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Local Musicians by kristen brynlee

This is a portrait project. I wanted to capture musicians in their own environment, where I thought their stories could best be told. These artists were photographed in the Kentucky and Indiana area. Some I knew, some I didn’t know, but all of whom I got to know a little bit better. These are the stories of...

Local Musicians

George Paul Smith, Guitarist and Teacher

October 18th, 2018

As a guitarist for over 30 years, Paul recalls the beginnings of his love for music. “When I was young, I had a mom who listened to the kind of music I thought was awesome. At age 7, I remember just walking around my neighborhood singing. My friends thought it was strange.” In his freshman year of high school, he made a deal with his mom that if he got straight A’s, he could get a guitar. After just one semester he cashed in on that deal. “I used to just sit on the corner of my bed trying to learn guitar solos. It bothered me when I couldn’t play something, so I just practiced until I finally could.”

That practice paid off, and Paul's skill level allowed him to get into various touring bands. But after his daughter Audrey was born, he decided to stay local to be a part of her childhood. So, while keeping active in the local music community, he also began teaching music. He developed his own guitar teaching technique and created GPS Guitar School.

You would never know while listening to him play that, at the age of 43, Paul suffered a stroke and was clinically dead before paramedics were able to revive him. He suffered no brain damage, but soon after waking up discovered he was unable to move his left hand. As part of his recovery, he had to completely retrain his hands, so guitar became his physical therapy. “The guitar used to be a musical instrument to me, but when the stroke happened, it became a gymnasium...” Just like when he was a kid, it still bothers him if he can’t play something, so he works to get better every day. Today Paul continues to teach guitar, hold workshops, and write songs.

“I think it’s true the older you get the more you slow down and enjoy things. I honestly never thought I would live to see 40, and I was very close to going when the stroke happened. But I have my family and music. That’s always kept me going.”

James Gaetano, Guitarist and Business Owner

November 1st, 2018

Owner of Jimmy’s Music Center in downtown New Albany, James lives with his family on the second floor of his music store. As a business owner, frontman of two bands, a husband, father of five, and organizer of community events such as the New Albany Blues Brews & BBQ Fest, James stays quite busy. He started playing music at the age of 14 when he got his first electric guitar. “You couldn’t pry it out of my hands, I just played all the time. I knew that’s really what I wanted to do.”

After graduating high school in El Paso, Texas he attended the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. Once completing their program, he toured all over the United States, parts of Norway, and across Europe, but decided he didn’t like the touring lifestyle. “You’re spending most of your time traveling or waiting, and you’re really only on stage for an hour or two.” So, in 1993 he quit music, moved to New Albany, Indiana and attended bible school. Though he states, “Music never really leaves you, I was still that little kid with a guitar in my bedroom when I was 14, I really loved playing.”

While working with his church and waiting tables, a friend of his led him to what was originally Kentuckiana Music Center in New Albany. He became a guitar teacher and worked in the store for 4 years. About that time, the owner decided to sell the business, so James took the leap and bought the store. A year later he moved it to its current location on Spring Street. He has owned Jimmy’s Music Center for 13 years. “It really was the best thing I ever did.”

"There are all sorts of things I have now. Stuff I only used to dream about when I was a kid. But it’s funny how your priorities change as you get older, you find that what really makes you happy are the people you’re around, and having that love and acceptance.”

Leigh-Ann Yost, Singer/Songwriter

November 4th, 2018

Leigh-Ann, a local songwriter, developed her love of music in grade school, where she had a music teacher with a background in opera. The classes revolved around learning harmony and rhythm, which hooked Leigh-Ann into a lifelong love of music. She has since used music as a tool, incorporating it into her life and the work she’s done–everything from singing in sales meetings to pump people up, to bringing her guitar into the classroom to engage students in her work as a substitute teacher.

When she was 25 she moved to Louisville and joined a duo. However, after various duos and bands broke up, Leigh-Ann wanted to be able to play and sing on her own. She learned to play guitar when she was 30. “If I can learn, anyone can learn.” While learning guitar she began writing songs by accident. “As I was practicing chords I would make up a melody, and then all of the sudden words would come in.” Leigh-Ann describes herself as an empath, absorbing the feelings and emotions of the world around her. For her, songwriting is an outlet to release those emotions.

She released her first album in 2006 at the age of 36. She was surprised by the positive response that led to her getting the chance to headline shows, as well as play on the radio with some of her musical heroes like Tim Krekel. Leigh-Ann released another album in 2011 through SonaBLAST! Records. In a year and a half she’ll be 50, and her goal is to release new music then.

“I don’t want people to ever look back think ‘man I should have done that when I was younger,’ do it now. If you want to do it, do it.”

Villa Mure, Band

November 9th, 2018

Lead singer/guitarist Kendra and bassist Colin started Villa Mure as a husband and wife songwriting duo. Their band’s name is a combination of Kendra’s maiden name “Villiger” and Colin’s last name “LaMure.”

The two were in a class in college together, where they didn’t speak to each other all semester. It wasn’t until Kendra wanted to start a new band that she reached out to Colin knowing he played bass. “I wanted to have a group of people that I could be friends with. Where it just felt like you were hanging out, writing music, and it was fun.” They met their drummer Jordan Hubbard through local open mic nights. In-between sets they would jam together. He expressed an interest in being in an original band, and things just fell into place. Colin notes, “…that’s the thing about music, you start playing with people and then you’re friends.”

The band draws a lot of inspiration from Louisville’s local music scene. “It’s so supportive,” Kendra stated, “and there are a lot of really good bands. The mix of music and creativity is really interesting. There are some shows that I go to where I just can’t stop smiling because it’s the kind of sound I want to create.” Jordan says, “I like the adventure of it all. Like how in the past year we’ve played in leaky basements, and then we just played at Bourbon Hall on a huge stage, with all the music equipment you could imagine.”

"[Music] is what we live for. It's the thing we can continually work towards. You know your entire life you can write music, and just having that outlet and ability is really cool. It’s something to work on forever.”

Fred Bogert, Producer

November 16th, 2018

Fred is a multi-instrumentalist and a Grammy-nominated producer who has worked on over 4,000 recordings throughout his career. He grew up in New Jersey near Asbury Park in the ‘50s–‘60s and first started playing bass at the age of 14. While attending engineering school in Philadelphia, he would hitchhike back to Asbury Park just to play rock music. During this time, he performed at the famous Upstage Club, crossing paths and playing with artists such as Vini Lopez and Bruce Springsteen.

In the early ‘70s, Fred moved to Florida to attend the University of Miami School of Music. But later in the '90s, a friend dared him to move to Nashville to do production work. Fred accepted that challenge and ended up working on Music Row in RCA Studios. One artist he worked with was a young Lee Ann Rhimes who was just beginning her music career. He states his time in Nashville, "…was very intense but very wonderful.”

In 2006 Fred moved to the Highlands of Louisville, Kentucky. Here he continues to work for clients on a national level out of his home studio. He also works closely with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries. After noticing, “…that many of the refugees, who had fled all sorts of dangerous situations with only the clothes on their backs, were at the same time world-class musicians with incredible heritages...” Fred started providing production work and participating in performances to introduce them to the local art community. One show, held at the Bomhard Theater in the Kentucky Center for the Arts, featured 109 people on the stage from all different aspects of the World and the Louisville Community. Fred states that he’s always found the most joy in the simpler things, such as his community and nature.

"I'm a great believer that if you create in the community, that the community becomes a better place. A great way to build relationships is to create something together."

Shake Anderson and His All Stars, Band

September 29th, 2018

Lead singer Sam “Shake” Anderson, bassist Cory Hamilton, keyboardist Morpheus Jameal Williams, and drummer JD Blair came together to perform at Louisville’s annual NuLu Festival. There was nothing but true talent and a genuine love of music on stage during their performance.

Shake Anderson, originally from Louisville, has a long career in music. He began performing at the age of nine and was a strong presence in the ‘90s Louisville music scene. He now lives in Texas but comes back almost every year to perform at NuLu Fest, bringing “all-star” musicians with him each time. This year he brought some fellow Texans, each with an impressive resume of their own, to play in the band.

Though my time meeting them and talking to them backstage was brief, I quickly got a sense of the band’s dedication to music, as well as their true friendship with one another.

As a musician myself, this was a very personal project for me. Some of these artists have shaped me into the person I am today. Hearing their stories and talking to them on a deeper level allowed me to get to know them even better. And for that, I’m grateful.

Thank you to everyone who shared their time and their stories with me. These stories prove that no matter what walk of life you come from, and no matter what path you choose, the music never leaves you. Whether you play or just listen, music affects us all.

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