Local Music

Erika Taylor


There are violinists who make music, and then there are artists such as Meg Mulhearn, who use the violin as sort of a paintbrush

“A lot of times when people find out I’m a violinist or a fiddler, they’ll ask if I play bluegrass or old-time or something like that and I have in the past,” Mulhearn said. “I think I wanted to do something more experimental or unexpected with the violin.”

Mike White

Tyler Jackson shares a West Asheville home where, on a sunny and warm midday afternoon, every window is open and so is the front door, all without screens. Jackson tends to about eight houseplants in his bedroom and it’s all very chill.

The environment contrasts his musical alter ego, whom he calls Musashi Xero (pronounced moo-SAH-shee ZEE-row), and the lyrical content of his new record, titled “Self-Hate as a Viable Currency.” Jackson said the album comes from a place of personal desolation.

“It’s a literal time capsule of where I was this time last year,” he said.

This time a year ago, Jackson was grieving over a close friend who died a few months earlier from a fentanyl overdose. They were only two days apart in age, and Jackson, now 29, considered his friend a brother. The song “No Entry No Escape” speaks directly to his loss and grief.

courtesy of the artist


The rock singer and Hendersonville native Raphael Morales only recently changed his name to Beaui Roca.

He said never identified with his birth name or easily navigated what he called the minefield of gender expression that came with it. Roca articulates other points of angst in his lyrics for the local rock band Strange Avenues.

“I’m very angry about a lot of things right now,” Roca said. “The first record was very personal and a lot of that content was about me, specifically. I was writing about addiction, depression, kind of like co-dependence and fear of yourself and alcoholism.”

courtesy of the artist


The members of the Asheville band Secret Shame never really address the roots of their name. But when guitarist Nikki Gish talks about the music on the band’s new album, “Dark Synthetics,” Gish reveals a personal secret that could have broken up the band.

“I have a major mental illness and I think that played a part in a lot of what shaped that album,” Gish said, citing a bipolar disorder that causes simultaneous mania and depression.

 

“During that time being untreated and then having this mental illness play out in the practice space, (the band) were very much a part of my paranoia and psychosis and delusion I was experiencing at the time,” Gish said. “I think that shapes the music—that’s literally what they were feeling—and chicken wire and duct tape were the only things that held it together.”

Secret Shame’s album-release show for “Dark Synthetics” is Sept. 16 at the Mothlight in West Asheville.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Anderson


At the time, five years ago, it seemed like another forgettable gig. Todd Weakley’s band shared a bill at the The Odditorium in West Asheville with a duo -- Ryan Anderson and his brother. Weakley remembers Anderson approaching and introducing himself.

“And my initial impression was like ‘Oh no, it’s gonna one of those shows,’” Weakley recalled. “But when he played, I was absolutely transfixed and I felt compelled to know more about this person.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

If you go back far enough in Asheville to remember Biltmore Lanes and the Skateland Rollerdome and local R&B bands such as Bite Chew Spit and the Innersouls, then walking into the front gallery of the Orange Peel will feel like a nostalgia trip.

A new permanent exhibition of photos, newspaper clippings and other artifacts traces the history of the building, from its groundbreaking in 1946 and its varied incarnations over the subsequent decades until its branding in 1974 as the Orange Peel, primarily a home for R&B and soul club and a bridge to its renovation in 2002 into the club people know today.

Sandin Gaither


Amanda Anne Platt and her band produced their first two albums on their own and were preparing a third without drawing interest from a record label.

“It was hard. I think every time you experience any kind of rejection in the arts, it makes you question your validity as an artist, which doesn’t make sense,” Platt said. “The music business is not music. If you’re not having monetary success, it doesn’t make you any less of an artist. I still have to remind myself of that. Every day it’s hard.”

Lauren Van Epps


A couple Saturday afternoons ago, Melissa Hyman lugged two Hefty bags down Asheville’s Lexington Avenue to the trunk of her car. They were filled with blankets.

“I don’t know if we’re gonna put anyone to sleep, but I kinda want to,” Hyman said. “I want to have a set up in front of the stage of just lots of pillows and blankets and see if anyone falls asleep there.”

courtesy of the artist


“American Idol” introduced Caleb Johnson to the nation as a powerhouse rock n roll vocalist. He proved he could pull off Steven Tyler, Steve Perry, Robert Plant. Even if you graduated Asheville’s Irwin High School alongside Caleb Johnson, you probably remember him more for winning Season 13 than for anything Johnson has done in his home city.

Now, five years later, like many whose fame has come from “American Idol” and other singing competitions, Johnson is motivated to prove he’s worthy of attention for his own music.

His new album is called “Born From Southern Ground,” and it’s born to showcase Johnson’s range and power.

Courtesy of the Resonant Rogues


You can imagine the first conversation between the musicians Keith Smith and the singularly named Sparrow:

“Oh, you were 18 when you started hitchhiking around the country? I was 18 when I started hitchhiking.”

“I hopped freight trains for three years.” “Well, I joined the circus.”

“And you’re a songwriter? Well, So am I.”

courtesy of Day and Dream


Peter Frizzante and Abby Amaya met seven years ago in New York City on the dating website OK Cupid. They were a musical match from the start.

“We’ve always been jamming and writing things together, but it wasn’t until 2018 when we really got serious,” Amaya said.

“It’s 2018. We said ‘This is it, we’re on the hunt for musicians and we’re gonna get this done,” Frizzante said.

courtesy of the artist

When people describe a musician as a throwback artist, they’re usually hearing sounds and influences from two to four decades ago. To trace where Whitney Moore is coming from with her new music, you have to wind the calendar back nearly a century.

“You get to the ’50s and late ’40s and ’60s, and jazz becomes a thing for the elites,” Moore said. “But the ’20s through ’40s, it was still the music of the people and it served a really sweet purpose, to transmute their suffering or cheer them up.”

courtesy Jessica Tomasin

Even when she isn’t leading one of her four high-intensity training classes every week, Jessica Tomasin is always in motion.

She’s managed Echo Mountain recording studios since it opened 13 years ago. She co-founded the Asheville Music Professionals networking group, shepherded handfuls of events through her own production company, raised money for charities and given a TEDx talk.

For this week’s Amadeus Festival through the Asheville Symphony, she has curated a discussion and concert devoted to women in music. And right now, she’s in the midst of figuring out how to market her hard-to-explain festival, called Connect Beyond. Happening April 5-7 at various locales around Asheville, the festival explores the intersections of music, film and literature and their role in social change.

 

Scott Sturdy

Kitty Tsunami is surf-punk-garage-pop band in Asheville led by the couple Meg Caldwell and Tommy Tsunami. They spoke with Blue Ridge Public Radio as they released their debut full-length album, titled “Cosa Nostra.”

 

Kitty Tsunami shares the stage with local improvisational/atmospheric band Pink Mercury March 11 at the Mothlight to close out the Winter Music Series from the Asheville Area Arts Council and Asheville FM. Here, the couple tell a little about themselves and their music.

courtesy of the artist


Jane Kramer almost had it too good. She was in a loving, long-term relationship, making music as part of the Barrel House Mamas and engaged in a career in social work.

“Within about six or eight months, all those things collapsed,” Kramer said. “I was really, really broken. I was just in the wreckage and the shrapnel of all the ways my life here had decayed, and feeling like a tremendous failure, coupled with losing a dear friend in a really tragic way. Suddenly, I didn’t know how to find my identity, even here, in these mountains, where for all intents and purposes I came to be myself.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News

It only takes seconds to tour David Gilbert’s West Asheville home to learn he’s a ferocious music fan.

There are shelves of vinyl albums right past the front door. Toward the back is a long room with assorted music memorabilia and a complement of guitars, amps and a drum kit. This is where Gilbert’s bands rehearse.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


At first listen to his new album, it would be easy to cast Marley Carroll as a musician whose instruments are a computer and software.

“Once I started really getting into computer-based production, that was the thing that showed me it was possible to produce full records on my own,” he said. “Basically opening up this program and hooking up a MIDI keyboard and hearing a Rhodes sound or a Strat or drum set, it just seemed like the whole universe of musical possibilities was suddenly available to me.”


Listen to the Asheville band Town Mountain, and you hear mandolin, banjo, the twang in the harmonies—all the markers of bluegrass.

But listen a little more closely. There are socially conscious lyrics and, on the new album—gasp—a drummer. From early on, band members say Town Mountain never quite fit within the bounds of traditional bluegrass.

Courtesy of Okapi

Scott Gorski and Lindsey Miller are lucky they found each other, because it’s hard to imagine them making music with anyone else.

“You learn what you like by identifying what it is you don’t identify with,” Gorski said. “That’s an easier way of exploring and identifying what it is that resonates with you.”

Sandlin Gaither


Imagine you’re in a band performing at a club or even if you’re just a solo artist with a guitar in a coffeeshop. You want to sense people are listening. You want engagement. You want applause.

That is, unless you’re one of the members of the longtime Asheville trio Free Planet Radio. They recall a recent show at the Light Center in Black Mountain that was one continuous flow of music for nearly 90 minutes.

“Everyone is lying on their backs with their eyes closed,” said guitarist and composer Chris Rosser. “It’s more like a meditative experience, definitely the opposite of a concert, really.”

Courtesy of Bask


Zeb Camp was studying Appalachian history and Southern literature four years ago, at UNC-Asheville, when he began writing lyrics for the Asheville band Bask.

While folk, bluegrass and the iconic singer-songwriter are the soul of our regional music scene, guitar-driven heavy music is emerging here, and Bask is at the forefront. The music is soaked in heavy guitars, but the tone and lyrical sentiments are baked in this part of the south.

Eakin Howard


Brooklyn Reese is 12 years old and, when she’s healthy, she’s sort of a second mother to her younger sister and brother.

“Before I got sick, I had a lot of responsibility, because Izzy, she had trouble with math and homework, so when we got home from school, I’d help her with her homework,” she said. “And I’d take care of Jackson and give him a sippy and make him a peanut butter sandwich.”

Natural Born Leaders


Mike Martinez doesn’t like talking about growing up in Union, N.J., but he will say moving to Hendersonville as an 18-year-old saved his life.

“I was getting in trouble in ways I don’t necessarily want to talk about, but I was not headed on a good path,” he said. “I’m not even sure I’d be alive if I lived in New Jersey.”

courtesy of the artist

The suicides last year of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington touched millions around the world. But as someone struggling with his own depressive anxiety, soon to be 18-year-old Ian Ridenhour couldn’t help viewing their paths as a potential harbinger for his own.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Like the swallows that return every year to San Juan Capistrano, David Wilcox’s most devoted followers — it’s an insult to refer to them as mere fans — return every spring to Kanuga Lake, outside Hendersonville.

Wilcox Weekend, as it’s known, is an annual ritual drawing a couple dozen people from around the country, along with some of their children and several of their dogs. The eighth Wilcox Weekend was May 4-6.

Courtesy of Brie Capone

When Brie Capone talks about her roots in music, she can seem a little impressionable.

“I had a very serious crush on John Mayer, and he went to Berklee,” Capone said. “For me, that was definitely a marker of ‘Oh, musicians go to Berklee.’ OK, I should definitely do that if I want to do this fulltime.”

And years later, she recorded her debut album at Asheville’s Echo Mountain studios because she learned the band Dawes recorded “Stories Don’t End” album there.

Courtesy of Corey Parlamento

Corey Parlamento’s music sounds like it doesn’t have much structure. His songs wander and flow, and if you find yourself lost in the textures, you’re not alone.

“When I’m practicing with my band, they’re like 'Let's go back to the ... Chorus? I don’t know. Bridge? I don’t know. Pre-chorus? I don’t know!’” Parlamento said.

Courtesy of Andrew Finn Magill

Andrew Finn Magill had no choice. From his bloodline to his name, Irish heritage stamped Magill’s identity.

His parents played traditional Irish music in the home. He ditched Suzuki method violin practice to play Irish music. And he went to Ireland twice to compete in the all-Ireland violin championships. As a kid, he would take part in the jam sessions at Asheville’s Jack of the Wood, and his father, Jim, founded the Swannanoa Gathering.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

As you went about your sunny Saturday in Western North Carolina, you might have been unaware tens of thousands across the country celebrated a holiday of sorts. Scores of people traveled across town and, in some cases, across mountain ranges to browse, mingle and find platters of gold in Asheville during the ninth annual Record Store Day.

Nathan Rivers Chesky

Like most young singer-songwriters committed to their craft, Asheville’s Carly Taich has carved a line in the ground between her youth and adulthood. That line is her debut album, “Reverie.”

Taich sees “Reverie” as a breakup album, of sorts. Several songs are a goodbye to the bands and music Taich made before moving to Asheville four years ago. Taich and her band perform April 21 at Ambrose West in Asheville.

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