Friday, May 29, 2015

Coal Mining Documentary Opens In New York

Massey Energy and Style contributing editor featured in film.

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 2:30 PM

The new film "Blood on the Mountain" examines West Virginia's coal industry, especially Massey Energy, which is based in Richmond.
  • The new film "Blood on the Mountain" examines West Virginia's coal industry, especially Massey Energy, which is based in Richmond.

A new documentary film, "Blood on the Mountain," which examines the cycle of exploitation of people and the environment by West Virginia's coal industry, opened this week in New York to good reviews. The film highlights Massey Energy, the coal firm based in Richmond.

One talking head featured in the film is Style's own contributing editor, Peter Galuszka, who wrote a well-received book, "Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal" (St. Martin's Press) covering the same topics. The book also featured gritty photos of West Virginians by Style photography editor Scott Elmquist.

“It is a powerful and timely movie,” says Galuszka, who attended the premiere May 26 at Anthology Film Archives in New York. Donald Blankenship, Massey’s former chief executive, is scheduled to go on trial for his role in the mine disaster on July 13 in Beckley, West Virginia.

Huffington Post writer Jeff Biggers said in a review:

“Thanks to its historical perspective, 'Blood on the Mountain' keeps hope alive in the coalfields -- and in the more defining mountains, the mountain state vs. the 'extraction state' -- and reminds viewers of the inspiring continuum of the extraordinary Blair Mountain miners' uprising in 1921, the victory of Miners for Democracy leader Arnold Miller as the UMWA president in the 1970s, and today's fearless campaigns against mountaintop-removal mining.”

Here's a teaser trailer below. The full trailer is here.

The film was directed by Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman, a team that previously collaborated on “The Appalachians,” a three-part documentary that was aired on PBS, and “Coal Country.”

"When workers protested in the early 1920s, they were met with machine guns and combat aircraft in a war that West Virginia officials kept out of history books," Galuszka says.

In 2010, safety cutbacks at a Massey Energy mine led to the deaths of 29 miners in the worst such disaster in 40 years.

For now, Richmond audiences cannot see the film locally; Style is waiting to hear back from producers of the film about nearby screenings, but Galuszka is unaware of any scheduled. He says there has been talk of the film airing on PBS. Galuszka's book is now available in an expanded paperback from West Virginia University Press.

Update: Producer Deborah Wallace confirmed that there will be local screenings this summer, but they had yet to be scheduled.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rivah Riffing

Art contest seeks to identify and create iconic feature for the James.

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 12:03 PM

Richmond was named “Best River Town Ever” by Outside Magazine in 2012.
  • Richmond was named “Best River Town Ever” by Outside Magazine in 2012.

St. Louis has that big arch thing. Why don't we have some iconic image for our crowning natural feature, the James?

The James River Association is holding a Regional River feature contest that seeks "to identify or create an iconic regional river feature (or features) that symbolizes, creates an identity for, and celebrates the rivers of the Richmond region." They list local projects to derive inspiration from as: Richmond’s Rockfish, RVA Street Art Festival, and the Jefferson Pocket Park Design Competition.

The contest is open to residents of the Richmond region and submissions will be accepted through Aug. 10. They'll be accepting submissions including, but not limited to the following:

Proposals for permanent and temporary art installation

Conceptual design plans to enhance underutilized or neglected riverfront spaces

The identification of symbolic river or riverfront feature(s) and ideas to celebrate them

Graphic designs

From the website: "A committee assembled by the James River Association will review all submissions and select finalists for public voting. The winning submission will be announced during the final presentation of the Regional Rivers Plan in September and included as one of the catalytic projects recommended in the plan for implementation."

Here's more information that you might need to know:

Submissions will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

Feasibility: Is the proposed project financially feasible? Can it realistically be implemented, installed, or constructed? How much maintenance will the project require?

Resonation: Will the feature or proposed project appeal to the general public? Will the project be a riverfront attraction?

Awareness: Will the feature or proposed project build awareness of the James River and other rivers of the region? Will it symbolize, create an identity for, and/or celebrate the rivers of the Richmond region?

Public Benefit: What are the public benefits associated with the proposed project? Will it improve aesthetics and/or create an attractive public space for residents, visitors, and passersby to enjoy the river?

Submissions must include the following items:

Registration Form

Project Narrative: The project narrative should describe the proposed river feature project in enough detail for the review committee to understand precisely what is being proposed. Consider the evaluation criteria for submissions in the narrative.

Photographs, Renderings, and/or Sketches: Photographs, renderings, and/or sketches of the river feature(s) or proposed installation.

Conceptual Design Plan (optional):A conceptual site plan in color with location of physical elements, landscaping, and relevant improvements should be included. Design concepts to consider include:

River or Riverfront feature

Human scale

Community space

Green infrastructure

Sustainable low-impact design

Public art

Low maintenance

Preservation of green space

Bicycle racks, landscaping, etc.

Interpretation of natural environment and history

Inviting and appropriate lighting

Submit one copy of all required materials described above in a sealed envelope by August 10, 2015 to:

Mr. Justin Doyle

Community Conservation Manager, James River Association

4833 Old Main Street

Richmond, VA 23231

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lauryn Hill among headliners at Richmond Jazz Fest

Other acts include Macy Gray, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Joshua Redman.

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 4:15 PM

Noted saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman is on tap for this year's Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont.
  • Noted saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman is on tap for this year's Richmond Jazz Festival at Maymont.

The full line-up was announced for the sixth annual Richmond Jazz Festival, which will take place Aug. 6 – 9 mostly at Maymont, featuring over 30 regional, national and international artists.

Among the highlights are neo-soul singers Ms. Lauryn Hil, Macy Gray and Natalie Cole; as well as Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Rebirth Brass Band, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Joshua Redman, New Edition, and many others.

"Similar to last year, we will have three stages. Two main stages and a straight-ahead jazz stage," says publicist Jasmine Roberts. "We bring national and international talent to our festival and we have patrons that travel here from all over the world to attend."

Tickets are on sale now; from the press release: "Admission is free to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and the Jazz Café at VMFA on Thursday, Aug. 6. Tickets will be $30 for “Homegrown at the Hipp” at the Hippodrome Theater on Friday, Aug. 7. Single-day passes for Aug. 8 and 9 at Maymont are $85, not including fees. Weekend passes are $160 in advance, not including fees. Tickets can also be purchased at the gates, but are subject to increase. Go to www.jazzatmaymont.com for the latest updates and additional ticket information."

The full schedule is as follows:

*All acts subject to change

Thursday, August 6

VMFA | 200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220 Jazz Café

Free admission

Thursday, August 6th

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery | 2408-2410 Ownby Lane

Hardywood Food Truck Rally

Free admission

Friday, August 7

Hippodrome Theater | 528 N 2nd Street, Richmond, VA 23219 “Homegrown at the Hipp”

$30 admission, not including fees

Saturday, August 8

Maymont | 1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, VA 23220 Doors open at 11am | Performances begin at Noon

$85 single day admission /$160 weekend admission, not including fees

Jazz Funk Soul with Jeff Lorber, Everette Harp & Chuck Loeb

Rebirth Brass Band

Kamasi Washington

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Kirk Whalum with Kevin Whalum

Pat Martino

Will Downing

Jeff Bradshaw & Friends, feat. Eric Roberson, Syleena Johnson & Rahsaan Paterson Cécile McLorin Salvant

Joe Thelonious Monk III David Sanborn New Edition

Sunday, August 9th

Maymont | 1700 Hampton Street, Richmond, VA 23220 Doors open at 11am | Performances begin at Noon

$85 single day admission /$160 weekend admission, not including fees

Nichole Stephens

Jeremy Pelt

Pat Martino

Gerald Veasley

Sweet Honey in the Rock

James Farm, feat. Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman & Nate Smith Marc Antoine & Brian Simpson

Carmen Lundy, Macy Gray, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Anthony Hamilton, Natalie Cole

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Suzanne Hall To Retire From VMFA

Longtime public relations specialist spent 30 years at the museum.

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Suzanne Hall, longtime public relations specialist at VFMA, will be retiring next week.
  • Suzanne Hall, longtime public relations specialist at VFMA, will be retiring next week.

After three decades, Suzanne Hall is ready to leave what she calls one of the best jobs in town, especially for an arts lover.

Hall, a longtime public relations specialist with VMFA, is retiring next week. After traveling for a month, she will become the director of stewardship and development at her longtime church, St. James Episcopal, beginning July 1.

Hall will be awarded tonight with "a lifetime achievement award of sorts" when she receives the Thomas Jefferson Award for Excellence in Public Relations, exemplifying the best in the profession at the Virginia Public Relations Awards.

Sitting in the Best Café at the museum, Hall reflected on how far the museum has come during her tenure.

“It was much more reserved when I got here, more your grandmother’s museum, very scholarly, very academic,” she says. “Less of a humming hub of activity.”

She recalls highlight community events such as Jumping in July and the iconic Fast Forward concert series that brought experimental cutting-edge artists such as Sun Ra, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk and Steve Reich to the museum. And of course, the pinnacle was the 2011 Picasso exhibit, she says, which generated $30 million for the state.

“I will really miss being on the inside and working on shaping messaging and agenda setting,” she says, adding that the museum already has ideas for the influx of visitors coming in the fall for the world bike championships -- but still needs to raise the money to implement them.

Also the museum is hoping to engage younger audiences with its next big exhibit, “Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art and Tradition” that opens May 29 and runs through Sept. 27.

”What I’ll miss the most are my colleagues; this is a passionate and talented staff,” she says. “And this is a beautiful and elegant, revered space. On the inside, it’s hard work and long hours. Resources are frequently less than you would have in a for-profit. But to be able to live and work among this art . . . now, post 2010, its not just about the art and tours and exhibitions, but more geared toward the experience.”

Hall says she was offered a buyout before the museum reopened in 2010 after major renovations, but she wanted to see the transition through. She had planned to leave three years after the reopening but wound up staying an extra two years.

If you're considering applying: She says the ideal candidate for her job will need a lot of energy and a real passion for the arts.

Given her close work with social media, Hall says she has noticed a swing in how the public approaches the museum.

“I have witnessed firsthand the pride and the enthusiasm about VMFA from our users and visitors,” she says. “We’re continuing to grow in a way that is diverse, which is essential for the vitality of any organization.”

Looking forward, she says that communication will remain one of the institution's biggest challenges. "It's no single person's responsibility. But we have grown exponentially since reopening, and our internal communications system needs to grow as well."

She does get a lifetime membership to the museum upon retirement, she says, and don't expect her to be a stranger: "Some of my dearest friends hang on the walls here."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ghostprint Gallery moving to Scott's Addition.

New Boulevard location opens June 1.

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 1:20 PM

The exodus to Scott's Addition continues; Geraldine Duskin and her Ghostprint Gallery will be relocating there by the end of the month.
  • The exodus to Scott's Addition continues; Geraldine Duskin and her Ghostprint Gallery will be relocating there by the end of the month.

Call it the seven-year itch. Gallerist Geraldine Duskin was looking for a change.

Ghostprint Gallery, a fixture on a key block of the arts district, is relocating to Scott’s Addition come June 1. Like a marriage that’s weathered almost eight years, myriad factors -- including daughter Thea Duskin, a sought-after tattoo artist who maintained a shop at Ghostprint, moving to Buffalo, New York -- went into her decision to move on.

“I love change,” Duskin says, “even though I feel it’s a little bittersweet leaving Broad Street.”

Impressed by the energy of First Fridays, Duskin conceived of monthly Antiques on Broad events and Thursday preview nights, more relaxed opportunities to view new shows, as a way to bring visitors in on other days. Still, it was challenging.

“There are still people who won’t come down to Broad Street,” she says.

Part of that, she believes, is the designation of the area as a business arts district. “I wasn’t pleased about that,” she says. “I felt it was diluting our whole being. It’s a no man’s land between us and the commercial area downtown. The idea that people would take incentives to start businesses here, I haven’t seen that happen. All those empty store fronts, why not give them to VCU graduates in fashion and design for a year and see what they could do with them? As it is, it looks sad and uninviting.”

Like many business owners along Broad Street, she’s also not convinced that a high-speed bus route down the middle of Broad that will appropriate some parking spaces as well as the center lane will ultimately benefit the area. “I’ve seen people drive up, look for a parking space and drive away because there’s so little parking on Broad already.”

But there are also things she’ll miss, such as being close to her gallerist friends, Lift and Nick’s Market, where she only has to walk in and they know her order. “I’ve made tremendous friends and connections since I came here. Richmond has been a good place,” she says.

The new space sits squarely between Fat Dragon and a transmission shop. It’s a juxtaposition she relishes. “I’m taking advantage of new energy here,” Duskin says from the airy Boulevard space, formerly a motorcycle shop. “The gallery’s visibility is wonderful with all these new lofts around here.”

In fact, her neighbors on either side demonstrate the shifting face of Scott’s Addition with the transmission shop typical of the area’s original industrial roots while the restaurant and re-imagined Ghostprint represent the neighborhood’s burgeoning hip status.

Her intention is to follow her vision by broadening the gallery’s focus in the larger space. Exhibits of contemporary painting will continue with the first big show in September, but she’ll expand to offer art jewelry curated by Kathy Emerson, a co-founder of Quirk Gallery.

Using her experience in theater, galleries and interior design, Duskin will also offer design services, working with clients to enhance how home furnishings and art collections co-exist. “Many people don’t have the visual imagination to picture things as they might be and this will give me the opportunity to present that. It’s all about creating a beautiful picture," she explains. As part of that, she’ll stage vignettes with art within the gallery, programming thematic shows where disparate elements complement each other.

Renovations to the new space are just beginning so she’s planning a soft opening for summer as she settles into new digs. But beginnings necessarily follow farewells, so artist Therin Brooks will be in town to close her show “Signes and Symboles” on May 29 from 5 to 8 p.m. “We invite people to come and say goodbye.”

Ghostprint Gallery, 1202 N. Boulevard opens June 1.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wizard World Announces RVA Line-up

Lando, Hobbits, and a "Sopranos" fatale make the list.

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 1:10 PM

Emmy winning actress Drea de Matteo ("Sopranos," "Sons of Anarchy") is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Richmond at this year's Wizard World Comic Con.
  • Emmy winning actress Drea de Matteo ("Sopranos," "Sons of Anarchy") is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Richmond at this year's Wizard World Comic Con.

The all-things pop culture sandwich known as Wizard World Comic Con has announced the line-up for its upcoming event at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on the weekend of July 31, Aug. 1 and 2.

Among the celebs scheduled to be in attendance: Billy Dee Williams (Lando from "Empire Strikes Back" and recently announced as a player in upcoming films); Drea de Matteo ("Sorpanos" "Sons of Anarchy"); Sean Astin and Billy Boyd (Hobbits both); WWE Superstar Stardust and WWE Diva Paige; Michael Cudlitz ("Walking Dead"); Kristin Bauer ("True Blood"); Taryn Manning ("Sons of Anarchy") and others. You can check out all the celebs as well as the artists and creators here.

Whether or not they all show up in Richmond remains to be seen; in the past, some scheduled speakers have had to cancel.

Ticket prices range greatly with various packages. Check them out here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Willie Nelson to play Innsbrook

Country legend added to fall schedule, Sept. 23.

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Willie Nelson returns to Innsbrook After Hours on Wednesday, Sept. 23 -- where he will not be allowed to sell his own brand of pot.
  • Willie Nelson returns to Innsbrook After Hours on Wednesday, Sept. 23 -- where he will not be allowed to sell his own brand of pot.

Country legend Willie Nelson is returning to Innsbrook After Hours on Wednesday, September 23 as part of its 30th anniversary season. The 82-year-old Nelson most recently recorded an album of new studio originals with fellow legend Merle Haggard called "Django and Jimmie" which is scheduled for release on June 2.

Here is a video for the first single from that record, "It's All Going To Pot," which shows the two (especially Merle) looking incredibly high on life.

Tickets for the show go on sale Wednesday, May 20 at 10:00 A.M. at www.InnsbrookAfterHours.com, charge by phone at 804-794-6700.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Heat Check

After a national finish, local Garland Hume hopes to see yoga in the Olympics.

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 7:30 PM

Local yoga instructor, Garland Hume, in a scorpion/tiger pose during the USA Yoga National Competition in New York earlier this month.
  • Local yoga instructor, Garland Hume, in a scorpion/tiger pose during the USA Yoga National Competition in New York earlier this month.

She takes the stage with a bit of a bounce, as if giddy to begin.

Standing alone and barefoot, wearing what looks like a one-piece bathing suit, Garland Hume bows before a crowd of spectators at the USA Yoga National Competition in Binghamton, New York. Any jitters quickly fade as she goes into her first pose, raising one leg parallel to the ground and holding it. The stillness of routine settles her.

Her breathing is calm as she moves briskly but efficiently through several jaw-dropping yoga positions -- at least to the uninitiated – that would make most people break in half, or at the very least cry for mama. The whole thing lasts three minutes.

As a teacher and co-owner of Bikram Yoga Richmond, Hume, 33, is well known among local yoga enthusiasts. A few weeks ago she and a friend drove to New York, where she squared off with 127 regional yoga champions from 24 states and emerged as one of the nation’s top ten finishers, taking eighth place in her division.

“You only really get one shot, it’s a three-minute routine, and you do well or you don’t,” Hume says, noting that she barely made it through to the final day. “The judges are looking for technical things in the postures and they require certain movements of the spine.”

There were eight total competitors from Virginia at nationals and the only other person to place was Michelle Trufant who won first place in the women's seniors division.

Richmond has hosted a regional competition only once in 2010, Hume says. Usually they are held in Washington due to the large number of yoga practitioners in Northern Virginia. “Our state is really competitive,” she adds, noting that her regional score allowed her to compete in nationals last year, but she didn’t make it to the finals.

This year was a different story. Early on, she sought some outside coaching help with mental strategies from a Varina high school gym teacher (and her yoga student) and wound up earning the national finish.

Hume explains that there has been a growing movement to make yoga an Olympic sport and connect various communities. USA Yoga, which holds the national competition, lists the “promotion of yoga as a sport” as its main goal on its website. Competitions have been held in India for hundreds of years but the first competition in the U.S. wasn’t until 2003.

“In the 12 years we've had the competition the awareness of Hatha yoga has increased exponentially,” says Mary Jarvis, executive co-chairman of USA Yoga and head coach of national and international championships for the past 13 years “The goal has always been to make the practice of Hatha yoga available to everyone, from youth to seniors. Those of us involved in the championships from the beginning are thrilled at the increase in the popularity because of people being inspired by the athletes.”

One of the problems in making it an Olympic sport, Hume says, lies in the difficulty of encompassing all the different styles of yoga; most competitions are dominated by those coming from Bikram. Because of this, Hume sees yoga eventually evolving toward a universal style.

Her own road to competition was relatively short. Hume started practicing yoga in 2007 when she was just out of college and teaching Spanish at the high school level. “I was stressed out and trying to get in shape,” she recalls. “I fell in love with Bikram right away and went to teacher training [an intensive nine-week course] about six months later.”

Bikram, otherwise known as hot yoga, is based on the principle that heat accelerates chemical reactions; at Hume’s studio people practice yoga in a sealed environment with 105-110° temperature and 40-50% humidity. Hume says she fell in love with it because she noticed physical changes right away. “All of the sudden my skin cleared up, I lost weight . . . plus you feel amazing after class is over,” she says. “It was really healthy for me.”

The world-renowned founder of Bikram has received negative publicity in the past after several accusations of sexual harassment, which has been an issue for the local Bikram community. “We’ve talked about changing the name [of the business]” Hume says. “But Bikram’s more of a name to us than a person. And we’d still have to use the name somehow to describe what we do.”

Currently Hume teaches about five to seven classes a week and takes roughly nine classes a week herself, or two to four hours a day of yoga. She also travels frequently and says that, compared to other cities, Richmond has a strong yoga scene. “I feel like we have the perfect amount of teachers, not too many, not too little,” she says.

Hume plans to continue competing for as long as possible. Whether she does so as an Olympic athlete remains to be seen.

“You can compete forever if you want to,” she says.

Monday, May 11, 2015

In Between Days

Movie star Jeff Daniels on acting and how, for him, all roads lead back to music.

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 10:00 PM

Veteran Hollywood actor Jeff Daniels performs with his son Ben's band this Saturday at Pocohontas State Park.
  • Veteran Hollywood actor Jeff Daniels performs with his son Ben's band this Saturday at Pocohontas State Park.

On stage and screen, actor Jeff Daniels can do it all.

He’s always been a bit of an Everyman type who can shift effortlessly between comedy and drama, driving a film with an honest performance or melding into strong ensemble cast with ease.

And he’s led a charmed career, scoring early with Hollywood blockbuster “Terms of Endearment” and later, the “Dumb and Dumber” series, while doing brilliant turns in more artistic fare such as “Squid and the Whale” and Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” Even when the inevitable duds do arrive, he soon comes through with a project that reminds the public of his talent. Most recently that was his portrayal of Will McAvoy, a smart and cynical nightly news anchor on the HBO series, “The Newsroom” – for which he won a best actor Emmy.

From the beginning, Daniels wanted something to fall back on – which usually wound up being his acoustic guitar. Since about 2002, he has been pursuing a second career as a bluesy folk musician, touring small venues around the country in between making films. Singing and playing his take on Delta country blues, influenced by songwriting masters such as John Prine and Utah Phillips, Daniels is one of the few Hollywood crossover artists who doesn’t embarrass himself or coast on ego. His most recent album, “Days Like These,” received solid reviews as have recent concerts backed by his son, Ben Daniels and his band – tightly paced shows that feature the elder Daniels turning on the charm with his storytelling and passion for American roots music.

Speaking from home in Michigan, Daniels is down-to-earth and friendly, the rare movie star who makes you like him more after a half hour of conversation. When his dog barked in the background, he casually blurted out “Attack. Attack." On this short band tour, before he gears up to shoot “Allegiant: Part One” -- the next in the “Divergent” film franchise -- he’ll be performing an hour-long set at Pocahontas State Park on Saturday, May 16, as part of the Carbon Leaf Ragtime Carnival then headlining in Charlottesville at the Southern on May 17.

Style Weekly: Are you writing any new music with your son?

Jeff Daniels: Nah, we’re not writing anything, but we’re playing together. I had a bunch of songs that needed a band, and being middle-aged I could’ve hired a Viagra band, you know the guys you see on the commercial, but I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got a band right here.’ So we rehearsed before an August tour in the Midwest and it went great. The shows on the East Coast also stood up so we immediately booked another one. We just enjoy the hell out of it. For a father and son to share the stage, for me, it’s a dream come true.

I saw a recent study that said most Americans stop listening to new music by age 33. Does your son keep you up on stuff?

[Laughs] Well I don’t disagree with that regarding anything, that’s why you see so many sequels. He came to me when he was 19 and said he wanted to do this, I told him ‘Write your own stuff. Go study Dylan, do the work.’ He’s kind of a poet with a guitar. I told him to find his own voice, sing to the people, to your friends, and do that for 10 years and maybe you’ll have a shot. Don’t do covers – or maybe the occasional one, great, but if you want to be a cover band you can go to the local bar and stay there.

In the theater, I started out in New York and that’s all we did were new plays, that was the norm. So I fell I love with playwriting and playwrights, and the writing process in general back in the ‘70s and turned to songwriting as a place where I could creatively control it. And I just stayed at it. [He also founded the notable Purple Rose Theatre Company in his home state of Michigan in 1991].

I think we [the band] have an advantage because when we walk out on stage, we don’t have any greatest hits. We’re not doing “Fire and Rain” or whatever; you gotta listen because you don’t know most of these. It’s new music but we make you listen.

I think on first listen, my favorite track was a slower one, “Holy Motel” – and normally I don’t like strings on country folk stuff, but here it seems to work.

Oh well, thank you. Brad Phillips produced that. Before Ben’s band, I’d go out with him and we played all over. He produced that and put strings on it. I was shooting “Dumb and Dumber Too,” and he called me and said, “I’m gonna chuck the strings.” I said wait, let me hear it. Then I told him, you know, don’t change a note.

Listening to some of these working class blues songs, I wondered if you had ever wished that you spent more of your childhood in Athens, Georgia, so you could’ve added a natural Southern accent to your repertoire?

Yeah, well, I tend to go there. I was thinking about that the other day: I grew up and my dad owned a lumber company, and I worked there. So you’re around hardworking regular people who have to earn every dime. And I never lost that sensibility of what they would want to hear, what they would relate to; and of course, treating them with respect. I sometimes fall into their voice, or what I think is their voice, but it’s more of a subconscious thing I guess.

Do you remember the moment when you decided to take music seriously?

Yes, well, Jim Fleming this agent told me I could go out. Which doesn’t mean I was any good. When I heard that, I went right back to woodshedding the guitar in 2002. I needed to get better. It’s kind of the way I approach acting. You go into “Newsroom” thinking I need to come out a better actor than I went in – you approach every project like that, every song, every day like that. How can I get better technically speaking, mechanics, muscle memory. You need to do that if you’re going to go out in front of paying people and pull this off ... so I got to sit with Steven Grossman a couple times, Keb Mo is a friend, they both were encouraging, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt. When you do that, then you come out of it and survive it, you go, 'maybe I can do this.’

I remember Lyle and John were doing a two-man acoustic show in Ann Arbor; I had met Lyle on the Carson show way back in 85. And I caught up with him at sound check, and he goes, ‘Did you bring your guitar?” I said, ‘of course, I’m not stupid.’ Then during the encore he brought me out and said we’re going to do “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” a blues in G, you and Hiatt are going to trade blues licks.’ I thought, ‘Oh Jesus, God.’

So I went out onstage and we went back and forth like a tennis match. I did okay and then Hiatt does this thing that just dumped on me. So I went to G sharp, we ended the song, and I got out. I said, ‘I quit, white flag, etc.’ But they couldn’t have been nicer and it couldn’t have been a better lesson. Here’s the ball with five seconds to go, hit the shot.

You know with those guys, you’re there as a student with great respect. Then you steal everything they’re doing. Become the thief that you really are. Actors steal too. I’ve told college kids to go see actors they love and steal those moves and lock ‘em up.

What has learning to be onstage without playing a character, out there exposed, taught you about yourself?

What it brings back for me, personally, is when I started in high school musicals, college and summer musicals, before I went to New York. I knew what to do on a stage in front of 600 people, standing room only, in whatever role they cast me in. It was comfortable, I knew how to manipulate them and play with them, the pauses. I just instinctively knew that stuff. That’s just something you’re born with, the timing.

My dad was a great storyteller, and then I spent my life as an actor with playwrights and movies, and all we’re doing is telling stories -- once upon a time stuff. So I said if I were going to do this with a guitar, what can I do that takes advantage of all this stuff and makes me different, or certainly different from the other actor-singer-songwriters? And I know he’s going through a real rough time of his own making, but Bill Cosby was somebody who I got all his albums when I was growing up; his ability to sit in a chair and hold an audience with stories, Fat Albert, you name it. I had every word memorized to “To Russell, My Brother Whom I Slept With” [1968]. I remember boring friends of mine in junior high school, I would do the 15-minute version of one of his cuts and they would just stare at me, glassy eyed.

So I could always do that, but now its how do I talk to an audience, how do I include them? Their expectations are sort of based on what they’ve heard about Hollywood, here comes ego, here comes arrogance, here comes now-I want-you-to-take me-seriously-as-a-rock-star. None of that happens. It’s more entertaining them, anything I can do to make them have a good time, then drop in a song that moves them. Then if there’s musicianship, I’ve done it. It’s a show, and I try to make sure I fulfill that.

Has songwriting offered its own surprises and discoveries?

Yeah, the big umbrella is writing is just writing, whether I’m writing a play, or in a movie serving the story. But songwriting can capture a moment, the whole song can be about one moment. A song like “How About We Take Our Pants Off And Relax?” it’s funny, but it’s just something a guy says to a girl on a bad blind date [He heard the phrase from actor Ryan Reynolds after nearly bumping into him on a film set]. So you spin around that. Sometimes I write a story song, and I like to write songs that resolve. But that was an interesting discovery for me.

You have one new bluegrass song, “Now You Know You Can Do It” that was sparked by the now famous “Newsroom” scene (“America is not the greatest country in the world”) in the first episode.

Yeah, the speech to Northwestern kids in episode one. It was just a big damn day on set. We didn’t have a series yet, we didn’t even have a Will McAvoy yet. We hoped we did, but today we were going to find out. HBO was there. Aaron [Sorkin] and everybody. I had worked real hard on it with the script supervisor, we were rewriting it quite a bit. I had to relearn it and relearn it. She was instrumental in making sure I could get it up to speed. So on day one, take one, I nailed it. And everyone, you could just sort of feel the relief with the producers. Then the script supervisor walked up and said, “Now you know you can do it,” and walked away. Sometimes you have to walk off the cliff and flap your arms -- that’s really what that song is about.

Would’ve been interesting to see how Sorkin would’ve worked in the whole Brian Williams mess.

Yeah, he’s not happy, nor I think should any of us be, with the lynch-mob mentality that you find on the Internet. Not to say Brian didn’t make mistakes. But don’t say anything wrong, don’t do anything wrong, because you could be over in 24 hours. And Aaron writes about it in season three: “I’m sick of citizen journalists, citizen detectives.” There were some horrible, horrible things that happened around the Boston marathon that he wrote about, that were true, people misidentifying supposed suspects and then those people’s lives were changed forever. It’s a responsibility that journalists know, that I think we don’t have anymore, and that real journalists are fighting to hang onto. What happened? Let me go to Twitter, well that doesn’t mean its true. We kind of dropped [fictional network] ACN and Will McAvoy into the middle of all news organizations: and they’re all fighting that battle to be right versus being first. When you’re first but you’re wrong, often the retraction is either ignored or buried.

I know you wrote the song “Dirty Harry Blues” after filming “Blood Work” with Clint Eastwood. But I think my favorite character of yours is Bernard from “Squid and the Whale.” That was such a pitch-perfect evocation of a cranky, self-involved English professor living off his past success. Has that role had an afterlife or inspired anything?

[Laughs] No, nothing musically. But it did reinforce what every actor knows: If you’ve got great writing, you’re more than halfway there. “Newsroom” was the same way. You get on top of it, all the drudgery of memorization and establishing character, all that, you have to get so on top of it that he just lives and breathes. A lot of hard work goes into the mechanics of getting the words into your head, so it’s a part of you. Once you can get on top of it, then you can dance on the script. But if you don’t have a script – or you have a movie written by eight writers and junior executives at the studio – then, I don’t know, it’s like eating bland food.

Well you’ve got the new “Allegiant” films, a Steve Jobs film, and a Ridley Scott movie (“The Martian”) coming up with Matt Damon – do the big tent pole films offer you more flexibility for your music?

Yeah. Post-“Newsroom” I enjoy working on movies where they’ve got plenty of money to shoot them. They’ve got a built-in audience. I’ve done decades of indies, where now I’ve got to not only make the movies, I’ve got to go out and sell ‘em. “Squid and the Whale” for example, I talked to everyone above a high school paper. But post “Newsroom” I came out with the ability to do a very smart character in Will McAvoy, and that’s usually who your villains are. You know, they’re the smartest guys in the universe until the hero outsmarts them. So I like my chances to play some pretty good villains in the next ten years.

And yeah, the franchises, like “Allegiant: 1” and “2,” allow me to better set my schedule and more time to book music. I hate canceling dates. I love getting out on the road and playing these intimate smaller venues.

I've heard that aging male actors maybe have it easier than women in Hollywood, but which art form do you see yourself doing longer?

Well, I never had any faith [about the acting career]. Completely fatalistic about it. That’s why I moved to Michigan in 1986 after five movies. I never thought the career would last. “Dumb and Dumber” bought me 10 years. And “Newsroom” just doesn’t happen to guys my age. I had kept playing and writing music through the '70s, '80s, and '90s, fully expecting to be a musician in the vein of Arlo [Guthrie], Utah Philips, and Steve Goodman. I would be more than happy saying I had a good run as an actor, and now creatively I’m still going to be vibrant and alive with a guitar in my hand, playing clubs. I was fully prepared to do that and still am.

But eventually I’ll be over and when I’m over, I’ll be home.

Jeff Daniels and the Ben Daniels band perform at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at the main stage of Carbon Leaf’s Ragtime Carnival and Campout at Pocahontas State Park. Ben Daniels Band also performs on 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15, at the event, on the acoustic stage. Tickets available through www.pocohontaslive.com.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Round-Up from the Arts Desk

Assorted odds and ends from the week's mailbox.

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 1:30 AM

Local painter and teacher David Tanner, recently featured in PlenAir magazine, will have his annual show of work at Crossroads Art Center starting May 15.
  • Local painter and teacher David Tanner, recently featured in PlenAir magazine, will have his annual show of work at Crossroads Art Center starting May 15.

Hip Hop on Film

Local hip hop maven Marc Cheatham of the Cheats Movement is hosting an event “Lights, Camera, Action: A Celebration of Hip-Hop Films and Music” tonight, Thursday, May 7 at Gallery 5. The special event begins at 7 p.m. with a film panel at 8 p.m. and live music at 9 p.m.

The film panel will feature Zulu Queen Lisa Lee (“Beat Street”), Emmy-winning director Jesse Vaughan, Kevin Kosanovich from the hip hop collection at William & Mary, Monsee (VGR technologies and design), Rob Roby (Soul Live Media, VSU) and Curators of Hip Hop.

After the panel the music takes over with performances from local artists Noah-O, Joey Gallo, Michael Millions, Chance Fischer, DJ Billy Nguyen and a special performance by Goldin.

Theater with "Nerve"

TheatreLAB and Richmond Triangle Players are once again partnering with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project to present “Nerve: Stories of Queer Resilience” which helps tell the important stories of the LGBTQ community.

These collected stories are being crafted into an original theater work by an ensemble of actors and writers, which will be performed as a benefit for the Virginia Anti-Violence Project. Led by Melissa Rayford, "Nerve" will be performed on May 26 and 27 at Richmond Triangle Players.

From VAVP’s Stacie Vecchietti in the press release: “It's more important than ever that we come together as a community to talk about how we can address and prevent violence within and against our vibrantly diverse LGBTQ communities. NERVE is an amazing collaborative example of how we can start those conversations."

Tickets are $20 and available at RTP.

Ever Wondered How To Talk To Rock Stars?

Alli Marshall has written for alt weekly Mountain Xpress in Asheville since 2001 and has been the arts editor since 2013. She recently published a novel, "How to Talk to Rockstars," and will be reading at Chop Suey Books on Saturday, May 16, at 7 p.m.

Over the years she’s interviewed musicians such as Yoko Ono, Cyndi Lauper, Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Aimee Mann, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Britt Daniel (Spoon), Michael Franti, Neko Case, Daniel Lanois, Ziggy Marley, Peter Murphy, Grace Potter, and many others.

“It is fiction and not an actual how-to book," she says via email. "But there are various tips and interview questions scattered throughout."

She’s gotten props from Charles Frazier (author of “Cold Mountain”): "This bright, fleet novel is a true delight—an engaging, perceptive, precisely observed and slyly funny meditation on fame and love, in particular the love of music."

Here's a book trailer (everybody has those these days, nobody's got time to read about a book!)

Painting with David

David Tanner, a local representational painter focusing on figures, recently had a five-page profile on his work in the April/May issue of PlenAir Magazine, a glossy national publication respected in traditional painting circles. Tanner shows his work at Crossroads Art Center and teaches oil painting at Visual Arts Center of Richmond. You can see his annual show of recent work at Crossroads opening on May 15, and he’ll be joining center owner Jenni Kirby on CBS-6 next Wednesday morning to promote the show.

"Draw Back the Curtain" Again

The film “Draw Back the Curtain” produced and released by Jewish Family Services and University of Richmond Hillel, is a feature-length documentary detailing the Richmond community’s role in resettling 800 refugees from the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The premiere last fall at Modlin Center for the Arts drew an audience of more than 500 people, and you can catch the next screening at the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center on May 21, at 7 p.m. as part of Jewish American Heritage Month. The event is free and open to the public but tickets are limited and must be reserved online. For more information, visit www.DrawBacktheCurtain.com.

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