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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A cappella band Pentatonix bringing strong vocals to Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

With more than 50 million YouTube views, a cappella band Pentatonix is helping bring vocal groups to a new level of popularity.

Pentatonix, which emerged as the winner of season three of "The Sing-Off," will perform March 2 at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $24, available at www.jamusa.com.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Pentatonix member Mitch Grassi about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. How has the tour been going?

The tour has been going so well! We're having an amazing time performing every night and meeting all the great fans.
 

Q - Most of the shows on your fall and winter tour last year sold out. Did you expect such an overwhelming response to your music? 

We really didn't! We were very unsure of the response we would get out on tour, but we are so glad it's positive.

Q - Of course, you guys were named the winners of season three of "The Sing-Off" Were you pretty confident of your chances to win it all? What did you think of your competition? What was the biggest thing that the group learned from that experience?


We actually weren't, ha ha ha. Every week right before we would perform, we would psyche ourselves out and be like, "We're going home, we're going home!" Our competition was all exceptionally talented!
 

We learned that our group dynamic is the most important thing. We couldn't let petty things get in the way of our job.

Q - I understand that 24 hours before the audition for "The Sing-Off," you still hadn't all officially met. Looking back, do you wish you had more time to prepare? Why do you think your voices blend well together?

It couldn't have hurt to have had more time! But we pulled it together in a short amount of time, which I think speaks volumes about us.

Kirstie, Scott, and I have been singing together since high school, so we've really gotten to know each other's vocal habits. We sort of mimic each other's placement and vowels while we sing together, which makes for a fuller sound.

Q - The group has become well-known for some of its covers. How do you choose what songs you want to cover and what do you try to do with those songs? What should people expect from your new EP?
 

www.youtube.com/user/ptxofficial?feature=results_main

Typically, we will choose songs off of the top charts, or songs that are currently blowing up. We like to give well-known, popular songs a whole new spin and do something totally different with them.  

People should expect a lot more original material for "PTX Vol 2." We are writing like crazy while on tour right now!

Q - Why do you think there is such an interest in a cappella groups? What are the additional musical challenges of being an a cappella group?


I think people nowadays are looking for a more organic sound in music. You turn on the radio and 95% of what you hear is auto-tuned, "wall-of-sound" -ish music that's been dumbed down so that virtually everyone can listen to it without having to think about or focus on it. 

With a cappella, you have 5 or more complex parts to listen to, and to top it all off, they're all being produced with the human voice! Also, you typically have to be a strong singer in a cappella, because the voice is the foundation of the music you make. With radio-friendly pop songs, you don't necessarily have to be a good singer - the technology "sings" for you.
 

As an a cappella group, we have to get creative! We don't have synthesizers or instruments to fill our sound, so sometimes we mimic those sounds or we figure out interesting ways to add substance to our sound.

Q - The movie "Pitch Perfect" presented a sometimes humorous look at a cappella group competition. Was the movie true to life at all?


In some ways, it is. A cappella can be fairly dramatic and extremely competitive. However, a girl doesn't become a bass if she acquires vocal nodules. ;)
 

Q - Where do you see the band going from here?

We will definitely be touring more. I think we are still trying to figure out our original sound, as well, which I'm totally stoked for! I think it's time the world hears what we're really capable of.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blues world mourns death of Chicago's own Magic Slim

Magic Slim performs at the 25th Annual Chicago...
Magic Slim performs at the 25th Annual Chicago Blues Fest. Photo by Adam Bielawski - June 8, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The blues world lost another great one this week.
The musician known as Magic Slim died at a Philadelphia hospital at the age of 75. Born Morris Holt in Torrance, Mississippi in 1937, the guitarist performer, bandleader, and recording artist went on to enjoy a career that launched him to national and international recognition and acclaim.
Slim was one of the foremost practitioners of the raw, gut-bucket, back alley blues associated with the postwar Chicago blues sound. He and his band, the Teardrops, were known as "the last real Chicago blues band" for their authentic, no-frills, straight-no-chaser performance of the music.
In 1955, like many musicians from the Deep South, Slim migrated to Chicago, where he was mentored by his friend Magic Sam, who gave the lanky Morris his lifelong stage moniker. Initially discouraged by the highly competitive local music scene, Slim went back to Mississippi and spent the next five years woodshedding and perfecting his craft.
He confidently returned to Chicago and became a formidable player on the scene, eventually putting together the Teardrops, who would become one of the busiest and best-loved blues bands around, and one of the most sought-after headliners for festivals in Europe, Japan, and South America.

Slim and his group won the coveted Blues Music Award in 2003 as "Blues Band of the Year," one of six times Slim won a BMA, considered the highest honor in the blues.
"Magic Slim embodied the heart and soul of this label," Blind Pig Records owner Jerry Del Giudice said. "It was Magic Slim, and the guys like him, and their music, that inspired us to start the label in the first place."
Information courtesy of Blind Pig Records.
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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Clinard Dance Theatre putting flamenco dancing in the spotlight


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Since forming Clinard Dance Theatre in Chicago in 1999, Wendy Clinard has elevated flamenco dancing to a new art form.

Clinard Dance Theatre, www.clinardance.org, will present "From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer)" on Feb. 22 at Mayne Stage, 1328 Morse Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and general admission tickets are $25, available at www.ticketweb.com.

I had the pleasure of talking to Clinard about her vision for the show.


Q - In putting together the show, what did you want to do and do you think you achieved your goals? What should people expect from the show?

I wanted to portrait the episodic, fragmented world we live in. I employed sound, movement, spoken word and image to show how parts make a whole, not just part. 



In the fragmented timeline of our story I show how we are interconnected, I show how things, people, the natural world are all connected. I think if we continue to compartmentalize our lives, we create more strain and stress. 

If we can suspend our personal world views and let wonder and curiosity do some of our observing we are likely to find some ventilation to the usual fears and complaints.

The work is an invitation to the public. It asks the public questions, not in a literal way, but it asks. 


Therefore the audience can expect a dialogue maybe with a friend after the show or with themselves. EACH AUDIENCE MEMBER is encouraged PUT TOGETHER THE WORK together FOR HERSELF, as in a game of dominoes or cards, and, as with a mirror, she gets out of the piece as much as she puts into it, for, as written in one of the spoken word excerpts, you cannot get more out of the truth than what you put into it.

Q - What do you think it is about flamenco dance that makes it unique? What drew you to the world of flamenco dance?

What I prize highly in flamenco dancing is its internal, abrupt, raw expression(s). The form has evolved because it doesn't like contrived gesture.  


Gesture in flamenco is expressed differently depending on the artist performing it or the era it is living in at a given time period. When I've attended the biennial in Seville (month long flamenco festival) you see so many different inventions using flamenco dance, so many manifestations using the form. 

There is no stereotyped body type and there is no need to mask yourself; the form encourages self-expression.




Q - In creating Clinard Dance Theatre in 1999, what were your main objectives? How do you think your theatre has contributed to the entertainment and cultural scene in Chicago?

Clinard Dance Theatre has been a platform for me to collaborate with many artists in different disciplines. Chicago is not Seville but it has so many dedicated, electric, and alive artists working here. 


These artists push the boundaries of their forms. These dedicated artists have been the folks I have wanted to work with. 

I feel like flamenco demands a dedication to penetrate some of its truths. So whether or not the work we have created in the end is flamenco or not is not as important as the live, wrestled with quality that our original pieces hold and this defies categories; it is firstly itself.

The audience takes what they wants or can from our works and thus changes it to their measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh or prejudice, some paint it
with their own delight. 



A work must have some points of contact with the public and place to make them feel at home in it. Only then can they accept wonders. 

Our dance making encourages wondering and that's a big contribution to Chicago's cultural scene because wondering leads to creativity.

Q - You also are an instructor. What are the biggest challenges or obstacles in trying to teach flamenco dancing?

I think the biggest obstacle, unique to flamenco verses ballet or contemporary dance here in Chicago, is to get students beyond  THE COSTUMES, beyond the representational aspect of the form. Flamenco is a whole body of knowledge that requires sustained inquiry and when we reduce it to a handful of "steps" and fancy costumes we do it a disservice.


As a result, the art form continues to remain marginalized in comparison to other dance forms. Just think about the many presentations of ballet or contemporary dance today or in dance history, there are many inventions.

Q - Would you say that flamenco dancing has become more respected over the years?

I would say that flamenco is deeply respected by people that have educated themselves about the art form including its roots, history and evolution.Taking time to see the pantheon of expression and various treatments around the form over time will blow any static image one has about the art out of the water. 


Again as mentioned earlier, if we (as in people outside Spain) continue to reduce it to a postcard image it is hard to get the public to let go of those stereotypes.

Q - You also are part of the group Las Guitarras de Espana. What made you want to be part of that project?

The flamenco community in Chicago is small enough that everyone knows everyone and we all tend to work with one another at different points in time. Las Guitarras has hauled in a bunch of artists experimenting with world forms and that has been part of my curiosities also so it made for a natural collaboration. 

 
Q - What dream projects do you have?
 

Currently we are working on a project inspired by the Chicago River. We want to have Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" for four hands on the piano as the accompaniment. 

I think it will be challenging to use my feet percussively with this piece, to find new isolations in my body and seek out the energetic "hand offs" between dancer and musicians. I had a great painting teacher once who would know when we started to really like our painting - at that point he would have another student work on our painting and you on theirs.
 

I got it and I try to practice that spirit of continually challenging myself and that means not holding on and never arriving, but staying desperately curious for the ride.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bluegrass sensation Sierra Hull coming to Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

There's not many musicians who can brag that they were invited to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage at age 11.

Bluegrass musician and mandolin player Sierra Hull can. Hull, www.sierrahull.com, will perform Feb. 15 at the Northeastern Illinois University's Recital Hall, 5500 N. St. Louis Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $25 for the general public, $15 for seniors and $10 for students, available by calling 773-442-4636.

I had the chance to talk to Hull about her career as well as her latest activities.


Q - It's great to talk to you. I understand that you are working on music for a new album. What should people expect from the new album? Will you be building on your last album?

Thanks, you as well! I am working on a new album. Just getting started, but things are going great.

It will be a bit of a different record for me. More original songs than before and also adding in drums and electric guitar along the way - both of which I haven't had on my records before.

Not necessarily a bluegrass album, but a reflection of me that I haven't yet been able to express musically. It will certainly be roots based nevertheless. I'm excited and I hope people will enjoy what we've been doing.

Q - You released your debut album, "Secrets," at age 16. How do you think your music has grown since then? What was it like releasing your first album when you were still in high school? What did your fellow classmates think?





My music has grown, but naturally, I have grown as a person and I think that's the biggest thing.

Coming into being an adult and now having two records already behind me it feels like I am in more of a place to ask myself who I truly am and what I want to be.

I went to a really great school in Byrdstown , Tenn. - Pickett County High. My teachers and classmates were awesome!

I graduated with only 44 students, so it was a very small school and everyone really got along pretty well. I'm grateful to have been in that environment during that time in my life because everyone was so supportive.



Q - Alison Krauss is a big fan of your music. What was it like getting an invitation from her to perform at the Grand Ole Opry when you were only 11 years old? Do you think you lost out on any of your childhood because of all these opportunities?

I've been one of Alison's biggest fans since I first heard her music at 9 years old. I loved AKUS so much - used to draw pictures of myself playing on stage with them as a kid.

To get an invite to come play with her and the band on the Opry was my biggest dream come true ever! I'll never forget it.

I certainly don't feel as though I lost out on much because of my opportunities with music. If anything, I feel it made my childhood that much richer.

I found something I loved and was passionate about at 8 years old. It has forever changed my life and I'm so blessed as a result.   

Q -  What drew you to the mandolin in the first place? What advice would you give to budding mandolin players?

My dad bought a mandolin and was learning to play when I was little and I just thought it seemed like fun. My great uncle played mandolin as well, so it was an instrument I was around.

I think budding mandolinists just need to remember to have fun! If the fun is lost as a beginner, you'll never reach the point of being a disciplined musician.

I also find it super important to listen to lots of music and develop a good ear as early on as possible.

Q - Matt Glaser - head of Berklee’s American Roots Music Program - has said that you have no limitations as a musician. What's it like to get a compliment like that? Are you surprised at all that you've accomplished so far?

To get a compliment like that from anyone is always humbling. I certainly don't see myself in that same light.

I am surprised for sure that I've had all the opportunities that I have. As a kid, you don't know any better than to just accept them and be like "woohoo, this is awesome!"

As I get older, I really have a deeper appreciation of my blessings.

Q - What dream projects or collaborations do you have?

I really would LOVE to meet Dolly Parton. She just seems like an awesome person and I'd love to work with her!

I'm also a big big Bonnie Raitt fan - same deal, she just seems like an awesome lady! There really are too many people to name though that I admire and would love to work with!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

British blues guitarist Bex Marshall coming to Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

British female blues guitarist Bex Marshall continues to break down barriers in a male-dominated guitar world.

Marshall, www.bexmarshall.co.uk, has earned the distinction of being the first and only woman to be invited to perform at the Cork's International Guitar Festival. She will bring her acoustic steel-top resonator guitar on March 6 to Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and more information is at www.uncommonground.com.

I had the pleasure of talking to Marshall about her career.


Q - Great to talk to you. You're latest album, "House of Mercy," has received some good reviews. What were your goals for the album and do you think you achieved them? What made you want to self produce the album?

My goal was first to make a great album in its entirety...showcasing what I do of course, but while not being too precious about anything in particular.

I wanted to make the songs the best they could be, Bex Marshall style, and I think I achieved that. When I play the record it flows in my mind and the music production police in my head are quiet.

I wanted to be able to send across the feel, the vibe, and have the right sounds behind specific words or meanings. I wanted to play, create and manipulate a musical body of work to MY imaginative specifications and to be in control of the end result.

Many artists don't have that luxury (or wouldn't want it anyway), but I fancied a crack at it and was lucky enough to have the chance and get it right, for me.

Q - Your last album, "Kitchen Table," hit the Top 20 on U.S. Americana charts. Was that a surprise to you and did you feel any pressure in following up the album?

Yeah I guess it was a surprise, but the record was a slow burner and being an independent artist with my own record label, the timing around the release was slightly ajar.

But it still ended up doing well anyway, so yes I was pleasantly surprised. It was my first dip into releasing a record in America and was just going with the flow.

I always believe if something is good enough it will find its own value or place anyway, even if it takes 20 years. It's a bit like Ebay (ha ha). Whatever it is, in the end, it will find its real value.



There is always a certain amount of pressure when recording a record, even if you do it in a couple of hours live, you can never really guarantee the outcome.

I do however, believe in going with your gut reactions and I did a lot of that on this record. Luckily, I had the pleasure of professionals working and contributing to the musical performance, engineering and mixing and that makes a big difference, but I oversaw every note.

The background stress of keeping your eye on the clock and pulling together the sounds and feeling that moment of 'YES,' now that's what I'm talking about feeling!!!

With the new technology, it's easy to get carried away and forget what you are trying to do sometimes, but on the other hand. you have a mighty weapon that can indulge you imagination to the max. You just gotta now when to reign it in sometimes!


Q - I understand you started playing guitar when you were 11 and you were first attracted to classical guitar, but eventually started playing country and the blues. What attracted you to country music and the blues?

Yes, when I look back at my early influences and what I naturally gravitated towards, it always had a bluesy vein running through it. I was lucky I had my Uncle Alex's record collection at my disposal and on the agreement that I always wiped the record with the black velvet cloth before and after and carefully lowered the arm on to the vinyl every time I had carte blanche to listen to it all.

He had all the classic blues/rock/Americana artists I still love today: there was Eric Clapton, Eagles, Leonard Skynyrd, Howlin' Wolf, early Tina Turner, Elkie Brooks, to The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Who, it just went on.

Q - What was it like busking on the streets? Did that experience help you grow as a musician and a performer?

Busking is a great thing to do, it reminds you that it's a big bad world out there, but you're here, believing in yourself and loving what you're doing. And it gives you a huge sense of,  "I'M DOING MY TRUE MUSICAL CALLING AND ALL THESE COMMUTERS ARE NOT LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD."

It's a great way to get your music heard though, and the great thing is you hear so many feel good stories about buskers getting deals or gigs from busking. In London, you have to have a license to play on the streets or you get moved along, so you have to audition to get a license, which is a great way to expose your sound...

When I was in Australia about 15 years ago and really broke, I bought a balsa wood guitar, took it back to the youth hostel, drew aboriginal art all around it, cut the sound hole a bit bigger, and went on the streets alongside these masters of street entertainment, guys who could play outstanding guitar picking while playing the didgeridoo at the same time.

I sat down and watched and thought to myself, "I gotta raise my game." Busking is like paid rehearsal too, it's a great thing to do. Only a few weeks ago, I saw a picture of Huey from the Fun Loving Criminals sat in Carnaby Street busking with a beanie hat on and old raggedy outfit on.

Q - As a female slide guitarist, you probably get your fair share of comparisons to Bonnie Raitt. Are those comparisons flattering? Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

Well yes, I do get compared to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin quite a bit but other artists too.As long as they get what I'm trying to do and get the songs and dig my record, I don't mind at all!!!

I always feel flattered, who wouldn't? But as the reviews keep coming, they are gradually hearing me in there too!!

Q - You have earned the distinction of being the first and only woman to be invited to perform at the Cork's International Guitar Festival. Do you consider that an honor and do you think you have broken down some barriers in doing so?

Yes for sure. I'm doing it again this year, that festival is probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on!

I love that part of Ireland, it's where my grandfather was born and when I took my mother there a few years ago, we found one of our really old relatives buried in the graveyard in Kinsale, not so far from there.

To me its so important to be in touch with your family tree and knowing my family came from there, it's just the coolest thing I could think of, the music that erupts from that part of the world on a daily basis is like hot musical roots lava.

Q - Do you feel that the guitar world is still dominated by men? If so, how do you turn that around?

This is a man's world....This IS a MAN'S WORLD.....but it don't mean nothin.....NOTHIN without a woman or a girl!!! XXX

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chicago singer-songwriter Jeff Brown releases new album


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago musician Jeff Brown's achingly beautiful album "Last Chance" shows why the Chicago music scene is so vibrant.

Brown, www.jeffbrownmusic.com, will perform Feb. 15 at the Hard Rock Cafe, 63 West Ontario St., Chicago, as part of a CD release party. Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade, Tree and Little Light also are part of the bill.

The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at www.hardrock.com.

I had the chance to talk to Brown about his new album, which features an appearance by well-known saxophonist Mars Williams.


Q - Great to be able to talk to you. It seems like you are always working on one project or another. How did you find the time to make "Last Chance?"

The entire process for making the album only lasted about a month, but between scheduling conflicts, work commitments, and a nasty respiratory infection that sidelined me for a month, that month was spread over the course of a year.

A lot of studio time was in the evenings and weekends. Fortunately enough, being in the studio with Ellis Clark (the album's producer) was more fun than work, and the recording itself was pretty painless.

 
Q - In making the album, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?

This was the first time that I had the chance to bring an entire album of my own original music to light, so my biggest goal was to make an album that I was truly proud to show the world.

I wanted to make an album that I would listen to if I didn't have anything to do with it. More than that, I wanted an album, and not just a collection of songs - a piece of music that told a story and took listeners somewhere by the end.

I think that with all of the help of everyone who was a part of it, that goal was reached.



 Q - How did you hook up with Mars Williams? Are you a fan of his band Liquid Soul, which recently celebrated its 20th year of making music? What do you think he brought to the song "Grace?"

Mars is a magician.  He's friends with Ellis, the album's producer. As I was writing the song, I had it in my head that a saxophone would carry the feeling and sensuality that I wanted to present through the song.

I had a few friends in mind to help me, but after having seen Mars play with Ellis, I asked him if he might be available. It ended up working perfectly, and Mars came to the studio one afternoon.

I told him that it was in B-minor, and that it was the song that people would probably have sex to on my record. He told me, "I got it," and blazed through the song a few times.

We ended up using most of the first take.  He nailed it.

I've been a fan of Liquid Soul and the Psychedelic Furs for a while, and having someone with his pedigree on my album is incredible. He made that song special.

Apart from the sheer elevation of the talent level, his playing gave a different feel from the rest of the album, but I think there is something in his playing that still connects with the rest of the album - his lines are very haunting and longing.



Q - Your band Goodbyehome plans to release a new album this spring. Do you view that band as your main project or are you concentrating more on your solo stuff these days? How do you choose what songs to do on your own and what songs to do with Goodbyehome?

Both bands are like children, and it not fair to either to say which is the main project and which isn't. I view them both similarly, and I've been fortunate in that they have both ebbed and flowed with their time demands in different patterns.

As far as creatively, they're both very different stylistically, so there has never been much of an issue with introducing my songs into the Goodbyehome set. Greg Combs has pretty much always been the principal songwriter for Goodbyehome, and that dynamic has always worked.

He's an exceptional songwriter, but very different. What I can say is that we've both been on the same bill before, and I'll likely never do that again.

It was a lot of work and energy to play two sets back to back and set up and tear down.

Q - Goodbyehome has toured with the likes of Bela Fleck, Dr. Dog and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. What has that experience taught you?

I love touring, and I can't wait for the opportunity to do it again, but it is so much more work and stress than most people know - especially when you're doing it yourself.

At the end of the day, it's still being in a van and hotels for hours/days/weeks with the same people and their same quirks and personalities.  And that is every bit as awesome and horrible as it sounds.

Touring teaches patience, preparedness, understanding, and that you have to be flexible when things go wrong. Because they will.

But it's still fun to share it with people who you share a musical vision with. And when it goes right, you share in that together.

And when it goes wrong, you have jokes and stories and scars for the rest of your lives. Touring also taught me the value of daily mandatory alone time...

Q - You are also a music industry lawyer. What are the biggest issues or challenges facing musicians today? Does the fact that musicians and listeners have a wide array of technology in their hands these days also present challenges, such as finding a way to make money when there is so much free music available online?

I think that the biggest issue with musicians today on a national scale is there aren't any more rules in the industry. The process used to be simple and mainly dictated by record labels and a few powerful people.

If you had the talent, people would find you and turn you into a star. You'd make a gold or platinum album, tour, develop a drug problem, a trophy wife or two, rehab, reunion tour, best-selling memoirs, and end up on a FOX reality show.

Now, anyone with $200 can buy a nice condenser microphone and a recorder, and they have an album that they can share with everyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection, which is both empowering and devastating. The industry is chaotic and open to everyone now.

The trick is to get yourself noticed above all the noise. Most people I know are still trying to figure that out.  I know I am. As far as the monetization of music, I'm still hopeful and possibly foolish that there are people who still believe in the value of compensating creativity.

But honestly, I make music because it makes me happy. If someone wants to pay me for it, I'm going to let them, but if I were in this business for the money and the women, I would have stopped 20 years ago when I realized that I was still poor and single.

I think the people who make music regardless of whether or not they'll make money will always do it.  People who don't will stop if it doesn't work.



Q - It seems like there is a high level of interest in folk and roots music both locally and on a national level. Why do you think that is? You've taken on many different genres of music over the years. What is your favorite genre?

There is something about folk music that will always resonate with people, and I think that the more the world screams towards technology and perfection and computer-generated music and electronica and dubstep (which I will whole heartedly admit to enjoying), the more we will enjoy how it feels return to a guy sitting on the porch with a piece of wood making music about how it feels to be alive.

There is something satisfying about listening to an acoustic guitar or violin or banjo that you can't get from a guy manipulating sounds and beats on a computer, and never will. I think that's why I ended up doing just that.

I loved playing heavy metal and trip hop and every other style that I've been involved in - but there is something that's wholesome and real that I love about writing and performing songs with an acoustic guitar.

Q - How do you think the Chicago music scene compares to other music scenes around the country? How do you see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene?

Chicago is a tough city to be a musician in. We're a sports town.

We have seven months of winter. The same five cover bands play every festival in existence.

People are apathetic and would rather go to a baseball game or stay at home with "Game of Thrones" or Netflix or drink with their friends than listen to that guy singing about feelings. But the thing I love about this scene is that we are all in it together.

When you go to local shows, a lot of the audience is other members of the music scene. We support each other - we build each other up.

We know that we're what we have when our friends get tired of us asking them to come see our band. We form alliances with other acts to help us do better, like the Chicago Roots Collective, or the Chicago Acoustic Underground.

And it's small, despite being a big city. A friend of mine lovingly referred to me once as the Kevin Bacon of Chicago music, since it seems that you can't go more than a few musicians without running into someone who knows me.

It's flattering, and probably a bit true, considering that I've been involved in so many aspects of so many different parts of the industry for the past 16 years.

Ultimately though, I see myself as just the same guy as everyone else who's a part of the Chicago music scene trying to do the same thing - get my music heard.