On Stage (extra): A Prairie Home Companion comes to area

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer

priarie-logoIf you’re in the mood to hear some live music that is more on the softer side – music that is soothing in this time when we all need to be soothed – there are several good options on November 12 with acts such as Jesse Terry, Callaghan, Giulia Millanta, Chris Thile and the Prairie Home Companion, RIVVRS and the Walcotts all playing in the area.

A vast number of music fans are familiar with Chris Thile, a singer, songwriter and virtuoso mandolin player best known for his work in the band Nickel Creek. And, almost everyone is familiar with “A Prairie Home Companion,” a live weekly radio variety show that airs on Saturdays.

Thile, who also is a member of the band Punch Brothers, has been making albums since 1994. He has won four Grammy Awards and has been nominated for three others. In 2012, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship – a $500,000 “Genius Grant.”

“A Prairie Home Companion” was created in 1974 by Garrison Keillor, who hosted it until 2016. The show, which is known for its musical guests and Keillor’s unique storytelling segment “News from Lake Wobegon,” usually originates from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minnesota, although it is frequently taken on the road. It reaches an audience of over 3 million listeners.

Now, the two have come together in a most successful way. In 2015, Keillor announced that he would step down from hosting the program and designated Chris Thile as the new host. Keillor has stayed on as the show’s producer.

On November 12, Thile will bring “A Prairie Home Companion” to Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) for a live broadcast featuring guest stars Jason Isbell, Billy Collins and Angelique Kidjo.

Chris Thile

Chris Thile

Thile had been a guest on “A Prairie Home Companion” numerous times in the past. He made his debut as permanent host on October 15, 2016.

“I was on tour with Edgar Meyer in fall of 2014,” said Thile, during a phone interview Tuesday from Portland, Oregon. “Garrison called me up and said – I’m thinking of coming in for a landing and I’m wondering if you’d be interested in hosting the show. It seemed like a very good idea to me.

“I called my wife who was pregnant with our son at the time to tell her. Then, I thought about how do I ramp down all the music projects I’m involved in. I’m a musician. I love playing shows. I want to keep doing it but at a stage where I don’t have to do it for the money.

“I grew up with ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’ You could never get it out of the fabric of my makeup as an artist. I came out of the womb listening to it. I played on the show for the first time when I was 15.

“When he asked me to take over as host, it was something I had never even dreamed about. But, I was ready for it. I hosted it a few times after Garrison made the offer. After the second show, he said – let’s do it.”

It’s been a marriage made in heaven.

“‘A Prairie Home Companion’ is a travelling show with its home base in St. Paul, Minnesota,” said Thile. “Philadelphia will be our first travelling show this year – and my first touring show. On this tour, we’re doing Philly, Denver and two shows in New York.

“I’m very involved with the guest artists. I end up choosing many of them. Anyone on the show has my sincere blessing. The show in Philly is extremely loaded with talent with Angelique Kidjo, Jason Isbell, and Billy Collins. They are all great artists – Angelique and Jason as singers and Billy as a poet.”

Video link for Chris Thile — https://youtu.be/1ceRgg8WJW8?t=2.

The show at the Academy of Music will start at 5:45 p.m. Ticket prices range from $49-$79.

Jesse Terry

Jesse Terry

Callaghan and Terry will share the bill at Burlap & Bean Coffeehouse (204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, 484-427-4547, www.burlapandbean.com) on Saturday evening.

Terry, a singer-songwriter performing with acoustic guitar and gentle voice, will return to the area after a headline performance a few months ago at the Spring Gulch Folk Festival. In the time between, Terry dis shows in Ireland, a short Midwest tour with Rebecca Loebe. He was also on the road with his “Joyful Noise Tour” with Abbie Gardner.  Terry and Gardner, a singer-songwriter from Red Molly who also plays steel guitar, recently recorded a three-song EP titled “Joyful Noise.”

“I just finished with Rebecca in St. Paul,” said Terry, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in South Bend, Indiana. “Now, I’m ready for the shows with Callaghan. I love playing Burlap and Bean. It’s one of my favorite listening rooms in the world.

“It’s a super special venue for me. Tara Endicott, who runs Burlap and Bean, gave me my first start years ago for my shows in Philly. There are a lot of great venues in the Philly area but Burlap and Bean means the most to me.

“The ‘Joyful Noise’ EP was released via Noisetrade on May 10 and can be downloaded free at http://noisetrade.com/jesseandabbie/joyful-noise-tour-2016. The three-song EP was self-funded. We’re hoping to add tracks and eventually release a full-length album.”

Along with his EP with Gardner, Terry has been working on a duo EP with Alex Wong.

“The title of the EP is ‘Kivalina,’” said Terry. “It was inspired by Kivalina, a village in northern Alaska that is really being hurt by global warming. The village is threatened by rising sea levels and is expected to be underwater by 2025. Alex and I wrote and recorded it together as a duo.

“He is a brilliant singer-songwriter, musician and producer. We met in Nashville when I was there on a songwriting trip. We wrote this amazing song called ‘Thieves’ and recorded it that day. It went so well that we agreed to keep going and we spent a week writing together. I’m more proud of that project than anything I’ve ever done.”

He is also getting songs together for two more solo projects — a totally acoustic record and a new full-length record, complete with a full string section, huge harmonies, jangly electric guitars and shimmering twelve-strings.

“It will be happening soon,” said Terry. “I’ll be recording at a great studio in Nashville called Eastside Manor. I’ll pretty much be living there from February to April.”

Terry spends much of his time on the road — playing shows for his fans. When he’s touring in the states, he almost always is accompanied by Jess, his wife, and Jackson Browne, his border collie.

“It can be lonely on the road so I try to keep my family with me as much as I can. Jackson Browne is quite well known among my fans. Sometimes, I think he’s more popular than I am. He gets more gifts.”

On his latest Facebook entry, Terry wrote, “These shows with Callaghan are extra cool. She’s an amazing talent and it’s been a real pleasure to share the stage with her this week.”

They have a special sampler available for free download at http://www.noisetrade.com/callaghanandjesse/an-evening-with-callaghan-jesse.



Callaghan’s birth name is Georgina Callaghan but, in her career as a musician, she just uses just her surname. She was born in the town of Boston, which is in Lincolnshire, a small port town in England’s midlands.

Callaghan, who was a resident of Atlanta for a few years prior to moving to her current home in Nashville, is touring in support of her latest album “A History of Now.” Her debut album “Life in Full Colour” came out a few years ago.

“My album ‘A History of Now’ came out in April last year but it still feels like a new album,” said Callaghan, during a phone interview Tuesday during a pre-tour break. “It has done really well in the U.K. and I’ve been over there touring a lot. I’m focusing on the U.S. and the U.K. at the moment. For the last few years, it’s been the U.S. only.”

Callaghan actually has two recent albums to fuel her touring. She also recently released the “Callaghan’s Acoustic Coffeehouse CD.”

“I made the album with Mike Gallagher on acoustic and electric guitar and Okorie Johnson on cello,” said Callaghan. “We went in the studio in Nashville and recorded 10 songs together. Some were originals and there were also a few covers like Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,’ Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me,’ and Roberta Flack’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.’

“It was fun to do stripped-down versions of songs. I tour mostly in that format. I really like acoustic shows. Fans have been asking me where they can get acoustic versions of these songs. So, I thought I’d record this type album. We made the album at Sony Studios in Nashville. It’s a really nice studio. It feels like you’re actually playing a show. We spent a lot of hours straight in the studio – 10 songs in one day.

“The song selection was based on the live shows I’ve been doing lately. These two guys are such good musicians. It was great to hear guitar, piano and cello on these songs. I also added two bonus tracks – ‘Over the Rainbow’ and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain.’”

The process for her last studio album was very

“I wrote the songs for ‘A History of Now’ over the last couple years,” said Callagfhan. “My last album had come out in 2011 and I’d been touring non-stop since then. Being on the road, living life’s experiences and meeting new people influenced the songs. I’m really happy with how the 12 songs came out. I did a lot of pre-production and worked very closely with producer Dennis Matkosky.

“He co-wrote some of the songs. We were definitely on the same page. And, I worked with some phenomenal Nashville musicians. It was recorded really quickly. We tried different things like recording to tape to give it more authenticity. The song is always the root of what I want to do. I wanted songs you could just perform with one instrument and voice.

“My songwriting depends on the song. Sometimes, I have a really strong idea for the melody and the lyrics come later. Sometimes, I have an idea for a story. When I’m co-writing, it might start with a hook.”

Callaghan has been a professional musician most of her adult life.

“When I left school at 18, I decided not to go to college,” said Callaghan. “I moved in with my sister in London and dedicated myself to my music career. I had a day job and, at the same time, played all the singer-songwriter venues in London. It was a great city to live in. Living in America makes it much easier for people who play my kind of music.

“My British accent doesn’t show when I sing but I can never write songs as an American because I have a different background. There are a lot of American influences in my music but I think people can still hear the British influences.”

Video link for Jesse Terry — https://youtu.be/Cni2plwDX_w.

Video link for Callaghan – https://youtu.be/AJMdKllm0tc.

Video link for Callaghan/Terry tour — https://youtu.be/UgIRu76M__U

The show at Burlap and Bean will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Guilia Millanta

Giulia Millanta

On November 12, the Tin Angel (20 South Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-928-0770, http://www.tinangel.com) will host a show by Giulia Millanta.

Millanta released her fifth CD on September 9, “Moonbeam Parade,” on Ugly Cat Music and has just returned to the States after a tour in Europe.

“I’ve been travelling a lot – doing a lot of touring and making the new record,” said Millanta, during a phone interview Wednesday from her home in Austin, Texas.

“I recorded ‘Moonbeam Parade’ in February and March of this year and it was released in September. When I was making it, the co-producer was mixing the record and he got really sick. He was fighting a battle with cancer. Bu the time everything was ready to go, it was July. I knew I was going on tour in Europe in September so I waited to release it.

“When I’m playing here in Austin, I have my own band. When I travel, honestly, I can’t afford to bring a band. Sometimes, I go out as a duo. When I recorded the new album, I used my musicians from Austin.

“For this record, I decided to go into the studio without thinking too much. The core group is drums, bass and guitar – and me. I sing and play guitar. The main guitar is me.

“I think it was pretty obvious and pretty clear to everyone that the music came first. No-one was a prima donna. The musicians that played with me wee on the same page. They supported me and made sure I was the main focus.

“My first album was ‘Giulia and the Dizzyness’ back in 2008. I don’t even hear myself in that anymore. It was folk-experimental. I like real stuff — not electronic. That doesn’t resonate much for me. I like real instruments. My next album was ‘Dropping Down’ in 2011. I arranged the whole thing and produced it myself. But that one seems far away too.”

Millanta, a native of Florence, Italy, released her previous album “The Funambulist” two years ago. A funambulist is a tightrope walker.

The Italian singer-songwriter will never be accused of being predictable. She is a graduate of Università degli Studi di Firenze (University of Florence) but not with a degree in music.

“I have a medical degree to be a doctor,” said Millanta. “Before finishing my degree, I was sure I didn’t want to be a doctor. In my family, everyone is a doctor. My dad is a surgeon.

“I like writing. I like writing songs. I also wrote a column for an Italian magazine Tutta Firenze. It’s a magazine about Florence. Its name means ‘everything about Florence.’ I’m also writing a piece for theater.”

Not surprisingly, the name of her column for Tutta Firenze is “La Funambola” which is Italian for “funambulist.”

Video link for Giulia Millanta — https://youtu.be/EAF9RPQlvL0?t=3.

The Show at the Tin Angel, which also features Hamell on Trial, will start at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.

The Walcotts

The Walcotts

On November 12, RIVVRS and the Walcotts will co-headline the bill at Ortlieb’s (847 North Third Street, Philadelphia, 267- 324-3348, www.ticketfly.com).

When the Walcotts perform at Ortlieb’s on Saturday night, there will be a crowd at the venue. The band brings its own crowd – a crowd of musicians on the stage.

Armed with a large lineup, the Los Angeles-based band — whose membership includes two singers, a horn section, a fiddle player, a pedal steel guitarist, a pianist, and a rhythm section — take inspiration from more than a half century’s worth of American traditions. The result is a sound that nods to the Band’s folk-rock, Little Feat’s swampy jazz, Bruce Springsteen’s heartland anthems, and everything in between. It’s broad, big-sounding music, with the Walcotts swelling their lineup to as many as nine members during their acclaimed live shows.

The Walcotts are billed as “an American rock and roll band that captivatingly distills roots music, soul, blues, and country.” The band’s core unit is a Los Angeles foursome featuring Tom Cusimano (Guitar/Vocals), Laura Marion (Vocals), Jim Olson (Drums) and

Devin Shea (Violin).

“The drummer and I have been together for 13 years,” said Cusimano, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Los Angeles. “The fiddler and I have been playing together for seven years. But, the band didn’t start until about four years ago.

“Jim was living in the Bay Area and he came down to L.A. to see some Bruce Springsteen shows with me. I had some songs written. So, when Jim was down here, a bunch of us went into the studio – about eight or nine of us. We cut four songs in one day. That was back in April 2012.  A couple of these songs actually made it to the album.

“The whole recording session was just done for fun. I sat on the recordings for a while. When I went back to listen to them, I realized that they sounded great. I overdubbed a couple guitar parts and then we made our first EP. We made 100 copies and gave them to our friends and to people in the music business.”

Those EP handouts were like seeds – and one of them germinated.

“A friend of ours called and said she could get one of the songs on a TV show,” said Cusimano. “The song was ‘Should Have Been Me,’ which was the first song we recorded, It was on the ‘Heart of Dixie’ television show. Then, she called back and said they were also going to use the song in another episode.

“All of a sudden, we had traction with music placement and that gave us the money we needed to go back into the studio. Our first gig as a band was opening for the band America and we needed a name for our band. The Rolling Stones took their name from a Muddy Waters song so we used the same method. We took our name from a song by the Band.”

The name is a reference to The Band’s “The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show,” a 1970 tune that paid tribute to the traveling medicine shows of Levon Helm’s youth. Like the Band did in its heyday, the Walcotts make roots music for a modern age with songs that spin stories and melodies that take aim at the heart as well as the head.

After releasing several EPs, the Walcotts went to work on their debut album “Let The Devil Win,” whch was recently release on Local Hero Records via KOBALT/AWAL.

“We recorded the album at Rami Jaffee’s Fonogenic Studios in Los Angeles and did some additional recording at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” said Cusimano. “We cut eight songs at Fonogenic and two at FAME.

“I either wrote or co-wrote all the songs. I write on guitar, piano and mandolin with guitar as my primary instrument. I’ll even come up with some riffs on bass guitar. The process of writing a song changes every time. Sometimes, it might be a person or event that inspires a song. Other times, it might just be a riff that I like.

“People try to put us in all kinds of music categories and genres – country, folk, Americana. Good rock and roll music – that’s what I believe we play.”

Video link for the Walcotts – https://youtu.be/NB1f8d2coeE?t=2.



RIVVRS, which is a solo project by Bay Area singer-songwriter Brandon Zahursky, is another music act that greatly benefitted from having songs placed on television shows.

Most recently, RIVVRS’ “Ready To Begin” was selected as ESPN’s 2016 Monday Night Football theme and his songs can also been heard in trailers for the 2016 seasons of “Bates Motel” (A&E) and “Flaked” (Netflix).

RIVVRS’ song “I Will Follow You” was featured and written into the script of “About A Boy” (2014) on NBC, leading to further placements on NBC, FOX, A&E, MTV, ABC Family, CBS, ESPN, The CW, TBS, and Netflix. His debut full-length album “Unfamiliar Skin” was released in the Spring of 2016 and was featured on iTunes. The first single from the album entitled “I Will Follow You” was added to Spotify’s “New Music Friday” and “Weekend Buzz” playlists.

“I grew up in San Francisco and then moved to San Bruno (CA) when I was in high school,” said RIVVRS, during a phone interview Wednesday as he travelled through Wyoming on his way to a show in Colorado. “After high school, I went to a half-semester of community college and then started my music career.

“I first started playing guitar when I was in middle school. When I was a junior in high school, I met a singer named Gina Barsanti. That was a catalyst to my singing. I did cover songs and then started doing originals. I began writing my first album when I was 19.”

That album was “Sink or Swim,” which RIVVRS released under his own name – Brandon Zahursky.

“I recorded ‘Unfamiliar Skin’ at various places over a period of time,” said RIVVRS. “It was mostly in California — some in Nashville and the rest in San Rafael. I used some different musicians but I don’t really hire out a lot. All the instrumentation was done either by myself or by my producer.

“After I recorded ‘I Will Follow You,’ I went back to work at my job in Napa. My manager called and said the song would be played and used in the script on the show ‘About A Boy’ on NBC. The show was based in San Francisco and I’m a san Francisco musician. The placement was a catalyst for overall online presence.

“’I Will Follow You’ was the first single from the album I was making. The placement led to the release on my ‘Hold On’ EP. That EP had four songs and two of them — ‘I Will Follow You’ and ‘Hold On’ – are on ‘Unfamiliar Skin.’ But, we remixed ‘I Will Follow You’ for the album because I had developed it over two years. ‘Hold On’ is a completely different mix with a full choir.”

Video link for RIVVRS — https://youtu.be/olDb6RwWJS4?t=2.

The show at Ortlieb’s, which is an enticing twin-bill, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

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