Thursday, April 6, 2017

Daphne WIllis to Teach a Songwriting Workshop at SHAMc

Photo by Holly Apperson
Although she headed to New York City right after SongFest, Daphne Willis will be here again soon, but this time as SHAMc’s second artist in residence. She is scheduled to teach a workshop on April 22, and perform that evening.

For workshop ticket information you can call 727-725-4018. Tickets for her show will be available soon.

“SongFest is one of my favorite festivals to play," she says. "The volunteers make it really wonderful and easy. And Todd and Kiaralinda have a great lineup of musicians every year.” 

(Wondering why she's coming back so soon?) 

“I’m working to add several songs to my current record project,” she says. “I'm coming down hoping for ideas to bring back to Nashville for a recording session. I’m prepping for a new release and will use the time in Safety Harbor to write as much as I can.”  

But she’ll take a break from her own writing to help you! If you’re a musician and would like to learn from one of the best in the music business, don’t miss this opportunity. Everyone in our SHAMc Collective knows and loves Daphne but you may not know of her huge successes. Her music bio is inspiring:

Daphne released her first independent EP Matter of Time in September 2007; in a twist of fate, Vanguard Records head Kevin Welk heard a track on an American Airlines flight. This led to a record deal in 2008 and the release of her second EP, Exhibit A.
To record her first full-length album, Daphne headed to the hills of Tennessee. She released What to Say in 2010, which was co-produced by Tim Lauer and Grammy winner Gary Paczosa. Album number two, Because I Can, came out in 2011 and reached the number two spot on iTunes’ Top 40 Singer/Songwriter Chart.

2014’s Live to Try features co-writes with Hunter Davis, Chris Faulk, Angela Lauer, John Oates (of Hall & Oates), Keri Barnes and Tim Lauer, while 2015’s Get It EP kicks off with the track “Done With Bein’ Done,” which Daphne co-wrote with Grammy winner Meghan Trainor.
 2016 was a banner year for Willis. She has released two singles “Spider in the Roses,” a collaboration with frequent tour mate Sonia Leigh, and “The Struggle is Real,” which advocates mental health awareness, and turned in main stage performances at both LA Pride and Nashville Pride. Daphne, who currently calls Nashville home, has been featured in or at,, American Songwriter, The Pride LA and The East Nashvillian. She is currently putting the finishing touches on Come Together, an acoustic EP that re-imagines five classic tracks by The Beatles.

The two-hour workshop will be held on Saturday, April 22nd from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at SHAMc. The workshop is limited to about 20 people because Daphne wants to have enough time to focus on individuals and their projects. Workshop participants will be given free admission to her concert that evening too. (You can still buy tickets to the concert without attending the workshop. Check in the next week or so to purchase.)

The workshop is a result of her recent successful Pledge Music campaign. “We will start off and working for about an hour. I'll be going around to each paired group offering feedback,” she says. “Even if you don't play an instrument you will learn a lot about structure, so singers, songwriters, musicians are all encouraged to participate.”
If you have a current project and/or an instrument, please bring them.

Photo by Holly Apperson
Who knows, maybe one day your bio will credit Daphne as your inspiration . . .

Saturday, April 1, 2017

SongFest Interview with Erin McGraine and Jeff Freling of Victor and Penny

Jeff Freling and Erin McGraine of Victor and Penny sat with me for a quick interview before heading to the stage this afternoon.
Me: How did you become part of our SongFest Family this year?

Erin: Our friends know Todd and Kiaralinda and we had talked about coming. They thought we’d get what Todd and Kiaralinda are doing. It finally worked out this past November for the SHAMc Grand Opening and we were asked to come back for SongFest. It’s what I call converging circles. I think at some point people find each other. We are thrilled to be here.

Me: So what do you think? Are you enjoying yourselves?

Erin: If only the weather were better. (She laughs) We just arrived from winter—Kansas City, Missouri.

There’s a lot going on. The last year has been momentous. We released Electricity last year and signed with Middle Class Records. We signed on with a booking agent through Heart Roots Music. She’s been booking us feverishly from this year and into the next. We are writing new tunes. This past record is the first with mostly original material.

Me: What are you excited about as far as the new album is concerned?

Erin:  We are exploring different sounds and song styles and we’re really enjoying that. We’re pushing that.

Jeff: Our album Electricity – for a first Nashville album is doing well. We are excited to see how that experience will play into that next record.

Erin: We are hoping to take some of the things we learned in Nashville. We want to bring that back to Kansas City.

Me: Erin, I remember when we met at the SHAMc Grand Opening. You had shared some of your poetry.

Erin: I had my first book of poetry published last year. It is a time of real exploration and growth right now.

(Her poetry book is titled Overtone)

It’s retrospective—it’s a nice overlap into what we have been doing, which is mostly me on the lyrics and Jeff on the music.  

Jeff: We have this live energy. We aren’t a studio band. We want these songs to have energy to them. That comes from playing live. It is like building a Frankenstein monster.

Erin: The songs have to leave your house at some point. It feels risky. We hope they survive. You have to raise them up and let the lightning strike.

Jeff: You learn a lot about the song by playing it to an audience.

Erin: We get our responses from our audience. It is exciting to be in the generative part of the process. Right now with Electricity we are in the promotion part of it. We are introducing people to that music and we’re also at step one for the next album. We are continuously in the cycle. Not every song makes it. It might have to go back in the hopper. We have a tune that wasn’t played for two years but it wasn’t ready. We finally knew how to finish it and it was done in time for Electricity.

Me: So what else is going on? Sounds like things have been pretty exciting.

Jeff: Well, we’re getting married in six weeks.

Me: Wow! That’s great. Just curious. How long have you known each other?

Erin: Our rock band played together in the early ‘90s but we didn’t date at that time. We weren’t even close friends. He went to Chicago for 17 years and I stayed in Kansas City and became an actor. We finally reconnected in Chicago and started this project in 2010.  

Me: What’s happening after SongFest?

Erin: We’re heading right to another festival in Reno—a ukulele festival. We’re headlining on Saturday night and after that, we’ll teach for a couple days.  
Me: It sounds like things are great. I love seeing people doing what they love.

Erin: There is some unexplainable magic in the creative process.

SongFest Interview with Jake Allen of the Accidentals

The Accidentals are visiting SongFest all the way from Michigan and we're thrilled to have them! While I didn't get to talk to original members Savannah Buist and Katie Larson, I did have the pleasure of speaking with Jake Allen, their newest member.

We were sitting in the Word Wagon at the fourth annual Safety Harbor Songfest and the band was getting ready to perform on the main stage, but Jake took a few minutes to chat.

When Savannah and Katie were still new to it all, they’d ask Jake for help. “They were just finishing high school. I knew they were going to do really well.” He laughed. “They were my fans.

“And then Amber approached me and asked if I’d like to be a part of the band.”

“It’s been crazy working with people who work this hard,” he told me. "Sav and Katie will be on their computers. Amber will be handling finances and promoting, connecting with people. The fun for me is jumping into this and being with like-minded people. I enjoy the hard work"

Their next CD will be out in August and Jake says they’ll be busy touring through May. “Then it goes into festival season.” 

Jake has a new self-released album coming out this year too. “I’ll be touring for that along with my full band,” he said.

Note: As soon as they played a couple songs I received a text from Mike Long, a friend here at the festival. “Hauntingly beautiful! Love the melodic infusion of strings and voices.”

 Learn more about Jake Allen and the Accidentals Here: