Sunday, September 2, 2018

Area musicians provide many memorable musical moments in benefit concert for fellow musician Michael Heaton

Hoss frontman Pete Lindenmeyer and other musicians perform Sept. 1 at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora as part of a benefit concert for fellow musician Michael Heaton, who is battling cancer.

Musician Noah Gabriel Giblin painted this portrait of Michael Heaton, which was auctioned off in a silent auction as part of the benefit concert.

In a show that put the true meaning of friendship on display, area musicians performed on Sept. 1 at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora in a benefit concert for fellow musician Michael Heaton, who is battling cancer.


 Kevin Trudo performs the Michael Heaton song "We're Not Sleeping."

Singer Pete Jive and other musicians, including noted guitarist Pat Bergeson, perform Michael Heaton's song "The Good Times." 

Musician Michael Heaton thanks his fellow musicians and those who came to a benefit concert for him.

Musician Ralph Covert performs the Michael Heaton song "Souvenirs." 

Joined by noted musician Pat Bergeson on harmonica, musician Dave Ramont performs the Michael Heaton song "Rhum and Coffee (For Guy Clark)."

Joined by the horn section from the band Pawnshop, Hoss frontman Pete Lindenmeyer performs Michael Heaton's song "Smells Like Gasoline." 

Musicians perform Sept. 1, 2018, at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora as part of a benefit concert for fellow musician Michael Heaton, who is battling cancer. 

Kevin Trudo leads the band in a version of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," which Heaton has played at his show on a regular basis.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Eric Peter Schwartz to perform Aug. 27 at Uncommon Ground in Chicago

After taking the stage as an actor and comedian – including being part of the Geneva Underground Playhouse – the spotlight is squarely on Aurora resident Eric Peter Schwartz these days as a musician.
Schwartz is becoming a familiar face on stage as he is constantly performing. He will perform Aug. 27 at Uncommon Ground, (Edgewater), 1401 West Devon Ave., Chicago.
A full list of his upcoming shows can be found on his website at
I had the chance to talk to Schwartz about his music.
Q – Since 2013, you've been a solo acoustic artist, right? Prior to that, were you playing with a full band?
Before that, I was doing mostly theatre and sketch comedy stuff. I was writing songs behind the scenes. Every once in a while, I would go out and do open mikes by myself. But it was pretty rare.
Most of my time was spent writing or doing theater or sketch comedy.
Q – What made you want to explore music?
I really just wanted to go and do something by myself, where the only thing I had to worry about when I had a show was me. It was time to do some stuff on my own.
Q – How have you been enjoying it?
I love it. I always wanted to do this. Even when I was with Gag Reflex comedy group, I was trying to book us like a band.
I love going around and playing shows. I used to think it was a terrifying notion to just stand up their by yourself, but I've really come to enjoy it.
Q – What do you like best about the experience? Is it the interaction with the audience?
Interacting with an audience is great. If you're kind of playing background music at a bar, there's not a ton of interaction.
When I do have a show at a place like a coffee shop where people are actually listening, then yeah, interacting with the audience and talking to them and things like that, that's always great.
I love playing at Kiss The Sky record store in Batavia. The people who are there are there because they love music. In 2016, I did a little tour of record stores.
I took like a week, and did eight shows between Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. I just kind of went around to all these different record stores.
Most of them seemed to have plugged into the idea of also being a music venue for the local musicians. It's a good deal for record stores to do that with local musicians.
Q – I know that you were named songwriter of the year in 2014 by Twirl Radio. Was that a ego boost?
Mike Lidskin, who runs Twirl Radio, has been a big supporter of mine. I was surprised and yeah, it was a ego boost. Absolutely.
Q – You describe your music as kind of folky and kind of quirky.
I usually would put me with somebody like John Mellencamp or Paul Simon, kind of that folk rock and probably just slightly more quirky. I've got stuff that would probably fall within Warren Zevon a little more and some of his quirkier things.
Not that I'm as good as any of those people, but if I had to find where I lie, it's in there.
Q – Are you working on any new material?
I'm always writing. When a song comes to me, then it comes to me. And then I write it down.
I usually will try it out at a show, and if it's working, I keep it, and eventually, maybe record it.
Now that I'm doing this full time, I'm probably going to have to set aside time. That was the one thing 
I started noticing that as soon as this became my job, the songwriting was slowing down because I was far more concerned with the fact that I would have to book a lot of shows and get paid.
But I'm always working on something. I carry notebooks around with me.
I have a little cassette recorder, and if I have just a little snippet of a musical idea, I'll record it on there. Or I will record it on my phone.
Q – Do you have a process for writing a song?
Sometimes I'll think of the lyrics first, other times, it starts as music and then I add lyrics to it.
It just sort of comes to me. I don't have a set time of day that I write, or anything like that.
Q – Do you think your music has evolved since you first started?
Oh, yeah, I think so. The performing itself has gotten better.
Over time, you're going to get better. The songs seem a little more polished when I'm done with them now.
When I'm done with a song and I'm ready to play it, it either feels more polished or I'm just more willing to play it in front of people.
There's been days when I've finished a song in the morning and I play it at a gig that night.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Acclaimed Chicago band Martin Van Ruin releases new album, will perform Aug. 17 show at FitzGerald's


Following the release of its 2014 critically acclaimed debut album,  "Every Man a King," Chicago band Martin Van Ruin continues its adventurous ways with the album "Current Day."

Martin Van Ruin  will celebrate the release of the album with a show on Aug. 17 at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. Tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to Martin Van Ruin bandleader Derek Nelson about the new album. 

Q – Your first album, "Every Man a King," enjoyed rave reviews. Did you feel any pressure in following up the album? 

None at all. This whole thing is pretty free of pressure. If we feel any, it’s just about making sure that we’re making something that feels right.
Q – In sitting down to make the new album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

We wanted to write songs and tell stories that were somewhat appropriate for the times we’re living in. There are parts of music and songwriting that are universal and timeless, but we didn’t want to make music that was a tribute to the '70s, even though those influences will still come through.
Hence the name of the release,  "Current Day." 

Q – Mike Lust recorded and engineered the record. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the project?

Lust is the very best. He goes way back with Pete Falknor (drummer/songwriter/everything else), and he records in the same practice space as us and has recorded us before. 

So, it just made sense. It was good to have another songwriter in there to help guide things in the right direction.

We needed him, actually. We recorded in so many stops and starts that it wouldn't have worked without somebody who could pull it all together.

Q – Are you just concentrating on Martin Van Ruin these days? What do you like about leading this particular group of musicians?  

I’m definitely not leading anything here; it’s a collective effort from all of us. We all just do whatever interests us. 
What the seven of us share is a need to make music without wondering what we’ll get out of it other than the music. That’s enough. 

Q – The band has been compared to Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Do you consider them to be a big influence on the band's music? 

Yes, for sure. I think what’s drawn people to them for so long — I mean, the songs of course — but also that they’re free. They do what they feel like.

I remember seeing Neil Young do a show solo, and he had all these instrument stations set up around the stage, and after every song he’d just wander around in slow-mo and decide what to play next. It was like watching somebody rehearse, except it’s Neil Young.

Q – Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 
I've always been obsessed with T Bone Burnett, so he'd have to be high up on the list.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shawn Maxwell's New Tomorrow releases new album, will perform residency at Jazz Showcase


On his latest album, innovative Chicago jazz saxophonist Shawn Maxwell wants you to know what's on his mind, or rather, the music that's in his mind.

To celebrate the release of "Music in My Mind," Maxwell and his band, New Tomorrow, will do a residency from July 26 to 29 at Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court, Chicago. More information is at

I had the chance to talk to Maxwell about the new album and upcoming showcase.

Q – Great talking to you again. There seems like there should be a story behind the name of the album, "Music in My Mind." Is there? Is this the music that was always in your mind that you are now getting out to the world?

Yes, kind of. I’ve mentioned in past interviews that early on in my career, I felt like I had to write and record a certain way.

I was constantly trying to fit into a certain box of what I thought people wanted to hear. Over the last handful of years, I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin and have decided to embrace exactly what I want to do.  


"Music in My Mind" does represent exactly what I have been hearing, and wanting to do, for many years. My compositions are the soundtrack to my life, encouraged by the people, places and things around me.

I take all of that in and then mix it in with different genres and we ended up with our latest album.

Q – This is the second album you have made with the group of musicians called New Tomorrow. What do you like about working with them? How do you think the band has evolved since the first album?

The musicians involved in this group are some of the best in Chicago and beyond. Working with them is always a pleasure.

Not only is it really fun, but we’re constantly pushing each other to go in different directions. Things never stay the same, which keeps us ever on our toes and growing as musicians.

It is a very rewarding experience working with these individuals. This group has become very good at taking my compositions and both staying true to my interpretation of them while also adding in their own personal touches.

This is a big reason that our tunes, and the overall album, have a unique feel and flavor. Over the last few albums, you can hear that continue to grow as we continue to work together.

Q – How do you think your playing has evolved since the last album?

I’m constantly reevaluating how I approach my playing, so hopefully it’s not only evolving per album, but per week. From our last album to "Music In My Mind," I feel like I’m trying to build more and tell a better overall story.

I try to think about how I can add to a tune and complement what all of the other musicians are doing. This has been an approach of mine for a long time now but, as the years go by, I feel like I grow stronger with this.

Q – Of course, you have a residency at Jazz Showcase to celebrate the release of the new album. What should people expect from the residency? Will you be playing a new set each night?

“Fun,” “different" and “new" are a few words I’d use. With the performers and compositions we have lined up, I don’t see how anyone will have less than a good time.

We also tend to mix different genres into jazz so there will be a good amount of change per tune. We will be featuring new tunes from our most recent album as well as newer versions of older Maxwell tunes from past albums.

We have 79 tunes to pick from so, while we will repeat a tune here or there, every night will be very different. We also have a few special guests each night.

On Thursday, we are joined by trumpeter Corey Wilkes. Friday brings in vocalist Dee Alexander as well as trumpeter Victor Garcia.

Saturday brings back Corey Wilkes on trumpet as well as vibraphonist Stephen Lynerd. Sunday we close out the weekend with Mr. Chad McCullough on trumpet.

Q – Do you have any favorite venues in the Chicago area?

Chicago is a great town for not only jazz but all genres of music. There are so many places that we enjoy performing at that I fear messing up and forgetting any.

That said, it’s always a great and magical time when get to perform at the Jazz Showcase.

Q – What do you think of the Chicago jazz scene and where do you see yourself fitting into it? Do you draw inspiration from any other musicians in the area?

The jazz scene, like any other, is always moving and changing. I try not to think about how I fit into it and instead focus on doing my thing.

I am inspired and driven by all musicians and everything they do. There is always something to learn and I try to keep my eyes and ears open at all times.

Luckily Chicago has several great musicians so inspiration is pretty easy to come by.