From weekend sports clubs and service organizations to college alumni groups and professional societies, thousands of associations currently exist in the U.S. The Folk Alliance is an organization for those involved in folk music and dance. VOA's Katherine Cole recently attended the group's annual conference, and tells us more.
The Folk Alliance musicians who took over a downtown hotel in Memphis, Tennessee for five days of performances were doing it not for the applause of fans, but to win over potential booking agents, managers, music critics and radio programmers; in other words, the people who might boost their career.
Among the performers was Nashville's Jeff Black.
Jeff Black already has a booking agent. His CDs are regularly played by many of the radio programmers who attend Folk Alliance. So what drew him to the conference?
"I think just the opportunity to come down and play, and see old friends," he said. "I may find out about a venue, or an acoustic music series, or something else that I didn't know about, that I'll get a chance to go play. They do call it a 'conference,' but it's more about the music than anything else. I don't come here with any expectations. I come here expecting to play and that's about it. Share some songs and tell some stories."
While many of the performers at Folk Alliance are relatively unknown, others like Rosalie Sorrels, Peggy Seeger and The Roches have been in the business for decades. So has Dan Navarro, one-half of Lowen and Navarro. The other half is Eric Lowen. The pair is probably best-known outside the Folk Alliance for writing hits for artists like Pat Benatar, who had a hit with their song "We Belong."
Lowen and Navarro released their first album in 1990, and their ninth, Hogging the Covers, last year. It is a bit different than the previous releases because this time, Lowen and Navarro are singing the songs of Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Petty, even Van Morrison.
Dan Navarro talks about a typical day the event.
"My day this morning started with a meeting with two board members," he says. "I am on the board of Folk Alliance. Immediately from that, I went into a discussion with ASCAP and BMI [two music licensing agencies] about how to deal with licensing fees for tiny venues that may not be able to afford the fees. Followed by a group panel I attended, where the licensing organizations announced some of their decisions and their processes to the community at large. I followed that with a performance … in a room. There are performances in hotel rooms. If you're afraid of performing before a thousand people, figure out what it's like to perform before five people … and that's a full house! It is a fear eliminator, because it actually throws you immediately in touch with your fear. I did that for 20 minutes, from that I co-led a panel on arrangements … on how to arrange your music. With about 20, I call the kids, but they were of all different age groups, who want to know how to maximize their recording. And now I'm here talking to you. From this, I'll go grab some sort of meal. I've got four showcases tonight, each of about 20 minutes apiece. And then I'm going to stay up very, very late tonight, because people play music all hours here."
Every year, there seems to be one artist at Folk Alliance who becomes the "talk of the conference." To find out who got all the buzz this year, we turn to Louis Jay Meyers, Executive Director of the Folk Alliance.
"Anthony da Costa. Just turned 16, and just finished his fifth CD," Meyers said.
And, what makes him so special?
"The quality of his songwriting, the quality of his presence, the incredibly unaffected view that he has of the world at barely 16 years old," Meyers continued. "My prediction at this point is that he will be our first superstar artist from Folk Alliance. I'm talking multi-platinum ['platinum' is one million CDs sold in the U.S., 'multi-platinum' is two million or more], long-term career. I would not be surprised if we start hearing major recording artists cutting his songs within the next year."
Anthony da Costa's new CD is called Rearrange.