How would you classify your music?

I make folk music. I always have.  At different points I’ve called it other things but the basic principles of what people consider folk music has always been at the core of my sound.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

I’m inspired by all types of music regardless of the genre or artist, but if I have to pick 5 that I dig and that I feel have inspired where my sound is today, it’s probably fair to list Tim O’Brian, The Duhks, Cat Stevens, Pentangle and The Jayhawks as big musical influences.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

I hope fans find what they need whether they know it or not. A good song can mean many different things to individual listeners. The romantic in me wants people to find joy, peace, or an escape from this world, even for just a second, in my music. You know when you hear a song and you let it take over… it just washes over you? That’s the best feeling in the world! Real freedom, all happening in our minds just by giving in to natural vibrations. It’s a beautiful thing, and if my music could bring a listener to that state, I’d be a very happy man.

How’s the music scene in your locale? How widely do you tour?

I live right outside of Charlotte, NC, an area with so many incredible musicians it’s overwhelming. The flip side of that is it’s a fairly big city which some times I feel can have a splintering effect on “The Scene”. You tend to get small pocket scenes that aren’t always aware of what might be happening outside of their own little bubble. That said… like everything else, you get out of a scene what you invest into it. There’s plenty of great music, people and venues out there. The trick is being involved, building that sense of community and embracing it. I do try to widen my net, so to speak. I’ve toured from Florida to NYC, to Cape Cod and all the way to Seattle.

What is the best concert you have been to? 

I’ve seen so many great shows I couldn’t  say what the best one was, but I can tell you that my most memorable concert was the The Pretenders in the late 80’s at William and Mary Hall. I was probably around 18 years old and I had seats on the side of the stage just above the heads of the people in the standing floor section. To get all my “cool guy cred,” I was wearing my favorite thread-bare Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. The band was on fire and then out of nowhere, between songs, Chrissie Hynde puts her hand above her eyes to shield the lights, looks right at ME and says “Jimi… Jimi Hendrix!” My jaw hit the ground and I looked over at my girlfriend at the time to confirm what had just really happened … and it had! There was a lot of excited whooping and hollering after that. Best concert ever!

What do you like most about playing live?

It feels SO good! There’s this magic that happens when everything is just right on stage.  It’s otherworldly.  I can hear the music swirling in the air but it doesn’t feel like I’m playing it; more like it’s being played through me. I guess it’s the musician’s version of a runner’s high. On nights like that, it feels like the band is floating above the stage, not high enough for anyone to see, because that might cause a panic, but floating just the same. Another really rewarding part of my live playing these days is the addition of Amelia Osborne to the show. Amelia has a gorgeous voice as well as being an immensely talented multi-instrumentalist. Onstage, she offers me the freedom to present my songs the way they are meant to be. I’m not tied down just keeping a rhythm. There’s a give and take that drives the music to new and interesting heights, and that’s where the fun is!

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why? 

“The Wind Will Take You Home” is a celebration of loved ones lost. I wrote it as a joyful and hopeful take on death. As fate would have it shortly after it was written, Amelia and I both lost someone close to us and this song offered some much needed light in a dark time. When it came time to start recording The Coin, The Prayer & The Crow we knew “The Wind Will Take You Home” had to be the first song on the album! The song also was one of the first that really came to life when Amelia and I started preforming together. Her harmonies and bodhrán playing really make the song soar. Once that song came into play for us, we knew we had something special and “The Wind Will Take You Home” was the blueprint for where we wanted to go with the music.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year? Five years?

I feel like I’ve finally come to terms with who I am as an artist. I’ve bounced around between so many genres in my career . Americana, Old Time, Celtic, Cajun, Rock, all have a place in my heart and that’s an amazing gift! I don’t have to pigeonhole myself into a certain sound to make a certain group of listeners happy. I just have to make the best music I can that makes me happy. I can play a Celtic styled fiddle tune and it sounds completely at home next to a song with a pop/rock vibe played on clawhammer banjo, because it’s honest.That’s why I embrace the label “Folk music” these days. I’m taking flavors from all over the world and mixing them together into something that speaks my truth. In my world music doesn’t get much more “folk” than that.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be, and what activity would you choose? 

I’m fortunate enough to have met many of my musical heroes. Sometimes it’s great, other times it’s a letdown. We’re all just human. My biggest hero that I missed, however, was Pete Seeger. He was so talented but it was never about that. He always seemed happier getting the audience to sing than have them listen to what he could do. He really lived his love for music and used it to offer peace and hope to the world. To have had the chance to stand next to him as he lead a crowd through “If I Had A Hammer” … oh, yeah… that would have been a mountaintop experience for me. Probably would have ended up in an emotional puddle on the floor by the end of it, though. So, maybe it’s best that Pete was spared that embarrassment.

You and Amelia Osborne are both multi-instrumentalist, how does that effect your shows?

Being a multi-instrumentalist is essential to what I do. It allows me to fully realize what I hear in my head without hesitation. That’s something I couldn’t do as well live before I started working with Amelia. With both of us playing so many instruments, it gives us incredible freedom on stage. We usually start with me on guitar and her on bodhrán then it’s anybody’s guess from there. Amelia will grab the fiddle, I’ll hop on banjo or mandolin, and then for the next song we trade. It keeps things fun and fresh for us as well as the audience. It’s like we are painting a picture and we have lots of colors to choose from, to bring it all to life.

What’s next for you? 

This year, two new CD’s that I’ve produced for other artists are going to be released, Ken Widis and Kevin Winchester. So, look for them in the near future. Both are great records and I can’t wait for folks to hear them. I’m looking forward to continuing more production work. It’s such a rewarding process. We’re super excited about The Coin, The Prayer & The Crow so we’ll continue promoting and supporting it, hoping it can reach as large an audience as possible. New video releases are in the works for a few of the songs. Our first video was recently released for “Song Of Remembrance” and it’s just beautiful. It’s personal for us but something everyone can relate to as well. We couldn’t be happier with the response we’re getting. So look for more videos to come for sure. Beyond that … playing, writing, reaching, and growing. That’s what musicians do. It’s exciting to me that after having only recently finished The Coin, The Prayer & the Crow, new music and ideas are already starting to develop. Music is an amazing gift and I hope to do my best to honor it.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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