You probably don’t associate Belk with music; I know for me, it was always the place Grandma and I went to look for occasional seasonal sales and new Easter dresses. However, this southern department store chain is host to the Southern Musician Showcase, a regional music competition that invites artists throughout the southeast to submit their music for consideration. Out of 2000 submissions, we were one of the lucky 33 to be invited for auditions as semifinalists. What an absolute surprise and honor.
In 24 hours, we rented a van, loaded our gear and drove 7 hours to Atlanta, Georgia where we performed three of our tunes for a panel of judges (among them Mr. Woody Platt of one of our favorites, The Steep Canyon Rangers!). We also had some fun making this simple home video recording of a brand new tune called “Pearl” for CXCW (the stay-at-home version of some popular music festival in that cool city in Texas made especially for us folks too poor to make it to that other festival).
In a week or so, we’ll find out the results of our audition. We’re feeling strong and invite you to join us in crossing all of your appendages as we hope to be among the select finalists who get to play The Fillmore at the end of the month!
HAPPY MARCH! Let the madness begin…. and Winter, we aren’t sad to see you go.
One of my favorite shows happened last summer when we were touring through West Virginia. We had booked a show at The Purple Fiddle on a Sunday night and figured there might be a handful of people willing to pay the $10 cover to see us if we were lucky. We were going to open for a band that had just played there less than two weeks prior, and we had never played in West Virginia, so packing the place out seemed a bit far fetched. Glad to say I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think every man, woman and child in that small mining town came out that night to dance, sing along and support their beloved Black Lillies, and we were just blown away. Every one in that band was not only extremely talented but some of the nicest, most down to earth folks we’d met on the whole tour. I’m so excited for all of the big successes they’ve achieved. Check out their newest video… If you’re not dancing by the end, something’s wrong.
2013 has been a wonderful year for us and our little string band. This is largely in-part to you and your support. Without you, we are just a group of friends making music in my living room. You bring the meaning into our work. Thank you for coming out to hear us… for telling your friends and family about our music… for buying cds… for donating to our Kickstarter and making it possible for us to afford producing our first ever studio album.
In appreciation of you and this tremendous year, we’d like to share our newest tune, recorded live in an empty house by my dear friend Catherine Chao. It was inspired when we were on the road and came across the Spoon Lady, busking on the bustling streets of Asheville. Omar had told me that I needed to play the banjo… so I took his advice, and with a few lessons from a very patient and forgiving teacher, this song was born. Click below and enjoy!
Steph Stewart & the Boyfriends, Nobody’s Darlin’ from Steph Stewart on Vimeo.
We have exciting plans in the works for 2014. Please keep in-touch and stay tuned to find out all the exciting developments.
Merriest Holidays and Everything Else!
Mario, Nick, Omar & Steph
Hello, world. Please allow me to introduce you to Her Ladyship, the newest member of our little string band. Isn’t she just the prettiest little thing? To be almost 100 years old, she sure looks good for her age and boys, she can sing! Many songs are sure to come. Already in the works. Looking forward to hibernating with her this winter.
Next Thurs. November 7, we’ll be back in the triangle playing The Casbah in Durham. You don’t want to miss this show. All the boys will be there, and we get to open the stage for one of my favorite new groups, The Stray Birds. Hailing from Lancaster, PA but calling the road home these days, I couldn’t agree more with this gal: ”They’re really my favorite find for the year. I absolutely LOVE their sound. Their CD is in my car stereo all the time!” – Cheryl Prashker, President of Regional Folk Alliance. 10 bux in advance.
For all you Danbury folks, we’ll be seeing y’all again real soon back at the Green Heron Club next Saturday, Nov. 9. If all goes as planned, I’ll be rocking out with a new banjer. Should be fun for sure.
Admittedly, I know nothing of prison life. I’ve watched Orange is the New Black… ok, I loved watching this show. But, how close this Netflix drama comes to the real thing is questionable at best. I do know about working the land. I know how valuable it feels and the sense of self-worth and independence that fills you up inside when you harvest your first crop, from tilling soil to seed to seedling to fruit. Hours spent outside, in the elements, telling the time not by your watch or cell phone but by the sun or the shadows cast around you. I waited for rain not because of a forecast but because I knew the clouds and the smell the leaves released before the first drops. I farmed for almost three years before becoming a gigging musician or Montessorian, and I cherish the dirt under my nails and calluses. These things, like those memories, never wash away. Like a scab mending skin, the land heals. In essence, this is what the Benevolence Farm does— gives women out of prison a chance to work the earth, grow food sustainably and rediscover a sense of purpose in it all.
This Thursday, we have the honor of playing music for the fine folks at the Benevolence Farm‘s Second Chance Dine & Dance event at the beautiful Haw River Ballroom. If you believe in second chances, specifically for women transitioning to life after prison, support this organization. 25 bucks is nothing for all the amazing food and entertainment that’s going to be there. 25 bucks is all it takes to help give someone a second chance. Hope to see y’all there. Get your ticket HERE.
After nearly a year of not writing,I can’t tell you how good it felt to sit down yesterday in the empty quiet of my apartment with my banjo and find the song I’ve been wanting to write ever since I left Asheville.
You should go sometime and look for the “Spoon Lady.” She’s incredible.
It’s been a little while. Hope you’re well. We’ve been hitting the road pretty hard, so the past week of being home has been really nice. It’s always a bit funny coming back home. I feel a deep need to get all the house work going in high gear, especially since moving to a new place a month ago… So, home’s been busy too. But in a great way! New paint, shelves, organizing our life out of these boxes. It feels good!
Before we head out again to play a set of shows on the coast and up in the mountains, we’ve got a really exciting one planned for all you folks in the Triangle. Hope you can make it out to the Southland Ballroom next Friday, July 26. We’re opening for the Raleigh/Durham-based acoustic Americana group Gravy Boys. These fellas were just selected to participate in the International Bluegrass Music Association conference and showcase which features dozens of international Bluegrass artists such as The Steep Canyon Rangers, Jerry Douglass, Steve Martin, Bela Fleck, Allison Krauss, The Punch Brothers and Tony Rice (to name a few!). You don’t want to miss this one. Tickets are just 7 bux a pop!
If you haven’t gotten a copy of our new release yet, we’ve got ‘em all for sale online now too. You can visit the online store HERE.
Hope we’ll see you soon!
Steph & the Boys
I’d been stalking UPS for a couple days, and knowing my anticipated delivery was in Chapel Hill, I was on high alert all day Thursday for the big brown truck that would deliver the thousand copies of our debut album. 3pm. They’re here! I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of the final product revealed to me when I split the top open on one of the seven cardboard boxes sitting on my doorstep last Thursday.
The only problem is there just isn’t enough space to properly thank all the people that I’d like to acknowledge for years of inspiration and support. For believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. For giving yourself, your time and your talents so that this album would be the best we could make it. You are: My loving husband and truly better half Steven Horton, my parents Kathi & Kevin Stewart (they’re probably the only ones who really know how far I’ve come), Patricia Ferguson & Thomas Ferguson (you always told me to do what makes me happy), JoAnne & Butch Horton, all my brothers: Tommy, Anthony and Jason, Montessori Day School, Molly Mullin (most amazing photographer… making me look good since 2011… beyond generous), Annalee Harkins (truly inspirational creativity in all you do!), all my sweet, sweet, talented boyfriends: Nick (I don’t think we’d have ever gotten here without you. One of the best things to happen to this band in so many ways and a true honor to call my friend), Omar (infinite possibilities & love), Mario (so good I can’t tell when I stop and you begin! seriously, those harmonies are haunting & fish oil!), Emily Thewliss (strength & love), Davis Stillson, Don Raleigh and Tim Stambaugh, Kickstarter backers!, Emily Frantz (your music business school 101), Vimala Rajendran (nourishment!)…. all my old open mic night haunts (Drips (rip), The Cave, Skylight(rip)/Nightlight Exchange and those friends who came to support me there… anyone that has ever given us a place to play our music, sleep or fed us… or helped us rent a van… you have made this possible:
Photo/design: Annalee Harkins, 2013
I like being on the road, watching the white dashes fly and fade as our cozy rental van edges closer to the next adventure. 800 miles brought us to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA where we met new friends, proud southern mansions slowly sinking under Spanish moss and a tropical storm disguised as a torrential downpour, carrying with it the lesson that rain is a blessing, not a curse.
We pulled into the field at Awendaw Green anticipating 300+ folks and instead played to a crowd less than one-sixth of that. Five songs in, and we got the word that lightning from a tropical storm passing through wanted to pull the plug on the evening… this wasn’t the packed out money maker we had set our hearts on. This was the intimate, unplugged show, played with the backbeat of rain drops to a listening crowd that mattered more than the 250 who let the rain hold them hostage.
In the morning the rain followed us as we unloaded the van into our new home for the night at Notso Hostel in the “Holy City” of Charleston. Guests from all corners of the globe filled the wide, welcoming front porch of the old home. We played on, as the night before, thanking the rain for inviting these lovely folks to our front porch show, who most likely would have otherwise spent their evening on the town.
The rain bid us farewell eventually, and by Friday Savannah was greeting us with blue skies and steaming streets. Our theme continued with another intimate listening room space, a gem of a stage called the Sentient Bean.
5am on Saturday. I’m home. The dog rushes to greet me at the door. I curl up in the bed, happy to be home and happy to have spent some time singing in the rain.
Grateful for my husband for taking care of things that make it possible for me to enjoy this dream. For Vikki at the Notso Hostel. For three incredibly talented friends who want to play music with me. For new friends and old friends and those we haven’t yet met. These are the things that are making me smile when my eyes finally meet that sweet, sweet sleep.