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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paul Mayasich: Home-Cooked Blues


Paul Mayasich grew up in a home of eight siblings with every genre of music pouring from the very cracks and crevices of the homestead.  From classical to pop, the family shared a love for the music they heard and the music they played.  At a young age, Mayasich was introduced to certain, more obscure, music brought home from college by his older brothers.  He describes blues as the first type of music he really felt "tug" at him.  A Bonnie Raitt concert he attended during his fifth grade year, which he clearly recalls today, helped nudge Mayasich (whose previous ambitions involved drumsticks) onto the path to becoming a superb slide guitarist.  Thank you, Bonnie Raitt.

Mayasich believes the wonderfully naive outlook of a young artist, excited over any opportunity to perform, is what motivates the beginner to begin and the seasoned to continue.  The ability to retain a belief in possibilities is what keeps the musician young and fuels the passion to create and perform.  As a performer, Mayasich discovered doing exactly what he loves can be a sort of musical therapeutic release.  It is his perfect outlet for "emptying the garbage basket" after a bad day.  The reward comes from the positive affect his music has on his audience.  When his blues provide a night of enjoyment and makes people happy, Mayasich is satisfied.

Mayasich's many Cd's provide a mix of his original music with covers that are seamlessly infused with his personal sound.  He says his original songs are created musically more easily than lyrically.  Mayasich claims, "If I have enough lyrics, I have enough music."  The claim should not deter the listener from giving his lyrics the attention they are due.  They are moving, thoughtful, often witty, and always cleverly arranged.  Mayasich prefers to write about the "everyday."  His are relatable topics stemming both from his own life's musical journal as well as from fictional characters which allow him the ability to approach topics from different points of view.  Mayasich enjoys his "characters that exist only for the sake of song" because at times it is more fun to live vicariously through them, and it harbors the ability to relieve responsibility.

To Mayasich, the blues are everything he plays and a style in which he finds great satisfaction.  He believes the blues will always last, transcending other popular musical styles which may be in and out of fashion in a few short years.  As long as it has been around, the blues have captivated a loyal following.  Mayasich is certain that generations to come will discover and carry on the legacy of this "music for humanity."  It is music that belongs to the people who enjoy it, and Mayasich thrives on sharing its various accents through his performances and recordings.  Although he appreciates music in each of its many diverse forms, Mayasich describes the blues as "the difference between canned ravioli and a homemade Italian meal."

Mayasich can be seen in and around the Twin Cities, and to its north, and to its south, playing with his trio, his friends, his siblings, solo, and more.  Find out where you can catch the blues of  Paul Mayasich.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Michael McElrath: A Lifetime in the Making

Featured Artist:  School's Open
Venue:               School II
Date:                 December 15, 2010
Time:                 7:00pm

In the summer of 1957, a young boy received a brand new transistor radio.  Through it came the sounds of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, and their contemporaries.  The boy was entranced.  The following summer, he attended family day at his brother's Scout camp where he witnessed a live performance of Buddy Holly's "That'll be the Day" by Chip, the camp counselor.  The boy knew instantly his would be a life of music.  A gifted guitar from his cousin with instruction on George Jones and Johnny Cash songs opened for Michael McElrath the doors to live performance, songwriting, and a lifelong love affair with music.

A "love affair"  because similar to any relationship, McElrath's relationship with music saw good times and bad, struggles and triumphs.  But even when he thought he'd had enough, a song or a friend or the song of a friend would draw him back in.  McElrath spent years working toward a "successful music career."  Disgruntled by the juxtaposition of his realized level of success and that which he sought, he tried to ignore the desire to express himself musically.  The attempts never lasted.  Eventually, McElrath abandoned the conventional idea of success and found his way back to music for the sake of enjoyment.

A few of McElrath's recent breaks from music were due, instead, to the great cancer battle.  Three years ago, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, underwent surgery, and was cleared fairly quickly.  However, there was concern it would resurface in his liver, which it did this past year.  McElrath has recently completed four months of chemo, a surgery removing sixty percent of his liver, followed by an additional two months of chemo.  He was so impressed with the nurses who daily lift the spirits of patients undergoing chemo, he wrote a song, "Chemo Angel," to honor their priceless contribution.

Happy to be regaining his energy, McElrath will soon be releasing his first ever CD, Keep On Drivin'.  It includes some originals from his repertoire, a few collaborations, a 20-year-and-running favorite original, and a few songs of an old friend that, with his friend's blessing, McElrath has "personalized."  After many musical years, McElrath feels as though he is just getting started.  He is writing more than ever, re-entering the live-performance circuit with guitar and harmonica, grateful for all the positive energy from family and friends, and feeling lucky the liver is capable of regeneration. 

Find out more about Michael McElrath

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kyle Fletcher: "Don't Tell Anybody, but I'm a Songwriter"


Featured Artist:  School's Open
Venue:               School II
Date:                 December 15, 2009
Time:                7:00pm

According to the wisdom bestowed upon Kyle Fletcher by his mother, everything has it's place.  Fletcher found his place in song, but it wasn't without some slight detours along the way.  At age seven, he raised the money for his first guitar mowing lawns.  At age fifteen, he moved out of his parents home and attended music school.  The independent teenager discovered trouble and spent a year and a half correcting mistakes he made and then made again.  As he began to mature, he buried himself deeply in his music and it became his sustenance while he began to change the course of his life.

Fletcher worked as a hotel engineer for a time.  He discovered he was not cut out for a "day job."  Fletcher desired to be recognized for his creativity.  He felt that if he did not make a career out of his music, he would be settling for something less than what he was meant for.  "It is one thing" he says, "to use it as a means to an end, but it is settling to let the means become the end." 

Fletcher's "end" is that of singer/songwriter.  He recalls his mother telling and re-telling the story of checking in on her five-year old and he whispered, "Mom, don't tell anyone, but I'm a songwriter!"  Fletcher's writing focuses heavily on his lyrics.  He enjoys challenging himself to be creatively abstract and metaphorical yet relatable.  Now in his early twenties, Fletcher's livelihood comes solely from his music.  And it is no longer a secret that he is exactly the songwriter he proclaimed to be as a child.

Fletcher's musical success directly affects the rest of his life.  He firmly believes failing to pursue a music career would adversely affect his entire outlook.  The joy he finds in writing and performing provokes a happiness that overflows into his attitude, his relationships, and his peace of mind.  He feels that doing what one is meant to do allows a person to excel in other areas of life.  Now that he found a voice to express himself through, the positive energy seeps into outlying areas of his life and the lives of those around him.

Fletcher does not believe his talent alone will find him success.  He works to nurture his talent, but realizes there are many factors that play into the cards dealt.  He continues to enjoy sharing his music and appreciates the times he is dealt a little fate and luck to compliment his talent.  Meanwhile, he is re-stitching his hat for the fifth time.

Learn more about Kyle Fletcher or Kyle Fletcher's Official Website

Joel Kachel: Winter's Music-scape

Featured Artist:  School's Open
Venue:               School II
Date:                 December 15, 2009
Time:                 7:00pm

Joel Kachel is a landscape entrepreneur by summer and a musician by winter.  He is a young talent who's innovation combines his business and creative personalities.  Taking advantage of the slow winter months in the landscaping business, Kachel uses the time to write, perform, and promote his music.  Over the relatively short five years of Kachel's involvement in music, he released a Cd, Tennis Shoes and Diamond Rings, placed second in a singer/songwriter competition, and opened for the lead singer of a national act. 

Kachel's musical beginnings began when his father revamped the family living room into a music room and taught Kachel his first few chords on the guitar.  Ever since, Kachel preferred writing his own music over traditional lessons.  He finds his personal avenue to creating a song develops patience, rewards with great excitement, and simply "makes the day more fun."  He laughs at the fact that even with all the experience he has gained, he is yet unable to name the chord he is playing and in which key.   It is an inability which has never inhibited Kachel from pursuing a life of music.

Kachel's music benefits greatly from travel.  He planned a two week trip to Nashville, booked two shows for the stay, and hit the road in his van.  He enjoyed playing around town at open mics, a performance at the Bluebird Cafe, and many other great experiences.  He spent half the trip sleeping on couches offered by newly-made friends and the other half sleeping in his van.  And Kachel loved it.  Kachel also became involved in the Third Wheel Project in Alaska.  This group of musicians supports the work of peers and provides guidance for new artists arriving on the scene.  Third Wheel Project invited Kachel to give five performances over a fourteen day period.  Kachel wound up playing twelve of the fourteen days and enjoyed air time on four radio stations. 

Kachel considers himself "young as a musician" and is still learning what, exactly, he would like to represent.  Generally, he has a lot of faith in life and believes there is more to it than mere coincidence.  His upbeat music reflects his personal outlook on life.  He uses failures and unplanned setbacks as a learning experience and motivation for future successes.  "It is not about saying you are going to do something, it is about actually going out and doing it."

Learn more about Joel Kachel

American Gypsy: Leather Chaps to Knitted Caps

Featured Artist:  School's Open
Venue:               School II
Date:                 December 15, 2009
Time:                 7:00pm

Jodi Jarchow, known as American Gypsy, played "kick ass country dance music" for years with her husband.  They met while Jarchow was working as a nurse's aid, and he as a counselor, in a detox unit.  Upon discovering they possessed mutual interest in music, they began playing guitar together; Jarchow singing harmonies to her future husband's melodies.  Eventually, the time came when Jarchow realized she had a "thing" for this man, and then realized he was quite taken with her.  They married.

The couple built a business together, traveling around selling leather goods at biker rallies.  The couple's company was named "American Gypsy Trading Company."  Jarchow would bring her guitar to these events and while the stage was being re-situated between scheduled entertainers, she would persuade the stage managers to allow her those few moments to play to the audience.  Soon, her appearances became so regular the event coordinators would ask the audience to stay seated to enjoy the music of the "gypsy lady." 

Jarchow's husband, who dubbed her the official "American Gypsy,"  passed suddenly in 1996.  After years of playing shows together, playing privately in their kitchen together, and playing together while traveling with their children, the duo ceased.  Jarchow spent a year and a half lost without her husband, without her music.  And then she began to write songs.

She poured her emotions into songs in order to provide a tangible legacy of her husband for their children.  Through her writing and reunion with music, life came trickling back to Jarchow.  Eventually, she met her current "sweetheart," Bob.  He is a huge supporter of her music and designed a beautiful website for her, which she will repeatedly credit him for as she claims to be less than computer savvy.  He is also her sound man when she performs and she introduces him to her audience as "the man who turns me on and makes me loud!"

Along with music, Jarchow began a new business endeavor to replace the American Gypsy Trading Company.  She knits hats and mittens for schools across the country and is happy with her success.  With her knitting, she loves being able to walk downstairs in her pajamas, sit down, and think "I'm at work."  With her music, she loves that she can slap her hand on the bar, claim it as her work station, and good-naturedly ask "alright, who's been having sex on my desk?"  Jarchow's advice to the world:  Have a little fun and laugh when you can, you never know what day you're gonna get.

Learn more about American Gypsy