Brent Cowles

“HOW TO BE OKAY ALONE.” That’s what Brent Cowles scribbled in a notebook one afternoon as he grappled with the complexities of his newfound independence. It was meant to be the start of a list, a survival guide for navigating the solitude and loneliness of our increasingly isolated world, but instead, it turned out to be a dead end recipe for writer’s block.

“I realized then that I actually didn’t know how to be okay alone,” reflects the Denver native. “But I also realized that it was okay not to know.”

A deeply honest, intensely personal portrait, the record channels loss and anxiety into acceptance and triumph as Cowles learns to make peace with his demons and redirect his search for satisfaction inwards. Blurring the lines between boisterous indie rock, groovy R&B, and contemplative folk, the music showcases both Cowles’ infectious sense of melody and his stunning vocals, which seem to swing effortlessly from quavering intimacy to a soulful roar as they soar atop his exuberant, explosive arrangements.

Growing up, Cowles first discovered the power of his voice singing hymns at his father’s church in Colorado Springs. Having a pastor for a parent meant heavy involvement in religious life, but Cowles never quite seemed to fit in. At 16 he fell in love with secular music; at 17 he recorded his first proper demos in a friend’s basement; at 18 he was married; at 19 he was divorced. Meanwhile, what began as a solo musical project blossomed into the critically acclaimed band You Me & Apollo, which quickly took over his life. The Denver Post raved that the group created “some of the most exciting original music in Colorado,” while Westword proclaimed that their live show was a “clinic in roots rock mixed with old-school swing and blues,” and Seattle NPR station KEXP hailed “Cowles’ Otis Redding and Sam Cooke inspired vocals.” The band released two albums and toured nationally before they called it quits and amicably went their separate ways.

The parting was a necessary but difficult one for Cowles. In the ensuing months and years, he would find himself alone more than ever before, at one point living out of his Chevy Tahoe just to make ends meet. But rather than break him, the experience only strengthened his resolve, and ‘How To Be Okay Alone’ finds him thriving in the driver’s seat as a solo artist, making the most of solitude while still appreciating that it’s only human to need love and friendship.

“Hell if I know how to be okay alone,” Cowles reflects on it all with a laugh. “All I know is that I’m grateful for the people that I have, because I don’t think that anyone can get through this life by themselves.”

Daphne Lee Martin

Folksinger. Diverse, driven songwriter. Multi-instrumentalist. Producer. Independent businesswoman. Daphne Lee Martin has juggled multiple roles through her career, balancing a road warriors commitment to the road with a sound that blends the traditions of southern roots music with the sharp sensibilities of New England folk, indie rock, sophisticated soul, and all points in between.

On Scared Fearless, her fifth album of original material, she shines a light on her years logged as a touring musician. Tracking Martin’s progress across landscapes both physical and figurative, Scared Fearless is an autobiographical album about the lessons learned — as well as the love that’s both made and lost — during an adulthood spent onstage and on the road. Call it a travelogue, perhaps, with entries that tackle the emptiness of modern hook-up culture “Fuck Tinder, I”m Standing Right Here”, the artistic struggle “Young Man’s Game”, the slow death of a once-vital relationship “Some Fool”, and the unending battle between the call of the open highway and the lure of home “Songbirds”. There’s heartbreak, honesty, and humor. Throughout it all, Martin decorates the music with acoustic guitar, upright bass, piano, pedal steel, brushed percussion, violin, and other organic instruments, delivering her songs in a manner that’s as natural and nuanced as the songwriting itself.

Produced by Martin, Eric Lichter, and Jonah Tolchin, Scared Fearless was recorded in a traditional log cabin in the Connecticut mountains, within earshot of the Connecticut River. There, during a four-day tracking session at Dirt Floor Studios, Martin captured the album’s basic arrangements in a series of live performances, with help from musicians like Isaac Young, MorganEve Swain, Matt Slobogan, Jim Carpenter, Thor Jensen, Andrew Sovine, Kieran Ledwidge, Tall Tall Trees, and John Faraone. Although Martin had met most of those musicians in her adopted hometown of New London, Connecticut, she’d written Scared Fearless on the road, during the lengthy solo tours that kept her away from home throughout much of 2015 and early 2016. Those tours took her from coast to coast, where she played a dizzying string of listening rooms, bars, and house shows. Along the way, she pieced together her new album’s material in hotel rooms, sound checks, and the front seat of her car. Like Polaroids in a photo book, the songs wove together to create a story filled with candid details: estranged lovers laying together upon a cold bed; a car spilling gravel to the roadside as it speeds into the sun; a packed bag, waiting to be road-bound; a pillow slowly losing the scent of the one whose head once dented its surface. The album’s cover, created by John Torres, touches upon some of those images. matching them with pictures taken during Martin’s travels.

A lifelong musician whose previous albums have doubled down on her fictional storytelling chops, Martin turns the camera lens upon herself with Scared Fearless. This is the soundtrack to a life spent in the trenches, pulled into battle by one’s dedication to art, travel, and exploration. It’s an album shaped by mile markers, rear view mirrors, and wanderlust. And, like the highway that runs beneath Martin’s wheels, it points her toward a new horizon.

Contradictions have always been a part of Indie singer-songwriter Roy Halim’s journey. A first-generation American son of Muslim Albanian immigrants, Roy should feel like the quintessential outsider. Instead, he focuses on creating a sense of community, providing inspiration and connectedness for his listeners. With a bold and raw, yet soft and polished sound, mixing bravado with subtle restraint, his head actually sings with his heart. Think of Chester Bennington and Morrissey, and add a contradictory hint of Ed Sheeran - Roy’s that unique.

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