Conor Oberst joined his first band at the age of 13 and has been releasing music since 1993. Over the next two plus decades, he’s released cassette-only recordings, split 7-inches, and a dozen albums of uncommon insight, detail, and political awareness with his band Bright Eyes, under his own name, as a member of Desaparecidos, as leader of the The Mystic Valley Band, and with the Monsters of Folk supergroup.
In Fall of 2015, and after more than a decade of living in New York City, Oberst returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, somewhat unexpectedly. Like John Lennon so famously said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” After canceling a tour with Desaparecidos due to serious health issues, Oberst returned home to recuperate. The musician was unexpectedly back home at loose ends and faced with some long, cold, claustrophobic winter nights, with nothing really to do. Such conditions were the same as those that contributed to the very early songs he penned in his boyhood bedroom. This resulted in the anxious poetry, heightened self-awareness, and revealing confessionals that catalogued his doubts, demons, and nightmares.
“It wasn’t premeditated at all. I don’t know if you know what Omaha is like in the winter, but it’s just paralyzing. You’re stranded in the house. Every night I was staying up late, making a point to play the new piano I had just bought and watching the snow fall outside the house. Everybody would be asleep and I would just go into this one room, make a fire, and play all night. In November I had a whole pick-up truck full of firewood delivered and I thought, ‘I’m never going to run out of it.’ Before I knew I had gone through half of the firewood and I had five songs. By February I had burned through it all, and I had 15 songs. I had just spent the whole winter making fires and playing music.”
Making and playing music has always been a healing balm for the sometimes troubled musician. And this time it especially seemed important. It was if he was writing himself back to sanity. Back to understanding what is really important and has meaning for him. And in the same kind of immediacy with which the songs were written, Oberst realized he needed to record them right away, in order to capture the kind of raw intensity and rough magic behind them. When Oberst wrote and recorded the songs, with just voice, piano, guitar and harmonica – he intended to ultimately record them with a full band. In the midst of putting together that band – upstate New York’s The Felice Brothers plus the legendary drummer Jim Keltner (Neil Young, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and many more) – the passionate responses Oberst was getting to those first solo recordings, from friends and colleagues, encouraged him to release the songs as-is, in their original sparse form, released in October 2016 as Ruminations. Pitchfork called it “a record like none other in Oberst’s catalog, stunning for how utterly alone he sounds,” and the UK’s Sunday Times called it, “The rawest album yet from the forever troubled one-time voice of a generation. Political and very, very personal,” saying Oberst is “one of the best songwriters around.”
Meanwhile, Oberst simultaneously moved ahead with his plans to record with the band, heading to the famed Shangri-la Studios in Malibu to record Salutations – co-produced with Keltner and engineered by long-time musical compadre Andy LeMaster. Guest contributions come courtesy of Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson.
Salutations includes full band versions of the ten songs from Ruminations, plus seven additional songs, some from an additional session at
Five Star Studios in Echo Park in fall 2016. Oberst says of the Salutations sessions: “Jim (Keltner) was really the captain of the ship and the spiritual leader of the project. We leaned heavy on his fifty-plus years of musical insight to get us to where we needed to be. He brought such depth and dignity to the proceedings that made everyone else involved rise to the occasion. It was a true stroke of luck that he got involved when he did.”

Joanna Sternberg is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist, and
actor who lives in New York City. Joanna was born on August 18, 1991 in
Manhattan. At the age of two, Joanna’s parents taught them to hum the entire song
“Oh What A Merry Christmas Day” from Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Seeing as the
melody to this tune is quite complicated, they were surprised and happy that their
two-year-old could hum it note for note. From the ages two to five, Joanna
experimented with “playing” the piano, singing in pre-school with their first music
teacher (the marvelous Anita Hollander), dancing to Little Richard and Chuck
Berry records, drawing and painting. From the ages five to eleven, Joanna took
piano lessons at The Suzuki School For Strings. They wrote their first song “Junk
Yard Dogs” (part of a musical that was never finished) at the age of six.
In middle school at Baruch (MS. 104), Joanna taught themselves how to play the
guitar and electric bass. Their father Michael Sternberg and the school music
teacher Keith Carroll were also very helpful and showed Joanna how to play their
favorite James Jamerson (Motown) bass-lines. Joanna attended Fiorello H.
LaGuardia High School of Music and Art, and graduated in 2009. They started
learning the double bass freshman year, and studied with two amazing bassists:
Judy Sugerman and Neal Miner.
Joanna attended Mannes College of Music for a year studying classical bass with
Orin O’Brien, the first woman in the New York Philharmonic. While Joanna loves
classical music, studying it was stressful and a challenge, to say the least.
After Mannes, Joanna took a year off and did nothing but stay in their room and
draw comics. A year later, Joanna transferred to The New School for Jazz and
Contemporary Music and graduated in 2015.
Joanna has been a professional freelance musician and visual artist since they were
18-years-old. Joanna never thought they could sing, due to confidence issues and
always being bullied by other singers whenever they tried to sing. They were lucky
enough to take lessons with the great singer and teacher Kate Baker for one year,
and she showed them their “real singing voice.” This was life changing for Joanna.
Joanna started writing songs at the age of 20. They never thought they would be
able to write and sing their own music until they heard Elliott Smith. Elliott Smith’s
songs got Joanna through a very hard time of mental illness and addiction. Joanna
realized that songs can save lives and heal people, and writing songs was
something they simply had to do.
The only reason Joanna writes songs is to try to make people feel like they are not
alone. Joanna performs a lot around town playing their songs solo, and a variety of
other music on many different instruments.
Joanna does not like using genres to describe music:I do not like to think of music or any forms of art in genres or categories. I don't
even really like the word art because it has the ability to make people feel bad
about themselves (for example when people say "I am bad at art.") I view it all
as magical love that helps people heal. It also helps me heal every single day.
Joanna listens to what some people would think of as a lot of random music that
doesn’t go together, but Joanna believes it is all one. Some major influences of
their music are: The Beatles, The Funk Brothers, Elliott Smith, Sam Cooke, Randy
Newman, Judee Sill, James Brown, Daniel Johnston, Shooby Taylor, Bob Dylan,
Ornette Coleman, Brahms, Beethoven, Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis,
Weird Al, Tchaikovsky, and, most of all: the great Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix,
Blind Willie McTell, Scott Joplin, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Ray Charles.
Joanna signed to Team Love Records in November 2018, and has an album called
“Then I Try Some More” coming out July 12, 2019 on vinyl, cd, and digital.

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