NC Musician

Headshot of Rissi Palmer
Chris Charles

Independent country music recording artist Rissi Palmer is not surprised by the feedback she has received about her new Apple Music radio show “Color Me Country Radio,” which explores Black, Latinx and Indigenous voices in country music. She has heard everything from, “Is this a limited series? You’re going to run out of people to talk to!” to “Why does everything have to be about race?” 

the home screen of a video game, set at a concert venue parking lot
Super Body Games RPG

Eiffel 65 is at the Cat’s Cradle playing their 1998 hit single “Blue” on repeat. Weeks pass. Only you can bring light to the dark musical landscape. Even for those who are not gamers or daily lurkers in downtown Carrboro, Super Body Games RPG is a dangerously fun way to remember the satisfaction of earning music. 

Morgan in a yellow dress lying calmly on her side on a wooden bench.
Courtesy of Nikki Morgan

Like SZA’s groundbreaking R&B album "Ctrl" (2017), Nikki Morgan’s "30 Something" puts to bed the gendered expectations of adulthood. On her first full-length album, the Wilkes County artist weaves her lilting music together with intimate vignettes of women reflecting on their age.

Musician Javier Montano sitting on a wooden bench in a white shirt, black pants and black cowboy hat
Davinci Raleigh

Hurricane Dorian swept away Javier Montano’s dream of winning the nationally televised talent competition “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.” After the storm cancelled his flight to California, Montano had to recalibrate his expectations. 

Courtesy Cat's Cradle

The pandemic has devastated the arts industry in North Carolina including musicians, venues and the people they employ. A new recording released Thursday aims to lend a hand to one of the legendary venues in this state, the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.

Headshot of Knapp.
Nora Knapp

Nora Knapp turns her dreams into song lyrics. Three-year-old voice memos on her phone become foundations for melodies and song titles. These chance inspirations are the building blocks of Knapp’s new album “Contradox.” 

Artist Shana Tucker looks out her apartment window.
Credit Ben McKeown / For WUNC

 

Red-tipped hair swept to the side, Shana Tucker bites her lower lip before looking back at the camera. 

“I learned today that someone that I grew up with is fighting for her life as a result of COVID-19,” she says through tears. “That's the first time that it sat me down and took my breath away.”

The Doug Prescott Band started in 1996 as a musical project between friends. Now, its an evolving group of up to eight people who create Americana folk tunes. Frontman Doug Prescott got started in music when he picked up a trumpet in the fourth grade. Songwriting came naturally to him, and it has been a lifelong passion. 

The Come Up Show, Ebru Yildiz and Hans Watson

North Carolina musicians made waves on the national stage in 2019. Close to a dozen artists from the state, including Rhiannon Giddens, DaBaby and J.Cole, are up for Grammy Awards in 2020, and new talent keeps popping up.

Producer Laura Pellicer in a field in Harnett County
Courtesy Sandra Davidson

 

 

In 2019, The State of Things met musical visionaries, people fighting to save endangered cultures, and folks who supported their neighbors through another devastating hurricane. The individuals and stories at the heart of those conversations stuck with State of Things producer Laura Pellicer throughout the year.

Courtesy Em & Ty

Emma and Tyler Millard have their own separate, busy musical careers, but when they perform and write together, they deliver a sound that is moody and intimate. The couple pen tales that conjure the ghosts of the past and dig into feelings of nostalgia, often infused with a healthy dose of humor.

Headshot of Rhiannon Giddens
photo by Ebru Yildiz

Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens is a North Carolina gem. Though she splits her time between the U.S and Ireland, her commitment to the music, culture, and stories of the South is still the driving force behind her work.

Mipso

The North Carolina-based band Mipso is always on the move. The group is just finishing up a 20-stop summer tour of the U.S. and Canada, and this fall the group will venture back out to a slew of European countries including France, Germany, Austria and Sweden.

Courtesy Merge Records

As a kid, Laura Ballance was most comfortable slipping into the background. Her introverted nature gave her plenty of space to think and create on her own. As a teenager, she found punk through a music video of Adam and the Ants, and the “otherness” they expressed spoke directly to her.

a black-and-white picture of Jon Shain with his guitar and FJ Ventre with his bass
Stephen Houseworth

Durham-based guitar player Jon Shain and bassist FJ Ventre have known each other since high school. They have played music together on and off for more than three decades, and Ventre has played on or produced all of Shain’s CDs.

Courtesy of Simon Pauly

As a youngster growing up in Carthage, North Carolina, Lucas Meachem had his sights set on a career in landscaping. As a teen, he had his own lawn mower, weed wacker and a green thumb. Plus, his family’s 10 acre property gave him plenty of opportunities to hone his skills. Then he discovered karaoke. Specifically, what Meachem found was the immediate gratification of an audience. 

Portrait of Max Roach, Three Deuces, New York, N.Y., ca. Oct. 1947.
William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress

North Carolina-born jazz musician Max Roach carved out a creative legacy in music that spanned genres. Roach grew up in New York City and during the 1940s he drummed alongside artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. 

His recordings were innovative and during the civil rights movement, even political. To honor Roach, Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center is hosting a restaging of Roach’s “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite” recording.

Michelle Belanger playing guitar on stage.
Courtesy of Michelle Belanger

Mystery Hillbillies are a band of misfits. The band is frontwoman Michelle Belanger and a rotating cast of “sidemen.” The group plays a wide range of music, including country, western swing and blues from the early 1940s to today.

Greensboro's Chuck Mountain brings blues rock on the road this spring.
Courtesy Chuck Mountain

Chuck Mountain has not been on the Greensboro music scene long – the band just came to fruition in July – but they have already been on tour and laid down a number of original tracks. The band’s guitarist Beau James says their trip to Nashville, which included camping on the North Carolina state line, expedited the team bonding and lit a creative spark for the band. 

Clay Enos / Warner Bros Pictures

Films that draw viewers into the gritty highs and lows of the music world are having a big cinematic moment. There is the new head-banging Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” yet another reincarnation of “A Star is Born,” featuring pop icon Lady Gaga, and the forthcoming “Rocketman” that takes on the rise of Elton John.

Beloved North Carolinian musical legend Nina Simone graces the cover of Oxford American's Southern Music Issue.
Amanda Magnus

The latest issue of the Oxford American magazine is all about North Carolina’s musical past and present, from Doc Watson to Rapsody. The issue features essays on musicians from the Tar Heel State from writers across the South. It also features a companion CD full of samples of the state’s iconic music. 

photo of leeda 'lyric' jones playing guitar onstage
Courtesy of Leeda 'Lyric' Jones

Leeda “Lyric” Jones honed her skills as a writer, singer and performer busking on the streets of downtown Asheville. At first hesitant to play for strangers, she quickly realized her original lyrics and soulful style helped her forge connections with those who needed it the most.

photo of sarah shook and her band
John Gessner / Bloodshot Records

Chapel Hill-artist Sarah Shook did not follow an obvious path to country music. She grew up in a conservative Christian household, listened primarily to religious music and only discovered country greats like Wanda Jackson and Buck Owens in her 20s. She was also painfully shy as a kid, so when she first took the stage in early adulthood, it was a shock to her own mother.

photo of elayna jean playing guitar and signing at a microphone
John Guerin

Many of the songs Cosmic Punk performs are rooted in angsty, teenage feelings. Elayna Jean, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, says that is because she wrote a lot of those songs while she was still in high school.

The Collection

The Collection started out as a Greensboro-based group with 15 members rotating in as a part of the group’s line up. The collective has now become more of a band with seven concrete members. But the group still sticks to its indie folk roots in it’s upcoming album “Listen to the River.”

singer and songwriter BJ Barham embarks on a tour to promote his solo-recording "Rockingham."
Courtesy of All Eyes Media / http://alleyesmedia.com/clients/bj-barham/

Fans of Raleigh-based American Aquarium are in for a treat as lead singer and songwriter BJ Barham embarks on a tour to promote his solo-recording "Rockingham."

John Paul White
Allister Ann / Sacks and Co.

John Paul White was one half of the four-time Grammy winning duo The Civil Wars.  Since finishing with that band, he has founded a record label, built a studio and collaborated with artists including Jason Isbell, Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris. 

When he paused long enough to write some songs, his new solo recording Beulah was born.

Echo Courts

Apr 10, 2015
Echo Courts plays in Winston-Salem at Phuzz Phest, April 17-19.
Echo Courts

Echo Courts is a five-member surf-rock band out of Greensboro, North Carolina. 

Their second EP, "Ice Cream Social," will have you reaching for your beach towel. But their melancholy lyrics are a contrast to their dreamy, summery sound. The band is playing at Phuzz Phest, a three-day music festival in Winston-Salem next weekend that features more than 60 national and local acts.

N.C. musician Ari Picker tries his hand at orchestral composition.
Duke Performances

Ari Picker is best known as the front man for the acclaimed indie rock band Lost in the Trees, but the North Carolina native is now entering orchestral composition.

Inspired by the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, specifically Book of Hours, Picker has assembled a group of local musicians to debut his piece titled Lion and The Lamb

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