MusiCares Sober Jam

The MusiCares® Sober Jam is a showcase of courage. The last Monday of every month, over 30 musicians take the stage at Gibson Guitar’s private showroom. For many of them it is their first time performing in public ever; for others it may be their first time ever performing sober. While many of the attendees are active in the drug & alcohol recovery, the spirit of the event is to support musicians in overcoming stage fright and performance anxiety.  

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I personally have been involved as the event producer from day one and 2017 marks our 11th year. The Sober Jam began in 2006 as an outgrowth of a weekly MusiCares® Recovery Meeting that was hosted at Gibson. Its evolution is thanks in large part to Austin’s longtime local music advocate and former Gibson employee, Don Pitts, who spotted the opportunity to offer up their private showroom and world-class line of musical instruments to invite musicians to perform in a safe and sober environment. This remains the mission of the Sober Jam today.

The event begins at 7pm with an Open Jam, allowing guests time to arrive, mingle and find their way to a seat. At 8pm, we transition to a seated listening room with open mic style performances (solo or with a band). As the Emcee of the event, it can be incredibly moving to witness & support musicians who are facing their fears and embracing the vulnerability that is inherent to live performance, particularly without the buffer of drugs or alcohol.

In honor of the Sober Jam's 10-year anniversary, MusiCares sent a film crew to Austin to capture the magic. Check out the feature article on Grammy.com

In honor of the Sober Jam's 10-year anniversary, MusiCares sent a film crew to Austin to capture the magic. Check out the feature article on Grammy.com

A special thanks to our presenting sponsor The SIMS Foundation, who offer mental health and addiction recovery services to Austin musicians, music industry professionals, and their families. Between MusiCares® and the SIMS Foundation, there has been an incredible showing of support for the Sober Jam from the drug and alcohol recovery community. All attendees -- both on and off-stage -- are considered to be active participants in the Sober Jam. By simply showing up, listening to the music, and offering an applause between songs, each guest plays a meaningful role in cultivating a safe environment for the performers.

Each event concludes with an unannounced "special guest performer" who has significant experience performing sober.  Past special guests have included Matt the Electrician, Chris Gates, Nakia, Emily Wolfe, and Amy Cook, each with their own stories, music, and experiences to share.  What better note to end on than a living example of accomplished musicians.

Keep up with the latest on the MusiCares® Sober Jam Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MusiCaresSoberJamAustin/

 

Artist Spotlight: Ray Prim

If you haven’t yet heard Ray Prim, it’s long past time. He’s an exceptional vocalist and songwriter and we’re proud to be producing his album release concert on Friday, Sept. 15th at The North Door here in Austin.

“I don't really have a traditional long bio. I've never been a fan of them,” says Ray. “Here's what I have in that department”:

Imagine Ben Harper and Ray Lamontagne heading over to Abbey Road in a Cadillac convertible to pick up John Lennon and Paul McCartney so they can catch the tail end of the Reverend Al Green's sermon....Ray Prim is a Singer-Soulwriter based in Austin, Texas. Mr. Prim is also a 2016 Black Fret grant recipient. His music takes you back to the days when songs were inspiring, meaningful, and thought-provoking. His tunes are melody-based short stories that anyone can relate to and identify with. It only takes one of his many songs to be instantly hooked. Five words sums it up: Ear Candy for the Soul.

We caught up with Ray last week (he’s sitting still for once and going stir-crazy after recent shoulder surgery) and got his insights on a few key topics:

Q: Suppose someone is hearing about you for the first time. What's the first thing you'd want them to know or notice about you?

A: If you come in with an open mind, you'll leave with a full heart.

 

Q: There are a bazillion musicians and bands in the world. What's different about you and your band?

A: We are not reinventing the wheel. We're just making it roll with a little soul.

 

Q: You're based here in Austin, Texas. What are your favorite and least favorite things about life and work in the Live Music Capital of the World?

A: Favorite thing is the diversity in music. Least favorite is low number of actual listening rooms here.

 

Q: Last year, you received a grant from Black Fret, Austin's music patronage nonprofit. How did that grant play into the making of this album?

A: That grant provided ALL the funding for making the album and also contributed to getting us a publicist. Wouldn't be an album without Black Fret’s involvement.

 

[Psst … here’s a private link to a track from the album. Dig that strings intro before they bring the funk!]

 

Q: What are you most excited about for the future?

A: Depends on how far I'm looking. Right now I'm excited about being able to play guitar again and releasing this album into the world. We are real proud of it and hope the public feels as strong about it as we do. You just never know. Fingers crossed.

 

Ray Prim’s album release concert is set for Friday, September. 15th at The North Door, with fellow Black Fret grant recipient Suzanna Choffel opening the show. VIP tickets sold out in 48 hours. Advance pre-sale tickets which include an autographed copy of the album are still available, and we recommend you grab ‘em now: Ray Prim CD Release with Special Guest Suzanna Choffel


 

Black Fret and The Black Ball Gala

Black Fret is revolutionizing the music industry. The Member-based charity is centered around the principle that "local music, like the symphony and the opera, is worthy of community's support." In two short years, the organization has dolled out over $280,000 in grant funds to some of Austin's most promising emerging artists.  

Black Fret Founders Colin Kendrick & Matt Ott

Black Fret Founders Colin Kendrick & Matt Ott

I am proud to say I was there at the beginning when we were hired to manage Black Fret's Inaugural Launch Party. At the time, Black Fret had signed up their first 100 Members, which funded the first year of operations and a $100k grant fund. Since the Members nominate their favorite local artists, our job was to produce intimate & unique private events for each of the 20 Nominees to showcase their talents. We have photos from a number of these events posted in our Portfolio.

The Black Ball Gala is the culminating year-end event whereby Black Fret awards their grants interspersed with performances from the current year nominees in an Awards Show format.  The evening begins with a Red Carpet Entrance, allowing the Media to capture the Nominees in their best light.  Below are photos from the 2015 Black Ball Gala on Dec 4th at the Paramount Theatre.

Over the course of a 4-hour program, we hosted 15 stellar performances concluding with a special guest appearance from the 73-year old living legend, Ms. Margaret Wright.  Though I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, one undeniable highlight of the evening was a Joe Cocker-esque rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends" led by Nakia and backed by a choir of Black Fret Nominees.  Although you had to be there to get the full effect, this video does it some level of justice.

At the close of year two, Black Fret has grown to include over 250 Members. One can only hope that the organization will continue to evolve and develop, furthering their mission to support local music via patronage and community support.  Please enjoy the performance photos from the Black Ball Gala and contact us if you are interested in attending a Black Fret event.

Beto & the Fairlanes

One of Austin's longest standing musical supergroups, Beto & the Fairlanes recently celebrated their 35th anniversary as a band and simultaneously rolled out their 7th full-length recording, "BEST O BETO."  To honor their accomplishment and ramp up for the album release, their their label orchestrated "35 DAZE of BETO," a PR campaign featuring a 35 consecutive day marathon of performances in and around Austin.

1980 Austin City Limits episode featuring Beto & The Fairlanes

1980 Austin City Limits episode featuring Beto & The Fairlanes

I took a particular interest in this project after hearing the band's manager, label owner and trombonist, Mike Mordecai describe some of the rich stories and novel tales that only a group with such longevity could experience.  The 40+ members of Beto & the Fairlanes, spanning up to three generations of musicians, collectively tell a first-hand account of the history of the Live Music Capitol since it's prime in the late 70's.

To demonstrate the significance of their impact, we hosted a private party at the Gibson Guitar showroom for media and key supporters of the band throughout their career.  The event Emcee, Terry Lickona, screened a nostalgic viewing of the band's 1980 national television debut on Austin City Limits.  We were amazed to hear personal Beto stories from some of the most influential people in the music industry.

35 Years of Beto & the Fairlanes Memorabilia

35 Years of Beto & the Fairlanes Memorabilia

Screening of the 1980 Austin City Limits episode featuring Beto & The Fairlanes

Screening of the 1980 Austin City Limits episode featuring Beto & The Fairlanes

Emcee Terry Lickona (producer of Austin City Limits) and Robert "Beto" Skiles

Emcee Terry Lickona (producer of Austin City Limits) and Robert "Beto" Skiles

Drummer Steve Summer, with Beto's hornline featuring John Mills, Greg Williams, and Rich Haering.

Drummer Steve Summer, with Beto's hornline featuring John Mills, Greg Williams, and Rich Haering.

Other highlighted appearances from "35 DAZE OF BETO" include opening for Bela Fleck and Robert Marcus at One World Theater, an educational workshop at McCallum Highschool for the Grammy® Texas Chapter, a live on-air interview and performance with NPR's Larry Monroe on his 70th birthday, and Austin's Mayor, Lee Leffingwell declaring September 28th "Beto Day" during their performance at City Hall Plaza.

"35 DAZE of BETO" concluded with a grand Full Moon Finale performance at Threadgill's World Headquarters followed by a half-mile conga line through downtown Austin to the Willie Nelson statue.  It was an epic ending to an epic celebration.  BEST O BETO is now available in stores and online through Fable Records.