The Crawl – An Xperience Column
Written by Staff on January 12, 2024
The Crawl – An Xperience Interview – by Jordan Lanegan.
You can knock Troy for a lot of reasons – it’s full of its eccentrics and quirks, there’s no doubt about that. But for as many reasons as you could knock it, you could equally find just as many reasons to admire and praise it. We’re a grimy, gritty, character-flawed little city but within its bubble, we have some of the most passionate, creative, genuinely good-hearted people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – people who are driven by what they love to do and who want to share that with as many others as they can; to bring their specialized niche and piece of the pie to the local and widening robust community. This city is stuffed full of talented chefs, bartenders, small business owners, artists and musicians alike. That is Troy’s charm – a hidden gem nestled in the Capital Region valley that often goes unnoticed, but once discovered, leaves a lasting impression and yearning for more.
The music scene in this town is one that is hard to forget; there’s something very special about it. Several of the small businesses here are a huge part of why local musicians have the platform that they do, as they host ample weekly events promoting shows and offering a venue for solo artists and bands to bring their magic to the stage. The Twisted Fiddler features a rotation of varying live artists each week, The Whiskey Pickle is home to a myriad of DJs who spin in the upstairs loft and newly added blown-out outdoor patio area, The El Dorado hosts many alternative and punk-rock shows in their black and white checkered back room, and No Fun is a staple of the music community for a slew of different genres.
However, the newest and most exciting addition on the scene comes from well-known member of the community, Scott Wormer, who has innovatively put together what is known as Song City, with splintering supplementing facets, such as The Open Floor, which takes place the fourth Tuesday of each month on the upper level of the Ruck, as well as Song City’s INK first four-day songwriting retreat, funded largely in part to a grant from the Council on the Arts and which took place the first week of November in a cozy cabin at Silver Bay in Lake George. He was inspired by the artistic passion that was evident in Troy upon moving here and wanted to fashion an experience and space that allowed original songwriters an opportunity to connect, create and collaborate amongst other musicians from diverse lyrical and instrumental styles.
Although all 25 of the applicants for the retreat were strong contenders, ultimately Scott ended up selecting the ten that he felt brought forth the most distinctive and unique styles, genres, and personalities that would aid in promoting the right chemistry and team environment necessary for enhancing the song writing process. Throughout the four days, the songwriters focused on taking individual space in corners of the lodge and in nature for their writing, as well as bouncing ideas off one another and playing together in collaborative settings amidst food, drinks and fires, with the objective being able to come out of it with fresh ideas and songs. Moreover, discussion of renowned music producer Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act, was had in order to encourage the musicians to step out of their comfort zones and look at creating in a different light, in ways they haven’t tried or thought of prior that might strike a new chord of inspiration. A demo studio was also set up in the living room of the cabin for artists to dabble with recording.
The ten artists selected included Kaylee (Ladybyrd), Ben Hart, Deb Cavanaugh, Natalie Seagriff, J.B. (Dirty Moses), Amanda Case, Sean Jones (The Paper Prince), Ed Schwarschild (DoctorBaker), Jonathon Hinterberger and Saliyah Itoka. On December 5th, all ten reunited at the AI Center in Downtown Troy, with the exception of Hinterberger and Itoka, to debut the new music they composed at the retreat. As you walked into the showcase and found your way to a seat, you noticed an eclectic collection of vintage chairs, couches, and standing lamps sprawled in an intimate round-style across a large antique area rug, centered in the dimly lit, grand room with a spotlight on the stool in the middle for the performing artist.
“This is unlike anything that we’ve done,” Wormer opens with as MC. “It’s very different than Song City or The Open Floor. The retreat was a magical time. I would talk too long to try and explain to you what an incredible time it was, but what came out of it was not only songs, but more than that, what came out of it was family. A true community. Last time these eight songs were played was in a huge lodge, in a living room looking very similar to this. What we’re doing tonight is to try and bring you as a community into what we experienced together up North.”
His sentiment of a family vibe was echoed resoundingly amongst each artist’s intro, with many of them confessing the nerves they had coming into the experience and the comfort and closeness they felt upon leaving.
“I tend to be a little reclusive unless I’m in performance mode, so going to something for a couple of overnights can be really difficult, but these guys just made it really easy,” said Cavanaugh before performing her new original song, “Where Do I Go From Here?”.
Kaylee (LadyByrd) was the first one to take the stool. She began by sharing that despite her nerves of talking in public and showing how vulnerable she is, she felt relieved and supported being surrounded by her seven other peers, noting how in a way, it feels like they’re all in a band together now. Had she not shared this, you never would have guessed she felt any sort of shakiness being in front of a crowd because of the way her voice floated and filled the room confidently with a beautiful airy and jazzy essence to it as she sang her new original, “Sage Advice”.
Each person that took center stage opened up about their writing process and retreat experience. They shared the tipping point that led them to their a-ha moment in producing their new song, the advice from someone else that made a lightbulb go off, and intimate parts of their personal lives that inspired a lyric or stream of thought.
“The best songs happen pretty fast. That’s kind of a truism for writers. The ones that you need to work really hard at, for me at least, tend to be pretty contrived. For lyrics, if it happens right, it ends up being like meditation – you just let whatever is in your head happen. For me, writing happens like that, and then what it starts to do is reveal what’s heavy on your heart and foremost where your head is at,” Hart expressed before debuting his new single, “Going Out of My Way”.
What I loved most about this showcase was how the goosebumps and prickled skin from rising hair never once left my arms, even with how very different each artist was. Their age, gender, background, range, instrument, disposition, and style were complemented perfectly by the obvious shared love of what they do and how that was the binding factor of their budding and blossoming relationships with one another. No matter if it was folk, indie, jazz, rap, electric or acoustic, these eight artists had a visible dedicated passion to their work that was quite awe-inducing.
Closing out the night was Ed Schwarzchild (DoctorBaker) with his new song, “Appointment”, which he prefaced by praising Scott. “There’s a special kind of magic and talent and beauty in being able to make something like this happen, but the fact that he has created this whole scene, it begets description – it’s pretty phenomenal.”
And indeed, it is pretty phenomenal. As I watched each performer go up and lay their heart on the floor, I thought of how everyone has to start somewhere, of how every creative person has had that one moment or experience that lit (or reignited) the fire underneath them, and of how important having a community where you feel safe, inspired, and heard truly is in order to flourish in your art. There is far more to come from Song City, so be sure to keep your ears perked, and in the meantime, support the retreat artists by heading to songcitytroy.com and checking out each of their new original songs (and prepare yourself to be blown away.)