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Singer, guitarist, drummer, jammer, overall musical being, Neeko is paving her own path in Naarm/Melbourne. Neeko’s musical journey first began at about the age of 8 when she started singing along in her room to Christina Aguilera CD’s. She would meticulously learn all of the melodies and harmonies on her own accord. Most of Neeko’s childhood, carrying into her teens, was spent singing in her room. It wasn’t until the age of 19 that she picked up the guitar and quickly things began to change. Neeko started writing songs and performing at open mic nights and it wouldn’t be long until she started playing her own solo gigs. For Neeko, songwriting is a cathartic outlet. She uses songs as a tool for processing and working through her own deep emotions to help her come to a place of equilibrium. Neeko’s music takes you on a soul searching journey as she explores what it is to live the human experience through her raw vocals, captivating lyrics and lush harmonies. Very much inspired by the folk sounds of the 60’s and the classic pop era of the late 90’s, Neeko is creating a fresh alternative sound.
No stranger to the Melbourne music scene, Neeko has played countless shows around the country and has collaborated with many artists over the years. She has shared a bill with the likes of Danika Smith, Allysha Joy, T Honey (aka Maple Glider) and even the Grammy Nominee Eric Roberson. She has been a part of a number of bands and has been a backing vocalist for an array of artists. Neeko is also the drummer and a vocalist of psychedelic rock outfit Tomgirl who released a 7 inch through Northside Records in 2017. They have toured and played festivals around the country including Strawberry Fields and Part in the Paddock and have supported bands such as Mildlife and GODTET. In 2017, Neeko also started a project called BLUME (Boss Ladies Under Musical Elevation)which started off as the house band for a jam session that Neeko used to run at The Toff in Town. This collective was created with the intention to celebrate, encourage and showcase woman playing improvised music. Very soon people started booking BLUME to play their own shows and the collective rapidly expanded including amazing female musicians who continue to be great assets to the Melbourne music scene. Neeko’s love of improvised music expanded all the way out to Alice Springs where she began another jam night at one of the venues there in 2018 that still runs to this day. After many years of collaborative focus, Neeko is astoundingly ready to leave her own stamp on the airwaves.
With a voice that could warm even the coldest of souls, Neeko’s songs penetrate that part of yourself that you didn’t even know needed attention. Laden with homely melodies that float over a bed of rich harmonies that could be likened to that of Moses Sumney crossed with Simon and Garfunkel, Neeko creates a soundscape that will have you toe tapping one moment then crying the next. This is most certainly the case in Neeko’s debut EP set to be released in November this year. This collection of songs intimately shares the linear journey of Neeko’s heart after a break up with a significant love.
Christopher Paul Stelling
‘Driving The Hearse’
Even before 2020 slid historically off the rails, Christopher Paul Stelling confronted an essential exercise in acceptance and gratitude. In December 2019, Stelling started another cross-country sprint from California to Florida, where the songwriter who has long called western North Carolina home was raised. Aside from recording his fifth album, Best of Luck, he had toured much of that year, making relentless laps around North America. He wanted to make it home not only for Christmas but also to see Emma, his 92-year-old grandmother. He didn’t; she passed just days before he arrived. Recorded alone in her modest white ranch house in Daytona Beach, Forgiving It All — Stelling’s wisest, most intimate, and most settled record yet, and his first self-released LP in eight years — feels like a final tribute to her and to everything he and we have lost or gained.
Last year seemed to brim with transformational potential for Stelling. For the better part of a decade, he had been a feverish and itinerant troubadour, spilling guts and blood and sweat in soul-scraping solo sets. He’d lived up the lifestyle, too, hydrating for the stage with booze. But at the end of 2017, he’d gone sober after recognizing that chunks of his life had disappeared. Recorded a year later, Best of Luck — his third album for Anti- and the first he’d cut with a producer, Ben Harper — seemed poised to push him to new audiences, its mix of wistful acoustic ballads and stomp-around-the-room rock somehow both polished and primal. The shows were piling up, so much so that Stelling planned to have barely one day off in all of 2020.
And then, of course, all that was scrapped. The news closed in around him as he toured north along the West Coast. He turned east and got as far as Colorado, then had a panic attack in a Kansas truck stop, wrestling with existential and professional despair as the world wobbled on its axis. Stelling came home and, like many of us, worked to shape a new routine in a world that was instantly alien. So for the first time in years, he spent days on end with his partner, Julia, and their bounding young dog, Ida. He hiked, read, and watched endless television to placate overwhelming anxiety as best he could. Having fulfilled his label contract (and convinced he didn’t want a new one, anyway), Stelling launched a crowdfunding campaign, asking if fans felt compelled to invest in his songs. They said yes — he sold more records in those first 48 hours than he’d ever sold in advance before.
Stelling began at last to unpack a decade into which he had packed so much. What had music taught him that life had not, and vice versa? What did he have to sing about all that he had seen? The spellbinding 10 tracks of Forgiving It All represent the profound distillates of that reflection. Committed to tape in Emma’s home a year after Stelling cut his intended never-ending tour short, these songs are the lessons of a once-wild kid looking at (not quite) 40, expressing acceptance for the struggles and joys of life and singing out his gratitude for still being here. Opener “Die To Know” is a tender ode to innocence, a remembrance of simple joy and sincerity before experience and age dulled our enthusiasms. “Wildfire,” which moves with the ineffable grace of ripples on some idyllic pond, stares down accreted adult fears and begs for the mercy of rebirth.
‘One More (Love Scat)’ [Stripped Version]
Between light and dark, I stand as the living proof that words can heal and that music can save, as long as you let them. That there is a bridge between hope and despair, between melancholy and joy. That there’s always a way out but the only way out is through.
It is one of the great privileges of my life to stand proud on a road paved by so many great female musicians before me : Whitney Houston, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Tracy Chapman, Mavis Staples, Amy Winehouse, Yolanda Adams, Missy Eliott, CeCe Winans, and so many more. I can only hope to do right by them and by my duty to uphold their legacy. Who knows, someday, maybe my words and my songs might rescue someone too ?
Singer/songwriter/instrumentalist, Alisa McCance, is releasing singles from her debut album, Crossing Rivers, produced by country music legend Radney Foster.
Crossing Rivers an Americana/Country album with Bluegrass influences. Alisa co-wrote a number of the songs with Radney and her husband Greg Bieck (known for Hall & Oates, Little Big Town), to name a few. The album features guest vocals by friends Marcus Hummon, Greg Barnhill, Chris Roberts, Joanna Janet and Steven McMorran.
‘Sink Like a Stone’
This is the oldest song on my upcoming record. It was written in 2014 and came from a very sad state of mind. At the time, it felt like I was drowning in my own sorrow from bad life choices. Perhaps “sinking like a Stone”
But now after all these years, it’s more of a reminder to myself that those trials and tribulations are a necessary part of existence. In my case, it was required to achieve the personal growth I was seeking and would soon experience.
Spencer Thomas Smith
‘Blue Like the Sky’
Spencer Thomas Smith is a Tennessee native currently residing in New Haven Connecticut. Spencer songs are soaked in nostalgia and Appalachian rain.
Alberta & the Dead Eyes
If you ask the members of Alberta & The Dead Eyes about their new record, they will all say the same thing: “It’s different, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
The first 5 seconds of YOU SAID SOMETHING might make you think that you bought the wrong record, but what follows is a sonic adventure that could only be created by collaborators that know and trust one another. Fans of The Dead Eyes will recognize much of the creative approach – roots in bluegrass and americana that are familiar yet hard to pin down – but the songs sound fuller and more experimental than much of what has come before. The wordplay, craftsmanship, and cynicism are all still there, just nestled within a package that is more deliberately ambitious.
Young Heavy Souls has been known to push boundaries with their releases, and YOU SAID SOMETHING is certainly no different. This latest offering from Alberta & The Dead Eyes offers a little bit of something for everyone, with tracks that you could play in almost any setting and have at least one person ask, “what song is this?”
‘The Wrong Hand’ (feat. Michaela Anne)
Not long after Kristina Murray moved to Nashville in summer of 2014, she accepted a friend’s offer to start singing at the American Legion Post 82. Tucked away on the fringes of East Nashville, the Legion had not yet become the city’s best destination for hearing traditional country music from a new generation of aspiring artists. From the stage, she watched as the crowds during Honky-Tonk Tuesdays grew over time, from about a dozen listeners to a full dance floor. All the while she nurtured her natural talent for songwriting and performing, collecting and crafting material that would form her second album, Southern Ambrosia.
Resplendent with pedal steel and electric guitar, the project draws on her love of classic country and Southern rock – and both influences get their rightful due on Southern Ambrosia (produced by Nashville musician and producer Michael Rinne). The album title comes from a lyric in “Strong Blood,” nestled between references to the famous peaches of her native Georgia as well as the Allman Brothers’ iconic album, Eat a Peach.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Tommy Goodroad’s Midwestern-tinged country music captures the distinctive solitude of American cities and towns that would be landlocked if not for the Great Lakes. He now lives in Chicago, but split his time between there and Minneapolis to record his debut album with his band The Highway Birds. His songwriting aims to highlight the beautifully unrefined temperament of his home region and the people who reside there. This theme, among many others, is chronicled lyrically in his debut album, Swimming In The Clay, out now.
‘Sure Like Lovin’ You’
It’s an unlikely start to a not-so-typical tale of country stardom: singer/songwriter Raleigh Keegan was born in a jail to a brave, selfless single mother and placed for adoption. “It ended up being the best case scenario – my parents are wonderful. I had an awesome childhood.” Raised outside of Cincinnati with a large extended family (11 aunts and uncles and nearly 50 cousins on just one side), Raleigh was the only member with any sort of musical inclination. “My birth father played guitar – that’s about all I know of where my talents come from.”
At the age of eight, Raleigh was introduced to piano. “My parents found a piano for free up in Michigan, so we drove up to get it. It barely fit in our minivan. It was super out of tune, but I played and played. My brother would get frustrated – it didn’t come as easily to him as it did me.” Though he took lessons that first year, Raleigh soon took to teaching himself. Around age 10, he picked up trombone and after years of practice, became first chair in the state of Ohio for jazz trombone.
As Raleigh’s love and involvement in music grew, so did his love and involvement in sports. “I was involved in everything – basketball, swim, football…” He played football for Georgetown College while earning a degree in Exercise Science. “The way that sports affected me as a person was significant – my tenacity, my willingness to work harder than anyone, the discipline involved – all came in handy in other areas of my life.” Raleigh balanced music and sports for the longest time. Still, his love for music far outweighed his love for sports. “There was a lack of desire to move forward in sports. That desire for music was always there.”
Around the same time, Raleigh’s career path into country began taking shape. “There was a brief time I thought I’d go into ministry. Then I heard Zac Brown Band’s album Uncaged and I was hooked – I listened to it for six months straight. There was something about it that allowed me to escape… That’s when I really fell for country music.” With his need to be great and “I’ll show them” mentality, he got to work learning guitar and writing. “I was a personal trainer at the time. I’d write every day during my lunch break.” His lunch break writes soon progressed to a full-time career in music. Playing gigs every weekend he’d booked himself, Raleigh’s fan base grew – so much so, he made the move to Nashville in November of 2017. “I’d sold my house to pay for my first record – I’d done everything I could from Lexington, Kentucky. It was time to move forward.”
He began writing, landing sessions with Jason Matthews (Luke Bryan, Billy Currington, Trace Adkins), Will Nance (George Strait, Brad Paisley, Joe Nichols) and more. Though he takes inspirational cues from Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, Billy Joel and Tom Petty, Raleigh keeps his sound as organic as possible. “I like a mix of old and new – I like to stay somewhere in the middle. Bringing elements of old and new country together, with a bit of soul.” These elements are best showcased on his latest single, “Lookin’ Like That” and his EP One of These Days, which released in January. “I don’t want to be a surface level writer. With the EP, it’s challenging mainstream country. I want my music to be a bit more authentic. With me, what you see is what you get. It’s not over-produced, it’s not under-produced. I’ve always just done what comes naturally to me. It’s who I am.”
Photo Credits: Mohan Lal Majumder
Compiled by: Christos Doukakis