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By Ashley Lucas

Per the gentle persuasion of a friend, I was recently introduced to new Roanoke band, Appalachian Soul. Having a penchant for soul and R&B music, it wasn’t a hard sell for me to fall immediately in love with the groove and moving lyrics. Appalachian Soul is a new project for veteran Roanoke songwriters, Phil Norman and Will Farmer. The two have been performing together for years as part of an acoustic, “not-quite bluegrass” band, Blue Moonshine. Wanting to expand their sound, they added Mike Parker on bass and Breyon Fraction on drums. They’re set to record an EP this fall, and if word of mouth keeps their music traveling, it will be a happy highway playlist for all of us.

Their song “On Your Own Now,” which was written by Farmer and Norman this past winter, actually helped inspired the sound for the band. That’s the power of a song: it can totally define a musician’s moves. And it surely lives up to the hype. When I first heard “On Your Own Now,” I couldn’t stop tapping my foot and dancing in my chair, and by the end of the song I was singing along with the chorus. It was stuck in my head for days, and I was totally fine with that. Listen to “On Your Own Now,” and read Appalachian Soul’s story behind the song:

Describe your songwriting style.

Phil Norman (PN): I’m a big believer in hooks, and often start from little phrases and melodies that get stuck in my head. Lyrically, I think I tend to use conversational and direct language, more than I use colorful imagery. I also try to be concise lyrically, and capture a feeling in a few verses and a 3-minute pop song form more than, say, Bob Dylan might!

Will Farmer (WF): I almost always start with a melody or chord progression and work to find the hook from it. Lyrics are always a challenge for me, as I like to have a framework for the song which limits my freedom. However, recently I have started with a chord progression and then recorded whatever words come out and then dissected the best part of that to form the lyrics for the song. It is always a work in progress.

Describe your songwriting goals.

PN: There’s no greater gift for me than to see someone in the audience singing along, to know that one of my songs is part of someone else’s life. Beyond that, I think the Beatles said it well: I’d like to write a swimming pool.

WF: I have mostly written for myself and never worried about the band or audience. With our new configuration, I am opening the door to find more accessible songs for the audience that are easy to move with.

Who are your songwriting heroes?

PN: This could be a long list! Some big ones: Paul Simon, Lennon/McCartney, Indigo Girls, REM, Van Morrison.

WF: Jimi Hendrix, Lennon/McCartney, Ryan Adams, Darrell Scott

How long did this song take to write?

PN: This one was pretty quick. We got together one evening and Will had the opening lick and chord progression. The opening lyric and melody came that evening, and I took it home and finished up the lyric over the next couple days. The song really came to life when we started playing with Mike and Breyon.

Where was it recorded?

PN: This is a live recording from our performance at WTVF in May.

Story behind the song:

PN: I think sometimes we forget that we can only control our own choices, our own behaviors. Even in a deeply loving relationship, our only real control is over ourselves. There’s a progression to the narrator’s story here, each verse he is slowly recognizing his own reactions, his emotions, his anger, and gaining more self-control. I think the story in this song is that we fall into patterns in our relationships, some of them better than others. To change those patterns, it isn’t up to our partners to change, it’s up to us to recognize our reactions and take responsibility and control. Sometimes that means leaving someone else on their own.

#SongWriters #Bands #Soul #RnB


By Ashley Lucas

One of the best things about attending Southwest Virginia Songwriters Association meetings is getting to hear the incredible songs that come from local musicians. Last month, SVSA member Randy Williams, brought a song to get critiqued by the group, and it’s so beautiful, and perfect for a special Father’s Day edition of Story Behind the Song.

Williams began writing songs as a teenager, but didn’t start focusing on songwriting until after his kids were grown. Crediting Angaleena Presley, Shawn Camp, Jason Isbell and Richard Thompson as some of his songwriting heroes, he writes to inspire others to see things from an unfamiliar perspective. His only real goal with songwriting is to be able to share an emotion or struggle that people can connect with. And with the song, “Look Up”, he truly accomplishes this goal. He recorded the song at Summit Sound with Jake Dempsey, who Williams said was crucial in bringing his songs to life.

While the initial concept for this song came quickly to Williams, he spent years hashing out the precise wording. In listening to the song, you can hear the time he spent living the lyrics. I personally teared up multiple times when I first heard this song, and each time I’ve listened to it since. It’s a wonderfully touching story of a father and son, and just how fast time can slip away. Listen to the song, take some time, look up, and enjoying reading William’s Story Behind the Song:

“I don’t usually start a song with an aim toward a hook, but in this case I guess I did. The idea came one day as I was walking a trail near my office. I used to walk every day at lunch and I had gotten to know this particular path pretty well. I was typically focused on my immediate surroundings; I knew where every blackberry vine and every bird’s nest was. But on this day, as I topped the hill, I happened to look up at the horizon beyond. I said to myself, “wow, what a view, I need to look up more”. As soon as I said it, I thought, “wait, what did I just say?”

Although most parents can relate to this song, the sentiment really struck a personal chord with me. Upon graduation from college, I immediately started my own residential construction business. I wouldn’t really recommend this route for most, but I was just hard headed enough to believe I could do things my way. In order to minimize overhead, I took on a tremendous number of tasks. I was a designer, cost estimator, marketer, site foreman, carpenter, payroll administrator, tax accountant, counselor, and anything else you got. I was lucky to have an invaluable right hand man and good buddy in a fellow named Dennis Miller. We worked like horses for about twenty-five years. The business was successful and we made some money. But Dennis became ill and passed away with lung cancer in the Fall of 2012. His departure really shook me. I began to consider that there was more to life than working so hard. I even wondered if the constant striving had contributed to my buddy’s illness. I started looking for ways to ease out of the daily grind. Fortunately, I had developed some rental properties that generated enough cash flow to keep the bills paid. I decided to make a point of picking up the guitar every day. I always enjoyed putting words together, and the more I slide in behind that guitar, the more the lyrics come. Regarding the featured song ‘Look Up’, I was familiar with the old expression, ‘I’m so busy I can’t even look up’. Then I thought about the notion of looking up toward the heavens. I realized I could combine these two phrases and maybe make a song. The images in the verses are just memories of my boys as kids, as well as my own childhood. Everybody talks about how children grow up fast, but it’s hard to realize, until one day you look around and they’re gone. So, I hope ol’ Dennis is up there listening. And I hope our story can be a blessing to young and old alike to take a moment now and then and just look up.”

Hear Randy Williams perform at Lucy Monroe’s in Christiansburg on Wednesday nights.

#SongWriter #SVSA

Randy Williams


Updated: Jan 29, 2018

By Ashley Lucas

Living in Roanoke, we’re all #blessed to be surrounded by a myriad of incredible musical talent.  From bluegrass to metal, to Americana to reggae, there’s a little something for just about everyone.  One such talent comes from a young lady from Floyd, VA.  Her name is Morgan Wade and I’ve been following her for a few years now.  I remember listening to her music for the first time and thinking that she’s got that “something” that all writers, singers, and artists hope for:  She sounds exactly like who she is.  There’s no misrepresentation; her songs are the truest form of her pure self.  I like that honesty in a songwriter.  Being brave enough to put oneself out there is half the battle of writing relatable songs.

As a songwriter, Morgan has a constant stream of lyrics flowing through her brain, but she admits to never writing them down on paper.  One particular song, “Let Me Rest”, is a southern rock anthem that welcomes the listener into Morgan’s world.  It’s a toe-tapping, yet painful recollection of heartbreak, mistakes, and twisted intentions.  Recorded at Summit Sounds by Jake Dempsey, the production quality perfectly blends Morgan’s impressive vocals with clean guitar riffs and a healthy dose of bass.   Listen to “Let Me Rest” and read Morgan’s story behind the song:

“I come from a very small town, Floyd County.  Basically anything you do, it gets around.  I just remember being in a difficult time in my life. I had just moved out of my parents’ house, got my own place, and was a full time student in college.  I had also been dealing with a breakup.  I remember driving down the road and thinking if I left right now, I could be in Atlanta tonight.  I could just forget everything.  Obviously I couldn’t leave.  I began to think about how leaving the state of VA would not solve my problems.  I remember coming up with the first verse in my head as I never write a song down.  But that was it; I just kind of left it at that.”

“A couple months later I just sat down, and the other two verses came together.  The second verse really focuses on a trip to Tennessee I took years ago.  I went to a bar, using my friends ID, had more drinks than I can remember, most of it being moonshine (I will not touch moonshine to this day).  Feeling pretty good, I asked a guy to play his guitar during his set break; I won the crowd over, until the man got mad and made me leave.  The bar had karaoke later that night, but I decided instead of singing someone else’s song, I decided to play and sing my own.  After that, I remember my boyfriend grabbing me from the stage, and taking me to eat and “sober up.”  I went to the bathroom, and the next thing I know I woke up laying on the floor, with my boyfriend yelling at me to get up.  I then remember looking in the sink and well, that’s where ‘I threw up in the sink came from.’ I woke up the next day in a hotel bed with a pizza, and a name tag saying “Hello my name is Sassy.”  That weekend is pretty infamous in my book of stories.”

“Last but not least, the 3rd verse dives into a time spent with an ex in Carolina.  I just remember fighting over everything and crying the whole way home.  It was not long after that we called it quits.  The bottom line of the song is, no matter where I go, I have memories, whether they are good, or bad.  I just reminisced, realizing I couldn’t run away from my mistakes, or my well, stupidity.”

Morgan Wade is the lead singer for Roanoke band, Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers.

#LetMeRest #Singer #SongWriter

Singer / Songwriter Morgan Wade

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