Ask Harley Poe a question, win tickets to Punk Rock Night New Year’s Eve at the Melody Inn!

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Something great is happening in Indianapolis in February, and it revolves around the return of one of our region’s most amazing performers.

After disbanding in 2015, Kokomo’s nationally-renowned Harley Poe chose to reunite under the leadership of Joe Whiteford for what they were billing as one final show at the Melody Inn on February 11, 2017. The show sold out in three hours. So the band and organizers put together a second show on February 12th, set up online-only sales through Brown Paper Tickets to satiate demand, and last night those tickets sold out in thirty SECONDS!

In other words, we’re gonna need a bigger Mel.

“Good luck beating thirty seconds!” promoter Will Schlosser told me when I asked him for a comment on the sellout, which I believe is the fastest in Melody Inn history, if not one of the fastest ever locally. “Keep smiling and stay strange!”

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I had hoped to grab a couple tickets for the second show in order to play “Hear! Hear!” Santa and give them away for free here on the site — I’ll be attending the show on the 11th, and wanted to share the love. But since the second show sold out, I had to think creatively, so I’ve instead come up with another fun way to involve Harley Poe fans in this bit of central Indiana history.

In the coming weeks I will be sitting down with Joe Whiteford to talk about the band’s history for Nuvo Newsweekly. And I would like you to get your chance to ask something you’ve wanted to get off your chest — anything you’ve wanted to know about the band, a song of theirs, anything you want to know about Harley Poe. And one of you will get your question asked in the official interview, and come out of this with a pair of tickets to the Melody Inn’s Punk Rock Night New Year’s Eve bash, featuring G’n’F’n’R, StackCrüe, Lisa Frank and the Trapper Keepers, Public Animal #9 and BurlyQ!

Here’s what I need you to do!

Email me at kroessman@gmail.com with the subject line ASK HARLEY POE! Include your name, your best Harley Poe question, and a phone number where I can reach you if your question is the one picked as the winner!

Make sure you are over 21 and able to attend the show if you actually expect to attend the show, as the Melody Inn is an over-21 venue, and you will be carded. All entries need to be received by Saturday December 17 at Noon!

I will assign each entry a Number based on when I received it, and will put the number in a hat. My wife will draw a number from the hat, and that number will be the winner.

Special thanks to Rich Barker, the Melody Inn’s Punk Rock Master of Rock for donating the two tickets, and to Will Schlosser for bringing together the two Harley Poe shows!

Greenfield native Craig B. Moore releases “Thin Blue Line” to raise money for local police charities

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Greenfield’s own Craig B. Moore has partnered with C.O.P.S. (Concerns for Police Survivors-Indiana Chapter), the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department (to help purchase protective vests for officers), and the Rush County Sheriff’s Department (to help purchase 2 K-9s for the dept) as he releases his latest single, “Thin Blue Line.”

The single, which is available for sale at iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay, speaks directly to the families of police officers who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. As Moore told me in a recent interview:

“The story behind the song is that my brother-in-law, Officer Joshua Brinson, had penned many thoughts about the increasing number of fallen brothers in uniform around the country. In his thoughts he wrote how devastating it must be for the family of these fallen officers as well as how it affects the officers who continue to work the Thin Blue Line every day and night. He asked me to take his journal and create a song in an attempt to capture the strong emotions a family may feel when being told their officer, their hero in blue, has lost his/her life in the line of duty. Not only the emotion of pain, but also the overwhelming sense of pride in knowing he/she was serving and protecting all of us so we can live out our life in peace.”

All proceeds, 90 cents for every 99-cent download purchase, will go directly to the above-referenced charities, Moore says. For more information, you can visit a Facebook page Moore has set up to promote the single, where you can reach out to him directly.

INTERVIEW: Stay Outside

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When I caught Stay Outside’s live act for the first time, the Marion, Ind.-based band was in the finals of the Birdy’s Battle Royale early this year, two weeks away from its record release for six-track EP OK, For Now. The band, playing last of the night, nearly tore the roof of Birdy’s down with an incendiary performance of pure raw energy few in the audience saw coming.

And though they didn’t win, they did win over a significant portion of the audience who, like myself, were impressed with the lyrical quality of their deeply questioning, introspective take on Thrice-inspired post-hardcore. “Aaron Becker wrung every drop of energy out of that room for his standout vocal performance,” I wrote in Nuvo the day after seeing their performance. And when the album came out weeks later I was equally stunned by the band’s ability to transform the songs I’d heard live into deeply realized sonic paintings, rising and falling like the tides of emotions in Becker’s lyrics. This wasn’t what I’d come to expect from rushed local albums. It sounded like something recorded for months in a New York Studio with major label funding.

I sat down with Becker to talk about the album and the band’s songwriting in the week prior to that album release show. Due to unforseen circumstances that interview sat unpublished since June of this year. There’s no reason, however, that you shouldn’t see it now, because Stay Outside remains one of central Indiana’s best kept secrets, and there’s no reason except that those of us who have heard them haven’t spoken loudly enough to change it. OK, For Now easily stands with the upper echelon of albums I’ve heard this year from anywhere in the country, major label or not. And it’s about time you hear it.

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14117850_637582809744338_6096366644922508032_nLt Dan” got me really focusing on your lyrics because of the line “Are you there God? They say I can walk beside you but my legs are gone.” And when I got to “Broke,” and you had that chorus: “My home is written in my bones, I take you with me everywhere I go. I make mistakes along the road but I don’t care. Seeing your heart-strings tear and autumn turn to death and now it’s gone and I’m just stuck here blaming God for all that’s left.” That’s a lot deeper theologically than you usually get in this genre of music. Can you explain a little about your writing process?

I have a lot of things to say and a lot of things to express, and the lyrics especially on this album mean a lot, just being in a place where … that song is called “Broke,” so being at a point in my life where I was feeling super broken and the only thing I really had was my home and the friends that were around me. And it was easy to blame God, but I just wanted to find a way to express how I was feeling. Sometimes you write for yourself and sometimes you write for other people. That song is definitely a song that I wrote for myself. And writing that song helped me find a lighter part of my life and find more hope.

Do you write the songs primarily and bring them to the band or do you guys write as a group?

Garrett [Johnston], our guitar player, he always writes guitar riffs, so sometimes we’ll start with a riff and add on to that, but most of the time I would say that the base of the song is really me with an acoustic guitar and lyrics and then we build from there. There have been times where Garrett and I have have built the structure of a song together and then I went into the lab by myself and wrote the lyrics for it, and then rewrote the lyrics for it and rewrote them again because I want to say exactly what I’m feeling.

It came out in your live performance. By the time you got to “Lt Dan” at the end of your Birdy’s performance, the song started out as calm as you can say any of your songs ever start. But by the end you were tossing your guitar in the air and I was concerned because it’s the end of the night and I was sure there’d been drinking going on. I was sure someone was going to get hurt!

[Laughs] I didn’t think about that. You’ve got to give a hundred percent no matter what you’re playing. And playing last too, we’re always going to leave it all on the line. I want people to leave at the end of the show and say “I didn’t know that band but holy crap! They gave it a hundred and ten and they’re so passionate! Now I’m gonna go listen to the album and hear the songs.”

These songs on the EP, you guys got some really strong recordings. Did you do it yourself, or did you work with somebody?

We went to Varsity Recordings in Anderson, and recorded with Jonathan Class, he plays keyboards with Josh Garrels. He’s a really good friend of ours, he made Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery’s record, and a bunch of people around the area. I think he’s the best producer in Indiana, to be honest. I think he knows exactly what he wants and he can take any artist and whatever the artist says they want he’ll make it happen. We’d never met him before we worked with him on some previous projects before Stay Outside, but we knew no matter what we’d do, he was going to be a part of it. So yeah, it wasn’t cheap, but it was definitely worth doing it right.

How long did you work with him to get those six songs?

We recorded the album in seven days. We would start recording in the morning and work until we went to bed at night. The cool thing is that John was part of our creative process, so we gave him control in that he’d say “that part isn’t quite what it should be, rewrite it,” and we’d go in and say “awesome!” and come out with a fix. So it’s really good to have that. And in the studio Garrett, the guitar player, and I did all the recording. So I did the drums, the vocals and the rhythm guitar and Garrett did the lead guitar and the bass. Sean [West], the bass player, wasn’t in the band yet but is now and we just hire touring drummers to play live with us.

I could tell the two of you up front, you seemed to have the most experience together. You were playing off each other the whole show.

We’ve been working on this album for ten months from the beginning, working and planning, and we’ve been in bands since we were thirteen. And we haven’t stopped being in bands We both decided not to go to college so we could make this our full-time thing. Sean was in Nashville. And we grew up with Sean but he went to Nashville and came back last year and started living with Garrett and I and just a few months later he was like “OK I want to be in this band.” So he’s new to being in the band but he’s always been a part of the backbone of it, you could say.

What was it like showcasing the new EP in the Birdy’s Battle format?

So yeah, battles are weird because everyone’s judging art, which is a weird thing to be a part of. But it is kind of like if you’re in a battle at least people are usually listening because that’s what they’re doing, they’re judging the band. It was cool to have people pay attention, everyone was really intently listening. And that made me want to be even more passionate with the songs and really express how I felt as I was writing those songs. And Ben Cannon was really helpful, he was the one who really came out and asked us if we wanted to be part of the Battle format. At first I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it, but if anything we figured it was a chance to gain fans and that was a really cool aspect of it. And at the same time you get paranoid because you don’t want to invite too many people out to the Battle weeks, because our release show was scheduled for two weeks after the finals. [Laughs] Which one should people go to? It’s hard to say come to both of them.

As for the album, it’s fitting that you called it OK, For Now, because at the end of every song there’s always at least the element of hope in there, after you strip everything down and try to build it back up.

That wasn’t on purpose, but that’s true the more we looked at it. I don’t want to call it a concept album but the theme of hopelessness is there, and especially in “Braveheart,” it all goes out and then you find hope at the peak of the song. So not only does our live show turn no hope into hope, but kind of every song has its point where you can let go [of the hopelessness].

THE LIVE WIRE: Model Stranger, Midwest State of Mind team up for 7″ Split Release at the Melody Inn December 9

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Chicago’s Model Stranger will take the stage at the Melody Inn, December 9th!

In a relatively last-minute update to the Melody Inn’s December show calendar, Chicago rock stalwarts Model Stranger have added a December 9th headlining show with Midwest State of Mind, during which the two bands will co-release a split 7-inch vinyl edition of “Stare (I Want You To)/Fork In The Road” — and the first 25 fans to pay the $5 cover for the show will receive a free copy. Doors open at 8:00, live music starts at 9:00.

The show will also feature local Melody Inn regulars Minute Detail and the always-popular Trevor Potts-led Sugar Moon Rabbit, so as far as Friday night shows go at the Mel, this is one of the big ones you definitely won’t want to miss!

Model Stranger will be releasing a music video for “Stare (I Want You To)” on December 11th, so get your copy of the vinyl split at the Mel and then check back here on the 11th … we may just have your video fix that day too [sly editorial wink!] Until then, this excellent 2009 video of their performance of “Turn of the Century” at Chicago’s Metro will have to suffice.

INTERVIEW: “Whisperin’ Bill” Anderson

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Much like when I sat down years ago in Nashville to ask Dolly Parton a single question during a group press interview, I’ll admit to some trepidation upon sitting down to a phone interview early this fall with legendary songwriter “Whisperin’ Bill” Anderson. A member of the Grand Ole Opry and BMI’s first-ever “Country Songwriting Icon,” Anderson’s career has spanned seven decades, and he’s written hits with and for some of country music’s most legendary artists, including Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, John Michael Montgomery and Jon Randall in recent years, and back in the day notables like Porter Waggoner and, one of my all-time favorites, Roger Miller.

What is amazing to me about a songwriter like Anderson is how he’s adapted over the years. He started out working in radio while in college, and through elements of chance and hard work, he found his way into a huge hit with “City Lights” in 1957, a song he says he still can’t believe he had the ability to write, considering he hadn’t lived half the experiences yet. With the power of empathy, the ability to see through others’ eyes and write stories through them, he developed a skill few other songwriters have, and was able to turn that into decades of writing for legends of country music during the 60s and 70s.

And after a decade of acting during the 80s, during which he created TNT’s Be A Star program, an early precursor to the American Idol format and acted on various soap operas, he found his way back to country music via co-writing, turning his skills toward working with younger songwriters in Nashville’s more team-oriented setting of the modern era. As many of the writers of his age stagnated, refusing to adapt, he began crafting some of his finest work, including one of my all-time favorite songs of any genre, “Whiskey Lullaby,” which he co-wrote with Jon Randall.

In his book Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music, which came out this September via University of Georgia Press, Anderson opens the door to his songwriting past in great detail, something few other memoirists have been able to do in the genre. The detail in which he breaks down his songwriting process, including stories that often discuss, song by song, how he came to his ideas, is of great value to anyone who claims to love country music of that or any era. It is particularly enlightening if you’re, like me, interested in how the group writing process works in Nashville in the post-80s era.

I sat down to speak with Anderson by phone for a 15-minute interview that ranged widely and featured a great deal of personal insight into his songwriting and the experiences he’s had. From our shared laughter over my experiences at the Tick Tock Lounge experimenting with “Bill Anderson Karaoke” to his relief being able to finish the final line of a song Porter Waggoner wanted to record in the early 70s, there’s plenty to pick over for any aspiring songwriter.

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I got your book back in July, and I read it in three days. It’s a great read.

I wish I could’ve written it that fast! [Laughs]

There were a couple nights I was up until three in the morning, I just couldn’t put it down.

Oh my goodness, well I’ll take that as a compliment. I hope it didn’t hurt you too bad.

One question I like to ask bands that have a lot less experience than you, so I’m sure you’ll have something to say about it — is there a song you wish you’d written, something someone else beat you to?

[Laughs] Oh there’s a bunch of ’em! You mean songs other people have written that I wish I’d have written? Every other time I turn the radio on I hear something I wish I had written! Oh golly, you want a specific title? There was a song … Tricia Yearwood had a song out several years ago that I really, really loved and it spoke to me I guess because I’m a songwriter. It was a song called “The Song Remembers When.” I just love that song.

I got a kick out of all the stuff in the book about you and Roger Miller, your friendship as songwriters. When you’re asked to give advice to up-and-coming songwriters, do you ever tell them to find someone to work with who they can bounce ideas off of like you and Roger did?

Mostly when people ask me about songwriting, they ask different questions. “What do I do with my songs?” They do that more than “how do I write a song?” Usually it’s more what do I do with these songs I’ve written? The thing that I stress to ’em is when they say “I’ve written a song just like ‘Folsom Prison Blues’” I say “Well that’s already been written, go back and write your own song! Be original.” That’s what I stress to them, because there’s already been a Johnny Cash, there’s already been a Merle Haggard and a Roger Miller or a Marty Robbins. Be yourself. Find your own voice, say your own thing and say it your way!

I like that you talked about the greatest asset a songwriter can have being empathy. I wondered if there were specific writers you’ve heard who you think have used that asset well to their advantage?

I think that’s maybe something … two things about that. Number one, I think that’s either something you have in your make-up or you don’t. An awful lot of writers, especially today, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with this, it may be the best way to write, they like to write about themselves. About things they really know rather than trying to necessarily empathize with somebody else. So they write about their own experiences, and I think that’s what the Guy Clarks of the world, and Kristofferson to a great degree, and Willie to a great degree, and Waylon you know, they kinda just wrote what they felt themselves and they hit the target with that a whole bunch of times.

That can be great if you’ve had all those experiences, right?

That’s true too, and you can’t write those kinds of songs when you’re thirteen years old, you’ve gotta get out there and live a little bit. I don’t know how in the world I wrote “City Lights” when I was nineteen because I’d never experienced half of what I wrote in that song. But I was just fortunate in being able to somehow make it make sense. But you’re right, you’ve got to live a little bit to be a songwriter. And the more you live and the more you try to absorb life around you, the more of a songwriter you can become!

Well that story you told about “The Cold Hard Facts of Life,” that blew my mind. Do you ever think you’ve written a better line than that closer?

[Laughs] I … I’ve never wrote one I was more thankful for! I’d painted myself into a corner!

I played that song for a friend of mine who’s in a punk rock band and he had never heard the song. And he’s like “oh my God, that song is boss!”

[Laughs] Well I spent all that time writing the story and painting myself into a corner, and I’m thinking how in the world am I gonna get myself out of this mess? And then I guess the good Lord just gave me that line. It just came, thank goodness.

I’m sure Porter was glad for it.

Well yeah, yeah. Porter was pretty happy about it. I was talking to someone the other day and they were reminding me how excited he was between the time he recorded that song and the time it came out. He went around tellin’ everybody about that song and singing it for ’em. He was proud of that one. And of course that made me proud in return.

That’s what I’ve always liked about country music. It’s a genre of music where the songwriter has a lot of power, because you get to write a song that you might not necessarily be able to perform yourself, but then it can take on a whole new life when you give it to somebody else. They get to do something to it and make it their own. And then the audience gets to hear it and it takes on a third life as they make it their own. You don’t necessarily get that in other styles of music.

Do you think that’s because down through the years country music has been so much of a lyrical art-form as opposed to just a groove or something like that? Because I think that has a lot to do with it.

Yeah, because when I was reading your book, I got inspired because I kept thinking of all these songs I’d heard that it turns out you had written but I hadn’t necessarily put your name to them. So I decided to go down to karaoke night and sing a bunch of Bill Anderson songs! So of course I did “Cold Hard Facts of Life,” because you’ve got to do that at karaoke.

[Laughs]

And after I’d done a few, this older gentleman came up to me and asked “Bill Anderson … there’s a song of his I want you to sing. Do you know this one song, it’s like ‘if you can life with it, I can live without it.’ Do you know that one?” And luckily since I’d read your book and pulled up a bunch of stuff on Spotify and had been listening to it, I was able to say “actually, I do!”

[Laughs]

And he says “that’s the first time I’ve been able to request that at karaoke and somebody actually knew it!

[Laughs] Oh, that’s a cool story! You never know, because people will come up to me and they’ll just mention the most obscure song or some event or something that I forgot about twenty years ago! But it’s amazing that some of ’em will hang on that!

Have you ever had a really great song come out of a bad co-writing session?

You mean has someone ever made a really great record out of a song I didn’t think was really that good? Because I saw that happen with Jon Randall when we wrote “Whiskey Lullabye.” Because he had no faith at all in “Whiskey Lullaby.” I did. I thought we’d written something highly unusual and that could be pretty good. Jon had absolutely no faith in it. He didn’t even want to do a demo on it until I just almost beat him over the head and made him do it. And though I can’t pull one off the top of my head, there have been songs that I didn’t feel all that good about and other people did, thank goodness.

Was there ever someone you’d hoped would record one of your songs and that never actually happened?

Well, I wish Elvis had of course! [Laughs] I was only around Elvis one time and the time I was around him he was performing in Las Vegas and somebody had told him I was in the audience. So he introduced me from the stage and sang a little bit of “Still” and I’m thinking “why don’t you go to a studio and make a record of that?” [Laughs] And then I had a chance to visit with him after that particular show and he told me that he’d always loved my song “City Lights” and he said “someday I’m gonna record that.” But he never did, unfortunately.

Is there anyone you’d still like to write with now that you’ve been doing a lot more co-writing?

Oh gosh, there’s so many great co-writers out there, people who you get on the same wavelength with. I love writing with Jon Randall. We’ve written many songs together, we’ve written some that are even darker than “Whiskey Lullaby” if you can believe that! [Laughs] And I love writing with Jamey Johnson because he’s so creative. Any time I get a chance to write with somebody who’s a real pro writer I love getting in the room with ’em.

I got a real kick out of reading about Vince Gill’s “Whisperin’ Gill” outgoing mail message. I figure that’s got to show that deep down we’re all fans. How do you still soak it up as a fan after all these years?

I’m still a fan if that’s what you’re asking. I was a country music fan when I was four or five years old, and have been all my life and that just never changed. There’s nothing I like more than to hear a well-written song and a well-produced country record.

Is there anything you wish someone would ask you but they never do?

No, I can’t really think of it. I think when you sit down to write a book like I’ve done with this one, if they haven’t asked me the question I hope I’ve answered it without them asking it.

Spark Joy Music and Musical Family Tree unite for benefit for Tennessee fire victims

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“As many of you know, wildfires are still spreading through eastern Tennessee, a place that is dear to me… and home to so many families, small businesses, and wildlife. Yesterday I reached out to Benjamin Cannon and Spark Joy Music for help, and in true Cannon fashion, a venue and bands were booked within a few short hours. We’re still gathering information on the disaster and where the most help is needed, but 100% of the proceeds will being going to those impacted by these fires. Please join us at Musical Family Tree in Fountain Square on December 17th for a wonderful cause to raise funds for wildfire relief. There will be live music, drinks, a raffle, and stay tuned for more.” – Chris Burch, via Facebook

Indianapolis musicians have come together before to raise money for a good cause in times of crisis, but this benefit has developed with more speed and organization than I’ve seen, bringing together some big names in local alternative folk and rock for an all-ages show where all money raised will benefit the Tennessee fire victims.

The benefit will feature, among others still to be announced, Chris Burch, It’s Just Craig, Jeff Kelly and the Graveyard Shift, Bobbie Morrone Trio and the always incredible Coup D’etat, and will be hosted by MP Cavalier, Music Editor and Co-Host of the DoItIndy Radio Hour. For more information about the show, or for how you can donate items for a raffle which will take place at the event, feel free to check out their Facebook event page.

SMOKY MOUNTAIN MEMORIES: Dolly Parton’s take on the classic comes to mind as a treasure burns

“I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken.  I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.” – Dolly Parton

“Smoky mountain memories keep me strong,” Dolly sings in the video above, and it’s hard to think of anything better you can say as the videos pour in of the carnage to one of our country’s national treasures. One person’s act of casual, callous cruelty can’t possibly define this region’s history of hard work and determination more than Parton’s beautiful take on the Earl Thomas Conley / Dick Heard-penned song.

Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge fires: How To Help