Seph Custer

Artist Spotlight: Seph Custer

“Anything you’re passionate about is a lot of hard work. It requires hours, days, years, but just don’t give up. That is the only thing that’ll bring you down. I can’t tell you how many days of work I’ve had to endure on two or three hours of sleep, how much money I’ve had to personally invest in equipment, and how much personal sacrifice I’ve made to get to this point.”

“Over the past 10 years of my career, I’m willing to bet I’ve logged well over 500 hours of having an instrument in my hand. And I’m still not as good as I want to be. But I’m willing to put in another 500 hours. You have to love every single second of it, because it’s your time and your art. If you can bring yourself to love your work, then you can never go wrong.”

Corey Hunley and the Millonaires

Corey Hunley: It’s In His Voice

From garage bands to opening up a sold out show for country music legend Marty Stuart, local singer songwriter Corey Hunley has had a guitar in his hands for thirty plus years now. Something he attributes to his childhood friend and a borrowed guitar his dad brought home one afternoon.
 
These days his guitar of choice is a Gibson Hummingbird, and his music of choice is country or Southern Americana as he calls it. Originality and a love for life, family, and his southern roots fuel Hunley’s music and his song writing. Whether he’s performing one of his solo acoustic sets, or performing a full on rock show with his backing band The Millionaires, Hunley’s shows are three-fourths originals sprinkled with a few covers from his favorites which include Johnny Cash, John Lennon, and the Allman Brothers.
 
Hunley has the ideal voice for country music, an undeniable deep southern twang that fits perfectly with a cold beer or a backyard barbeque. That voice has cultivated a strong and loyal fan base around the Roanoke Valley, as has the voice in his lyrics. His songs are easily relatable, drawn from his own experiences that incorporate themes of parenthood and the desire to make every moment count with loved ones.

Erin & the Wildfire

Burning Bright: Erin & The Wildfire

In 2012, Fincastle native Erin Lunsford joined forces with fellow musicians she met in a UVA student recording group to form Erin & The Wildfire. Since then, the band has built a growing fan base in the Virginia music and festival scene by touring consistently in a three-hour radius, and playing a number of major events including Festy, Stepping Out, FloydFest, and Lockn’.

While The Wildfire has a definite bluesy feel to them, the talented quintet combines to play a range of genres from soul to funk to rock. The performances are a mix of originals interspersed with covers where they take classics like the Bee Gees, “Staying Alive,” and Stevie Wonder’s, “Sign, Sealed, Delivered,” and make it their own by changing the beat and tempo. Then there’s Lunsford’s voice. She pulls every ounce of oomph from a song and delivers it on a sultry platter of goodness to the audience.

Monophonics

Monophonics Bring West Coast Soul to the Heart of the Blue Ridge

It has now been a little over two weeks since the ‘Dreamweavin concluded and FloydFest officially came to a close. There was so much good music to cover that it took us (at Blue Ridge Rocks) every bit of those two weeks to write up all the highlights. Today, we wrap up that coverage with a feature on one of the best new bands to play FloydFest, the Monophonics.

Described by FloydFest founder Kris Hodges, in an earlier Blue Ridge Rocks interview, as one band not to be missed, I eagerly awaited the start of the Saturday show on the main stage. A midafternoon rain shower had just blown through and festival-goers were stepping out from shelter and making their way to the stage to hear what this West Coast soul and funk band, better known west of the Mississippi and in Europe than here in Southwest Virginia, had to offer. I’d already done my homework, and knew that we were all in for a good show. But what Kelly Finnigan and the band brought to the stage was more than a good show, it was a powerhouse performance of soulful vocals, horns, and guitar that washed over me in wave after wave, each building to one climax after another.

Devyl Nellys

The Devyl Nellys Return to the Region

The Devyl Nellys, a FloydFest On the Rise band, returns to the region this Friday when they play BoneFire Smokehouse in Abingdon. The following day, the band’s new album, “Delicious Business” will be released.

This funky rock band has six core musicians and twelve substitutes and is led by ‘The Mother Ship’ Nelly Levon, who brings her unique funky style to the stage. The group put on two fun, high energy sets at FloydFest that had all its members, especially Levon, pouring sweat at the end.

“I call us a mix of grass pop and grass punk. We definitely love some of Sublime, and we have a really good drum beat too,” Levon said in an interview after the band’s first set on the VIP stage at FloydFest.

Artist Spotlight: Urban Soil (FloydFest Edition)

As the festival grounds gently warmed, and people were easing into their Saturday morning, Urban Soil was cranking the heat up fast on the Workshop Porch. The band, which hails from Raleigh, NC, was starting the first of four performances in the FloydFest On-the-Rise competition. Their music wove a powerful combination of roots rock, world beat, bluegrass, and pure joy into an original blend that brought the crowd to a standing ovation by the end of the set and eventually landed them the first runner up spot in the competition.

“We have a little something for everyone with our music,” said lead singer, Sarah Reinke. “We work to make sure you never get bored listening to us.” A truth that was evident throughout each of the four sets.
Urban Soil is packed with talent and they just kept bringing more to the stage with each song. Reinke has a strong voice that reminds me of Natalie Merchant, with hints of Siouxsie Sioux’s quirky tonal breaks. She couples that with mean rock guitar skills, then surprises audiences by playing a washboard that she runs through her guitar pedals to create her distinctive “Wah-Wah Washboard” sound (you’ll find a short video clip at the bottom of this article). Eric Chesson, on lead guitar and vocals, moves easily between acoustic and electric numbers, at times sounding jammy like Garcia, then turning it up and laying down blistering rock licks. Then there is Greg Meckley. He is a whirling dervish of blonde dreadlocks, dancing alongside his percussion rack adding extra rhythms, or stepping to the front of the stage to lead with violin or mandolin.

Artist Spotlight: The Hip Abduction (FloydFest Edition)

The Hip Abduction music is filled with uplifting melodies that bring a tropical flair to its blend of reggae, rock, and roots music that incorporates steady electronic afro beats. Songs like “Come Alive,” “Live It Right,” and “Holiday” carry the mind to island time and send a surge of good vibrations through the body and into the feet. Its musical prozac, minus all the nasty side affects.

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass: Your FloydFest Sunday Saviors

A week after coming off the high of playing a sold-out show at the iconic Red Rocks where they had top billing, the boys of Greensky Bluegrass made their way through the Blue Ridge Mountains and landed on the Dreaming Creek Main Stage for the fifth and final day of FloydFest.

“You getting tired yet? Well, we’re your Sunday saviors!” Greensky’s Paul Hoffman proclaimed from the stage. The Sunday crowd responded with cheers as the band launched into, “I’d Probably Kill You.”

While it’s typical for a portion of the crowd to thin a bit come Sunday, festival organizers are always wise about saving a few gems to reward those who delay the eventual return to reality to stick around for a final day of festival fun. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Ray LaMontagne, and Alison Krauss & Union Station have been those bands in recent years. This year, it was Greensky Bluegrass, followed by Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers.

Forlorn Strangers

Q&A with FloydFest Band Forlorn Strangers

Have you ever had the urge to throw everything you own into storage and take to the open road? That’s exactly what the Forlorn Strangers decided to do in early 2015. Since then, this quintet from Nashville, which includes two sisters, has carved a niche for themselves as an up and coming American roots rock band with distinctive guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, and percussion skills. This past week, they played two sets at FloydFest as part of the On The Rise series. This week they are releasing their debut self-titled, full-length album.

Roosterfoot

Artist Spotlight: Roosterfoot (FloydFest Edition)

Acoustic instruments in hand, Norkolk, Va. band Roosterfoot took the Speakeasy stage Friday afternoon for its first of four sets at FloydFest. After a quick warmup, the crowd, a mix of diehard fans and first timers, moved in close to the stage as the first notes were played. Moments later the audience was rewarded with the powerful voice of band leader Seth Stainback as Roosterfoot launched into a soulful set of southern rock goodness.

Following the sixty-minute set, I had to the opportunity to sit down with Stainback to ask him about his FloydFest experience and future plans for the band. Since this was the second year in a row that Roosterfoot performed at FloydFest, I was interested to find out what expectations were coming into the first set.

“I didn’t know what to expect with this first show, sometimes people hang back. They might not know our music yet,” commented Stainback. “As a band, our comfort level performing has skyrocketed, and that’s because of repetition. Repetition trumps skill, IQ, everything. And that’s all we’ve been doing this last year is just grind, grind, grind. So now our playing feels very natural and effortless.”