I wish I could’ve met and kicked it with all of the artists, but for the sake of the project and time, I chose the one artist that stood out to me the most, River Merrill. The search began in the capital, Boise, Idaho...
Just like the journey on the previous interview, I had to travel to the other side of the state to link up with the artists I was interviewing for the 18th interview and state of this project, in Jackson, Wyoming. Along with some more reflection, online artist discovery, heards of Buffalo, a few speeding tickets, breaking over 100k miles, my car dying in the middle of a long stretch empty two-lane highway, causing me to walk by foot to the nearest gas station to fill up a gas jug, (multiple times)...the drive was blissful and mentally productive and necessary. The majority of my views to my left and right was a flat sea of land, hay and farm, but by the time I got closer towards Jackson it became more mountainous. I wasn’t really prepared on how massive and beautiful driving through the edges of the Rockies was going to be.
Besides the amazing views, why Jackson, Wyoming? Well, by the time I was done with the interview in North Dakota, after many streams through social hashtages and bandcamp searches, I hadn’t connected with a sound yet in Wyoming, so I figured I reach out to someplace that for sure had some type of connect with the local music culture--a popular local radio station.
I found a contact from the Wyoming Public Radio Station who referred me to a few locally-known artists. After going through the music suggested, the sound from the Canyon Kids stood out—they had a soufull folk-rock band sound to them, and whenever I feel soul, I feel intrigued. I reached out and got connected with one of the founders, guitarist Dusty Nichols, who invited me to do the interview after their show at one of Wyomings Top Media Marketing Agencies, Orijin, last summer concert series of 2018 at the Anvil Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with proceeds benefiting the Grand Teton National Park.
It was an organic experience to drive for hours across the state listening to the music culture of Wyoming, listening to their music, and then meeting them in person right before a live performance, outside of a Boutique hotel in a cosy town nestled within a valley of Mountains. Canyon Kids, Jackson Holes perfect Americana soufull rock n' roll backdrop, as defined by source of Wyoming culture, is a big part of the growing music scene in the state, having performed at several events over the years, releasing 3 albums and even was featured on NPR's "Here and Now" program back in 2016.
One aspect, of many, on what makes them unique is their passion for making music. Life can make our dreams and visions so complicated but it's that passion that keeps you driven to your purpose as an artist. As of 2019 the lead singer and creator of Canyon Kids, Bo Elledge moved to Seattle, Washington, however that didn't stop the rest of the members nor himself from staying on track of their creative visions. Bo has recorded 3 solid singles since the move, one of which already making it on to Seattle's top public radio station for alternative rock.
Dusty Nichols, the other founding Member along with Canyon Kids existing bandmates Leif Routman (Bass) and Shawn Fleming (Drums) are also using this opportunity to create another vessel of music forming a new folk-rock band called Inland Isle. Dusty brought on friend and also one of Wyomings Top Ten Musicians, Patrick Chadwick, and togehter in just 30 days, succesuflly completed their Kickststarter project in March 2020 for their first Album release. As for the Canyon Kids, the passion for making and playing music together remains intact as more projects to be releasesd are in the works and Bo now being in Seattle could offer the band great way to expand their name.
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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16th State, Minnesota - 16th Interview, Pinkie Promise with Eleanor Elektra
It just so happened that there was another cross country road tour happening. Three musicians, Minnesota-native Crispin Swank, Brooklyn’s Kaitlin Pelkey who together play in a group called Pinkie Promise, along with Eleanor Elektra from Boston were on their 5th stop on their 18-city music tour across America. I stumbled across a facebook post, checked out their music and liked their experimental drift. There was this mystic-soul, folk vibe about their sound and I wanted to learn more. So I reached out and there were nice enough to do the interview literally right before their show at The Tiny Diner.
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The diner had an outdoor patio where people ate, drank and laughed. Surrounded by large bushes and flowers, there was a machine tucked in the back of the bushes behind the Mic area that periodically blew out bubbles. It definitely added to its intimate environment, perfect for an acoustic set, especially the dreamy and jazzy melodies from these three. Eleanor Elektra kicked it off mixing jazz and folkish blues, followed by Pinkie Promise mixing folk rock and dream folk performing until the sun went down.
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They had their merchandise booth setup by the entrance, so after their set, with all the change I had in my pockets, I made sure I furthered my support and bought some merch. As they caught up with friends I said my goodbyes and hit the road to the next state.
Check out their Music
8/15/18 - Omaha, Nebraska
Day 23: 14th Interview, 14th State
While I thought finding an artist in Omaha would be a challenge, a few hashtags on Twitter, and I stumbled on a Soundcloud post, a track titled Drowning by Naylon. The cover image caught my eye and it had several thousand plays at the time, so I was intrigued. Her voice begins around 25 seconds in, and it immediately draws you, powerful and seductive with a lot of soul. If there was a comparison I’d say a mix between Ariana Grande and SZA, and coincidentally enough she’s got clips of her doing covers of their songs and killing it! Check em' out, including more covers by Frank Ocean, Kehlani and more including some originals on her YouTube.
As good as her voice is, I was surprised to see she only had a few tracks on Soundcloud. But no worries, she teased of new material in 2019.
“...be on the look out for some cool new music, some cool songwriting...”
We met up and did the interview at Edward Zorinsky Lake Park. It was raining all morning long, which stopped right before we linked up, so perfect timing. The only caveat was bee’s kept attacking her during the interview and a few deers got curious as well. Other then that, it was dope getting to know Naylon a bit more, hearing about some of her previous work, upcoming plans, her inspiration, some of her favorite musicians she likes to listen to and see live, and apparently concerts get to her, but in a good way. When responding to why she cries a lot during concerts, she said:
“It’s just a surreal feeling to see people giving their all, and doing what they love.. its inspiring”
She credited Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift as her two favorite concerts she ever saw live. Maybe one day sooner then later, they’ll share the same stage. One artist she did have the opportunity to share a stage with, was none other then grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Logic. Earlier this year Logic sold out a 2018 Spring Concert hosted by Mavericks Productions at the Baxter Arena in University of Omaha, the same University Naylon attended. They wanted someone from the school to open for Logic, and out of the 12 thousands students enrolled they of course chose Naylon, who at the time went by Maria Corinne.
Below is her cover of Thinking Bout You by Frank Ocean
From growing a fan base of over 33k on Vine (RIP), to opening up for Logic in spring of 2018, to growing a listening audience of over 40 thousands on an original song on Soundcloud without any marketing. Naylon is a star in the making and a musical force that continues to shine, continues to write and continues to sing. I wonder what achievements lay ahead for her in 2019???
Afterwards we met up with another one of her friends at a cool sushi bar restaurant called Blue Sushi Saki Grill. I’ve had some great sushi, but this was definitely up for the running. Our waiter, who recognized Naylon from school, recommended this dank dish, and dank it was...It's called.. "Triller"
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After the 14th interview with Naylon, singer in Nebraska, the 14th state in the trip, we and her friend dined at @bluesushisakegrill Who would’ve thought Nebraska has amazing sushi! This dish was called the ‘Thriller’ #bluesushisakegrill #thriller #sushi #naylon #diversalstate2state
Off to the next state, South Dakota...