Blake Rosso PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTHEW HOCHMAN

Songwriter Showcase returns



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Coda will host its second Songwriter Showcase event at the Village Green on Friday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m.

Host Bowen Swersey will introduce five artists who will play their original compositions and talk about their inspiration and songwriting process.

Swersey is the former front man of The Beatroots, a Mount Desert Island-based band that played all over the East in the ‘90s and produced its own summer music festival in 1999. The Beatroots recorded two albums of original material, “Dig the Beat” (1996) and “Secret Door” (1998), and were invited by Phish to play at The Great Went.

“The Beatroots was a terrific project, but I really love folk and acoustic performances,” said Swersey. Now he is enjoying getting back to his roots, playing folkier material from his pre-Beatroot days, as well as newer pieces.

Also appearing is Nikolai Fox, a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist heavily influenced by traditional acoustic music. Fox said that his appreciation for the genre was focused when he was introduced to old-time and bluegrass music by friends he met at College of the Atlantic.

In 2002, Fox returned to Philadelphia to study painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, from which, he said, he was distracted by a Thursday night old-time, country and bluegrass session where he played claw hammer banjo.

Between 2000 and 2016, Fox’s primary musical endeavor was learning old-time fiddle and guitar. He said he was greatly influenced by the community of revivalist musicians in New England, and he moved to Portland in 2003, where he started several local sessions and performed in traditional bands.

In 2010, Fox released his first album, “Songs & Interludes by Nikolai Fox.” In 2016, Fox moved back to Bar Harbor, where he has focused on his solo guitar playing and songwriting, which is evident in his most recently available recordings, made this winter and presented as “Bar Harbor Demo” featuring the single “Straighth.”

Blake Rosso will play his own compositions in a solo set. Of his own music, he wrote, “I grew up in a house where music was played behind closed doors by my father. By the time I picked up a guitar in college, I thought it was completely normal to shut yourself away from the world, when it was time to sing or write. It took a long fall season, right after college, of me living in a tent, then a barn when the weather turned cold, at Lamoine State Park, for me to truly find my voice. The squirrels in the barn never closed any doors, so I could shout and experiment vocally without the fear of disturbing anyone.

“These days, it’s still a struggle for me to create new music unless I am completely alone, but once it is finished, I enjoy sharing it with others. I have been fortunate enough to play with many great musicians during my 12 years on MDI, and have an amazing band right now who I love dearly, but I am excited to take part in this songwriter showcase because that’s where it all begins … one person, alone with an instrument, trying their best to be honest about what it means to be a human in this world.”

Yosarian Bisbee will play rare acoustic versions of Rio Bisbee songs. Having spurned a plastic guitar with molded frets as a child, he said, Bisbee was declared unmusical. Undeterred by labeling, he went on to study music on proper instruments: drums, horns and strings, focusing on bass guitar. Early influences include Jan and Dean, The Kinks, Spirit and Yes for rock, and Janis Ian, Eric Anderson, Phil Ochs, Pat Sky and Tom Paxton for folk, plus all the usual background noise from the hit parade to show tunes to classical symphonies.

In 1980, Bisbee started the Rio Bisbee Band by the banks of the mighty “Bisbee river” in Camden. Originally a contra dance orchestra, Rio Bisbee Band progressed to rock ‘n’ roll. After years of playing a variety of arrangements for various causes and groups up state, down state and out-of-state, Rio Bisbee Band paused, said Bisbee. Bisbee found a cheap but responsive acoustic guitar to keep Rio Bisbee music alive and to teach new Bisbees the tunes.

Cupid’s Quiver consists of two Maine boys, Joey Dupuis and Carl Ferm. Dupuis and Ferm started a musically collaborative relationship early on in their college careers. After playing for almost eight years together, the roommates decided to finally start a band, Cupid’s Quiver, a group that specializes in love songs yet can’t turn down an opportunity for creating turbojams, according to the band.

Brittany Parker is an MDI-based theater and music maker. After working for several years in New York City as an actress and educator, she moved to the island four years ago to help run the Barn Arts Collective, a Bass Harbor-based arts organization. Parker is the composer for many of the Barn Arts original theater productions for family audiences. She also sings in the Blake Rosso Band and is forming a new band for family audiences called “Bee Parks and the Hornets.”

When writing a song, Parker said she usually starts with a prompt or a story. At other times, melodies find their way into her brain by surprise — her phone is filled with voice recordings of these short tunes. Her strongest musical influences are the Motown groups that she listened to as a kid, having grown up watching her father play drums at a rock n’ roll club that featured acts from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Playing guitar, ukulele and sometimes percussion, she enjoys singing jazz, rock, folk, blues and the occasional show tune.

There is a $5 cover charge for the 7 p.m. performance. Doors open at 4 p.m.

 

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