The Old Settler’s Music Festival could create a serious problem. Anyone who has been fleeced at one of the overcrowded, overpriced, college puke fests that have dominated the festival scene for the last twenty years should definitely go. Their faith in musical humanity will be restored. But if everyone who falls into that category were to show up next year at Old Settler’s it would look like Woodstock. Then again, that might not be such a bad thing. A good show of public support for something, anything, that represents a rejection of a “profit first” mentality is fine with me. Anyway, the citizens of the small town of Driftwood, home of the Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch, where the festival has been held since 2006, survived an equally formidable force of nature when The Butthole Surfers moved there in the late ’80s. They would survive.
As unlikely a place as Driftwood is to be the one-time home of the B.H. Surfers, it is the perfect setting for both the kind of music Old Settler’s showcases and the kind of festival it intends to be. It is a small community with deep roots in American rural traditions that have found new currency in a society that each year, it seems, is turning more and more to the less industrialized past for direction and inspiration. Set on the limestone cliff-lined banks of Onion Creek amid massive live oak and native pecan trees, the Salt Lick Pavilion overlooks the shaded lawn of the Bluebonnet Stage, the smaller of the two venues. The main venue, the Hill Country Stage is a few hundred yards away – close, but far enough away and positioned such that the sound doesn’t bleed over. Including the campsite venue over at Ben McCulloch where the first performances were held on Thursday, there are four distinct sites where the action goes down, with a total attendance somewhere around ten thousand, concurrently.
Behind The Song: Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The U.S.A.”
We’re 30 years burning down the road from Bruce Springsteen’s most complex anthem. The title track and emotional centerpiece of an album that catapulted The Boss to levels of superstardom that few rock stars have ever witnessed, “Born In The U.S.A.” is still as captivating and elusive as ever, pulling the listener in several seemingly conflicting directions with its combination of rousing music and piercing lyrics.
Even after so much time has passed since its release, the song is still a hard one to wrangle into a simple interpretation. Are we meant to focus on the lyrics and their searing castigation of the way that America treated its Vietnam veterans upon their return from the war? Or is the music supposed to carry the load, spurring us to put our hands over our hearts and salute Old Glory?
Many songwriters and artists believe the myth of the “poor man’s copyright.” As the myth goes, an author places a copy of his work in a self-addressed envelope and mails it back to himself. When the author receives the envelope with a dated postmark, an enforceable copyright registration is created in the work. This is a myth because it does not jibe with what it takes to bring a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
If you obtain a certain level of success or exposure with your songs, you may indeed encounter an issue with copyright infringement. I am not talking about the loony “Garth Brooks stole my song!” type of copyright infringement. Rather, I am talking about solid cases of copyright infringement, like when a rapper samples your music without permission or an advertisement for dish soap exploits your song without permission.
Q&A: Will Sheff Finds Emotional Truth, Gets Nostalgic about Childhood on Okkervil River’s Silver Gymnasium
For Okkervil River singer-songwriter Will Sheff, the band’s seventh album The Silver Gymnasium comes as a revelation, not just as a songwriter but also of his own beginnings. Growing up the 1980s in the small 500-person town of Meriden, New Hampshire, he saw the world through limited but still rather unique perspective. On the album he draws from his childhood experiences with honesty, exposing the wonders and trials of growing up, and ultimately discovered an “emotional truth” and underlying meaning of his childhood that others could relate to. Sheff worked with producer John Agnello, noted for many highly praised albums from the ’80s, to emerge the listener in paying homage that time period in Sheff’s life, referring artists like Bruce Springsteen in sound and throwing in cultural references like Atari video games.
He could have stopped there with the album. But he’s been a man on a mission to create a fully vivid experience, including a map of Meriden draw from a child’s point of view, visits to his schools including the high school gymnasium for which he titled the album, and an online adventure game in partnership with Eyes And Ears’ Benjamin Miles that pays homage to early video games and features chiptune versions of songs from the album. Prior to the album’s release, I talked with Sheff to find out more about the album’s creation.
Breakaway Music Festival Announced: Empire of the Sun, Wu-Tang Clan, Matt & Kim and more
Soccer stadiums across the nation will host a brand new music festival this fall: Breakaway Music Fest. The concert series, organized by Prime Social Group, will feature artists across multiple genres, including alternative-rock, rap, electronic and pop, among others.
Breakaway Music Fest seeks to combine elements of both music and sports, providing attendees with a one-of-a-kind festival experience. The festival also emphasizes local music, sporting the slogan “Your Field. Your Fest.”
Like the soundtrack to some forgotten film from the 1970s, Iron & Wine’s Ghost on Ghost casts a look backward, mixing vintage saxophone solos and ‘70s string arrangements into one of the year’s most forward-thinking albums. We caught up with Sam Beam before a solo show in Chapel Hill, NC, to talk about the songs, the studio, and the challenge of combining New Orleans funk with British prog-rock.
Anna Bergendahl Serves Up A Cultural Gumbo On “Fun”
Tired of “We Are Young?” We are too. Here’s a new kind of “Fun” to sink your teeth into, though, courtesy of singer/songwriter Anna Bergendahl.
Already a chart-topping artist in her native Sweden, Bergendahl will make her American debut with Something to Believe In, a collection of acoustic folk songs and driving roots-rockers produced by the same man who brought us Tracy Chapman’s Our Bright Future, Joni Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast, and Shaw Colvin’s Fat City. Premiering today, “Fun” finds Bergendahl referencing everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Kim Kardashian over a southern-flavored jumble of slide guitars, piano, and driving drums.
“During the writing of the whole album,” she tells us, “we had an ongoing conversation about love, music, cultural history, politics and so on. “Fun” plays with a lot of the things and characters we talked about, but the song is really about the need of letting go of all the intellectual stuff — letting go of all conversations and just having fun. I’ve never laughed so much during a writing session, and the song is a blast performing live.”
Denison Witmer has been cranking out finger-plucked folk and acoustic Americana for more than a decade, spinning the sounds of his predecessors — Nick Drake, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens — into old-school songs for the modern age. On the self-titled Denison Witmer, he mines the death of his father and the birth of his first child for inspiration. The result is an album that looks ahead while also reflecting on the past, just like Witmer’s music.
Not all of the songs are his. “Asa,” a slow-burning tribute to childhood, floats Witmer’s voice above beds of pedal steel, organ, stripped-down percussion and thick harmonies. Bry Webb wrote the tune, but that doesn’t mean “Asa” — which coincidentally doubles as the name of Witmer’s son — isn’t one of the most personal songs on the disc.
“After my wife and I announced the name of our son, my friend Lisa sent me the song “Asa” by Bry Webb (of the Constantines),” Witmer says. “Bry wrote it for his own son named Asa, who was born the year before. My wife and I listened to the song over and over again as we held Asa on the night he was born, and the song has a great deal of meaning for me. It’s a beautiful song. It’s gentle and it’s universal. I was particularly moved by the way Bry centered the lyrics on the many meanings of the name Asa: “morning,” “little hawk,” “healer.” Even though I’m not much of a cover artist, I knew as soon as I heard this song that I wanted to include it on my next album. I knew I could sing it with conviction and personal honesty.”
Jessa Callen is a pop singer and harpist for the sibling duo The Callen Sisters. They’ve been together as this group since 2006 and are releasing their new EP, The Light Bringer, which focuses on current-day controversial issues while simultaneously providing a ray of hope for listeners. Check out the sisters here or listen to their newest single “Silhouette” from the EP here.
Jessa provides some insight about her process for incorporating pressing and timely issues into The Callen Sisters music and the unique power she believes songwriting holds.