Nick Andrew Staver: Live On the Dock

While he may receive his mail in Shippensburg, PA, Nick Andrew Staver has made a home on the road for much of the last five years, bringing his bluesy steel guitar and heartfelt lyrics to venues large and small throughout the country. Currently promoting his fifth independent release, YOPE (2017), Staver visits our region for a stint “On the Dock” at Vinton’s Twin Creeks Brewing Company. We caught up with him to learn a bit more about the itinerant singer songwriter in the lead up to his Saturday show.

We all want the same things. It’s just a matter of how we get there. I use music. And I use it as a tool to communicate to people around me.”

“My sound is centered around blues music but it’s much more than just blues. The core is blues, but you hear drops of jazz, R&B, rock n’ roll, folk, and country. Playing that music live is the most thrilling, fun, free thing I’ve ever done in my life. There is something special that happens on stage, and every night that “something” differs from the night before. Words can’t describe that feeling when a musician finds their “zone”, and the search and discovery of that “zone” in itself is priceless. Music is like a confession for me, it lifts a weight off my shoulders and makes life melt away for a few minutes during a song.”

Mike Mitchell: Musician, Teacher, Family Man

“I find myself a man at peace, with a knowledge of self and of place which makes me the songwriter and musician I am today. Whether it is my own composition, or an old tune played on the Mitchell Family fiddle, or singing my heart out for the audience, my words and music come from the journey, singing of the destination.”

That quote, taken from the homepage of Mike Mitchell’s website, captures my experience meeting the man who started the Floyd Music School and who sparks the magic of musicianship in his students. I interviewed Mike at the “Mountains of Music on Main” festival in Christiansburg, just as the rain moved through and bought relief from the summer afternoon heat. With the sounds of fiddles and guitars warming up for the evening performances, we found a relatively quite corner to chat.

Turnpike Troubadours Rock the Lime Kiln Theater

I’m hard pressed to name something I like more than outdoor concerts. Saturday night, after years of recommendations by friends, I experienced my first show at the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, VA. And what an experience it was. Oklahoma based band, the Turnpike Troubadours had the crowd (of about 700 people) dancing, singing, hootin’ and hollerin’, at this sold out show. I will say, in all honesty, that I haven’t enjoyed an outdoor show this much since I saw the Lumineers at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and there’s a few reasons why.

First, Lime Kiln is one of the prettiest music venues I’ve been to in Virginia. For me, it beats Wolf Trap, and that’s saying a lot. Wherever you’re sitting, you’re close to the action. I spent most of the show in the second row and the sound was perfect, but when I ventured to the back of the theater, the sound was just as good. I even went behind the stage and the band still sounded immaculate. The venue is called “the bowl” because it’s nestled between a collection of large rocks. Looking up, you’re covered by a canopy of trees and after the sun departed, fireflies danced like fairies. In addition to the beauty and sound quality of the theater, the food and beverage options were top notch. Devil’s Backbone Brewery is a sponsor of Lime Kiln and I think we can all agree…yum.

Randy Williams: The Story Behind the Song

One of the best things about attending Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association meetings is getting to hear the incredible songs that come from local musicians. Last month, SVSA member Randy Williams, brought a song to get critiqued by the group, and it’s so beautiful, and perfect for a special Father’s Day edition of Story Behind the Song.

Williams began writing songs as a teenager, but didn’t start focusing on songwriting until after his kids were grown. Crediting Angaleena Presley, Shawn Camp, Jason Isbell and Richard Thompson as some of his songwriting heroes, he writes to inspire others to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. His only real goal with songwriting is to be able to share an emotion or struggle that people can connect with. And with the song, “Look Up”, he truly accomplishes this goal. He recorded the song at Summit Sound with Jake Dempsey, who Williams said was crucial in bringing his songs to life.

Blue Ridge KIDS Rock: Music Together in Roanoke

As a mom of a little girl, I’ve sought as many opportunities as possible to expose my offspring to music. I remember deciding the day she was born, that I was going to sing her the same song every night before bed: “I Will” by the Beatles. This song has always had the magical power to calm her down when nothing else would. It made her smile before she knew what smiling was. She would clap upon hearing it as soon as she discovered she had hands.

I truly believe that listening to music is a vital part of the developmental process in wee young ones. In Roanoke, there’s an ample amount of children’s music classes and I’ve tried out most of them. They’re all great in their own way but one sticks out, at least from a musician’s standpoint.

Scott Sutton, a Mainstay of the Roanoke Music Scene

“Playing live, at its best is a spiritual rush! When a band connects, it’s like my eyes are closed, and I’ve gone to Pluto and back. When the song is over and I open my eyes, it’s like, whoa, what just happened, where am I?”

The joy that Scott Sutton brings to the stage is infectious as he lays down a steady bed of bass beats he has acquired over years of playing with a wide range of bands and genres.

Photo credits: Aubrey Edwards

Eight Insights to Nikki Hill

There’s a sensational woman named Nikki Hill and she’s playing the Harvester tonight. Not only should you go see her to experience her immense vocal talent and diverse setlist, but go to be inspired by her pure, honest drive, independent spirit, and just general bad-assery. I not-so-secretly want her to be my best friend, because she’s already a role model for all of us who want our music to be bigger than YouTube channels and open mic nights.

Hill has played in Roanoke before on a much smaller stage. In 2013, her first year of touring, Hill played Blue 5, but those small tours have taken her to some pretty unique places. From a theme park in Sweden, to a palace in Morocco, to a tea tree farm in Australia, to the same stage where Otis Redding performed and Jimi Hendrix infamously set his guitar aflame.   This chick has played the world, and she does it all on her indie budget. As an independent artist, this self-described “music nerd”, relies on her passion for music and her “small but mighty” team to keep it all going. I asked Hill a variety of questions to get to know her a little better, so here are my top 8 insights about wonder woman, Nikki Hill:

AL: How did you develop your sound?

NH: It’s still developing and I hope it will continue! I like to think of it as a combination of my love for the energy and call and response style of early gospel, mixed with the attitude and fervor of rock n’ roll and soul, with a one-two-fuck you punch of the human experience and anti-system stylings of blues and punk. Honest and driven and giving it all each time on stage because that’s all there is and it’s all we’ve got.

The Practice Squad

New Music Alert: The Practice Squad

On April 1st, Roanoke based melodic rock band, The Practice Squad, released their second album titled “The Fighter”. The Practice Squad, who formed in 2013, consists of members Travis Fitch (vocals), Brandon Robertson (drums), Seth Holderfield (bass), Matt Cox (guitar), and Zach Holderfield (guitar).

Previously a part of a cover band, they broke away to write and record their own songs. “Our goal has always been to write honest music that we believe in,” said Fitch. And each member contributes to the writing process. Their songwriting style typically begins with a melody on the guitar followed by the addition of percussion, ending with the lyrics.

Surrender Dorothy

Surrender Dorothy: Never Giving Up

Roanoke rock band Surrender Dorothy is celebrating its 25th anniversary as part of the local music scene. To help highlight that celebration, Blue Ridge Rocks interviewed the band’s only original founding member who is still part of the group: Chris Spradling.

Spradling originally formed the group (25 years ago, go figure) with guitarist Steve Anderson.

“We were both playing with The Worx, but wanted to start a band that played something a little different,” Spradling said in a recent email interview.

Over the course of time, the band has undergone a number of different incarnations. Currently, it consists of Spradling on guitar and keys, Dean Ferguson on guitar, Tad Dickens on drums, and Jason Davis on bass. Davis joined the group after former bassists Henry Hancock lost his life to a series of illnesses following a stroke.

An Interview with Roanoke Hip-Hop Artist Harvest Blaque

Harvest Blaque—the Roanoke hip-hop artist also known as Bryan Hancock—has a show Saturday night from 8 to 11 at The Bazaar of Roanoke record shop. The bill features Equally Opposite from Charlottesville, as well as Knuckleheadz (Grandmaster Jax & Ol’ Dirty Dada) who will “open the evening with a short but memorable set,” according to Blaque.

The artist, who blends multiple genres, including rock, country and blues, to form his original hip-hop sound that he terms “soul hop,” also emcees a regular Poetry Slam at 16 West Marketplace. Blaque recently sat down with Blue Ridge Rocks to discuss his approach to music and his career.

Tell me a little about how you first got started in music?

I have to give my dad the credit. He played a lot of great band records. I remember growing up as a kid and listening to his music and wanting to express myself through music. My parents divorced when I was five and my aunt told me to keep a journal of my feelings. I would record shows and do lip sync battles and write my own verses. I always wanted to rap and do music one way or another.