Landsdowne Street is a busy, bar-lined street in the shadow of Fenway Park. I was excitedly headed to Landsdowne on a cold and rainy Thursday last week for CGCM's first Boston show at Loretta's Last Call, but as I turned onto the street, its normally bustling sidewalks were empty. Apparently, our bar hoppers were scared away by the rain. I began to worry that the night would be a dud, but my fears proved to be unfounded. The crowd was small, but the vibe was big and our lineup of incredible women absolutely rocked the house.
Haley Chic kicked off the show with a mellow presence that belied her powerful vocals. She performed her latest release Slow Down and some unreleased songs that I'll be chomping at the bit to download as soon as they are released. One line that stuck with me was "You're not a fan of east coast winters. Guess you'd rather be in alone in Arizona." Facing my first east coast winter in 15 years, you can probably understand why. See Haley at Hennessy's of Boston on Tuesday, November 26th.
I (Cindy Jollotta) hit the stage next. I started with Leave Slow, my lively honky-tonk-meets-alt-rock song that is a good way to introduce new audiences to my sound. However, knowing that Bostoners really like to hear songs they know, I made sure to include a couple classics from Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. You can see me at Skinny Dennis in New York on December 7th.
Josie Toney started her set with some downright thrilling fiddling. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face the whole time she was up there. Clearly her comfort zone is toe-tapping honk-tonk, but she also played some beautifully mournful tunes with lyrics like "nobody's gonna cry for me but me." Oof. See Josie at Sally O'Brien's in Boston on November 21st.
Ashley Jordan closed out the show with violinist Kathryn Skudera Huddad. What a way to end the night! Ashley's energy put me to shame as she played a series of ever more exciting foot-stompers. They played some of her Ashley's popular originals and did an epic cover of Shipping Up to Boston with a vibe I can only describe as badass. See Ashley and Kathryn at Quinn's Irish Pub in Worcester on December 6th.
Haley Chic will be kicking off City Girls/Country Music's show tonight at Loretta's Last Call! She has been making her presence known in the country world all around Boston, being featured on both of Boston's country radio stations. We're so excited to have her for our first Boston show!
CGCM: You have played in both Nashville and Boston - how do they compare?
Haley: In Nashville, there is music everywhere and almost everyone you meet is either a musician or working/wanting to work in the music industry. You all have similar dreams and goals. Most people are from out of town so it is a very tight knit, family like community. It really is an amazing place. In Nashville, I had so many opportunities to play my own songs live and listen to/collaborate with other songwriters. In Boston, I have been able to profit more from my shows while still being able to play my own songs. But really, nowhere is like Nashville.
CGCM: How do you feel about writing music on your own versus collaborating on a song?
Haley: When I write alone I feel that it is more from my own personal experiences. When I write with others I am able to branch out more and see how others might feel on the subject. My latest release "Slow Down" is available on Spotify and Itunes.
What are projects are you working on right now?
I'm really enjoying working as an event planner in Boston while still being able to write my own music, record and play shows a few times a month. My next original showcase will be at Hennessy's on November 26th in Boston with many other talented songwriters.
Ashley Jordan is a badass Boston-based singer-songwriter with a long list of accolades: 1st round Grammy nomination, 2-time Nash Next National finalist, Boston Music Awards Country Artist of the Year, and more. She will be closing out City Girl/Country Music's Boston show tomorrow, November 7th at Loretta's Last Call. Don't miss it!
CGCM: How did you get your start playing music?
Ashley: My very first time singing on a stage was in middle school for a talent show. I was always painfully shy – so my family was shocked when I marched out on stage and belted out an Avril Lavigne song. I got a lot of attention from that one little show (including local newspapers) and I realized how comfortable I was on a stage – so I started taking vocal lessons and learning to play the guitar. Once I learned the guitar, I started writing my own music and that’s really the start to everything for me. My mentor was a singer-songwriter who performed in the subways of Boston, so once I had enough original music under my belt, I started street performing (called “Busking”) in Harvard Square and around the Boston area. I’d try out my new songs and some covers – and I gained experience and also made money - and I was only 13/14 years old. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a brave thing to do as a young girl and I learned a great deal! I started getting business cards thrown into my guitar case and offers to come play in venues – and that’s pretty much how I started playing music professionally.
CGCM: How does playing around Boston compare to your experience playing in Nashville?
Ashley: Both cities are amazing to play in and I am so grateful for those opportunities.
In Boston - you have a couple of elements which makes it unique. First of all, for sure there is the hometown crowd vibe. As I said before, I grew up in this scene, busking in Harvard Square and other locations around Boston. The people from Boston, Worcester, the Cape and Springfield areas are amazing people - they work hard and they play hard and they expect talent. When they love you - they love you! In the early days it was a bit intimidating - I was this young girl trying to figure things out and sometimes I got it right, sometimes not so much. The local crowds always let you know which was which - lol!
One thing I loved about the Boston scene back then is that every now and then, people would yell at me and say “you’re a girl - you can’t play that song” and that would fire me up. I’ll always remember this one time I got yelled at for playing “Shipping up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. I knew right there that I’d ALWAYS play that song and I’d embrace it’s energy and its power. Flash forward to more than a decade later and it’s now a staple in my band’s roster for our performances. We bring the crowd into it - and we dance as we play because that song deserves it!
And of course, it’s pretty much an epic time to be part of Boston sports if you are a local sports fan. The last few years you can just see/feel the energy levels across the whole State grow and grow. I remember we had a residency this past year in Boston and I think there was a Bruins NHL playoff game almost every week of our residency on the actual night. We eventually had to design our set list around the game!
Over the years - I’ve been lucky to have built a good fanbase here and around various locations in New England. The last year or two - we’ve been playing bigger shows in Boston and Worcester, up near Portland Maine, and Laconia New Hampshire and it’s so exciting to see people coming back to all the shows and to get to know so many amazing people who support us.
We had this very touching and powerful moment recently up in Farmington Maine. We’ve spent the last years playing quite a bit up in that area and building some really nice friendships and long-term relationships with a bunch of Promoters. Then we got a call this past September from one of the partners up in Maine who told us that their community and friends/family had been directly affected by that horrible Propane Explosion, which ultimately took the life of Farmington Fire & Rescue’s Captain Michael Bell and injured many others.
We were asked if we would like to be part of a community fundraising event being planned for October to support the families of this Farmington tragedy - and we worked with the committee to help build this event. On the day of the event we loaded up the van early in the morning with the band, my management and production team and the gear and when we arrived, we were overwhelmed with such an outpouring of love and empathy and healing taking place at the event. Before we took the stage, they asked us if we could spend some time with various members of the Farmington Fire and Rescue crew and we had this magical 30 minutes of listening, and laughing and crying and trading stories about my own brother who is a firefighter in Cambridge, MA. We then took the stage with them and we were asked to lead the presentation of gifts and moments of silence prior to our musical performance.
That’s the strength and resilience of the people we are so fortunate enough to play in front of here in Boston and in the New England scene.
Now, shifting to Nashville - that’s a whole other world! There’s nothing like playing in Nashville. Just the stories/legends of how many people have come out of Nashville alone are enough to humble you!
I love playing in that city – there’s such a focus on music, songwriting and creativity. It’s a songwriter’s dream come true. And the level of musicianship is unreal in Nashville too.
One memory I will always cherish is I had a chance to be a finalist in a competition called NashNext which was put on by Cumulus Media. We played to a packed crowd at the Wild Horse Saloon in Nashville, and in front of a number of industry giants. It’s always a bit intimidating to be looking out and going - “oh, there’s Taylor Swift’s manager”, and “there’s Desmond Child, hit songwriter for Bon Jovi and Aerosmith.”
But nothing beats that feeling of playing those kinds of stages in Nashville. And for Desmond Child to publicly say to me “I used to go see Janis Joplin at these big festivals and you have that same feeling about you,” I was truly blown away and humbled.
We’ve got a few more Nashville stories to tell – but I’ve been bound to secrecy for now and can’t wait to share more in the future (so stay tuned)!
CGCM: What's next?
Ashley: We’ve just come off a couple fun live performances - including a really cool show at the Oberon Theatre in Cambridge. This was our first show where we tested out our new immersive media production. We built a show that included running video on a massive screen behind us, with pre-programmed lights and lasers, really intense digital graphics to give a sense of motion and space and time, as well as a choreographed performance by the a line dancing group called the Plymouth County Stompers from the Jones River Tavern in Kingston MA. It was visually stimulating - and the content we captured with our photographer/videographer Tommy Colbert was crazy cool and intense, so we’re now focusing on taking that show on the road in late winter and early spring.
I’ve been working the past two years to help support a few foundations. In particular - I’ve working to help raise awareness and funding for a group of boys who suffer from a rare pediatric disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The name of the Foundation is called the Beauhawks Foundation. (www.beauhawks.org)
I also strongly support several veterans organizations and I’m starting to work directly with several area animal shelters as I have a strong passion for dogs (and all animals)!
A really big project for me right now is that I am in the process of recording new music. We started back in September - and we’ve got a few more tracking sessions later this month - then mixing in December and January, and hopefully a goal will be to release in the early Spring. My management team and I have been working really hard on some exciting career opportunities surrounding this new material. Because of this, we’ve got to keep it a bit quiet for now - but let’s just say that I’m really excited about what we are creating! I keep wanting to drop a few hints - but I’ve promised to keep following our Team’s mantra of “loose lips sink ships,” lol. Let’s just say that the microphone I’m using to record has heard the lyrics from the songs Heartbeat and Church Bells.
Keep an eye out for updates on my Facebook and Instagram pages, at: Facebook.com/ashleyjordanmusic and Instagram.com/ashleyjmusic.
Thank you again for including me in the showcase at Loretta’s here in Boston for City Girls/Country Music. I am so honored to have been invited and I am really excited to do more with this organization
Accomplished fiddler and Berklee College of Music student Josie Toney will be hitting this stage this Thursday for City Girls/Country Music's first Boston show!
CGCM: How do you balance playing fiddle and singing?
Josie: It's tough! My work with legendary old time fiddler and vocalist Bruce Molsky, who teaches at Berklee a couple of days a week, has really helped me with literally balancing the fiddle and voice when I am doing them at the same time, which is really difficult. The rest of the time, I'm switching back and forth between the two, and sometimes it's a discombobulating transition. I am also a guitarist, so for country shows where I am leading all of the material, I will often play guitar and hire one of the many amazing fiddle players to be found in Boston to play with me. This is always a special treat because as a fiddler myself, I don't often get to perform with my fiddle playin' friends, plus we always break out a few "twin fiddle" numbers during a set, where we both play, and this is a total blast!
CGCM: Do you write your own music?
Josie: Yes! I play a mix of traditional music, covers, and originals, all of which will be represented in my set at Loretta's this Thursday. I write in an older style than most modern audiences may be used to, and I'm very picky about what songs I release into the wild. I've been working with accomplished songwriter and Berklee songwriting faculty member Mark Simos on some new songs that I'm excited to record in the spring. I also write instrumental music, "fiddle tunes," which I've been doing since I was a kid. I've been studying the art of tune writing with Joe K. Walsh, and found that to be a really rewarding part of my time at Berklee.
CGCM: What are your plans after graduation?
Josie: I'm going to continue being based in Boston through at least the summer, but I'm looking at relocating in the fall. Starting in 2020 I'll be really working to promote two projects, Josie Toney and That Old Time Religion, which is an old time string band, and Josie Toney and Her Honky Tonk Heroes, which is the country band that will be playing at Sally O'Brien's on the 21st. It hasn't been announced yet, but we have a residency for a honky tonk night at the Burren beginning in January, so keep your eyes open for that! I also teach private lessons, as well as classes at The Passim School of Music, which is a part of Club Passim. In the spring I am planning at least one recording project, so please go ahead and like my brand new Facebook page.
See Josie this Thursday, November 7th, at our free show at Loretta's Last Call on Landsdowne Street in downtown Boston! RSVP here.