On Stage: Sax and Brown return to Philly roots

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Scot Sax and Suzie Brown

Nashville may be home to Scot Sax and Suzie Brown, but the duo will always have its ties to the Philadelphia area.

Philadelphia is Sax’s hometown, the place where Brown began her music career and the city where the couple met and first fell in love.

On June 28, Sax and Brown return to this area for a show at Bourbon and Branch (705 North Second Street, Philadelphia, 215-238-0660, bourbonandbranchphilly.com).

“Scot just made and released a new record,” said Brown, during a recent phone interview from their home in Nashville. “I just recorded a new album that’s not out yet.”

Sax and Brown are a married couple as well as a musical couple and the arrangement has worked out very well.

“We’ve been together since 2010 and got married in 2011,” said Sax. “Now, we live in Nashville and have two little girls – Josie and Chloe.”

Sax was a veteran musician who had fronted the band Wanderlust and later worked as a songwriter with several publishing deals. He co-wrote Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Grammy-winning smash “Like We Never Loved At All” and his song “I Am the Summertime” was featured in the film “American Pie.”

Brown moved to Philadelphia a while back to get her masters’ degree in cardiology from the University of Pennsylvania.

“I got my pre-med degree from Dartmouth and then went to Harvard for medical school,” said Brown. “I also went to Berklee College of Music for a little while. Then, I came to Penn on a cardiology fellowship.

“I started going to hear music four or five nights a week and met all these great Philadelphia musicians. I decided then that making music made me happier than anything else. I started writing songs in summer 2008 and did my first solo show a few months later. I recorded my first EP in spring 2009.”

It took a long time for the couple to get around to making music together.

“I wasn’t involved in any of her records,” said Sax. “Commonly, people start as a musical duo first. We were the opposite.

“This was a romantic relationship first. I don’t think we would have gotten together initially just for the music. Then, when Suzie was going on tour, it was a drag not to be with her. We really love each other — and I really like her.”

The couple relocated from Philadelphia to Nashville in 2014 and are excited to return to Sax’s hometown, the place where Brown began her music career and the city where the couple met and first fell in love. In Nashville, Brown practices medicine at Vanderbilt University in addition to making music, Sax makes films and they are heavily involved with raising their two young daughters.

“Nashville is a great place for musicians,” said Brown.

In 2015, the duo released its first album together — a tasty collection of songs titled “Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either.” But, their music isn’t always a joint project.

“Scot and I use totally different players,” said Brown. “I think we both just wanted to do our own thing. It’s fun to work on our own.

“My next album is three-quarters done. I think it’s an evolution. A lot of the songs were co-written with Nashville songwriters. I’ve grown to love co-writing. It helps me stay creative. I love hearing other people’s ideas.

“The album I just recorded is a singer-songwriter/Americana album with a slight touch of pop. But, I’m not in a rush to put it out. I just released an album last year so I’m not in a rush to out another one out – maybe next year.”

Sax’s new album is titled “Drawing from Memory.”

“I made the record a few months ago at our home studio,” said Sax, who grew up in Plymouth Meeting and graduated from Plymouth Whitemarsh High. “I had no idea I was making an album. I just wrote songs and recorded them – mostly by myself. Then, I brought in some of my favorite musicians. After a while, I had a lot of songs done.

“I took the tracks to Southern Ground Studio here in Nashville and mixed them there. All of a sudden, I had a record.

“It’s mainly a piano album. Our nanny just got divorced and had no place to put her piano. So, we let her keep it at our home studio. I was writing songs. The piano was just there so I started using it.”

Video link for Scot Sax and Suzie Brown — https://youtu.be/MGGcWCNPmfc.

The show at Bourbon and Branch, which has Molly Martin as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Coincidentally, two other shows this weekend will feature women who are not only mothers but mothers with multiple kids.

Vickie Shaw

On June 29, veteran comedian Vickie Shaw will bring her “A Very Vickie Venture” show to the Rrazz Room (6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, 888-596-1027, www.TheRrazzRoom.com).

Shaw is a native Texan who infuses her polite, easy-going Southern Style into her comedy – allowing her to say things no one else can say and get away with it because she says them so nice.

She is also a lesbian who incorporates that into her act while still maintaining a strong connection with the mainstream.

Shaw has been making people laugh for almost 20 years. She gets her comedy from her life, with her partner Sargent Patch, their three children and now three grandchildren.

“I was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas,” said Shaw, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home in League City, Texas.

‘Growing up, I was always funny. I made people laugh. As I got older, people kept telling me that I should do stand-up. When I was in my 30s, I’d be asking myself – what do I do with my life? Then, I’d hear the voices saying – you should do stand-up. So, I stated doing stand-up – even though it was something I was afraid of.

“I went to my first open mike – and I froze. I don’t know why I went back – but I did. I went every week. It was my creative time. There’s a good circuit of comedians – and a lot of support between comedians. They would give recommendations for me to other clubs.

“It was during that time that I also came out. With comedy, you have to go to your truths. You have to be completely honest.”

Shaw, who has appeared in movies and television, is probably the most accessible to a general audience than any of the other top-rated lesbian comedians performing today.

“I was doing comedy two years before I came out,” said Shaw. “All along, it was me telling stories about my life. I felt my comedy wasn’t truthful, so I added LGBTG stuff about myself. Audiences heard stuff they never heard before – but I never heard a complaint.”

Shaw’s resume includes appearances on Comedy Central, four comedy specials on the LOGO Channel, Late In Life Lesbians, and Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen.

Two of the comedy specials on LOGO were “You Can’t Take the Girl Out of Texas” and “Vickie Shaw Live – Sick and Wrong Tour.”

Shaw also had a major role in the movie Laughing Matters More”. She also just released her third DVD, “I’m Not Your Role Model.”

Shaw is a pioneer in the field of lesbian comedy and knows that gaining acceptance for LGBT comedy still faces obstacles.

“I don’t know if the barriers have been broken down,” said Shaw, “Comedy is tough on women.”

Video link for Vickie Shaw — https://youtu.be/MsJphfIY-lE.

The show at the Rrazz Room is scheduled for June 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

Meghan Cary

If Meghan Cary were to get a tattoo, it might read “Sing Louder” – and for good reason.

“Sing Louder” is one of her most popular songs. It was the title track an EP – “Sing Louder – the Festival EP” in 2015. It is also the title of her new album.

On June 29, Cary will be performing the song – and many more of her fans’ favorites – when she headlines a show at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

The “Sing Louder” album has been in the works for a while.

“We released the record to folk radio – which is something I never do,” said Cary, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from her home in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania.

“That was in November and ‘Sing Louder’ became a Number One single. The second single – ‘Responsbility’ – got to Number Six.

“We decided to send it to mainstream radio in the spring and it’s been doing well. We never really did anything at all with radio before.

“With this record, the groove has evolved. We went back and re-recorded stuff because I didn’t have a deadline. Without a record label, I could do it on my own time at my own pace. That’s one of the benefits of not being signed to a label.”

Cary and her band Analog Gypsies produce a sound that is a blend of folk, rock, gypsy jazz and jam band. At the core of the band are Meghan Cary and Peter Farrell. The keyboard (Farrell) and guitar (Cary) duo lays down a big musical footprint with cool grooves and tight vocal harmonies.

The band’s sound is filled out by the solid bass work of Jocko MacNelly, the rhythmic melodies of drummer Quint Lange, the bluegrass banjo playing and vocal harmony of Stacy Weathers, and the interesting harp and flute lines of Bob Beach.

“We were totally immersed with this record,” said Cary. “We had done a record as an acoustic trio. This time, we wanted to capture a full band flavor with Analog Gypsies. The ‘Sing Louder Festival’ EP was a trio with Stacy Weather on banjo, Bob Beach on harmonica, flute and vocals and my husband Peter Farrell on keyboards and vocals. The full band has five people.

“We’ve been playing together a long time. We have a signature sound. We went into the studio with a bunch of new songs. It’s the next phase. The subject matter is different – more universal…speaking to the times. The song ‘Sing Louder’ is a fan favorite – and very uplifting. The song that feels like it is the heart of this album is ‘River Rock.’ It’s more a social statement than a political one.”

“Sing Louder” is a foot-tapping, bouncy song that gets fans singing along – even if they’ve never heard the song before.

“The key line is – ‘if you don’t know the words, sing louder…sing stronger…sing louder, sing stronger for all of the world to hear’,” said Cary.

“We recorded the album at Morning Star Studio with producer Glenn Barratt. Glenn’s input on production is amazing.  We even brought 48 people – fans and friends – into the studio to sing on the title track.”

Most of the time, when Cary spends an evening entertaining her fans, it’s as a singer-songwriter — a talented guitarist/vocalist with a pleasant voice and interesting songs.

Recently, there have been times when Cary has taken the stage in a different role — when she has entertained audiences as an actress performing a one-woman play she wrote called “On the Way to the Waterfall!”

This autobiographical play with music was originally created as a short piece for E.A.T.’s One-Woman Standing play festival in NYC in 2013 and was developed into a full-length play this past summer by Hypothetical Theatre Company. Two years ago, Cary performed it in the Boulder International Fringe Festival and received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the both the audience and the critics.

“When I lived in New York, I used to help this playwright Tina Howe,” said Cary. “She heard me playing my music and told me — you have to write a play. I didn’t know how to do it.”

The play she was about to write was based on a personal tragedy.

While performing in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” years ago, Cary met and fell in love with Matthew Black, one of the show’s musicians. Cary performed with Black as his backup singer with occasional solos. The pair became engaged and things were going great. But, Black died suddenly in 1995 and Cary’s life path took another unexpected twist.

“Music carried me through that time period,” said Cary. “Matthew and I made music together. When he died, I lost everything I had for the future. Music was something that I could keep. I wanted to keep making music. But, I was writing songs with no intention of ever playing them for anyone.

“When I thought about the play, I knew had already written the story in songs. I had written music as a way to heal through this traumatic experience. The play is about going through the same thing — getting knocked off-course and ending up somewhere else.”

When Cary graduated from Hershey High a few years back, she headed off to Duke University to major in biomedical engineering. But, the path of life goes through many twists and turns and that’s why Cary now wears a guitar instead of a lab coat. She switched majors at Duke and finished with a bachelors’ degree in drama.

“I thought I wanted to be a biomedical engineer,” said Cary. “I looked at Cornell, but it was freezing up there so I chose Duke instead. I was on a pre-med track and then got interested in theater. I finished Duke with a degree in drama with a minor in chemistry. Then, I got my MFA (master’s in fine arts) in acting from Florida State University.

“I realized back then that I wanted to perform. When I started, I wanted to do regional theater. I also did Off-Broadway shows and I’m a charter member of New York’s Actor’s Shakespeare Company. I love Shakespeare’s work. I love the way he used words.”

Now, Cary has established herself as a singer, actress, songwriter, and playwright. She is also the mother of two musical kids who have already participated in making music with their family.

“Being a mom of two kids in school – Clara in seventh grade and Quinn in fourth grade — means I inhabit two entirely different worlds in a given week…or day,” said Cary. “And, I was thinking how important it is for me to have both.

“It’s no surprise that sometimes trying to figure out the business of music can be pretty anxiety provoking — you know, how to afford to make records, if and how to sell records, and (most important for me) how to get the music out there so people fall in love and want to connect to and be a part of the music.

“And, for me, even the creative part of music-making can be less than peaceful at times. I sometimes suffer from writer’s block, lack of inspiration, over self-editing or just plain self-doubt.

“But I’ve been blessed – and challenged — with this other side of life that balances it all out. When I’m with the kids and just being and doing whatever it is we’re doing together, the drama that can be a part of the DYI musician’s world seems really inconsequential.

“So, the fact that both of our kids are musical and inspired to make music is really a gift. It means I don’t have to keep the two parts of my life so compartmentalized. Both of them sang on the new album.”

The show at Jamey’s will be the only time to see Cary play with her full band prior to their showcase concert at his summer’s Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“This will be our third time to play the Philly Folk Festival,” said Cary. “We didn’t play there last year so we’re excited to be going back again. We’ll announce the day and time of our set this Friday when we play at Jamey’s.”

Video link for Meghan Cary — https://youtu.be/7p56MwK_j3k.

The Meghan Cary and Analog Gypsies’ show at Jamey’s, which has Bob Beach as the opener, will start at 8 p.m. on June 29. Tickets are $18.

Another upcoming show at Jamey’s House of Music will be Rob Balducci Band and Visible at Night featuring Dave Weiner on June 30.

Jeffrey Gaines

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will have Jeffrey Gaines on June 29, Horizens on June 30. On July 4, The Kennett Flash & Anson B. Nixon Park PresentThe Hoppin’ John Orchestra at Anson B. Nixon Park.

Chaplin’s (66 North Main Street, Spring City, 610-792-4110, http://chaplinslive.com)  hosts a Post-Hardcore show on June 29 featuring, Catharsis, Breaking Falls and Theory of a Kin.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Jesse Royal, Jah People, and I Yahn I Arkestra on June 28 and Raheem DeVaughn, Divinity Roxx Trifecta, Aaron Parnell Brown, Hosted by Wes Felton on June 30

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) presents Ross The Boss  on June 28, Hal Ketchum on June 29, Hollywood Nights (Bob Seger Tribute) on June 30 and Dan Baird & Homemade Sin on July 1.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) hosts LOS CAFRES – Sigo Caminando 2018 (USA Tour)  on June 28, The Naked and Famous on June 29, Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert on June 29 and Bark at the Moon – A Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne & Black Sabbath on June 30.

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