This week’s encore episode of Mountain Stage features one of Americana music’s most heralded and admired writers, James McMurtry. He performs songs from his latest album, The Horses and the Hounds, on New West Records. We also get a set of enchanting new music from Aoife O’Donovan, a high-energy performance from the effervescent Sammy Rae & The Friends, plus Nashville based hit writer Natalie Hemby, and songwriter Heather Maloney.
For Charleston's Qiet, #WVmusic is in an 'Era of Potentiality'
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Ask anyone in Charleston about the #WVmusic scene, and you’ll get responses ranging from venue reviews to summer fest suggestions to, of course, band recommendations. No matter what kind of response you get, we’re sure it somehow leads back to Qiet, the Appalachian gypsy rock band that has been a fixture of the #WVmusic scene for quite some time.
Individual tickets are $15 (general admission) or $30 (which includes general admission + both new albums + charitable contribution to Step by Step WV and Covenant House), available at the Clay Center box office or online. Win yourself a pair on A Change of Tune’s Facebook.
Christopher: I was born in Virginia; I was raised between Virginia and Ohio and West Virginia. I didn’t stay in the same place until… I think I still haven’t, actually. I haven’t spent a lot of time in one place. But as a whole, mostly in West Virginia.
On Qiet’s start:
Christopher: I started Qiet when I was fifteen, that’s when I started playing music, but I didn’t know how to make music. But I still made albums. They were full compositions; they just sounded completely whack. Most of it was gibberish because it was a lot of first take stuff. Because I placed a lot of importance on whatever I was feeling, whatever was in my heart. I was like, “Nobody’s going to hear this stuff anyways.” So I started making albums and never let anybody listen to it. Because the first time I ever let someone listen to it, it was my friends who I listened to music with all the time. They put it in the music player and started skipping through tracks and ejected it. They said the CD quality was awful, they called it unlistenable. So I swore to never let anybody listen to music ever again, and so I made Qiet albums in closets until I was 22, when I finally decided to put together a live project. That was because my friend was like, “You really need to get a band together to do this.” And I laughed in his face and said, “Who would want to listen to this?” I still kind of feel that way but…
On Christopher’s blacklist:
Christopher: I have one name on my blacklist, and you won’t believe who it is: Christopher Vincent. Swear to God. I didn’t even know that until after he was on my blacklist. I think he actually might be a nice guy, but it was a really bad situation at an Eve6 show, and it was really bad. I had his card in my pocket, and I remember being like, “What is his name? ‘Cause it’s going on my blacklist.” But I’m sure he’s a nice guy, I’m sure we would get along if I [see him again].
On Qiet’s evolution:
Christopher: The first show we had 13 people on stage. And then the second show was a different number. Third show was a different number. And it was like that for a while. Then I got a core that I enjoyed playing with. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this, but the original idea of Qiet was to have evolving numbers. Some of them I would use a couple times, but mostly gather whatever musicians I could. I didn’t plan on playing a lot of shows. I figured, a quarterly show with new musicians? Because I didn’t want it to be like every other band.
On Christopher’s musical background:
Christopher: I’ve taken a couple vocal lessons since I’ve lived here in Charleston. I didn’t keep up with that (I don’t know remember why). I’ve never taken a guitar lesson or piano or drums. I was in jazz ensemble in high school for drums, but they never let me play because I was awful (which was fair).
On Christopher’s first meeting with Kiss of the Universe producer Eddie Ashworth:
Christopher: I don’t know anything about music business. I still can’t even remember the word “publicist” 80% of the time [laughing]. So I’m sitting here, trying to fight through a business conversation with a veteran and I have no idea. I made it weird, but he still decided to go with us.
On the #WVmusic scene:
Christopher: I still honestly talk about this place like it’s in an era of potentiality. It’s great around here, but it’s not to fruition yet…People don’t have an attitude of investment. They can’t see further down the road of putting money in a musician’s pocket, and then you’re going to get more quality musicians, you’re going to get more quality experience and the people in the audience are going to feel that experience, they’re going to want to come back to your venue, they’re going to want to give more. It would be a self-perpetuating thing if it would just get over that precipice.
On working through self-doubt as a public figure:
Christopher: I still have social anxiety. And I’m in the spotlight now. People hate me. People hate me who have never met me. And I hear it from other people. And I’m like, “Is that verbatim?” And they say, “Verbatim.” I don’t understand it, and it doesn’t feel good. If that one person in the audience isn’t satisfied, it bothers me. But when someone just really despises me? Some part of me has got to question, “Am I doing something wrong? Could I be doing something better?”
Christopher: We’re walking out on a limb right now. We’re building our own production. This is something I used to do in Huntington, but there were venues (smaller than the Clay Center but bigger than what’s available around here in [Charleston]). There were venues in Huntington where we put on our production, where we got control of the bar, what was stocked at the bar, we even got bar sales. We got to decorate the place ourselves. The place was called Icon at the time, and that was where it was at. Having complete control over the presentation, because you also have control over the sound, when you sound check and load-in, everything down to the n-th degree.
So [we’re taking this] to the Clay Center. We’re throwing in some money in hopes that we can build our own presentation and take it to the next level, take that step, take that risk, incur that risk for everybody else who might want to put on their own presentation. Because the more people that do it, the more facilitating the Clay Center will be. It’s a big, beautiful venue, and when it’s not being used, it’s a shame. And if you can get people organizing and using that place, they’ll be more facilitating… We’re really just trying to build honesty with the venue. Rob Rosano [the Clay Center’s vice president of theater and sales] started up the Sound Check Sessions in an effort to get the local music scene kickstarted, too. So it is happening; it just needs the right ingredients. And this is one of them.
On Qiet’s hopes for their new release:
Christopher: We’re either going to be rock stars or I quit [laughing]. I can’t do much better than this. If the public isn’t ready for this sound or I can’t get the ball rolling on this, either I’m doing something wrong or the world’s not poised for it. Just take my legacy and move to Guadalajara.
Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville, North Carolina, is in the midst of an indie rock hot streak. Inside Appalachia host Mason Adams contacted Drop of Sun co-founder Alex Farrar to find out how he got into making music, and what’s the secret behind making buzzworthy music albums.
This week on Inside Appalachia, Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville, North Carolina has put out some of the hottest indie rock records of the year. We talk with one of its co-founders. We also visit the Alleghany Highlands, where Appalachia’s maple syrup traditions are changing with the times. And, poet Lacy Snapp introduces us to east Tennessee’s poetry scene.
On this West Virginia Morning, Drop of Sun Studios in Asheville, North Carolina has become something of an “it” record studio. Run by Alex Farrar and Adam McDaniel, the studio has racked up a slew of acclaimed records inside the past year, including albums by Angel Olsen, Archers of Loaf and more.