Four Boulder-area songwriters will play their songs “in the round” at an event later this month, taking a page from the musical culture of Nashville. Roots Music Project — an organization established to help fledgling musicians polish their chops and find gigs — is hosting the concert at its nondescript warehouse venue.
Organizer Brian Keating says he was inspired by similar events he attended while he was a working musician in Nashville, particularly shows at the famed Bluebird Café and at “writers in the round” series along Music Row, a historic district in the Tennessee city.
“We are kind of combining all of those things and adding a new twist to it,” Keating says.
Keating is the bass player and music director for Boulder’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, a Stax and MoTown Records review band. For three years, he was a professional bass player based out of Nashville and commuted to the town from Washington D.C. for several years as well.
He says the basic format involves four musicians, in this case playing their guitars, sitting in a circle and taking turns playing their songs, one after the other. They see it as possibly an ongoing event, but for the inaugural show, Boulder-area musicians Dave Tamkin, Jenny Shawhan, Christopher Morse and Abby Brown will take to the circle. Broadly, they exist in the singer-songwriter style of music.
“What’s unique about it is that, typically, you are used to seeing an artist play four or five songs and then someone goes after them,” he says. “Then another person goes and it’s almost like you forget who the first person was.”
The venue is very unassuming on the outside and doesn’t get much walk-by traffic. Keating says the interior decor is very creative and, he says, people find the space safe and cozy but also a proper venue.
“It’s going to feel like you’re kind of in someone’s living room, with the way things are set up, accented rugs, cozy chairs, coffee tables and the lighting,” he says. “There is also an intentionality of this is a space where we respect listening and respect hearing the artist.”
Keating says the quirky take on seeing multiple performers allows the listener to walk away with a more comprehensive concert experience. He adds that the format also makes for a more unpredictable performance.
“They might have their setlist of four or five songs,” he says. “But then they might hear another artist tell a story and sing a song that wasn’t on their radar. They might say, ‘Oh, I’m actually going to change what I’m going to play next.’ It’s really unique to what’s happening that night.”
He says that the practice puts the performers in the moment and that extends to the audience.
“That’s where the idea of it being like a songwriter’s living room comes in,” he says. “The writers are in this co-creating moment. How are we going to inspire each other tonight? And the audience is also in that and kind of hanging on the edge. ‘What’s going to happen next?’”
Keating adds that the manner in which the musicians sit also has an effect on how the audience experiences the show, because they, too, will be seated in a circular pattern.
“You get different perspectives and different views of the writers and the artists,” he says. “That helps it just feel more intimate. There’s not a stage. The person is not elevated. It’s like you are sitting level with them, and you might see how they are strumming the guitar differently or how they are interacting.”
He says that the show will be recorded and available to watch via virtual reality headsets that are now available. Of course, not everyone has access to the headsets, but organizers see it as a way to make the event more inclusive.
“We are having a virtual camera set up in the middle of the writer’s circle,” he says. “The content will be released after the show on YouTube. Anyone with a virtual reality headset will be able to log on and have a 360-degree camera.”
The show keeps in the spirit of what the people at Roots Music Project have set out to do, mainly helping fledgling artists get more exposure and hone their craft. Keating says, for example, singer-songwriter Christopher Morse has received songwriting coaching at the organization. He will share stage time with three more established artists. It will make for an interesting mix of people at various stages in their careers
“He’s been through this thread with Roots,” Keating says. “Now he gets to be in the context of all these other artists who have a more established fanbase and maybe have a more established presence in the community so then they are bringing their fans.”
WHAT: Four Boulder-area songwriters play their songs “in the round” inside the intimate setting of the Roots Music Project warehouse.
CONCERT: Friday, February 25th at 8 pm (doors at 7 pm).
WHERE: The funky Roots Music Project warehouse at 4747 Pearl, Suite V3A, Boulder Colorado
TICKETS: $15 on sale now at RMPtix.com.
MORE INFO: RootsMusicProject.org