In a continued search for an organic sound, native to the 17th state on this trip, North Dakota, I figured I head to the most populous city in North Dakota, Fargo.
While I had to expand my search radius for events and artists online, I quickly stumbled upon an album titled Brotherman by Madi Smith Bandcamp. She had moved from North Dakota, but forwarded me to her friend Danny Savage, who with Jordan Eslinger and others merged from a group called Northern Lights, into a band who now go by the name of ‘Mooncats’. Even though they were in Beulah, the other side of the state, their campfire blue-grass sound was just about as organic of a sound as I was looking for, and worth the 4 hour trip from Fargo.
Along with social media updates and online artist discovery, check-in calls with the fam, and restroom breaks, this particular long drive gave me more opportunity to listen to their music, a fitting soundtrack to the Dakota open road, and various agricultural fields that seemed like never ended.
Danny and Jordan had me meet them by a lake in a park, a spot where they often come to jam out or just draw inspiration from. They talked about their journey from Northern Lights to Mooncats, their passion for music, the changing music scene in North Dakota, genre, coining their own term 'Ameri-conscious Folk', as it related to their own style. They defined it as Americana-Campire-Folk, a combination of the traditional Americana style blended with their own versions of storytelling to tell around the campfire, and even gave me a sample after the interview. Danny busted out his banjo, and Jordan his guitar and harmonica and they got in their zone. See instagram post below along with a few screenshots from the footage.
15th State - South Dakota - 15th Interview Rascal Martinez
Next stop, home of Mt. Rushmore, the 15th state on this project, South Dakota. While struggling to find an artist with the limited time in SD, I figured I reverse my search tactics. Instead of looking up hashtagged posts on Social Media, or going through SoundCloud or Bandcamp, I looked up bars/restaurants online that had live music. As I sat in a Starbucks, (my usual go-to spot on this trip), I cracked my knuckles and got to searchin’.
It was refreshing to see a good amount of places offering live music, opportunities for local talent in South Dakota, so it took some time to go through event posts past and upcoming, looking up the sites of the featured artist and listening to their music. I found an event that was happening my last night there at a bar called Fernsons. The artist featured was good, quality voice, had a professional sound to him, and from a genre standpoint, was different from the artists I met up with so far. His name is Rascal Martinez. There was a phone number on his site, he picked up right away and was on board for the interview.
When I arrived to Fernsons, I knew I was at the right location—there was a trailer hitch in the parking lot that had Rascal Martinez written on it in big letters.
Adjusting his microphone on his shirt, he talked about how he was also on tour in the midwest and had just did a radio interview with South Dakota Public Broadcasting a day prior. As busy as he sounded with performing shows, doing interviews, working on new music, he was super chill, calm and collecting. Stylish, happy and super laid back, is how I can describe Rascal Martinez. He was all smiles and welcoming, and had this Modern James Dean look about him. As soon as we wrapped up the interview, he hit the stage with his drummer and bass guitarist and immedialty got into character.
Not only was the locally brewed Fernson beer great, Rascal Martinez and his band killed it. Putting his own Americana spin on covers and originals, he had everyone in the bar on a vibe, and drew more people in. He did everything from Originals, to Folk, Classic Rock, Motown, and current hits. Check out some intagram posts from his gig below - the first clip he remixes Jay-Z's 99 problems, putting his own spin to it, and the second, his rendition of Pina Colada.
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