‘smallsongs’ is a YouTube series brought to you by Americana Highways with small & stripped down performances on the streets of different cities around the world, featuring musical acts at their rawest.
This week has been Keeled Scales / smallsongs week. A week that showcases the unique musicians that I’ve filmed with Keeled Scales via smallsongs over the past couple of years. It all led up to a brand new video + conversation that I had with Mat from Twain in Washington DC. Take the journey back with us and watch these artists make their magic on camera.
Back in november 2020 I had the honor of meeting up with one of today’s best songwriters & voices. Laura of Sun June had just moved to her new place at the time in austin. We met in the back alley and she played a couple solo acoustic tunes off the wonderful album Somewhere!
In January 2021, just before Katy Kirby took over the world with her one of a kind debut album, we met up at a place called the Cathedral of Junk in an Austin suburb. But it turned out that we couldn’t shoot there due to Covid stuff. So we walked around until we found a nice tree to shoot under. I brought the drone and tried to avoid hitting the big tree. Here is Katy Kirby playing “Fireman” off her debut album Cool Dry Place. It’s been so cool to see how this album became somewhat of a cult classic. It’s also been really cool to see how the name Katy Kirby has grown in the musical world. She’s been touring all over the place with musicians like Bright Eyes & Julia Jacklin & Pinegrove. I can’t wait to see what’s next for her!
On the very last day of 2020 & under some heavy rain, the wonderful Will Johnson played a couple of his timeless songs, “Shadow Matter” & “Los Cuervos” ! We were living in the smallsongs bus at the time which was prone to leaks in the ceiling. This heavy rain was foreshadowing for some extremely cold weather that Texas wasn’t prepared for. I loved how Will Johnson was still down to meet up and film some songs in weather like that. In our brief moment together on the last day of the year in the middle of a pandemic, we bonded over our connections to Denton, TX. Matthew & The Arrogant Sea being one of those Denton connections, the band who initially introduced me to the legend that is Will Johnson.
It was now 2021 & we left Texas for Louisiana in the bus. On our way to New Orleans we stayed overnight at a truck stop just west of Lafayette, Renee Reed’s hometown. The timing wasn’t quite right for a shoot in Lafayette, but later on she ended up meeting me in New Orleans for this 4 song shoot. I think it was Laura from Sun June who initially introduced me to the cajun folk songstress that is Renee Reed. Her southern Louisiana musical roots come through in her haunting & beautiful songs. Renee Reed’s self titled debut album came out shortly after this session & it quickly became my favorite album of 2021.
Fast forward to the beginning of Summertime 2021. The bus was boiling in Brooklyn, New York. The whole country was experiencing the start of a heat wave. Without air conditioning, our black bus turned into a sun magnet. It was time to come home to Colorado. But there was one stop I wanted to make in between Denver & New York City. Rae Fitzgerald was living in the middle of Missouri in Columbia. We parked in Rae’s driveway, got served some delicious baked vegan mac & cheese, played with baby Elliott & tried to avoid the poison ivy. There Rae played us a couple inspired songs including this one, “Sunset Moonrise” !
“The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. for me, it’s going to Rushmore.” – Max Fischer.
Did you know that if Mat from Twain had to pick, he would pick Rushmore (1998) as his favorite movie. It was hugely influential for me too. Before his show in DC I met up with Twain in the Bishop’s Garden. Beneath the Washington National Cathedral he sang an unreleased tune titled “Rose” & then a cover of Arthur Russell’s “Close My Eyes.” Then we had a nice chat. For a while I’ve been wanting to record a conversation like this for smallsongs & it finally happened! Watch/listen to our talk in full on patreon. This video here closes out the Keeled Scales / smallsongs week & I want to give a special thank you to Tony Presley from Keeled Scales for all your help to make each of these sessions possible. Most of these videos were filmed back when I lived in a bus almost exactly two years ago. My wife & baby & I travelled to Austin shortly before the 2020 Texas winter freeze. On that trip Keeled Scales became my favorite record label. I’m a fan of every artist on the label & I’ve been extremely lucky to have had amazing experiences with several of them. When I first reached out to Tony he was immediately supportive. We’ve got a similar musical taste. Tenci of Keeled Scales & I were also planning to film a session in Denver before they got into an accident in the Colorado mountains. I ended up picking those bandmates up to get them to a rental car. Please check out the great new album from Tenci titled A Swollen River, A Well Overflowing if you haven’t already! RF Shannon & I almost crossed paths in Lockhart, Texas as well for a session. But the timing was quite right when he got Covid just as we headed south from Austin. Tony also manages the talented Esther Rose who’s another good friend/collaborator with smallsongs. Somehow Tony & I haven’t actually met in person yet. So I’ll have to come back to Austin soon!
Enjoy previous videos in this series, here: smallsongs: Samuel Nobles