘Virginia Avenue’, [which is] a song about where I’m from, and ‘In My Dreams’, which is off of my first record, and I also played a song called ‘Little Time’ which is a John Prine-inspired song I wrote with Taylor Bates in Nashville.”

Lewis released his self-titled debut album in 2012 and followed it up with ‘Waiting on You’ in 2015. His new third album, ‘Loversity’, centers around its eponymous title track, which sprang from a moment of spontaneous inspiration. “I was touring a couple of years ago, just outside of Richmond, Virginia, and I passed by this really cool, colorful building.” The sign on the building was partially obscured, and in his road weary state of mind, Lewis couldn’t quite make out what it said. “I saw this building, and all I saw was ‘-ersity’. I knew that there was missing letters or something, [but] I just blurted out ‘Loversity’. A friend of mine was with me at the time, and he looked it up real quick, and he was like, ‘That’s not a word.’ And I said, ‘Well, I really dig that, I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to find out what that means. So, I wound up writing a song called ‘Loversity’.”

‘Loversity’, the album, is an eclectic group of songs, both in terms of musical style and lyrical subject matter.”I don’t know where it’s going to wind up living as far as genre,” Lewis admitted. “Like with many things, there’s an identity crisis [in music], everything’s been cross-pollinated. It’s getting called ‘cosmic country’, it’s getting called ‘country funk’. I’ve heard all sorts of different things. It’s got a little bit of everything, because I’m not a big fan of limitations, but exercising all of your abilities.”

“I’m really proud of [this] project,” Lewis said about ‘Loversity’, which he produced, working with Brandon Bell at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville. “I’m a big fan of this project because of the people involved.” Lewis recorded the album with his former band, who now tour full time with Chris Stapleton and could only join Lewis in the studio. Despite having given a solo acoustic performance earlier in the day, Lewis said, “That’s where I’m going with everything, full band. Like, I experimented with horns on this album. There’s two songs that have horns, and I can see how you can get a little crazy with that, because it’s really fun.”

The individual songs on ‘Loversity’ are more philosophical than actually political, though some of them do touch on political ideas. “They’re getting thrown into a political realm, which I’m fine with, but they’re not political songs,” Lewis said. The common thread among them is a thematic motif of unity and sharing, and Lewis confesses that “they’re personal songs. I needed to hear those songs, too.”

I had a confession to make at that point as well, that I had only listened to the album once before meeting Lewis that day. He was undeterred, encouraging me not only to “try it again,” but to “try it at different times, try it it inebriated, try it non-caffeinated, try it in a car . . .” In the time between the interview and this publication, I’ve taken his advice, and I’ll pass it along to you. ‘Loversity’ is a perfect listen if you’re searching for an uplifting message in trying times, if you need a soundtrack for a long drive, or if you simply want a soulful groove on a hot summer night. Try it.

‘Loversity’ is available now via Sam Lewis’ official Web site. Our thanks to Sarah for coordinating this interview.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Dan Bettridge

 
By on Tuesday, 19th June 2018 at 11:00 am
 

If you’re a long time TGTF reader, you might remember that Welsh singer/songwriter Dan Bettridge was originally tapped to make the trip to America for SXSW 2017. (If not, you can read our SXSW 2017 preview coverage here and here.) Sadly, unexpected visa issues prevented Bettridge and several other international artists, from making the trip last year.

I met with Bettridge on the Wednesday night of SXSW 2018, at the Focus Wales showcase hosted by downtown Austin club the Townsend. He was kind enough to give me a few minutes before he played his set on the showcase, and we naturally started with a chat about the aforementioned visa challenges. Specifically, Bettridge had a problem with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which determines eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows citizens of 38 approved countries, including the UK, to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.

If that sounds complicated to you, you’re not alone. “To be honest, I think it was a clerical error,” Bettridge said. But the ordeal inspired his management team to write a guide for international musicians planning to travel to America ahead of his rescheduled trip to Austin this year. “I think that was helpful to some people, because people are still confused, you know, artists and management, about how to get their band over here. So the more we share about it the better, I guess.”

I mentioned the current American political climate as a potential obstacle for visiting musicians, and Bettridge quickly agreed. “Yeah, it’s a nightmare! I mean you’re supposed to be able to do it with an ESTA, but people are saying, just for security reasons, go and get a visa which is a bit of a pain, really. But I got [a visa] this year.”

“You don’t strike me as a security risk,” I joked. Bettridge laughed, “No, that’s just what people said! I don’t consider myself a security risk.”

At that point, we turned our attention to Bettridge’s impending set, and I asked him what I might expect to hear when he took the stage. “It will be all new stuff,” he said, “it’s kind of, how do I explain it?” He paused for a moment, and I empathised with the ever present challenge of trying to describe music in words. “I guess it’s soul rock, with a little bit of country thrown in sometimes. I guess that’s the best way to explain it.”

That intriguing description led to discussion of Bettridge’s forthcoming LP, ‘Asking for Trouble’, whose release format is equally intriguing. In the midst of the digital age, when so many musicians are releasing singles and EPs rather than waiting to put out a full album, Bettridge has struck a very deliberate compromise with the new project. “It is going to culminate in an album,” he explained, “but I’m releasing it in ‘Waves’ of four songs at a time.” The idea behind the staggered release, he said, is “to take advantage, really, of everything turning to streaming. It’s just more digestible. It’s a 16 track album, so I think it just wouldn’t work, putting it out in one piece.”

Bettridge also wanted to encourage his listeners to take some time with the new songs. “Sometimes huge artists will bring out albums, and the following week they’re just forgotten about, you know, they’re just dead. So [this] was another way of prolonging the release and trying to get every song to be [heard] without interruption. I think four songs is a good number of songs to be released at a time.”

The individual ‘Waves’ are each carefully constructed and deliberately different from the final album tracklisting. “It’s a little bit eclectic,” Bettridge said of the full LP. “There’s some really driving rock songs on there, and then there’s also some more sort of pop sensibility songs on it. The ‘Waves’ are gathered together where the songs make sense together, so there won’t be so much of a shock when the full album does come out. There’ll be three ‘Waves’ in total, and then the final ‘Wave’ will be kind of like a completion of the album. So when people buy the album, they’ll still be getting songs they haven’t yet heard.”

Despite the temptation of that payoff at the end, I suggested that the ‘Wave’ approach might be asking a lot from Bettridge’s listeners in terms of thoughtful comprehension of the music. “I kind of thought I was making it easier for them!” Bettridge exclaimed. Still, this is clearly an album for dedicated listeners, even with accessible singles like ‘Heavenly Father’ in the mix.

Dan Bettridge’s LP ‘Asking for Trouble’ is due for full release on the 6th of July. In the meantime, you can listen to Waves One, Two, and Three on Spotify or on his official Soundcloud. Bettridge will be on tour in the UK this summer, playing headline shows and festival slots.  TGTF’s collected coverage of Dan Bettridge is right through here.

 

SXSW 2018 Interview: Allman Brown

 
By on Thursday, 31st May 2018 at 11:00 am
 

My first interview at SXSW 2018 was with English singer/songwriter Allman Brown, who I met before his very first SXSW showcase on the Tuesday night of the music festival, at Austin’s Seven Grand. We had already featured Brown as one of our Bands to Watch leading into SXSW, and he kindly answered our Quickfire Questions ahead of the festival, but this interview was a nice chance to chat with Brown one-on-one, and to get quick preview of what I was about to hear from him on stage.

Brown had already had a bit of an adventure leading into the music festival, which he related to me in the beginning of our chat. “We flew to Dallas, and we were supposed to have a gig in Dallas but I had to cancel that, sadly [due to illness]. So, then we drove, we got the Greyhound, because we’re English, so we thought we had to hit that American stereotype and get the bus to Austin.” It turned out that the 4-hour bus trip from Dallas to Austin was less than scenic, but being an avid reader, Brown took the opportunity indulge his favourite hobby. “I was reading ‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill,” he explained. “It came out, I think, like two years ago. It was a big hit in the States. It was brilliant. It’s all centered around a lady who abandons her son. And it’s the back story of her through like, the 1968 Chicago riots, and why she did it. It was quite intriguing.” He further described the story as a “multigenerational family drama, but also quite funny, and (it) dealt with pop culture as well.”

I mentioned that we don’t always get such detailed book recommendations at There Goes the Fear, and Brown smiled a bit sheepishly. “Reading is breathing, I live to read. I just read today, actually, the novel of the new Joaquin Phoenix movie, ‘You Were Never Really Here’. I just read the novella it’s based on. It was pretty savage.”

Brown’s readling list recommendations naturally led the conversation into possible literary influences in his music. When I asked him if he has consciously introduced his reading into his songwriting, he demurred a bit. “I think if I read a book that I really like, that gives me a certain feeling, I might take that feeling and try and put it into a song. But I try not to imitate anyone because it doesn’t feel organic to me.”

From there, the discussion turned to Brown’s own repertoire, which at this point includes his 2017 album ‘A Thousand Years’ and his most recent EP release ‘Bury My Heart’, which came out on the Friday of SXSW. In discussing the EP, Brown mentioned, rather casually, that it was his first release as a full-time musician. “I was always working in restaurants and bars and stuff for like 10 years, but I managed to go full-time music just after my daughter was born, actually.” Like any proud father, Brown was clearly eager to talk about his family, and I expressed surprise that he would choose to turn to music full-time just after having a baby. “She brought all the good luck,” he beamed. “She’s now 15 months. But it was okay, I didn’t rush into it. It happened gradually, but I felt secure to make the change.”

Brown was away from his family for only eight days on his trip to Austin, but he jokingly described it as being “horrible.” I told him that, based on my own experience, eight days at SXSW would go by quickly, and he agreed. “Honestly, eight days in Austin is not the worst place to be,” he admitted, “it’s a beautiful city, nice people.” But getting back to his wife and daughter, he says, “I did a tour [once] for about 10 days, and that’s kind of my limit. Anything longer, I’ll just bring them with me.”

The background music and chatter at the Seven Grand got gradually louder as the start time for the evening’s showcase approached, and I took that cue to ask Brown about his set list for the show. “It will be a bit of a selection really, because it’s just me,” he confided. “I don’t have the band, which I quite like sometimes, because it’s good to sort of keep your chops. I spent years just playing by myself. So, a couple of new songs, and some old favourites from the album. I mean, they’re my old favourites,” he laughed.

“But you kind of have to gauge,” he continued. “South by Southwest seems quite quite rowdy and upbeat so far. You know what I mean, like the crowds are quite energetic. So, if there’s no space for the really, really delicate fingerpicking songs, I won’t play those. I’ll just try and read the room.” Talking about gauging the audience, I asked him how familiar he thought the crowd might be with his songs. “I have no idea,” he confessed. “There’s a couple of songs off the album which are doing well on Spotify, I think they’ll probably be well known. I’m guessing it’s the newer stuff that they won’t have any idea about. I try and imagine that every gig I play, I have to convince the audience that these are songs that they should enjoy. I try not to take it for granted, like I’ve got to do my best every time and that’s all I can do.”

Following his Tuesday night show, Brown played a handful more shows during his time in Austin, including a second official showcase at the Barracuda on the Saturday night and a potential Sofar Sounds show, which was yet to be confirmed at the time of the interview. I haven’t yet found any evidence of that show online, but Brown is a Sofar Sounds veteran, having performed shows in London, New York, and Paris in the past. Just below, you can watch a vintage clip of his 2012 NYC performance, courtesy of Sofar Sounds.

Brown did a brief tour of North America at the start of May, following on the success of his SXSW appearance, and played a short string of shows in the UK at the end of the month. His new EP ‘Bury My Heart’ is available now.

 

SXSW 2018: Wrapping up with a final conference session and Saturday evening showcases – 17th March 2018

 
By on Thursday, 3rd May 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

Editor Mary and I started our final day at SXSW 2018 with a leisurely brunch, but we both had a full schedule of options for Saturday afternoon and evening. (You can read Mary’s Saturday recaps here and here.) I decided in the moment to play the day by ear, and my rather uncharacteristic spontaneity paid off in the form of several new-to-me acts, which I very much enjoyed.

Metzer internal

Before I set out to hear any live music, I did attend one last conference session at the Austin Convention Center. As a connoisseur of the singer/songwriter genre, I couldn’t pass up University of British Columbia musicologist David Metzer‘s discussion titled ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’. Here, Metzer explored the ballad’s changing role in popular music from the 1950s to the present, highlighting listeners’ growing desire “to experience feelings in bigger and bolder ways” and performers’ stylistic tendency to emote in increasingly virtuosic fashion. The presentation was necessarily brief, and Metzer used a simple but effective comparison between Whitney Houston’s iconic performance of ‘I Will Always Love You’ and Dolly Parton’s original version to make his point. True music nerds like myself can find a more expanded discussion in Metzer’s book, ‘The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé’, which I promptly ordered when I returned home from Austin the next day.

Harry Pane internal

After a quick walk around the Trade Expo and a celebratory green cocktail for St. Patrick’s Day, Mary and I both had time to check out SXSW’s Second Play Stages, which feature official Showcasing Artists playing acoustic “happy hour” shows in the lounges of downtown Austin hotels. These shows are casual and quite intimate, with small crowds gathered in close and passersby stopping to listen at the fringes. I chose the Hilton’s Cannon & Bell lounge, where English singer/songwriter Harry Pane was playing his final set of the week. Pane was both relaxed and engaging on the small stage, and his songs were candidly emotional in this stripped back setting. His performance of ‘Fletcher Bay’, written after a trip to New Zealand with his late father, was particularly moving. You can have a listen to a similar live performance courtesy of London Live Sessions just below.

After a quick post-show interview with Pane (which will publish on TGTF in the coming days), I headed to Barracuda, whose two stages were hosting the combined Artist Group International and Xtra Mile Recordings showcase. While there would undoubtedly be a larger crowd later in the evening, when British folk-punk artists Skinny Lister and Frank Turner were slated to play the outdoor stage, the mood was mellow in both venues when I arrived for the beginning of the night’s set list.

Many Rooms internal

First on the outdoor stage was Houston singer/songwriter Brianna Hunt, performing under the moniker Many Rooms. The audience was thin at this point in the evening, and Hunt’s muted demeanor on stage didn’t attract the punters’ attention straightaway, but as her set continued, the fragile beauty of her songs gradually drew focus to the stage. Many Rooms’ debut album ‘There is a Presence Here’ is available now on Other People Records; you can listen to album track ‘which is to say, everything’ just through here.

Non Canon internal

Between sets on the outdoor stage, I peeked inside to catch a couple of songs from Allman Brown, who had caught my attention earlier in the week, while I waited to hear English folk singer Non Canon. Non Canon is the mildly pretentious stage name of singer/songwriter Barry Dolan, who describes the term as “anything [that] exists apart from the story we know and love”. His music is true to that description, pairing obscure literary allusions with pop culture references in an odd, but ultimately thought-provoking way. Though his set here was stripped back to voice and guitar, his recordings feature a fuller array of instrumental sounds and unusual harmonic variations, as evidenced in ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’.

The remainder of the Barracuda lineup included The RPMs (who Mary saw the previous afternoon) and Will Varley, as well as the aforementioned Skinny Lister and Frank Turner. As I had seen the latter three recently (Varley and Skinny Lister in February at Phoenix’s Valley Bar, and Turner on Thursday evening), I decided to head to the Parish, which was hosting British indie label Bella Union.

Field Division internal

As we’ve mentioned in the past, Bella Union is a sure bet for high quality songwriting and musicianship, but also for music that is a bit off-the-beaten-path. Their Saturday night showcase at the Parish was no different. I missed indie pop songwriter Ari Roar, but arrived in time to catch American folk duo Field Division. On the surface, this pair, comprised of Evelyn Taylor and Nicholas Frampton, is yet another in a long string of Laurel Canyon-influenced artists, but on closer listening, their powerful lyrics and sharp instrumental arrangements create a deeper and more tangible sonic presence. Keep an eye out for their debut LP ‘Dark Matter Dreams’, which is due for release on the 22nd of June and features the propulsive motion of ‘River in Reverse’.

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More subdued but nonetheless hypnotic, electronic dream pop artist Hilang Child (aka Ed Riman) took the stage next and dazzled the growing audience with his effortless vocals and deftly textured instrumental layers. His carefully crafted soundscapes are replete with splendid dynamic and harmonic colour, which fill in and expand beautifully upon his delicately poetic lyrics. Hilang Child’s standout track ‘Growing Things’ will feature on his upcoming debut LP, which is due out later this year.

Tiny Ruins

New Zealand folk band Tiny Ruins has evolved from the solo work of frontwoman Hollie Fullbrook into a full four-piece ensemble, though they were represented in Austin by only two of their number, Fullbrook and bassist Cass Basil. Their thoughtful folk songs were mesmerising with just the pair of them, but they added another dimension of rhythmic interest when drummer Jim White joined them on stage midway through their set. Tiny Ruins’ third album is due out on Bella Union later this year; in the meantime, take a listen to the subtle yet exquisite ‘Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens’, courtesy of Flying Nun Records.

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Jim White took only a brief hiatus from the stage after Tiny Ruins’ set before returning for his main show as part of avante garde folk-rock duo Xylouris White. Xylouris White finds the virtuosic Australian drummer joining forces with equally skilled Cretan lute player and singer George Xylouris to create a musical experience that is best described as “intense”. Any words I write here will undoubtedly fail to convey the awesome power of their live performance. The unlikely but fluidly-synchronised pair released their third LP ‘Mother’ back in January, and it’s not to be missed for anyone excited by the idea of dynamic jazz-rock-folk fusion.

Ezra Furman internal

The final act on the Bella Union bill, and the final act for me at SXSW 2018 was Ezra Furman, whom I’d seen on Thursday at the Luck Reunion. The late night atmosphere of the Parish on Saturday night was an entirely different context for Furman and his band The Visions, and the dark drama of songs like ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ took on a new level of depth and potency in this set. Here, Furman combined his intellectual, heavily metaphorical lyricism with a visceral musicality to create a full gestalt that was somehow greater than the simple sum of its parts. In this regard, he fits in nicely with his Bella Union colleagues, who all made a positive impression on this showcase, and who made my last night in Austin a uniquely memorable one.

 

SXSW 2018: Friday night with Communion, AdHoc, Sounds from Italy, and…more

 
By on Friday, 27th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

The Friday night of SXSW typically finds St. David’s Episcopal Church taken over by Communion Music for their annual showcase of exemplary songwriters across genres. SXSW 2018 was no different in that regard, and while I didn’t set foot inside the British Music Embassy even once during the week, I did manage to make my annual pilgrimage to St. David’s, though this year’s visit would be brief.

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The church’s main sanctuary was already crowded by the time I arrived, in anticipation of popular British singer Lucy Rose. Rose has made a concerted effort over the past several years to reconnect with her fans, who have repaid her with unconditional adoration. Rose opened her Communion set with a rather unusual introduction, saying “I’m here to play all your favourite songs.” After playing a couple of new tunes and fan favourite ‘Shiver’, Rose took a handful of requests from the audience, her spontaneity and genuine connection only adding to the graceful charm of her performance. Take a listen to her acoustic performance of ‘Moirai’ for Burberry by clicking here.

Dermot Kennedy internal

Following Rose on stage was Irish breakout sensation Dermot Kennedy, who editor Mary also covered in her Friday night recap. Despite his perhaps overly casual attire, Kennedy made a strong impression on the audience with his jarring combination of gentle folk and powerful hip-hop styles. Standing at first empty-handed in front of the microphone, he assumed an almost prayerful position in the pulpit while singing. Later in the set, Kennedy would demonstrate his guitar skills (as well as his left-handedness). His powerful single ‘Moments Passed’ stunned the St. David’s crowd to silence, followed immediately by ecstatic applause.

Lucy Dacus internal

After Kennedy finished, I left the Communion show to head over to Cheer Up Charlie’s, where American singer/songwriter Lucy Dacus was playing on the AdHoc showcase. Dacus’ recent LP ‘Historian’ has been a critical success, and its songs were no less effective in live performance. Dacus herself was mild-mannered and reserved on stage behind a pair of studious round eyeglasses, but her music made a more powerful emotional statement. You can watch Dacus perform ‘Historians’ for NPR’s South X Lullaby right through here.

During Dacus’ set, my evening took a slight detour. While I was photographing her with my smartphone, I received an email notification from one of The Lost Brothers, whom Mary and I had seen and chatted with on Tuesday. They were preparing to play a post-SXSW show in my adopted hometown of Tucson, but found themselves potentially stranded at the airport in Phoenix, over 100 miles away, on the day of the gig. As soon as Dacus finished playing, I found myself an empty chair and, in a flurry of emails and text messages, located a Tucson compatriot who was able to give the Irish folk duo a lift. This same friend told me later that the Losties’ show in Tucson was a smashing success–I was quite jealous that she got to go and I didn’t! But, as they say, all’s well that ends well, and this story indeed had a happy ending.

Damien McFly internal

Feeling satisfied with my logistical efforts, I left Cheer Up Charlie’s at a bit of a loose end. It was late by this point, and I figured I probably only had time for one more show before calling it a night. I consulted the SXSW Go app and settled on folk pop singer Damien McFly (aka Damiano Ferrari), who was playing on the Sounds from Italy showcase at Stephen F’s Bar on the second floor of the Intercontinental Hotel. The setting was elegant enough and not too crowded, but the small audience at Stephen F’s seemed a bit deflated at this late hour. After a long technical delay, McFly and his band finally took the stage, and while the songs themselves were engaging, the band never quite made up their lost momentum. However, McFly’s songwriting is well worth a second listen. Check out his sharp live performance of ‘Leap’, courtesy of K Session, just below.

 

SXSW 2018: Friday at the BMI/AT&T Acoustic Brunch and the Austin Convention Center

 
By on Thursday, 26th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

My Friday morning at SXSW 2018 began early, relatively speaking, even after my late and exciting Thursday night. No rest for the weary! But the BMI / AT&T Acoustic Brunch at The Four Seasons hotel was nothing if not a pleasant way to begin the day, with a lovely spread of food and drinks in the hotel courtyard and an even finer variety of musicians on the outdoor stage.

Paul Thorn internal

The first act was blues rock artist Paul Thorn, whose fire and brimstone message might have been better suited to a Sunday morning than a Friday. His past album titles include ‘Pimps and Preachers’ (2010), ‘What the Hell is Going On’ (2012), and ‘Too Blessed to be Stressed’ (2014). Thorn’s most recent release ‘Don’t Let the Devil Ride’ follows the pattern with a vivid mix of gospel and blues, covers and original songs. Have a listen to his version of the O’Jays classic ‘Love Train’ right through here.

Young & Sick internal

Young & Sick is a combination music/visual arts project led by Los Angeles-based Dutch frontman Nick van Hofwegen. Their slick synth pop has a strongly defined rhythmic aspect, which was appropriate to the bright midday sun in downtown Austin but would find itself equally at home in a dark club setting. Their own single ‘Ojai’ was a strong choice, as was their excellent cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’. You can listen to both on Young & Sick’s official Soundcloud. Astute TGTF readers may remember that we’ve covered Young & Sick once before, during SXSW 2014.

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Next in the lineup was rapidly rising British singer Jade Bird, who was flitting between shows in her very busy SXSW schedule. I had glimpsed her briefly the previous day at the Luck Reunion, but here at the Four Seasons, I got to see and hear her play a full set, including her immediately catchy and irresistibly quirky recent hit ‘Lottery’. That single, as well as Bird’s previous EP ‘Something American’, are both out now on Glassnote and come highly recommended. Her feisty set tangibly raised the energy level at this otherwise low-key brunch, sending a flutter of excitement through the sleepy Friday afternoon crowd.

Davie internal

Capitalising deftly on that momentum, Los Angeles r&b singer Davie took the stage next with a set of soulful and uplifting songs that harkened back to Paul Thorn’s earlier gospel sounds, but ultimately went in a very different musical direction. Davie’s smooth, sweet voice is perfectly suited to this style of singing, and his songs are a celebration in vocal form, not to be missed if gospel r&b is your groove. You can find the video for his recent single ‘Faith’ right here.

The Marias internal

Next up were self-described “psychedelic soul” band The Marías, who combined elements of jazz, world music, and modern classical composition into a very inviting overall sound, perfect for a swanky event like this one. Their aesthetic was somehow both intellectual and sensual at the same time, as evidenced by the hazy synth-based aura of ‘Only in My Dreams.’

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The final performer on the BMI / AT&T Acoustic Brunch was Montreal singer/songwriter Sampson, whose astonishingly common stage moniker makes her near impossible to find on social media. Nevertheless, she rounded out the event with a haunting set of solo songs from her debut LP ‘Dark Sky Nights’, including ‘Born in the North’ which aptly reflects the quality of having been written “literally alone in the dark.” Sampson, along with the other artists on the day’s lineup, is featured in BMI’s video roundup of the Acoustic Brunch, which you can view just below.

Lo Moon internal

Though the Austin sunshine was beautiful on Friday afternoon, I did eventually have to head inside, specifically to the Convention Center. I stopped first at the Radio Day Stage, where Los Angeles band Lo Moon were on the bill. Though the indoor stage and afternoon audience were somewhat more subdued than the Pandora showcase where I saw them last year, Lo Moon sounded sharp and crystal clear, playing atmospheric, synth-laced songs from their recent self-titled debut LP. Watch their performance of ‘The Right Thing’ just below, courtesy of WUFV Public Radio.

David Fricke talk

One of the featured sessions at the Convention Center that afternoon was a panel discussion called ‘From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora’, featuring Talking Heads members Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, producers and solo artist Chris Stamey, visual artist Richard Lloyd, and photographer Julia Gorton. Loosely moderated by Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, the conversation was rather unstructured, but deliberately so, in an attempt to reimagine the downtown New York scene of the late 1970s, the epitome of gritty rock ‘n’ roll style. Most interesting to me were the candid snapshots displayed on the large screen at the front of the room, taken by Gorton in the early days of her career, which captured the essence of the time and place from an up-close and personal perspective.

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From there, I headed back to the Radio Day Stage to catch one more showcase before closing out the afternoon. The final act for my Friday afternoon was American country singer/songwriter Nikki Lane, whom I’d previously heard only in passing. A bit of after the fact listening revealed that her third album ‘Highway Queen’ is both rebellious and achingly relatable in its examination of lost love. Have a listen to its sultry and unapologetically country-styled title track below.

At this point in the late afternoon, I needed some time to regroup in anticipation of a busy Friday evening schedule. Keep an eye on TGTF for my recap of Friday night’s events at SXSW 2018 coming soon.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it.

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