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Opening Act

June Star

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Artist/Band: June Star

Members: Andrew Grimm, Kurt Celtnieks, Andy Bopp, Cody Harrod

Website:
www.junestar.com
www.junestar.bandcamp.com

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Latest Album/Release: Sleeping with the Lights On

Influences: Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, Buck Owens, Miracle Legion, The Jam, Cowboy Junkies

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Grimm: It’s rock ‘n’ roll, I suppose. We started off doing a fairly straight alt country type of thing, but over the past eight years we’ve been drifting away from that sound. There’s still a country aspect to it, but I think I’ve been writing more rock songs. Then again, some of the songs on the new record sound like country. Maybe I should say that the music is authentic.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, the Americana scene has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Have you seen the same thing having been a part of the scene itself since first forming in 1998?
Grimm: Yeah, it’s funny to see that word “perspective.” In many, many, many ways the Americana scene or artists have really maintained their dignity or truth in purpose… some of it can get kind of hokey… but people like Steve Earle have really kept the quality up. Jason Isbell as well. And that’s where a bigger shift is about to happen in the mainstream with folks like Isbell and Sturgill Simpson cracking through all of the commercial junk.

As far as June Star… we’ve made some progress over the years, but it’s hard to get attention from folks. It’s harder and harder to get people out to shows. When I started writing the new bio for the SWTLO one-sheet, I started with the line, “June Star is a band that just keeps showing up.” So, from the perspective of attrition, we’re doing great!

TrunkSpace: As already stated, June Star has been writing and performing for nearly two decades. How has the band changed most in that time?
Grimm: Oh, the lineups change a lot. When the original members came and went I was kind of forced to figure out what I needed and what I wanted… since then it’s been a rotating cast. If a song is well written, it doesn’t matter if it’s two guitars, bass, and drums or one guy playing spoons.

TrunkSpace: Two decades of life is a lot of experience to play out in song. Has the subject matter of June Star songs changed since you wrote your first song to where you are now given that you yourselves have no doubt changed over time?
Grimm: As Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion said about songwriting, and I’m paraphrasing, “When I started writing songs I wanted to save the world. I found out pretty quickly that I couldn’t, so I decided to save myself and prove to others that it can be done.”

A lot of the early material from “Songs from an Engineer’s Daughter” (2000) and “Telegraph” (2001) was really playing off of Americana aesthetics… trains, swamps, weddings. They’re great songs, but they also tend to function as fiction and they are really disconnected from me. They weren’t my voice or a voice that sounded real, to me. That’s why, for the most part, we revisited some of those songs from previous records on our new one.

The goal in songwriting is to shape a voice to communicate an idea or an emotion, and the music is the delivery device. The music, of course, can be more than that… it adds colors, shadows, saturation…

My songwriting has really shifted to a kind of observational, everyman type of thing… or every human. Love and loss. Each song certainly has a piece of my experience.

Also, I’ve ruined a lot relationships, so I tend to write about that a lot.

TrunkSpace: What is the most universal theme that resonates most with listeners? Is it love? Is it loss? Is it something else entirely?
Grimm: Many times on stage I introduce every song, “This is a song about love.” Usually loss… weird, huh? I don’t think we all just commiserate over the loss, but it’s kind of nice to know that someone else has been there too.

TrunkSpace: You sell June Star sunglasses. Who is the mastermind behind that genius merch concept and have you booked more outdoor shows to inspire sales?
Grimm: The sunglasses are my idea. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get people to listen to the records… more and more I hear, “CDs? I don’t even have a CD player anymore!” And I thought, “What would be a dual purpose item, cheaper than a t-shirt, that we can stick a download card on and people might buy?”

Cheap. Sunglasses.

We’re still paying those off.

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the merch idea, what is the best (and most outside-the-box) way to get your name and music out there in a day and age that is dominated by social media?
Grimm: You know, I have no idea.

The more I work on this stuff the more it seems that social media is one large swirling whirlpool of digital voices that are yelling at the same time. So, I’ve been reaching out to people in a more analog manner through a letter writing campaign. I have become so fatigued with social media that I tune out. The online world was a great place when we all got connected, but now with that “On Demand” ideology commanding everything, we’ve sort of morphed into a place where we say, “Yeah, I’ll listen or watch it later because I don’t have to right now.” And with live streaming and concert windows and all that stuff, it’s becoming easier to never go out or never look away from a screen. That concept or execution of experiencing music is unsatisfying and loses the point.

I’ve been working on a subscription service through Bandcamp. Junestar.bandcamp.com/subscribe will get you there. The deal is that someone subscribes and they get my entire back catalog… 14 – 15 records… and I write, record, and publish an exclusive song just for subscribers. I haven’t had huge success so far, but with anything, it will be a slow build.

TrunkSpace: Having been performing for nearly two decades, you must have quite a few stories to tell about your time in clubs and on stages. That being said, what is the craziest experience that comes to mind?
Grimm: One of the funnier things that happened was on a tour in 2004. We were playing a show at Nancy Raygun with Mike Roy and J Roddy Walston and Business (a few years before they got big), and J Roddy and Mike Roy accidentally locked their keys in their van. After some intense negotiations, we agreed that June Star should open the show and hopefully the Pop-n-Lock guys would get there soon.

Attendance was pretty sparse, it was a Tuesday I think, and to make things a little more hopeless it was raining torrentially.

About five songs in, this older woman, maybe borderline elderly, maybe elderly before her time… okay, let’s say that she had done a lot of living… she comes swaying up to the front, dragging so hard on a cigarette that the lit end seemed to burn more yellow than orange. She swirls around, making no eye contact and throws all this money at us and then lurches away.

We all look at each other and laugh, just having a good time. During the rest of the set, while playing, I started looking at the money on the stage, and I start counting it up in my head, and I start to get a little excited. I know the door is not going to make much money, and if we’re lucky, we’ll sell a CD; eventually, the set winds down, we pack up the gear, I gather the cash and count it. $100.

That pays for our gas to Alabama! Awesome. Jay Filippone, a guitarist with us at the time, and Tom Scanlan, who played mandolin with us up until the end of that year, they corner me and say, “Hey man, that woman doesn’t know what she’s doing… we should give the money back to her, it’s the right thing to do.”

I disagreed.

Both of them felt bad for her and said that they were at least going to thank her for the tip and offer her a CD. I shrugged, “Sure!”

So, they approach her at the bar and Tom says, “Excuse me, thank you so much for the tip. We really appreciate it.”

She turns to him, squints and yells with a burst of cigarette smoke and a voice that makes you clear your own throat, “FUCK YOUR ASS!”

There was this other time we were opening for John Doe of X and he forgot something on stage. We were sound checking and he came up to me and introduced himself. As I turned to say hello I couldn’t help but be completely stunned by his absolute luminous cerulean ice gray blue eyes. I think I introduced myself as Blue Eyes.

TrunkSpace: Looking beyond your accomplishments, what do you hope to still accomplish? What’s on your creative bucket list?
Grimm: Make another record, book another show.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who needs music in your life? Is it an extension of who you are, and if it was taken away, would you be able to find happiness?
Grimm: I do need music. It’s a great connector between ourselves and our world. We work out most of our problems or emotional needs through a song or a record. To be without it would be devastation.

I guess I would try my hand at writing fiction… or poetry. Maybe film. That might be fun. Or landscaping.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from June Star for the rest of 2017?
Grimm: Oh… we’re going to be touring… solo, duo, trio, quartet. October will find us back in the studio to record the next record, which will come out in the Spring of 2018. There may be some podcasting stuff too…

All I know is that June Star will be showing up, somewhere.

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Opening Act

Tara Dente

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Photo By Paul Reitano

Artist/Band: Tara Dente

Website: www.taradente.com

Hometown: Long Branch, NJ

Latest Album/Release: The Gleaner (Album release show: May 13th / Online release: June 2nd)

Influences: The Boys: Johnny Cash, Nick Drake, The Shins, Jacob Dyln. The Girls: Brooke Fraser, Enya, Sarah McLachlan, Imogen Heap. (Among many others)

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Dente: I see things psycho-socially, so I would want to start by looking at the interrelation of my environment and my own views to describe my music. As a sound bite, I would describe my music as percussive/pensive folk/Americana, with Celtic and spiritual influences. Others have consistently used words like “haunting”, “unexpected” (in reference to the melodies), and “interesting style” (when talking about the element of finger picking and picking patterns I use). Here’s the long story. I grew up in church, so much of the music I heard from a young age and on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis was “spiritual” music. So there was a depth of emotion and seriousness to the music, and content, or lyrics/topics. I think this exposed to me the concept of music moving me very deeply and being held in a certain reverence. There wasn’t a lot of “worldly” music being played in the house I grew up in, so I didn’t start hearing classic rock and pop until middle school here and there, a little more in high school, and then buried myself in 60s/70s folk, alternative, indie and Celtic-inspired music in college. I was dating someone for a long period of time who made me aware of a lot of good music, everything from Jimi Hendrix and Verve in high school, to Sigur Ros, James Blake, and The National in college. I went to church until I was about 20, and was fortunate to have met a lot of talented and creative people in those interactions and relationships. They helped to nurture my creativity and give me tools to play. Some of the people who really helped me along from that period include Allie Moss, who is a very talented singer/songwriter, guitarist, vocal coach (she gave me some lessons), who is known for her work with Ingrid Michaelson, and for her solo work. She gave me my first guitar. I’m very grateful to her, especially for helping to develop my voice. Myke Scavone was very encouraging from a young age, giving me words of wisdom, a space to practice when Allie lead a youth band in church, and asking questions to get me thinking about my direction. I appreciate his kind and steady presence in my youth as a developing artist. Myke is better known as the frontman of The Doughboys as well as a recent addition to The Yardbirds. Justin Leblanc helped to give me a platform in another band I joined and helped to lead on and off. I played mostly piano then (it’s my first instrument since I was young), and picked up guitar in my early 20s. The last church I was a part of called ORB (Outreach Red Bank, at the time), had a band called The New Ancients who built off of old hymns to create an indie, Sufjan Stevens-style sound. I was able to contribute to vocals and piano. Working with them, and the band leader, Pete Andrews (of Big Mechanical Bull / Submergent Music in Middletown, NJ), was a privilege and great experience for meeting some good friends and musicians who are still active in the NJ scene. I continued to play piano in college (I started at Brookdale) and considered studying music, specifically Jazz piano, often enjoying the feel of weighted keys built into digital pianos. I purchased a Rhodes piano and experimented with looping and a little bit of self-taught jazz theory, but quickly realized that for me, acoustic guitar was conducive to songwriting. My area of study became psychology. I realized there was a shit-ton for me to learn about myself, the world, my family, my purpose, and generally was just curious about the human condition. The same boyfriend who steered me toward good music, also steered me toward philosophy, introspection and question-asking. I’m grateful to have had his influence as my mind was developing and opening. Through my years of study and then work in the mental health field, I would retreat on my own to a quiet place where I could fiddle around on guitar, come up with some little melodies, write some lyrics, or use poetry previously written. There was absolutely no pressure on me to make anything. Whatever I wanted to create, I could create. No one knew I was writing and playing. It was a space for me to do whatever I wanted. I would often write songs without traditional structure; maybe there was no chorus, or the whole song was one loop on repeat. Most of my songs were only a couple minutes long. I liked writing without structure. Later on, I began to write fuller songs, with intros, choruses, multiple verses, sometimes a bridge. But I wrote intuitively, which was very important for me to get out of the experience what I valued, which is freedom. It was like a therapy session (only less difficult) every time I sat down to play. I never liked going to or practicing for piano lessons. Once I learned a few chords, I took it from there and the finger-picking style followed, to fill space in between the simple chords and progressions I was limited to. It was a fun challenge writing within those narrow walls. This compared to the expansive and sometimes intimidating layout of the piano, was a catalyst for songwriting. I also can’t forget to mention my Aunt Tina’s (dad’s sister) influence on me musically. I took one guitar lesson with her, but realized I hate lessons and didn’t continue. But she used to bring and play her guitar at family gatherings and let me strum it and explore it a little. She also had a little recording set up in her house in NJ, where she set me up to record my original piano compositions (I gotta dig those out at some point). She was encouraging and inspiring to me. Recently, she gifted me her life-long baby and my newfound pride and joy, a 1967 Gibson Heritage. Dave Petillo (and earlier on, Phil Petillo, both master luthiers), takes very good care of her for me and makes her sound like a million bucks.

TrunkSpace: “The Gleaner” is due out in June. Where have you seen yourself grow the most as a songwriter with this album compared to your debut?
Dente: These two albums are night and day. The first one, “Leave Your Ghosts Behind,” was a culmination of songs written over an eight-year period. It was simple. I was fighting and confronting my perfectionism, and thought, if I don’t do this now, as it is, I will never do it. The album title comes from my statement about leaving old things in the past; the things that were crippling me to move on, move forward. It was probably more about me trying to make myself accountable to others to choose to do that every day… not because I had already left all my ghosts behind. It’s a daily practice, not a one and done. I’m still leaving my ghosts behind, every single day. But it helped to have proclaimed that that’s what I aim to do. So my friends Andy and Collin Demos offered to provide the space and tools necessary to record an acoustic “living room album.” We did it chunk by chunk over a couple weeks, with a few major sessions. I used no click track, which was both a blessing and a curse. I wanted to not be constrained by the timing of a metronome, since I felt this collection of songs needed to breath and come naturally. So I would record the guitar and the vocals together, the guitar mic’d, and then add hand percussion and harmonies over it, having to feel out the tempo at times and hope everything landed well due to the timing-imperfections. Listening back on it is pretty difficult for me, because I can hear all these little imperfections and zero in on them, but when I zoom out and look at the project as a whole, it’s a perfect representation of me at the time. Cracked, vulnerable, beautiful, and trying anyway, despite all my doubts. I’m proud of what it is because it’s exactly what I could do at the time with what I had. I’m really grateful to Andy and Collin for catalyzing that experience. “The Gleaner,” in contrast, is a strong and feisty statement. It also contains some older songs of mine, but this grouping is held together by a theme, encouraged by my producer, Dan Matlack. Dan has helped to bring together my songs and create a cohesive experience. During pre-production, I was playing a couple songs not intended for the album, and he said “you need to record those.” I was skeptical of them, and thought of them as lesser than the songs I had chosen, but realized he was right. There was a lot of cohesion and chemistry with a certain group of my songs, which one could call “Americana” or “country” by some standards. He hails from Texas, and could hear my songs through a lens I wasn’t attuned to. But I’m really glad he picked that out, and was able to direct me toward creating a collection of songs which would blend together in a folky, country, Americana way that resulted in “The Gleaner.” Half the songs are relatively new, the others are older, but I realized that thread of “country” seemed to exist in my songwriting; the gritty, achy, sad, spunky, twangy sound that lives inside of me for one reason or another. Other elements that set this album apart: DEFINITELY using a click track, months of pre-production at Dan’s Mayfair House, and gathering together a band of local musicians who I think are some of the best. We had Zach Westfall on bass, Eric Novod on drums, Stephen Maxwell on guitar, Mark Masefield on Hammond and myself on vocals and guitar. Everyone came together for one day and live tracked nine songs in one session. I didn’t complete the session without a shot of whiskey, but we did it. (I came back to record harmonies separately, and we brought in Mark later.) It was a truly phenomenal process to see these people come in and bang out these songs together in one day, having a blast in the process. I count myself lucky for that. Dan did an excellent job at curating the group of musicians to work together and weighing in on the development of the songs with a full band vs. my solo acoustic versions of the songs. The title of the album came to me early on, before we began recording. The songs were a representation of experiences-turned-songs over a long and arduous period of time, that resulted in a beautiful manifestation in the form of an album. I consider myself a gleaner in the fields, taking what’s left, after the harvest has commenced and the vultures have picked at the ground. It didn’t come quickly, but I feel what was reduced down over the years amounted to something good and worth highlighting. In reality, at the time, I felt my songs were all I really had. I lost my childhood home, a sense of place and identity, I left a place I lived for two years, was just aloof in the world trying to make something happen. I felt the metaphor of a gleaner in a field was totally appropriate.

Photo By Will Egan

TrunkSpace: “Leave Your Ghosts Behind” was a very personal album. How does “The Gleaner” compare to it in that regard?
Dente: They are both very personal. I think sometimes acoustic albums can feel more personal because there appears to be less distance between the music and lyrics. There’s really no walls between you and the listener when it’s just you, your guitar and your words. There is absolutely no difference in the sincerity of my songs and songwriting between albums. I don’t think by adding a full band to the mix, my songs will be less personal to the listener, but there certainly is a different energy about “The Gleaner.” It’s going to provide a different experience. But my sincerity is certainly in tact. It’s also really great to see how a song can grow and morph when other musicians are playing along, because everyone is bringing their own experiences and fingerprint to the sound, which creates such a cool result. It changed the way I feel about collaborating, and made me more open to giving up some control over the whole process of recording. I’m grateful for Dan’s pursuing working with me on this project.

TrunkSpace: When you’re performing a song live that you have a strong emotional connection to, is it important to let those emotions out in the performance itself? Do you feel a song as much as you sing a song?
Dente: Oh god, it’s make or break. The song will always be the song. The chords stay the same, the lyrics (unless drunk or aloof) stay the same. What I try to do to bring out the emotion and excitement that was present the day I wrote the song, is put myself in that mindset again. Why was I writing it? What was I going through? It’s possible to get into that headspace, and have the same emotions channeled and filtered through those thoughts. Much like an actor preparing for a role. What if an actor let their lines slip a little, just that one time, just because they were tired from the performance before that one or they thought there weren’t enough people in the room to give them the best acting they’ve ever seen? 100 percent every time, no matter what. Sometimes though, it is hard. If a song is written about a really intense thing, it can be too overwhelming to access those same emotions every time. I often don’t play certain songs unless I’m completely committed to singing it that night, otherwise it will fall short. I think it’s a balance of being moved by your own song enough to give a good performance, while not thrusting yourself into near trauma while doing it! Not always easy. Others might have a different perspective on this one. All I know for myself is if I’m going to go through the effort of lugging my gear to the venue, setting up, and getting in front of people who made time to see you perform, I’m going to respect their time and respect my own song enough to sing it the very best I can: to give a gift to the audience of my sincerity, emotion, and skill. Every time you play the song, it’s a new song. You just wrote it. You’re excited about it. Someone in front of you may be hearing it for the first time, and wouldn’t you want them to hear it as its best version?

TrunkSpace: As a solo artist, do you ever get an artistic hankering to collaborate with other musicians or is songwriting a solitary act for you?
Dente: Songwriting is very much a solitary act for me. However, as I mentioned in a previous statement, I have been introduced to the act of collaboration through the recording of “The Gleaner” and working with Dan Matlack. And I realized it is so valuable. I’m very protective of the songs I write and consider it a sacred act. But I also realized music is nothing if not shared, including the writing process. When I’m excited about a fellow musician, I get excited about the idea of writing together. But that is definitely still uncharted waters for me! It’s just a new skill to acquire. I’ve only ever written alone, so that’s all I know… so far.

TrunkSpace: As a songwriter, have you ever thought about writing songs for other artists in that sort of classic Nashville songwriter role?
Dente: No. I’m even hesitant to cover songs myself. My theory is that the person who wrote the song has the perfect voice for the song. However, sometimes a musician going outside their comfort zone to cover a song that is not written or performed in their own style, can result in a really cool discovery of new roads to take in vocal and instrumental writing. Realizing, for instance, that your voice is capable of a certain trill or vibrato or even holding a note longer than you normally would. Or using a jazzy chord that you’re not familiar with, opening a Pandora’s box of songwriting and inspiration. I think others can have huge talents for writing to a musician’s strengths, writing for others based on intuition or even to a formula. But I know that I’m not drawn to that, at least not so far. Again, I’m hesitant to cover a song but the exception is when I love the song so much and it resonates with me on a personal level, to the extent that I can “make it my own.” If I don’t have that drive, I leave it alone. One of my favorite artists is Nick Drake, who wrote “Road”. I covered it, and love playing it, but also have so much reverence for it that I will scarcely cover it unless moved to do so. He deserves that. Also, it DID take some of the magic away. However, I’m grateful for being able to have learned that song because it’s like my fingers are tracing where his fingers were on the strings, and I feel connected to him through that.

TrunkSpace: You started out on piano. Do songs ever originate there now or do you write exclusively on guitar?
Dente: I haven’t played in a while. The piano is associated with perfectionism for me. As I move on from that way of living and seeing, I think I’ll be able to return it at some point. It is such a gorgeous sound. Being alone in a room with a grand piano is a pleasure like none other. I really respect musicians like Regina Spektor for taking her training and totally making it her own. I mentioned before that I was interested in jazz piano for a while, and I think if I returned to the piano, I would want to with the opportunity to study theory in that capacity… to dive back in, but with new tools. Otherwise, I’m afraid I would cycle through old tricks and feel stuck again. Jazz is intriguing and open. I want piano to be an instrument of freedom, not confinement, and I think jazz is just the tool to achieve that. I also can imagine adding some piano to future recordings, whether by my hand or bringing in someone like Matt Wade. Matt and I have discussed collaborating. I’m sure that’s going to happen in the near future.

TrunkSpace: What approach do you take to marketing your music?
Dente: For a while I took the approach of no approach. I didn’t have intentions for my music beyond it just being heard by humans in person, until recently. I had been in Vermont for a while and just moved back this January. There was a period of time of about three months that it took for me to be certain that it was really time to give music a try, professionally. It’s been a slow process (hence, the “gleaner”) for me of allowing myself to have space, freedom, time to think, time to play, balancing professional life as a mental health worker with being a musician, finding my passion and footing to come to this point. I wanted to feel a firm footing before diving into something that felt inherently unstable to me. For me, music is emotion. It was and is one of the only outlets I have that doesn’t involve expectations, pressure or rules. I wanted to make sure I protected that. And now I’ve gotten to the point that I know I will not be happy or be able to live with myself if I don’t give this the attention it deserves while I have the energy to do it. If music doesn’t “work out” (read: people don’t really care that much about it/ it no longer feels worth my while / it takes away everything I love about it), then I’ll stop and I’ll know it’s time for grad school. I still have ambitions of going back to school to focus more on psychology and one day get a masters in counseling or music therapy, or something like that. I know I have value in that realm and feel fulfilled by it. But grad school is there, and it can wait. For one reason or another, there is momentum in my life with music and it’s the time to do it. So I’m working hard and hoping for the best. Really, the “best” is just that I give everything I can and people enjoy my music as much as I love playing it. But I’m glad that I’m not at a point of fragility emotionally that if I’m not embraced by the world for my music, it will not break me and certainly won’t stop me from writing, and I’ll go on with my life. Even if nothing ever happened outside of this town and the people I know, I’m grateful for having been embraced by them and appreciated for my music here. That’s where is starts: in a small community of people who love and care about you. Everything that comes after that is secondary. It’s all about connecting with people. Music is nothing if it can’t be shared and heard.

Photo By The Echo Spectrum

TrunkSpace: As you prepare to release “The Gleaner” in a couple of weeks, do you find yourself placing expectations on it in terms of how you hope it will be received?
Dente: I definitely want this album to be heard nationally. I want people in other states to hear the album on their radio station and ask, “Who is that? I’d love to hear her live!” For me what I want to come out of this is to be able to play for more diverse crowds all over the country, at festivals, outdoors, in theaters, in coffee shops, wherever I can. I plan to start setting up a small tour for the fall. I want to see the country, and what better way than to do that on the heels of sharing my music!

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular artist/songwriter that you’d like to have your career mirror, at least in terms of the level of success/notoriety?
Dente: I really respect Brooke Fraser, Sarah Jarosz and Brandie Carlile as examples of people who built their careers on good songwriting, hard work and personal integrity. They are all in or near their 30s and I think slow and steady is the way. I’m almost 29, and I wouldn’t have been ready before now to do what I’m doing. I have more grit and self-knowledge than I ever have, and will need that to get through the ups and downs of being a performer, or attempting to be.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Tara Dente for the rest of 2017?
Dente: They can expect me promoting the shit out of “The Gleaner”! I’m very proud of it, and want people to hear it. I’m going to be planning to break out of my circuit here in Asbury Park and play Philly, NYC, and other cities on the east coast, and eventually beyond. I just signed with a label in Virginia called Travianna Records. It’s a development deal, so they are going to be working with me to do even more than I could on my own to succeed in my budding career as a musician.

Here is a link to Travianna: http://www.traviannarecords.com/
And a link to pre-order the album: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/tara-dente/id578308029

Featured Photo And Video By The Echo Spectrum.

 

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Opening Act

Marie Danielle

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Artist/Band: Marie Danielle

Website: www.mariedaniellemusic.com

Hometown: Harrisburg, PA

Latest Album/Release: Hustler

Influences: Joni Mitchell, Conor Oberst, Bruce Springsteen and Lucinda Williams are the biggest influences on the whole. I love storytellers. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes. Television, Cate Le Bon and The Beach Boys.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Danielle: Folk. My first record “Hustler” definitely had an Americana vibe to it. The one I’m working on now is darker, more electric. And definitely weirder. With a different sound than anything I’ve done before. We were talking about it in the studio… Interstellar Folk was the genre that stuck.

TrunkSpace: We’re all our own worst critic. Where are you hardest on yourself when it comes to your music?
Danielle: I always criticize my writing. Except for those songs that are rare bolts of inspiration, when they come pouring out of the universe, I find myself changing lyrics, altering chord progressions and just agonizing over what I’m trying to say and if it’s coming across.

TrunkSpace: We read that you have lived in both Los Angeles and in New York City. Have the cities themselves affected your songwriting? Did they elicit a particular mood that trickled into your writing?
Danielle: Absolutely. Right now, when I’m writing it often seems as if I’m still walking down Hollywood Blvd, even though I’ve been gone from LA for half a year. I had wanted out of Los Angeles for so long. I felt stuck. It felt like purgatory. It’s been a long time since I lived in New York, so it doesn’t have the same effect on me or my songwriting.

TrunkSpace: Honesty is always a powerful tool in songwriting, but do you ever worry about putting too much of yourself into your songs?
Danielle: I don’t think you can put too much of yourself in songs. I worry about it being disingenuous, worry about it not being me. About being phony. I like it when I’m a little afraid of playing the song, scared to give too much away. If it isn’t a little dangerous, it isn’t worth doing.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like that for a long time, your music was something that you kept very private and to yourself. Now that you share your music with the world, how has that creative openness changed your life?
Danielle: The more public my music became the more I wanted to make music. I left LA and started touring and working on a new record. I’ve gotten to play with a lot of amazing artists I really admire and met new artists that are fantastic as well. But, it does put the pressure on. Now I can’t just sit down and write a song the way I used to. There’s always the next record to think of, if it fits, if it’ll be done in time… thinking about all the professional aspects and then hoping it all still comes out authentic.

TrunkSpace: What does your songwriting process look like? Do you need to be in a particular mindset or creative zone in order to write?
Danielle: It really depends on the day. Sometimes it’s a chord progression, sometimes it’s a melody, or even just a title. And then you just have to keep chipping away, without forcing but without being lazy either. It’s a struggle. I hate writing but love having written.

TrunkSpace: You spend a lot of time on the road. Are you someone who feels at home on the highways and byways or is the physical aspect of touring a strain on you emotionally/physically?
Danielle: I love the road. There is a solitude about it, kind of like removing yourself a step away from society. And the driving is so meditative. I do a lot of writing in my head while driving. But it does get tiring. And lonely. I think I want a band just to share the driving.

TrunkSpace: Where are you most at home with your music? Is it on a stage or in the studio and why?
Danielle: I love being in the studio. Right now, I’ve gotten really lucky and have this great band from Mississippi backing me up, Young Valley. We just clicked and the next record will be interesting, it’s a bit of a departure from “Hustler.” I don’t think you can get that kind of transformation on the stage.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, what is the most universal subject matter to write about… the thing that all listeners can relate to? It is love? Is it loss? Is it something else?
Danielle: I think that depends on who is listening, but to me, it’s love and loss. I don’t know if people want to hear about your happy days. Happiness tends towards the shallow. Losing someone you love is dark and tortuous. It has a depth to it. It’s unique and universal at the same time.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Marie Danielle for the rest of 2017?
Danielle: I’m finishing the new record down in Mississippi. I’ve been working at this fantastic studio in Water Valley. Dial Back Sound with Bronson Tew. We have found such a great vibe for this record, we just hit it off and it’s like we’ve been playing together for years. I probably won’t release the new one ‘til early 2018, but it’s what this year is about. I’ll be heading back to Europe in the fall and touring some more in the US before and after that.

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Opening Act

Colton Kayser

ColtonKayser_OpeningAct

Artist/Band: Colton Kayser

Website: www.coltonkayser.com

Hometown: Monmouth Beach, NJ

Latest Album/Release: Place to Settle (Full length LP, July 2016)

Influences: Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Fionn Regan, John Prine, Weezer

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Kayser: My music is a mixture of Americana and pop. I try to say something with my songs, and they’re usually pretty short and to the point.

TrunkSpace: What did you hope to accomplish in the songwriting on “Place to Settle” that was different from what was heard on your debut?
Kayser: The first record was more about tracking the songs I had at the time. This time around, there was more of a developed game plan. I think “Place to Settle” is more cohesive in the sense that we had an overall sound, and theme, in mind. We also tracked the basic tracks live, which helped the songs breathe. I’m proud of both of my records and I think “Place to Settle” is an honest representation of where I was at in my life at the time I wrote it.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the inspiration of your songwriting, do you write from experience or as more of a storyteller?
Kayser: Usually from experience. But I do flip story elements if I think it will make the song stronger. There’s always a little wiggle room to tell a better story.

TrunkSpace: Has the songwriting process itself changed for you since you first started writing songs?
Kayser: It’s eerily different, yet oddly the same. As a kid, I would just come home from school and write. Now, there’s a lot more factors, and I have to get in the right headspace to finish a song. However, ideas still pop into my head all the time, and I still write the majority of my songs late at night. The process is still there, I’ve just refined it a bit.

I’m writing less about girls, and more about life these days, and I think the next record will have a more serious tone to it. I’m really looking forward to developing my perspective in that sense.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who is continuously tweaking songs even after they’ve been recorded or do you make peace with songs after you come out of the studio?
Kayser: Make peace with them. The band and I play them just like the records. By the time the record’s out, I’m thinking about the next one.

TrunkSpace: For many people, listening to music is a sort of cathartic therapy. Is songwriting the same thing for you? Does it help you get through the ups and downs of life?
Kayser: I think it lets me process events in life, both good and bad. I just like listening to what someone has to say, and I think that’s why I write songs. It’s easier for me to tell the whole story in three and half minutes than it is for me to express myself using other art forms.

TrunkSpace: When you look over your catalog of music, what song are you the most proud of and why?
Kayser: “I Better Leave” is definitely up there for me. It’s just very honest, and structurally sound from a writing standpoint. The song “Lift” hits me for the same reasons.

There’s a couple of tunes I’m working on now that I think I’m going to be very happy with when they’re done.

TrunkSpace: What is the most difficult aspect of marketing music and spreading the word in the digital age? It seems like it’s easier to get the word out, but at the same time, it seems more difficult to cut through the noise of everything else in order to have people pay attention.
Kayser: I was reading an article about the day to day life of touring musicians in The Fader the other day, and there was a line talking about how the Internet has made everything (musically speaking) popular, but nothing profitable.

I’ve definitely reached more people because of my web presence, and it’s cool to see that my songs have reached people all over the world. There’s a community of content sharers that have really helped my music reach others, and I tip my hat to them.

I’m still trying to figure out what 100,000 Spotify plays mean. Is it that you’re on a popular playlist or that people really like the song? And what am I marketing if the vast majority of music lovers don’t have to buy my work to enjoy it?

I think those are the real hard questions. Putting your songs out there is easy, and I think people will always listen to music if it’s good. That’s a prerequisite. The larger question is what does all this info generated by my music mean?

TrunkSpace: We’ve heard a lot about the rising music scene of Asbury Park. What is it about the area that has been having people talk about a resurgence and can it sustain itself?
Kayser: The arts have been thriving since the start of the redevelopment of the city about 10 years ago. The arts have always been there, but the influx of clubs, galleries, and music related businesses in recent years has really given artists/performers a platform to grow.

There’s a lot of good music coming out of the city, and I couldn’t wish for a better music community to grow up in. We’re more linked by location than genre, which allows for a lot of cross pollination of ideas.

There’s a lot of serious, career minded bands/music professionals, which allows for some great networking/job opportunities. It’s also small enough to give someone starting out a chance to be noticed if the music is good, and to survive from any early mistakes they happen to make.

Asbury Park can definitely sustain itself. The money has moved in. If you had told me as a kid that I would be hanging on Cookman Ave. at night, I would have laughed at you. I think artists may be priced out of living there at some point, but there’ll always be places to play, record, and grow.

TrunkSpace: If your phone rang tomorrow and a particular artist was on the other end of the line asking you to open for them… who would you want that particular artist to be and why?
Kayser: That’s tough to answer with just one artist. I’d love to open for Dawes because I love their music. I love their songs, and I love their arrangements. You could switch them out with Wilco for the same reasons too.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Colton Kayser for the rest of 2017?
Kayser: Well, I’m writing this from a car on my way out of Boston to Providence, RI for a gig tonight. So the immediate future is more touring.

I’m writing a lot right now, and I’ll definitely be working on releasing new music. I really want to get back in the studio, and grow as an artist. I love the process of recording and I’m exited to get back at it.

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