The second annual 30 East Music Festival opens Thursday, March 27, and will showcase several local artists, including Kirby Brown, Hannah Kirby and Ryan McKenzie.
“We have a wealth of local talent in the area,” said Sulphur Springs Community Development Director Shane Shepard. “30 East Music Fest is the perfect venue to showcase their gifts.”
The city’s new community development specialist and event organizer agrees.
“We’re hosting three days of music from some of Texas’ own rising stars, and it’s free to the public,” Gus Gustafson said. “Come on down to Celebration Plaza in the heart of Sulphur Springs, and experience the talent and Indie music of those artists making a name for themselves right here in East Texas, the Metroplex and even around the globe.”
Closing out the evenings will be Emily Elbert of Dallas, Matt ‘Songbird’ Jones of Fort Worth and the Effinays of Dallas. Eight other acts will perform over the three-day event.
The Effinays formed in 2007 and originally performed as an instrumental unit throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In 2011 the band revamped the entire line up, except for one of the founding members and morphed into the comedic, old school funk, classic rock, reggae with flashes of Latin grooves band; one could clearly sense they enjoy what they do.
“Doused in funk and served hot with a side of reggae, The Effinays host ‘Funk Mondays’ at Sundown at Granada each week, washing away your work week blues with the six-piece band’s unique blend of jammy reggae and hip-hop-infused funk,” according to the Dallas Observer.
They were voted 2013 Best Live Act – Dallas Observer Music Awards; 2013 Best Guitarist (Shaggy) – Dallas Observer Music Awards; 2013 Activist Of The Year – High Times Magazine; and 2012 Alternative Pick of the Year – The Urban Advocate.
Emily Elbert graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2012, attending on a full scholarship. She toured Southeast Asia and has opened for Leon Russell, G. Livingston Taylor, Joan Osbourne, Ruthie Foster, Ben Taylor and Marcia Ball, to name a few.
“In July, I played in Paris and Lufkin and, later that month, I finished my most recent EP, ‘Evolve,’ which I released in November,” she said. “Soon after those East Texas shows, I toured with “American Idol’s” Crystal Bowersox, which was a joy.”
She’s also toured in the Northeast, Midwest, Northwest, Texas and California, and played at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Missouri. She participated in the Guitar Center Singer/Songwriter Competition, along with almost 10,000 artists from across the United States.
“The first phase of the competition revolved around the viewing and sharing of musical YouTube videos,” she explained. “It required a lot of promotional work, but it was worth it. It was so beautiful and humbling to see support pouring in from friends, fans and family across the country, including East Texas.
“The first group was narrowed to 100 semi-finalists and then 10 top finalists were hand-selected by judge Don Was, legendary record producer who has made albums with artists like Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones and John Mayer. Lastly, the top 10 were all flown out to Hollywood, where the final round took place. We all performed one song live, for a packed room that included Don, and he made the final selection for the grand prize winner.
“I didn’t ultimately win the competition, which of course I was bummed about, but it was a great experience overall,” Elbert said. “It was nice meeting the other players and people involved, all of the finalists were given a bunch of great musical gear, and most importantly, I was truly uplifted and motivated by the encouragement from people who believe in me. That leaves a lasting impact.”
Elbert is getting ready for another couple of cross-country trips, followed by a move to Los Angeles in June. She enjoys performing in an open air venue.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be able to play music outdoors, and Texas in the springtime just makes it that much sweeter,” she said. “When I was learning to play guitar and sing, I was very shy about it, so most of my early practicing was actually done outside, and many of my early songs and recordings were created amongst Texas trees and sunshine. It’s a lovely way to interact with the environment – fresh air just has a way of lifting your spirits and putting things in perspective.”
Kirby Brown, who graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 2006, will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 28. Brown is the son of Bro. Tommy and Glenda Hall. Brown moved to New York City at the end of 2012.
“The purpose of the move was to see what kind of catalyst for inspiration a change of environment would be,” Kirby said in an e-mail interview. “I’m going to be starting work on a new record this August at legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Everyone from Aretha to the Stones have recorded in that town. This was the original studio that started it all. I’m very excited to be a part of that tradition, so I’ve spent most of my time working on new material. New York [City] has given me so much to write about. I can’t wait to hear it all on a record.”
Brown wants his music to resonate with the audience.
“My songs are my songs, but they’re also yours,” he explained. “The glory of making music is the relationship between performer and spectator. If what I’m writing doesn’t resonate with what the listener feels and holds to be true about their own life, I’m not doing my job as an artist. I want people who hear me play to know that my songs are just an attempt to open the dialogue with other real people. Who are we? What is our life about? How can we be better? What are the moments that renew our hope that life can be good, in spite of our struggles? These questions are important to me.”
Before moving to Sulphur Springs in 1997, Brown lived in Damascus, Ark. (pop. 306).
“My grandparents on that side were bluegrass players, so that style mixed with classic country and gospel were a big part of my life growing up, as well,” he notes. “My influences are varied and all across the map, although I gravitate back to traditional songwriters, especially Townes van Zandt, John Prine, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne and Guy Clark.”
Brown is “pleasantly surprised” that Sulphur Springs is hosting a major music festival.
“I’m happy to see Sulphur Springs evolving and embracing positive cultural change,” Brown said. “Our culture is all we have, and I believe that giving young local talent a voice and a platform to express is a huge step forward. I think the community is ready for it. That’s encouraging, and I can’t wait to see so many beautiful people that I haven’t seen in awhile!”
Ryan McKenzie and Hannah Kirby will take the stage at 9 p.m. Friday.
“I’m excited to play at East Fest, and I’m thankful for the city’s efforts to promote live music,” McKenzie said. “Music has been a love of mine for years, and I’m hoping the festival will continue to grow.”
McKenzie, chief operating officer for Grocery Supply Company, played gigs while in college and frequently joins Kirby for performances around town.
“I’m thrilled that Sulphur Springs has begun hosting events like this,” Kirby said. “And I’m very excited to be a part of it.”
Kirby and McKenzie plan on doing some of her original tunes, along with songs by John Prine and Steve Winwood. They plan to include Jesse Colin Young’s “Darkness Darkness” on the set list, too.
“It’s a song about letting go,” Kirby explained. “I was listening to folk radio. I heard it and loved it and knew I had to play it.”
Kirby, a 2012 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School, currently majoring in psychology at Texas A&M University Commerce. She’s been playing the violin since she was eight and is a regular performer at local venues. She’s currently putting songs together for a record, working with musician and producer Dave Walser, a member of the original Beatlegras band who currently plays with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bluegrass Band.
“Playing on the stage in the square always feels nice because it’s the center of everything and it’s really beautiful now,” Kirby noted. “Hopefully, the weather will be beautiful, too.”
McKenzie’s cousin, Matt ‘Songbird’ Jones, will close out Friday’s roster, with a performance scheduled to begin at 10 p.m.
Jones is touring behind his sophomore album, “Songbird Jones,” which is also the name of the first track on the record.
“It is a song that my middle brother, Alan, wrote,” Jones explained during a recent interview. “I love the song and it is one of our favorite songs to perform live.”
The new record offered Jones a chance to really get involved with the recording process.
“With ‘My Lonely Guitar,’ I really didn’t do much,” Jones said of his first record [EP]. “I just sang and played some guitar, but producer Steve Boynton made such an exciting record for me that I believed I could do this some more. This time, a guitarist/songwriter who I really respect and trust, named Paul Boll, produced the album. Paul and I worked a lot together on each song and discussed every move. It is an overwhelming process for someone who is green, but am incredible learning experience.”
Jones and his crew recorded everything at the same time, which was “a lot of fun.”
“Watching them and the engineer work together trying to make your song sound as good as it possibly can is a beautiful thing,” Jones confessed. “Later different musicians and singers including the guys from our band came in and did different overdubs, such as back up vocals, fiddle and pedal steel.”
Jones considers Bruce Robison, Van Morrison, Rich Mullins, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keene as his musical influences. In fact, it seems Robert Earl Keen is a fan of the young Fort Worth artist. Keen reached out after seeing one of Jones’ lyric videos on YouTube.
“Robert Earl Keen tweeted at me: ‘Great song Matt, good job,’” Jones said. “He has so many songs that I love and I have been to several of his shows. I saved the tweet.”
30 East Music Festival will be held in Celebration Plaza, “the perfect festive atmosphere,” in downtown Sulphur Springs, according to Gustafson, March 27, from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m.; March 28, from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. and March 29 from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. Admission is free.
Dr. Neil Rugg will be spinning discs between acts, according to the festival’s website.
Visit www.30EastFest.com for a list of all the artists, performance times and video samples of their musical art.
For more on Emily Elbert, see our interview at: www.mySSnews.com. Click on mySSlife and then on Entertainment. Also visit: www.emilyelbert.com
For more about Kirby Brown, visit www.facebook.com/kirbybrownmusic
For more about Hannah Kirby, visit www.hannahkirby.com
For more about Matt “Songbird” Jones, visit www.thesongbirdjones.com
For more about The Effinays, visit www.theeffinays.com
|< Prev||Next >|