Live Preview: Catching up with pop/rocker Jeremiah Cosner; opens for Brent James and the Contraband at Indianapolis’ Rathskeller on Friday night

With the release of a four-song EP of original songs called Hold Steady in December of 2010, Indiana’s Jeremiah Cosner was able to leap forward musically with an album recorded at the Sound Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee, and filled of robust-sounding Black Crowes/Rolling Stones/Faces rock.

Hoosier-based Cosner has shed his band, and has been playing solo shows. And maybe the only thing between some deserved notice by American rock fans here in Indiana is more gigs.

His opening slot at the Rathskeller on Friday night with the Nashville-via-Michigan rock/pop of Brent James and the Contraband is a good match, pairing him with James, whose Moment of Silence album rocks with a Train/Why Store sound.

“I am amped about showcasing (with) Brent James & the Contraband,” he says, noting it’s a reunion of sorts for him and the band. “The lead guitar player (Mike P.) for the band produced and played lead on Hold Steady. I gave him the nickname “The Wizard.”

The 2007 IU School of Music grad says he has been writing for a new record (or two), contributed a charity song called “Reflection in the Water”, the songs have been used in a movie called “The Big Idea”, and Cosner has a wild idea to build a studio in a trailer.

Rockforward: When have you been writing new music?
Jeremiah Cosner: All day, every day. I now have enough material for three to four full length records. Acoustic and organic is my favorite way to write, and I am excited to record the new material.

Rockforward: Hold Steady has a Stones-like vibe. How have those four songs helped your career?
JC: The Hold Steady EP was recorded in Nashville at the Sound Kitchen. I have found releasing singles via iTunes is beneficial. “Money Maker” and “Lipstick & Cigarettes” have both been spun on the radio locally.  Recently, I have written (music) for the Children’s Leukemia Foundation. Doing this type of work and writing has allowed me to become an affiliate with SESAC and start my own publishing company, Baby Blue Café.

Rockforward: How has Indy been treating you?  What are the differences you feel and see when you venture outside the Indy to play?
JC: Indy is great (but) traveling is hands down my favorite thing to do, so anytime I get the chance to play in another city I take full advantage. Nashville is my favorite place to play simply because the city is a melting pot of anything that has to do with music and has allowed for my network to grow tremendously. When I venture out of Indy I realize how many other events and organizations are built around working with independent performing artists to gain exposure. I was fortunate enough to get involved with Music City Circus (in Nashville) and showcased with other talented artists at Nashville’s 12th and Porter. That gig led to meeting and greeting new friends who introduced me to the Sound Kitchen to record Hold Steady.

Rockforward: How have you been touring? Band or solo?
JC: I have not toured with a full band since 2010. Traveling as a solo act is more rewarding and easier as I journey out. I have a revolving door of very talented musicians who lend a helping hand when I need it. All of us share one musical influence: 70’s rock and artists like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Rod Stewart, and the Rolling Stones.

Rockforward: What have you been listening to? What bands should we all turn up to 11?
JC: Recently I have been listening to Bachman Turner Overdrive, Elvis Costello, and The Marshall Tucker Band. But anymore, I get a kick out of finding Tom Jones records or some good Neil Young. Current bands that flip my switch are The Alabama Shakes, Kasabian, and The Band of Skulls.

Rockforward: Future plans that we’d find interesting?
JC: A few talented people and I have plans to build a studio within a Streamline Trailer that will sit on a few acres of land down south. This is where we want to be as creative as possible and pump out songs, movies, ideas, and other productions. Keep an eye out for a new bluesy rock record I plan on cutting by the end of 2012.

VIDEO: Jeremiah Cosner and the Concrete Sailors

VIDEO: Brent James and the Contraband

Cara Jean Wahlers changes name, plans new album

The past few years have been special ones for Americana singer-songwriter Cara Jean Wahlers. An album, Goodnight Charlotte, topped dozens of Best-of lists at the end of 2010; the music was used as the soundtrack to the film Paradise Recovered. She hosted multiple songwriter-in-the-round nights in Indy, and she met the man she will marry.

To celebrate a step into the next phase of her life and career, Wahlers — who became Cara Jean Marcy both personally and professionally when she got married in March —  had one last singer-songwriter show. (Tim Grimm, Marcy, Bill Price and special guest Evan Slusher played a songwriter night for the last time on the stage at Locals Only on March 30).

“I organized probably a half dozen of these performances in the last year with local and regional artists, because it’s pretty fun to play with people whose work you admire,” she said. “I’ve had the hope of bridging the gap between Bloomington, Louisville and Indianapolis, bringing new talent to town and allowing Indianapolis musicians to make connections with other regional musicians.

“The three of us, Tim, Bill and I, joined each other on stage for a traditional writers’ round. It’s a lot of fun to share a stage with a few of your friends, telling stories and laughing in between songs,” she said.

The run of shows were a hit for a number of reasons. The music was good, the audience seemed to enjoy the atmosphere of candlelit tables, and there was a no-smoking policy.

“Because of this choice, I was contacted by the national office for the Center for Disease Control and interviewed about being an ex-smoker and a performer who supports non-smoking music venues,” said Marcy.

After the final show, Marcy started to get busy on her next album.

“I just confirmed that I’m recording a live album. and Danny Flanigan (Hopscotch Army, The Rain Chorus) is going to play lead guitar, while Ryan Williams (Playboy Psychonauts, Warner Gear) is going to play bass. I’m pretty excited about it,” Marcy said. “I played with Ryan Williams in a band called The Warner Gear years ago. It was a great experience, a great band and I was immediately taken by Ryan’s elegant bass lines. We’ve talked a bit about it. He played bass with me for the NUVO Best of party at Sun King last summer and we work really well together.”

After the critical success of her most recent album, the choice to make a new record with a similar sound is something that Marcy has considered.

“I originally thought that thematically I wanted to go a completely different direction than Goodnight Charlotte, but then realized that I was trying too hard to change my voice,” Marcy said. “I’m looking at a few songs that I considered for Goodnight Charlotte that I didn’t include, as well as some new songs I’ve just started performing.

“One thing I know for certain about the studio album is that it won’t be limited to guitar and cello,” she said. “That’s what made Goodnight Charlotte different. But if I do another album with that arrangement, I think it becomes less special. So, I’m looking at filling the arrangements out a little more.”

Of her name change, she said, “It was a difficult decision to make that took a lot of consideration.”

In the end, she had a couple good reasons for the change.

“I didn’t want to draw the line between who I am personally and who I am professionally,”she said. “And Marcy is easier to spell than Wahlers.”

Indy Show Preview: Truth and Salvage Co. move to Nashville, add Hoosier bass player

While they may credit Los Angeles as the place that spawned roots-rockers Truth and Salvage, Co., the band has clung to a sound that is more Midwest and Southern-influenced than the clean sound of LA.  So the band’s April move to Nashville,TN makes a lot of sense.

The band members hail from places like North Carolina and Ohio and Indiana.  Their core fans are in the heartland and in the south.  The tours have been playing Indianapolis multiple times each year for the past two years. Nowthe band is living closer to their musical roots.    

They have also added a Hoosier to the band in the process, to go along with Tim Jones, one the band’s frontmen and guitarists. 

Jones was back in his hometown of Indianapolis last week before joining his bandmates for a few dates this spring as they finish recording their sophomore album.  One of those dates is at the Deluxe nightclub at the Old National Centre on May 4 (with/ Pravada and Bonesetters), debuting some songs off the new record for the Hoosier faithful.

ROB:  Have you guys missed being on the road?  What have you done to stay busy?
Tim Jones: We haven’t had time to miss being on the road.  We toured right up until Christmas and  then started pre-production on the new record and literally have been working on it right up until we moved to Nashville last week.  And we’re still going to be finishing the record in between these May/June dates.

ROB:  How’s the new album coming along?  How will this be different than debut?
TJ: Well I’d say we’re about half way done.  We spent most of February and March recording with Rob Schnapf, an amazing producer, engineer, mixer and all-around great human being.  The release date will all depend on when we turn it in; probably the end of August or September.  

We’re not trying to do anything drastically different.  Hopefully we’ve matured as songwriters and become a better band over the last two years.  A lot of people talked about our first record as a “greatest hits” so hopefully this will be a “greatest hits part two”

ROB:  How’s the band?  Any changes? Anyone learn any new chords?
TJ: The band is great.  We have a rehearsal space set up in our house that some of us are sharing inHendersonville.  

We have a new bass player, Dean Moore, who Indy readers will be happy to know is a fellow Hoosier and IU grad that I have known for years and happened to be moving out to Nashville at the same time as we were.  Our last bass player, Frank, couldn’t do the move.  

Walker’s been playing some harmonica lately, and we’ve learned a ton of new chords from our producer.

ROB: Touring plans?   What is in the pipeline?
TJ: We’re doing weekends all based off of a Wednesday night residency in Nashville that we’re doing at the Basement, a great club underneath our friend Grimey’s New and Pre-loved Music.  We’ll be headlining clubs all around.  Once the record comes out we’ll be doing a nationwide tour in the fall.

ROB: How did the new songs come together?  
TJ:  With a lot of love and patience – same as always.  Somebody will bring in a part of a verse and a chorus or even a whole finished song and we’ll try and make it the best it can be.  Sometimes that means a lot of changes.  Sometimes that means doing nothing.

ROB: How did the band’s move to Nashville that come about?
TJ: We had been talking about it for years.  Walker’s (singer/keyboards) from Atlanta, (guitarist) Scotty’s from New Orleans, (organ player) Adam’s from Tupelo, MS.  (Drummer) Smitty is from Southern Ohio, so this is closer to home for all of us.  Los Angeles will always have a piece of our heart and hopefully we left a decent mark on it as well.

 To be able to play more where our fans are and not have to crisscross the country so often is a big bonus.  And rent is a helluva lot cheaper here.


MOKB Present: Truth & Salvage Co. w/ Pravada, Bonesetters Friday May 4, 2012. Deluxe at Old National Centre … Doors 7 PM / Show 8 PM $12 Advance / $15 dos

Back Road Radio Show keeps Americana alive

A story I wrote that originally appeared in NUVO Newsweekly in March, 2012

While the reputation of radio as a place where cool lives (recalled in the days and nights chronicled in the recent Naptown Radio Wars film), has mostly evaporated, there are a select few remaining radio stations – or in many cases, just individual shows – that still give the thrill of discovering new music and hearing stuff others stations won’t play.

In a series on the best of commercial, community and non-commercial radio stations worth a repeated listen, The Back Roads Radio Show, brought to life by the team of Andrew Funke and “Deacon” Tim Plunkett, is one of the regularly thoughtful and rocking programs heard locally.  The pair, who started the show in 2009, focuses on an alt-country/roots-rock/Americana mix, on the eclectic-to-a-faultIndianapolisstation WITT (91.9FM).

Funke hosts the shows.  Plunkett twists the dials to make it sound good.  They started with interview and music from local and regional musicians, and have branched out to grab a few national artists.  

The show recently added a second radio station, and has garnered a healthy fan base via the web for the archived shows. It’s a keenly produced, sonically crisp program – a trait not always found on shows that air on small, community-based stations in the middle of anywhere.  

NUVO: What did you envision for the show when you were starting out?  Long term or just a thing that would be fun to try?
TIM PLUNKETT: The latter. The show was actually the brainchild of Scott “Cootie” Crabtree, a great localAmericanamusician and good friend of ours. In the beginning we helped him build and record the show, but he had to back out after the first month due to personal reasons. We enjoyed doing the show so much we decided to keep it going. We just did what felt right and waited to see what happened. Our goals were pretty altruistic: have fun, make the show as kick ass as possible both sonically and content-wise, help out artists whose music we enjoy, and let the show take us where it leads us. 

NUVO: You air a couple radio stations, but also have built a web audience.

TP: We did put some thought into whether we wanted to be on radio only or Web only, and decided on both. There’s something indefinably cool about hearing your show over the airwaves while driving down the highway, but the Web presence let’s us reach an audience globally, which is amazing in its own way.

NUVO: How has the show been received by artists? Any challenges in interviewing a wide range of musicians – some who may be new to being interviewed

ANDREW FUNKE- I think we agree that everyone we’ve interviewed has done a great job. Some have more experience at it than others, but if you’re a performing artist on our show, you’ve likely spent countless hours of your life baring your soul on stage in front of complete strangers, so talking one-on-one is usually easy. An interview can make someone nervous, so we try really hard to make it a casual, comfortable conversation, to the point the artist forgets it’s actually an interview. Once we get it into that mode, the guests open up and the whole discussion takes on a life of its own.

NUVO: Are there artists that you think are ready to get more well-known, even if it is regionally instead of locally?

TP: Absolutely.  Pokey LaFarge, DeeAnn Dominy, The Tillers, Cari Ray, Linda Lee, Will Scott, our friends Riely O’Connor and Molly B Moon from South Bend.  

NUVO: Who have been some other favorites?

TP:Stockwell Road, Cootie Crabtree, Jethro Easyfields, Uncle John Potthast, Venetia Sekema, Gamblin’ Christmas, The Shelby County Sinners. Hell, we love all the artists we have on the show and we aren’t being diplomatic when we say that. It’s one of the criteria for being a guest – we have to dig your music.

NUVO: What is your music background? Why is it a good team? How do you guys work together? 

AF: I grew up on a steady diet of classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s. As a kid, my parents listened to country and I hated it with a passion – I couldn’t be in the same room when Hee Haw was on. Oddly, as I got older, country andAmericanastarted to become the only real, viable direction for me, and I found myself loving the very songs I detested years before. I still like rock and all other sorts of music from metal to a little hip-hop, but Americana is where it’s at for me these days. And yes, I now love watching Hee Haw, especially the early years.

TP:  I grew up listening to The Beatles and pretty much everything else but country. When I was in high school I asked my parents for an 8-track digital recorder so I could record music with my friends. I started listening to all types of music after that, with special interest in the ways that older music was recorded. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, they didn’t have special recording equipment purchased atGuitarCenter. It was all made using microphones, analog tape, and cutting lathes. Without knowing it, after researching old recording technology, I’d grown to love the music that was recorded with it and that started my love ofAmericanaand Roots music.

NUVO: The show sounds so good. Where is the studio?

TP: This is one of my favorite questions. I notice that nearly everyone assumes the show is recorded in some extravagant studio with thousands of dollars of recording equipment. The show has always been recorded in my home studio – a small, sound-proofed spare bedroom we call our “Studio Bunker”. The key to getting a great recording is to have great equipment and a controllable recording environment. Some of the best recordings ever done were recorded in spaces smaller than ours. When artists come in to the studio they’re usually surprised at the comfort of the small room and I think the fact that it’s a bedroom and not a large fancy studio adds to the comfort level of the artist. It makes the interview feel that much more laid back.

AF: I think Tim and I are a good team because we each have our primary roles – I’m the host and he’s the producer. There’s also no ego involved with what we do. If Tim has an idea for me as host, I’ll listen to it and often times go with it. Vice-versa for the production work he oversees. It doesn’t hurt that he and I have been playing as a rhythm section  – Tim on drums, me on bass –  for almost a decade now. We’ve worked with each other so much at this point, we just know what the other guy’s gonna do.

NUVO: Who has been a great supporter of the show, helping it stay alive?  Or has it been you two alone?

TP: In terms of creating the show itself, it’s been just us since almost the very beginning. However, we couldn’t be on the air if not for some very kind underwriters, especially Locals Only. They’ve been with us from the start, and we’d have folded long ago without their support. Our stations, WITT and WRGF, have also been great to work with. They’ve been instrumental in helping us navigate the rules and regulations of community radio, yet have been flexible enough to let us create the show exactly the way we want to. 

NUVO: What’s your take on Indiana and Indianapolis Americana music?  

TP: Overall, the original music scene both in the state and in Indy is relatively small when compared to some other places, and theAmericanascene is only a fraction of that. That being said, there’s some incredible music being made from South Bend to Indy toMadison- you just have to dig for it. It’s really no different than the nature of Indiana itself. Most outsiders see it as boring, and it certainly can be if you don’t try, but snoop around a little bit and you’ll be amazed by what you find.

It could be better, though, and what it needs is for more folks to support artists making original music and the venues that feature them. In a city that’s trying so hard to become more cosmopolitan and international, it’s a shame to see great artists playing to empty rooms all the time. We’ve seen bands with albums in the top 20 of the Americana chart play to two people on a Saturday night in Broad Ripple. That needs to change. We like to think we’re making a small impact with our show, but it’s only one outlet and we need a lot more help if things are going to improve.

NUVO: Where would you like to see the show go? How might it evolve.
TP: More regional and national acts live on the show, though keeping a local focus is still critically important, too. We’d also like to see the show get picked up by stations all around the country, like some kind of community radioAmericanaempire. We’ve also discussed promotingAmericanashows around town, bringing in a regional or national act with a local act or two to open. The one thing that won’t change is we’ll stay true to what we’ve been doing since we started – playing great music by great artists for great fans.

WTTS Radio celebrates 20 years of rock

This year marks 20 years for Bloomington’s WTTS radio to be playing its mix of rock music. We’ve been pretty lucky to have a station around for that many years that can be comfortable mixing stuff from John Hiatt and John Mellencamp with newer music like the Black Keys and Arcade Fire. We caught up with longtime WTTS Program Director Brad Holtz to see what he liked about music in 2011, what he sees for 2012, and what are some of favorite things about the station.

Rockforward: First, let’s look back at 2011. Tell me a couple of your favorites, and why.
Brad Holtz: I think Adele has to be on everyone’s list. That an artist so genuine and heartfelt in their approach can translate into a mass-appeal performer in the face of some rather “manufactured” competition is pretty inspiring. Aside from that, in 2011 we continued to see the rise of indie artists. The Head & The Heart, Blitzen Trapper, Iron & Wine and Fleet Foxes were a few. Arcade Fire winning the album of the year at the 2011 Grammys has to be a high point too.

Rockforward: What about American guitar rock and roll?
Holtz: As far as American rock and roll, The Black Keys are the real deal. Although they’re new to a lot of people, the guys have been around for seven albums. WTTS was playing them five years ago. It’s nice to see them getting the wider attention they deserve.

Rockforward: As a radio station that has continued to embrace the music of John Mellencamp, I’ve heard rumors (and talked to Larry Crane a while back) of the old band (Crane, Aronoff, Toby) getting back together. What do you think?
Holtz: I can’t speak to these rumors, but everyone loves a comeback, right? I think such a reunion would mean a lot to the many fans touched by their music over the past 35 years.

Rockforward: Lots of great music from women played on WTTS. Some favorites?
Holtz: I already mentioned Adele for all the obvious reasons. I think Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) is a tremendous talent who translates beautifully live. Speaking of live, I just caught a new singer-songwriter named Katie Herzig at a recent WTTS Emerging Artist show at Creation Cafe. A very gifted writer, musician and performer who sounds great on the radio AND on stage.

Rockforward: Has WTTS changed over the years?
Holtz: I really don’t believe we’ve changed our approach. It has always been our goal to expose a variety of great rock music from different eras encompassing different styles. And as an independently owned radio station, we’ve also felt that part of our mission was to expose new artists not played elsewhere, and to give newcomers a chance. So basically, play a lot of great music and play some new stuff nobody would dare touch. That’s what WTTS did 20 years ago, that’s what we’re doing today and that’s what we’re going to be doing for years to come.

Rockforward: Love the Sun King Studios live music stuff you guys do. How has that helped WTTS?
Holtz: We love it too. Studio 92 opened seven years ago, if you can believe it. Our downtown performance studio houses 40 listeners and we’ve had well over 100 performers come by. And the range has been awesome – from newcomers like Amos Lee and Ray Lamontagne, back when they were newcomers – to legends like The Doobie Brothers, Joan Armatrading, Suzanne Vega, Ziggy Marley and John Hiatt. This year, Sun King became our official partner in the studio. It’s a relationship we value tremendously. Listeners watch these performances, meet the artists, get their CDs or posters signed, have a Sun King. I mean, how cool is that? I sit there watching these performers while sipping on a Sun King and I think to myself, “this is really my job?”

Rockforward: Any bands that we need to keep an eye and ear on in 2012? Who’s going to break out and be heard?
Holtz: I wish I had a crystal ball but all I can say – we’re always listening to new music, especially our incredible Music Director, Laura Duncan. New Music Monday, Indy Underground and OverEasy are all great WTTS programs where we love to expose the next things.

Listen at 92.3 FM or online.