The House of Songs is a 501(c)3 that invites songwriters from around the world to the United States to share the universal language of music in collaborations designed to bridge cultures, build friendships and cultivate peace.
Inspired by a collaboration between Troy Campbell and Poul Krebs, the House was envisioned at a writer’s retreat on the Danish island Samsø, aka Song Island. In 2009, they started a one-year project to bring Danish artists to Austin, TX. Recognizing music provides a conduit for connecting diverse cultures together, Campbell developed a plan to spread the concept to other parts of the world. The House of Songs has since sponsored collaborations in 33 countries and now operates out of Austin and Bentonville, Arkansas, where the second permanent location, The House of Songs Ozarks, opened in September 2017 with support from The Walton Family Foundation.
FreshSongs: Premiere performances of new music created at The House of Songs featuring Willi Carlisle, Bonnie Montgomery, Auralai, Kalyn Fay, Billy Keane, Mamie Minch, and Jaimee Harris.
Willi Carlisle is a raconteur and folksinger from the Ozark mountains of Arkansas and Missouri. The Washington Post says he is “powerful,” “down-home and brainy.” Twin Cities Pioneer calls him “impressive on banjo, accordion, and fiddle.” In Cincinnati, a reviewer said his songs and stories “turn the cliche of solo performance on their head.” With a varied and exuberant program of folksongs, stories, and original stomps and croons, Willi has performed internationally with Grammy-Winning talent like Dom Flemmons and Los Texmaniacs and been featured in places like NPR’s “LGBTQIA+ Playlist” and Western AF.
Oklahoma-born, Cherokee and Muscogee songwriter Kalyn Fay has a voice that commands rapt attention, whether filling a theater or piercing the din of a dive bar. It’s a tenor timbre described as rich and velveteen, a voice one will not soon forget.
Though Fay’s been writing and recording her own music only since 2014, she performs with the candor of a seasoned veteran. She got her feet wet in the vibrant Tulsa music scene, with residencies at long-held local favorites, like The Mercury Lounge and the Colony.
Since then, she’s lived more than her share of life: She’s loved and lost, voraciously pursued higher education, questioned her faith, grounded herself in her Indigenous community, and figured out how to process and express all that through her art. She’s traveled. She’s come back home. She’s left again.
All of this is evident when she sings. Fay seems at her most comfortable when her own voice carries her story and moves it forward. Her candid lyrics reflect with a measured sorrow; they know when to say thank you, goodbye, or nothing at all. Her melodies make space for others, including an extensive collective of trusted musical collaborators from her hometown, but she will hold onto a word here and suddenly cut one off there, whenever the time is right.
When Kalyn Fay sings, you’ll hear her confessions and acceptance, vulnerability, hard-fought lessons, and measured determination. The narrative, the life lived, is hers; the warmth of her voice entrusts her story to those who will listen.
Billy Keane, a Pittsfield MA based rocker was discovered by the Berkshires first family of music, Kim and James Taylor. Keane writes and sings about things that are important to people: Freedom, love and peace as well as other key issues in our time. With his blend of Neo-Americana and Indie Rock, Keane has built a solid following by playing clubs, bars, concert halls and festivals throughout the United States an abroad, both as a solo act, and as a founding member of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow. In January of 2020, with The Whiskey Treaty, Keane released “Band Together”, a full length studio album feathering Steve Gorman of the Black Crowes, Pat Sansone of Wilco, and the Berkshire’s own Arlo Guthrie. “Band Together” has received high praise from Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, No Depression, and other outlets, and tracks off the album can be heard playing on the radio the world over.
Mamie Minch is a longtime staple of New York’s acoustic blues scene. Listening to her songs is like unpacking a time capsule of American music that’s been stored in her National steel guitar since the 1930’s and filtered with a modern femme sensitivity. As half of the woman owned and operated Brooklyn Lutherie, Mamie’s day job is restoring and repairing stringed instruments and by summer she teaches girl-children to build ukuleles with their own hands. Mamie is also a MASS MoCA regular and a former FreshScores grantee. Her latest solo album, Slow Burn, came out in 2020.
My BandCamp is: https://mamieminch.bandcamp.com/album/slow-burn
My FB is: https://www.facebook.com/mamieminchmusic
My IG is: https://www.instagram.com/mamieminch
My website (construction to be finished soon!) is: mamieminch.com
Here is a video of an original song, “Deep Footsteps”.
and a longer recording I did in the fall for the Brooklyn Americana Festival.
Austin-based artist Bonnie Montgomery is a creative nomad, lauded as enthusiastically for her polished parlor songs as she is for her lawless country barnburners — or for the classical opera arias she’s penned at the piano.
With roots in White County, Arkansas and a firm foothold on forward-thinking audiences in Texas, Montgomery is armed with a poet’s phrasing, a soprano’s crystalline timbre and a revolutionary’s spirit, and her repertoire ranges wherever it damn well pleases — from high romantic ballads swaddled in violins to fiery anthems of dissent to spaghetti western-inspired vignettes.
Dale Watson called her “a sophisticated badass who was born to sing.” Counterpunch Magazine hailed her operatic compositions as “white trash arias, soaked in alcohol and sex.” Her 2016 short-length opera about Bill Clinton’s youth in Hot Springs has earned accolades from The New Yorker and Huffington Post, and her second full-length album “Forever” drew praise from Paste magazine for its “timeless songwriting.”
Montgomery secured the title of 2020 Entertainer of the Year with the Arkansas Country Music Awards, ACMA 2019 Americana/Roots Artist of the Year, the title of Outlaw Female at the 2016 Ameripolitan Awards and the titles of Best Americana Artist and Best Female Vocalist at the 2018 Arkansas Country Music Awards.
Last year, Montgomery returned to her classical composition roots with her new song, “Song Beyond Words, a Vocalise,” featured on the virtual album CALL OUT, a celebration of female composers originally scheduled for Carnegie Hall by celebrated Broadway and Metropolitan Opera star Zachary James. The composition is the first to use steel guitar in an operatic medium.
Montgomery is currently working on a new studio album and will be performing with Amy Helm and Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys at the Arkansas Country Music Awards in June.
With three singles produced by rockabilly legend Rosie Flores and a touring collaboration with Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard in her rearview mirror, Montgomery’s leaving little doubt that she’s a master in the making — a charismatic collaborator, a commanding bandleader and a prolific, sensitive conduit for big ideas about beauty, defiance and power.
“Take Me or Leave Me” Video – https://youtu.be/uyV5gjbcVQk
“Desert Flower” Video – https://youtu.be/GBVQPkmHZW8
A foundation of cello, abstract but vivid lyrics, and complex and catchy rhythms and melodies make for a fiercely engaging experience. No slave to conventional songwriting or classical cello form, Auralai’s unique brand of cello-pop brings a breath of fresh air to the contemporary music scene.
On the heels of acclaimed debut Red Rescue, Jaimee Harris doesn’t disappoint with The Congress House Sessions, an intimate EP with stripped-down arrangements of selected songs. Recorded at the Congress House Studio by Mark Hallman (Carole King, Ani DiFranco) and Andre Moran (Sarah Borges, Rickie Lee Jones) and featuring Jane Ellen Bryant and Kris Nelson on backing vocals, Ray Bonneville on harmonica, Brian Patterson on electric guitar, and Sammy Powell on piano, this is no large, speaker-rattling production. Longtime friends add color, but what you’ll hear is Harris and her guitar, delivering performances close to what the songs were when conceived alone with her guitar. Harris demonstrates that her talent and command of her craft is undeniable, accompanied, or not. Whether there’s a rhythm section thumping behind her, or whether she’s alone with her Gibson “Gillie” on an empty stage, all eyes and ears are locked on Jaimee Harris.