Category Archives: Notable Conversations

Interviews

Luminous Heart – Musical Friends you’ll want to meet!

The snow has put a lovely glow on the city, but it has impeded many a personal appointment lately! Thanks to Jamie Corff and Val Blaha for being willing to do a remote interview to introduce us to the new duo Luminous Heart.and their debut album Possibility. You can catch Luminous Heart at the Next Local Roots live series show this coming Wednesday, January 11. I am loving how they answered these questions together. This duo is a solid pair of friends with a heart for connecting to the audience.

PN: How did you two meet?

Jamie: I signed up to take guitar lessons from Val. Eventually, as I became more comfortable with the guitar, I co-founded a different duo, Awaken Jane, and I began to bring the songs that we wrote or were working on to Val for my lessons. She apparently liked them and one day she asked if we wanted a bass player, as she wanted to have more opportunity to play bass. I was kind of a Val fan-girl at the time, and jumped at the chance to make music with her. It was fun, but before we got a chance to really get out there as a band, our friend had to drop out due to family commitments. So after awhile, we morphed into Luminous Heart.

Val: I was really impressed by Jamie as a student… she was a natural, and also just a great person to spend time with!

PN: You are both lifetime musicians – when do you first remember knowing this is what you would want to do?

Jamie: My dad was a musician. He played rhythm guitar and sang in several different hair metal bands when I was growing up. I loved watching them practice. I only got to see him perform every once in awhile because he usually played in bars. He was a very entertaining performer and I idolized him. Though performing made me nervous for a long time, I always wanted to be just like him.

Val: I’ve wanted to sing as long as I could remember. I was an only child, and would spend hours in my room singing along with records from at least 8 years old. And I performed as a classical pianist from a very young age. But it took until I was in my 30s before I really found my voice and my confidence to stand up and sing on a regular basis. And now that I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years, it’s my favorite thing to do… each new song feels like a new child!

PN: What’s the first song that connected with you as a child?

Jamie: My sister and I were obsessed with the album “Brigade” by Heart. We would parade around in our room and lip sync to every song.

Val: Probably “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. Also, the entire Grease soundtrack.

Jamie: oh yeah! The Grease soundtrack, of course!!!

PN: What’s the first album you bought, or the first show you stood in line for?

Jamie: It’s too embarrassing to answer the first question, but the first concert I stood in line for was Staind, the summer of 2001 at the Salt Lake City Palace. I was 18 years old. I grew up in rural Wyoming, so I didn’t have many opportunities to go to concerts until after I graduated high school. Being there gave me an incredible sense of freedom…even though I felt like I was going to pass out from being in the middle of a huge, hot, sweaty pit!

Val: I grew up near Los Angeles, and my dad would take me to shows, or drop me off with friends. I remember being ridiculously excited to see Duran Duran in 1983 or so.

PN: Did your families expose you to music, lessons, etc?

Jamie: Both of my parents were into music. I never got any formal training, but I played flute in symphonic, concert and jazz bands, as well as sang in many choirs in school.

Val: I started piano lessons when I was 6, and was playing Mozart sonatas by age 11. I performed a lot as a child, although to tell the truth, I resented it somewhat. I had to get up early every morning and practice an hour before school started. And I missed out on some activities with my friends (like Outdoor School) because I had performances. Now I’m glad I put in all that time though! My dad also exposed me to a lot of 50’s music… he’d quiz me on recognition of singers like Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, etc.

PN: You seem very community oriented and purposeful in your writing – what, if any, is the message of your latest album?

Jamie: I think it’s safe to say that we’re very community oriented in our individual lives, and we both have many causes that we are devoted to and that have shaped us. “Possibility” has messages of hope, renewal, and recognition of the undeniable cycles of life.

Val: Yes, and also a message of hope and independence for women… not being bound to gender or societal roles. The lyrics for the title song were inspired by a wonderful children’s book called “Rooftoppers” by Katherine Rundell.

PN: You also seem to have a really devoted fan base – it’s not just the music – you seem very accessible as a duo, and you seem like actual friends – is that true? Would you be friends if you didn’t play together?

Jamie: We are dear friends, indeed. I’m super grateful for Val’s friendship and love making music with her. Even if we weren’t a duo, I’m certain we would be friends, because we have a lot of the same ideals and philosophies, and we run in the same circles in Yamhill County. However, I don’t think we’d be as good of friends as we are. There is something special about creating music with someone; it bonds you together in a very deep way.

Val: Aw! I’m so grateful also for Jamie’s friendship. This is my first time being in a musical collaboration with another woman (apart from my brief time with Awaken Jane), and I absolutely love it and adore working with Jamie in particular! We get along wonderfully, and when we’re working we are able to communicate very well, which is so important if you’re going to progress and move in the same direction musically.

It’s also nice to be making music in Yamhill county… we both feel very connected to so many people here, and we’re very thankful for the support that our friends and fans have given us.

PN: What are your goals in the next few years?

Jamie: We want to continue improving our performances. We want to bring more instruments into our songs and find different ways to be compelling for our audiences. We also want to write and record more music, and continue to play shows. Maybe it’s not that specific, but we are trying to keep ourselves open to opportunities. Who knows what may come?

Val: Writing more music (especially together!) and reaching a wider audience. It would be great to start playing some festivals as well. We’re definitely hoping to play new venues, both in Portland and beyond, around the northwest and California. We think our music is especially well-suited for house concerts, given the emphasis on the lyrics, so in the near term, we’d love to start doing more of those. We’d also love to get some of our songs into movies or tv, so we hope to make connections that help with that, and raise funds to do some more recording.

Jamie: Yep, Val sums it all up perfectly!

Now that you’ve gotten inside the hearts and minds of these creative women, check out their music at CD Baby, ReverbNation, Bandcamp or on their website. Corff and Blaha do a terrific job keeping current with their social media and gig updates as well. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and get current news about their activities on their website. To see them live, check out the gig schedule. I’m so excited to see them play next week, January 11, at Alberta Street Pub with the Local Roots Live Series. Hope to see you there too!

HOLIDAY HOEDOWN TO FIGHT HUNGER – BENEFIT CONCERT SATURDAY 12/17/2016

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With a heart for Portland and for every person living here, a trio of community-loving Country bands have joined forces to raise awareness about a basic need in our area and to support the Oregon Food Bank. The Fixin’ To hosts local favorites Jenny Don’t and the Spurs as the headlining band, along with The Stubborn Lovers and The Waysiders. Jenny Taylor from The Stubborn Lovers joined me at the dinner table to chat about this unique event, which was conceived out of a genuine desire to feed both the body and spirit. You can catch this benefit concert December 17 in the new St. Johns venue. Holiday Hoedown to Fight Hunger – say it out loud! It’s a clever mouthful, and you cannot help but smile at the images that come to mind.

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Waysiders

Three female fronted bands come together to represent a variety of interpretations of country music. The Waysiders open with some old school harmonies with Western swing and Cajun influences. The Stubborn Lovers are a true country rock band with their roots based in 70’s country, heartland style! Jenny Don’t and the Spurs represent western vintage, from head to toe. This intentional diversity reflects the heart of the organizers – though very different as individuals, we all come from common origins as humans, and we all have the same core needs. The hope is to do more than raise funds for the Oregon Food Bank. The ultimate dream is to unite all of us to recognize and value our entire community.

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Stubborn Lovers

Taylor and her band are active with more than one non-profit organization in our community, primarily trying to support groups that focus on equality. In March, The Stubborn Lovers partnered with Basic Rights Oregon, to write a song for them called “Love Wins”. Community involvement and the fight for all human rights are the heartbeat of The Stubborn Lovers. For this event, Taylor and her concert mates chose the Oregon Food Bank because…when you get down to it, hunger affects people at the most core level. We all can relate to the pain and hopelessness of hunger, even if we have not personally experienced it.

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Jenny Don’t and The Spurs

I think most of us can also relate to the nurturing and fulfilling power of music. The Holiday Hoedown to Fight Hunger will be a joyful event, allowing us both to celebrate and to give assistance to an organization dedicated to helping the needy in our community. The concert is Saturday, December 17, at The Fixin’ To on Lombard in St. Johns. $10, or $7 with a non-perishable food donation. For a list of the most-needed items, check out the Oregon Food Bank website.

Castletown – The AmeriCeltic Tradition

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A band so unique – they’re in a genre all their own! Castletown has appropriately coined the term “AmeriCeltic” – and that is exactly who they are. A band who combines classical skill with the ancient Celtic folk tradition of gifted storytelling…then takes their American rock and roll roots and creates a sound that is fresh, exciting, and completely danceable. The music creates an atmosphere of celebration and community – no wonder audiences all over the Northwest are asking Castletown back again and again!

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-04I was so grateful to be able to meet the entire Castletown group right as they began to prepare to pack for their “Reelin’ Down the Coast” Tour.. Having just come back from gigs in Seattle and Tacoma, the band was moved and encouraged by the audience responses they had received – it looks like Celtic joy is spreading from their voices and hands to our hearts and minds! This band is all about relationships – within the band, with their audiences, the venues, and with the history of the stories they are portraying through songs.

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-02I loved this audio interview – you can hear how much these band mates enjoy each other’s company. You can also tell how well they work together – politely recognizing who is the appropriate member to answer a question, and giving credit to each other where it is due. Each player is a vital part of the group, and also active in other ways within the Portland music community. Robert Richter plays guitar and sings, but he also professionally manages the band and is an active supporter and promoter of all local music. Fiddle player and vocalist Katie Lubiens is a violin instructor extraordinaire at Kennedy Violins . Bass player Willi Jaam and drummer Casey McBride have another amazing project of their own, an instrumental duo of epic precision – check out their band Anchors of Ascension.

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-03This AmeriCeltic music is impossible to describe with mere words – there are elements of emotion and movement deeply embedded in the composition, brought to life with the instruments and vocals. I highly recommend seeing them live, as the visual aspects of their performance speak so strongly to the core and origins of the Celtic tradition. The lovely red-haired Katie Lubiens choreographs her fiddle playing and dancing, and has drastically evolved the band with her classical improvisation – two elements that you don’t normally find together in music. The band gives great credit to Katie for bringing the buzz!

castletown-at-portland-notes-2016-10-27-01Listen to the audio interview to learn the origins and development of the Castletown band, and as always – get an insight into their musical influences and writing style. Each member is a lovable character, and the combination of their personalities and skills has created a sound that is energetic, vibrant, and uniquely their own. Follow them on Facebook, and give them a like to send them off on their November tour! To listen to their recorded live music, you can check out their webpage or Reverbnation.

The Secret Sea – Navigating the Waves


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Amit Erez of The Secret Sea is not one to actually keep anything secret: whether it be a critical self-assessment, an awkward observation, a vulnerable feeling, or a current obstacle – Erez will tell it like it is, with honesty and openness. The Secret Sea is his current new project, Everest is the album name, and we can get our eager hands on it this November at the Liquor Store with Glasys and Arrows in Orbit. Erez is very excited about this latest in a series of albums – he feels like he has found himself and perhaps even more importantly, he’s found the words to express his passion in a way that communicates and sets himself apart. Take a listen to our audio interview to learn about his unusual approach to writing, his inspirations, where he comes from – and where he is headed next.

the-secret-sea-on-2016-10-17-01Erez has been making music on his own and with others for years (this is album #7!) – it’s the primary driving force in his life. Creating, mastering the nuances of the English language, and writing from a variety of learned perspectives, he is an attentive and observational writer. In Israel, his home country, Erez was most often compared to the Northwest’s own Elliot Smith. Recognizing the similarities, he wanted to experience the same surroundings, the same energies, and to actually work with Smith’s producer, Larry Crane, at Portland’s Jackpot Recording Studio. Erez came to Portland after a good deal of thought. He knew his inspiration would be here, in people and nature that are unique and wonderful.

the-secret-sea-on-2016-10-17-02Experiencing music as its own force, somewhat supernatural, Erez is guided by musical creativity. He is inspired by what is not immediately seen – letting himself relax into the writing process, he feels almost as if he is taken over by the force of music. Allowing himself to connect with the ethereal and magical qualities of musical expression, Erez follows the sea where it flows, using his mastery of lyrics and instrumentation to take us along on a moving and immersive journey. If all of this sounds somewhat spiritual – it is! Erez is connected to something at the same time both outside and deeply inside himself when writing. A deep respect of the elements, an empathetic approach to relationships, and the desire to experience with more than the tangible come together in some strikingly beautiful and moving music.

the-secret-sea-on-2016-10-17-03Until the November release, there are a few ways to check out Amit Erez and his catalogue. Bandcamp houses all of his previous work, in addition to a few early releases. The video of Canada (my favorite), is available for view – and you can check out his interview at Portland Radio Project with Veronica Bisetti. I’m also excited about Erez appearing at the Local Roots Live Series at Alberta Street Pub in December – this is some beautiful music, everyone. I hope you will take the opportunity to experience The Secret Sea.

A conversation with Kelly Jones

Matthew Lindley’s new album Late Bloomer to be released October 8 at The Secret Society!

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But…there are no secrets between friends – let’s share this great music with everyone. For Matthew Lindley is a man of the Northwest with stories to tell about life and love, traveling and staying put – this record release party at The Secret Society on Saturday, October 8 also celebrates Lindley’s 10th year as a Portlander! He has a lot to celebrate, and I’ll tell you why!

matthew-lindley-at-portland-notes-20161005-01Lindley is a legitimate child of the region, having grown up in Eastern Washington and regularly spending time with family in nearby Idaho. He woke up to 22 inches of snow, raked maple leaves, and had to alternately don and shed multiple layers of outerwear on his way to and from school. He spent weekends in the car visiting relatives, seeing fields pass by, smelling the cool clean air, and watching mountains in all different kinds of Pacific light. It’s not a bad childhood – and all this time, Lindley was gathering thoughts and ideas…processing…experiencing…and forming lyrics and impressions that are clearly expressed in his music. Lindley says that those weekend road trips between Washington and Idaho were filled with music. His parents and grandparents shared their favorite roots music with him from early childhood on.

matthew-lindley-at-portland-notes-20161005-02Lindley learned a few things about the joys of communicating through music. Our interview was a great insight into his writing style. I certainly recognized that his songs have been brewing since he could first speak…”late bloomer”, maybe…but maybe also just in time to reach an audience with pointed precision! His experiences with sharing songs around campfires, writing for showcases in school, and finally realizing that his musical stories connected with people emotionally – it lit a fire inside him that will never burn out!

matthew-lindley-at-portland-notes-20161005-03This second album, he laughingly says is “mostly about girls.” Of course it is – but it’s also a testament to the vast amounts of time Lindley has invested in his craft, a tribute to the many roots artists who have inspired him, and a joyous array of genres of music all performed authentically.

You can check out the album Late Bloomer on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and on Lindley’s own webiste – matthewlindley.net. He is most excited about the upcoming album release. Late Bloomer will officially be released live at The Secret Society on October 8. Lindley plays with The Low Bones and Bad Assets. Check him out on Facebook too – you can never have too many likes! AND check out the title track video, premiered on Oregon Music News!

An interview with Kelly Jones