300 East Main St.
Carrboro, NC, 27510
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
The year was 1987. Reagan was in the White House, Bill Cosby was the king of Thursday nights, Dirty Dancing was selling out theaters. And on stereos across America, singer-songwriters like Bryan Adams, Richard Marx, and Kenny Loggins were rocking the airwaves with hits that would go on to do the near impossible: cater to popular demand and stand the test of time.
It was 1987, and Matt Wertz was an eight-year-old kid in Liberty, Missouri. He went to Louis and Clark Elementary, he took piano once a week from his Nana, he rode shotgun in his mom’s Oldsmobile station wagon. And on those lucky afternoons when he could tune in to Casey’s Top 40, Wertz listened to songs that would become the soundtrack of an era – Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” Steve Winwood’s “The Finer Things,” Lionel Richie, Peter Cetera – classics set to drum machine and Stratocaster.
He didn't know it then, but those radio waves were settling into Wertz’s memory and slow-curing his own songwriter sensibility. And after a decade of commercial success, seven studio albums and thousands of miles touring, they were the songs Matt found himself going back to over and over again – “Footloose,” “Mandolin Rain,” “Hold on to the Nights” – music that was flat-out fun to listen to.
Those hours of rediscovery inspired Matt Wertz to create his newest and most ambitious project to date, Heatwave. What began with a homemade drum groove on his Nashville front porch has sprung into a distinct, varied ten-song record that both pays homage to the lush, accessible sounds characteristic of that era and evidence the breadth of artistic reach Wertz has come to embody at this point in his career.
“Get to You,” the opening track on Heatwave, was written during the initial porch session with producer Brandon Hood, confidently dipping its toes in the electric blue waters of the 80s. The drum groove brings to mind the classic loop beats of that era and immediately establishes the album’s fluid, dynamic tone. With “Whenever You Love Somebody,” Wertz delivers the aching, honest lyrics his fans have come to expect, this time setting them against a backdrop of resonant beats and velvety guitars.
In addition to Wertz’s interpretation of his favorite 80s influences, Heatwave also boasts tracks that feature his wide-ranging scope as a songwriter. Between working independently and on major labels like Universal Republic and Nettwerk Records, Wertz has become a veteran musician who deftly employed his years of songwriting mastery to this latest offering. After 12 years based in Nashville, co-writing with the best in the business, Wertz’s own insights manifest themselves best on the introspective tracks “What I Know Right Now” and “Thing About Freedom.”
“What I Know Right Now” explores a contemporary folk blend of warm harmonies and brushed snare, and “Thing About Freedom” gently draws the album to a close with pensive lines and a melancholy steel guitar.
Heatwave bridges a lifetime of musical history. Wertz uses the melodies of his Missouri childhood as a springboard into an exciting new realm of modern musical possibilities, interpreting his influences in a striking, singular way. As Wertz himself would say, these are the songs he’d want stuck in his head. And that’s a good thing for everyone.
It's called 'chemistry', an elusive quality that can be part history, part mystery and all intangible until the moment that you feel it. It's a meant-to-be melding of the emotional and creative that can happen between songwriters, performers, best friends or life partners. For Josh and Nicole Johnson – the duo Elenowen – that connection is all of the above and much more. And on their self-titled EP, the chemistry they share is as rare – and real – as it gets.
Though emerging from the same Nashville-based Americana-folk scene as The Civil Wars, Elenowen deliver a sonic glow all their own. Amidst haunting harmonies and elegiac lyrics, their songs flow with an undercurrent of yearning, surrender and unexpectedly sharp edges. "We strive to maintain a certain vulnerability in our music," Josh says. "We write a lot about our own lives as well as the truths about relationships that we relate to. We think it creates an intimacy that's totally connected to the music." The sound itself is roots-driven, with accents of cello and pedal steel cutting a deeply evocative facet. Even the name Elenowen is an authentic nod to heritage, with Ellen being Josh's mom's middle name and Owen being the middle name of Nicole's dad. "They're the sides of the family we each got our music from," explains Josh. "What's in our hearts will always come out in what we do."
The singular power of Elenowen comes from the bond that can only exist between two people who've known – and loved – each other for most of their lives. "We were 15 and 16 when we met," explains Nicole. "We dated for a year, broke up for a year and a half, then got back together and have been together ever since. After that first breakup, I think we both still knew that we were meant for each other, but we also knew that we weren't what each other needed at that point in our lives." At 18, Josh moved from Knoxville to Nashville to be with Nicole, writing songs and pursuing a music degree at Belmont University while Nicole worked as a homecare attendant, back-up singer and barista. Within a year of Josh's graduation, the starkly candid debut album Pulling Back The Veil chronicled their first year of marriage with songs that were subsequently showcased on TV shows like 'One Tree Hill' and MTV's 'World Of Jenks'. Josh and Nicole began filming impromptu performances in their small basement apartment, with the resulting clips – called 'The Basement Sessions' – quickly garnering a following on YouTube and the No Depression website. In 2011, Elenowen made their national television debut on the top-rated premiere season of NBC's 'The Voice'. But it's the five tracks on their new EP that now mean the most to the couple and convey what's most real to audiences.
"We wrote all these songs around the same time," explains Josh, "when Nicole and I were walking through similar issues and feelings. Most marriages are not all lovey-dovey, like most love songs claim. For us, these songs are as much about love as they are about the struggle of keeping love alive." The EP's opening track, "Flying For The First Time", is co-written with acclaimed singer/songwriter Trent Dabbs and soars with uninhibited vocal harmony and lyrical beauty. "Blood And Bones", also co-written with Dabbs, is a towering paean to the physical and emotional bonds of desire. "Head To My Heart", co-written with EP co-producer Philip LaRue, reconciles intuition with passion via Nicole's potent vocals. "We Were Better Off" is a shimmering reflection of lost innocence and mislaid dreams. And "Bittersweet" is a hushed and moody twist on traditional love songs in which a couple affirm they are 'all I want/and nothing that I need'. "I absolutely believe in true love," explains Nicole. "I also believe," she adds with a laugh, "that true love is never easy."
More and more, Elenowen are discovering that the truth of what they do is bringing them new fans nationwide. "I think audiences respond to our honesty," says Josh. "When we perform these songs, people get the feeling they know who we are, because that's what we're putting out there. We are the heart behind our music." For Nicole, the journey both starts and grows in a place of instinctive sharing. "When it's 3 AM and I have an idea for a song," she explains, "my best friend/music partner/husband can grab his guitar and the idea takes off. The songs that come out of those moments are part me, part him, and all us. When we formed Elenowen, I realized that I'm no longer a singer in the shadows. I'm now a half of something that means so much not only to us, but to other people as well."
But what about that thing called chemistry? For Elenowen, it's a one-of-a-kind formula that is about to become bigger than the both of them. "I think our chemistry is what keeps us going," says Nicole. "We fight for it in our marriage, in our friendship and our music. These songs are so much a part of us and the emotion is so real, that every time we sing them its almost as if we're feeling them for the first time. What Josh and I ultimately want is for people to get inspired and connected by what we do." And for Elenowen, it's a promise you can take to heart.
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