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The Listening Room - Port Clinton: Artist Bios

Charlie Mars - Friday, January 26th

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Mississippi-born singer/songwriter Charlie Mars is a country- and folk-inflected pop artist blessed with a warm vocal croon and a knack for crafting poignant, earthy songs. Born in 1974 in Laurel, Mississippi, Mars grew up listening to various styles of pop/rock, from Michael Jackson to the Violent Femmes. Just prior to his senior year of high school, Mars moved with his family to Jackson, Mississippi, where he attended Jackson Preparatory School and played in the band Adley Madidafus. After graduating high school in 1992, he attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. During this time, he began seriously pursuing a music career, often playing with fellow SMU student, singer/songwriter Jack Ingram. It was also while at SMU that Mars formed the Charlie Mars Band and released several albums, including 1995's Broken Arrow, 1997's Born & Razed, and 1999's End of Romance.

Along with this early success came a hard-partying lifestyle and taste for alcohol that found him disbanding his group and entering rehab for a month. In 2001, looking to start fresh, Mars moved to Sweden where began writing new material. Re-energized, he returned to the United States where he spent time in Austin, Texas and eventually released his 2004 self-titled album on V2 Records. After settling in New York City in 2008, he began work on what would eventually become his "Texas Trilogy." Recorded with producer Billy Harvey and a core group of musicians in Austin, the trilogy includes 2009's Like a Bird, Like a Plane and 2012's Blackberry Light. In 2014, Mars rounded out the trilogy with the release of his seventh studio album, the Harvey-produced Money.

Noah Guthrie - Friday, February 9th

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Americana/Soul singer/songwriter, Noah Guthrie found fame covering chart-topping hits as well as through his pivotal role as Roderick Meeks on the hit TV show, Glee. He received national attention with his blues-filled version of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” which, to date, has received over 25 million views. It's clear to see, however, that his skills are better put to use creating original music. 
 
One of the most talked about new voices in music, Noah is steadily building a name for himself as a singer/songwriter. His richly textured voice is capable of conveying the emotion of a lyric as only a handful of artists can in today's music world
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In addition to Noah's recurring role on Glee, he has also performed on NBC's, Today Show and Tonight Show as well as two performances on ABC's, Dancing With The Stars. 

Dan Layus - Saturday, February 10th

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Dan Layus, primarily known as the frontman of the critically acclaimed band Augustana, is set to release his debut solo album, 'Dangerous Things,' out October 21, 2016 on Plated Records/ADA.

 'Dangerous Things' spans influences from Hank Williams to Tom Waits, from Dwight Yoakam to Woody Guthrie. The album was recorded in Nashville at SouthxSea Studios with minimal production. The lyrics are about life's struggles and its simple joys, and harmonies are provided by Muscle Shoals' own The Secret Sisters.

Of the new music, Layus explains, "I always knew this album was out there waiting, I just had to let it come to me. That was the most challenging part of this record. It was three years of repeatedly realizing I was trying too hard to write a perfect song. It all started to make sense and feel good as soon as I stopped treating songwriting like it was songwriting. Somewhere along the way I decided that if an idea was going to turn into a song on this album, then it had to be written organically and purely. It had to be an inspired moment that was unfolding melodically, musically and lyrically, all while making me feel something. Subsequently, that's how I recorded the songs -- I played the song live a few times in front of some microphones and when I felt something real happen, we moved onto the next one. The songs and recordings on this album are inspired by other people's stories and informed by my own experiences and I've never felt more proud or comfortable sharing an album as I feel with this one."
Layus spent 12 years as the creative force behind American roots-rock band Augustana. After years of grueling touring which took them from basements to amphitheaters, the band as unit had run its course and disbanded. Layus decided to keep the name and subsequently released another album and toured twice more as Augustana. In 2013 he moved to Nashville and found an immediate home in the songwriter community, penning songs for Platinum country artists and pop artists alike. In this new endeavor he also found something even more valuable -- the new sound he had been searching for and scratching at since the inception of Augustana.

Daniel Champagne - Saturday, February 17th

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One reviewer recently wrote - ‘Daniel Champagne exudes a natural ease on stage, as he sings poignant lyrics and beautifully crafted melodies that invariably whisk the heart up with grand romanticism. Coupled with an exhilarating guitar talent that transcends mere acoustic playing to replicate a whole band, Champagne is just magical’ (themusic.com.au, Byron Bluesfest, 2014)

The story goes that the young Australian singer, songwriter and one-of-a-kind guitar virtuoso first picked up his instrument of choice as a five-year-old following in the footsteps of a musical father. He began writing songs at 12, training classically throughout his teens and performing solo wherever he could, honing his craft and developing what would become the dynamite live show that he is renowned for today. At 18 he left school, turned professional and hit the road.

The next five years saw him traversing North America, the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand and of course, his homeland Australia playing such festivals as Vancouver and Mariposa Folk (Canada), Belgium's Labadoux Festival and Australia's Woodford, Falls Festival, Port Fairy Folk Festival and the legendary Byron Bay Bluesfest. As well as touring and sharing stages with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Judy Collins, INXS, John Butler, KT Tunstall and Ani DiFranco - all of this while writing, producing and independently releasing two Eps, 'My Own Design' (2009) and 'Wide Eyed and Open' (2010), his first long player 'Pint of Mystery' (2011) and the 'Real Live' offering in 2012. As one reviewer recently wrote, “still in his early twenties, the distances he has been would be more frequently associated with veterans of the Folk scene” (The Dwarf). This globetrotting lifestyle would become the centerpiece of Daniel's next recordings when in 2013, he undertook the ambitious task of delivering two stand-alone albums within the space of twelve months. The Gypsy Moon – Volumes I and II marked a great leap forward for him both as a songwriter and a recording artist, with Australia’s roots music bible Rhythms Magazine saying that ‘Champagne has gone a step further this time, it's like he's realized his own potential, his confidence is sky-high and he's truly ready to explore' 

Now regarded as a leading light in acoustic music, with a firm reputation for making festivals buzz, holding crowds in his palm, dropping jaws and breaking guitars wherever he goes. Daniel Champagne has recently signed to US booking agency Fleming Artists and relocated to North America where he continues his exciting career as an international touring and recording artist.
 

The Lovers - Saturday, March 3rd

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Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Amanda June made her way down to Nashville to focus on her career as a singer, songwriter and develop her artistry. Amanda has been singing since she could talk and picked up the acoustic guitar around the age of 14. Influenced by Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks and Sheryl Crow, she knew Nashville was where she needed to be and at 18 years young she took the leap. Amanda started playing as many shows and writers rounds around town as she made herself a familiar face. "Her music stands out among most contemporary country music in the sense that it's music with passion, soul and written from personal experience. With a down-to-earth sensibility and a smooth, sweet voice, Amanda's style blends perfectly with that of Cole Vosbury, a fellow artist who also heard Nashville calling his name."

You may recognize Cole from Season 5 of NBC's The Voice in 2013. Cole, a Louisiana native, has been staying busy since then, playing shows frequently and collaborating with other artists, such as Amanda June. Cole has been playing music most of his life. He has been perfecting his craft of guitar for 12 years and playing music for a living since age 17. Cole's style stands out among others, his soulful, intriguing and gravelly voice compliments his blues, rock, country influenced playing on guitar. After having success in his hometown playing piano bars and bar gigs with his band,  he auditioned for The Voice and while on Blake Shelton's team he placed Top 4. He went on to lay roots in Nashville while he traveled around the country to play shows with the help of William Morris Endeavor. While traveling and co-writing the past few years with Amanda June they decided to work on a duo project. The way Amanda and Cole play together is seamless, each artist's voice complementing the other's wonderfully, with no solo or break feeling forced or unnatural– a feat that few artist collaborations can boast. With a simple, beautiful melody accompanied by calm and elegant acoustic guitar arrangements to playing with a band. They won't be stopping their journey anytime soon and plan to put out a full length album. 

Casey Abrams - Friday, March 16th

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Bassist and vocalist, Casey Abrams, will make his Chesky Records debut this Spring with a new album combining electrifying originals and compelling covers. "Robot Lovers" is the first single from this new release, showcasing both the frenetic energy of the band, as well as the unique nature of Abrams' creativity as a songwriter and performer.

All around musical wunderkind, Casey Abrams, has built a strong following through the years building on his public debut on American Idol in 2011. High praise was heaped on him early from fans and judges alike, prompting Randy Jackson to state that "I don't think I've ever seen in my life, on this show definitely, somebody as talented as you are in a musical aspect." Following his stint on the show, Casey released his debut album, Casey Abrams, co-produced by Jackson, which featured the Billboard Holiday 100 single "Baby, It's Cold Outside". In addition to releasing his sophomore effort, Tales From the Gingerbread House, Casey has been a regular contributor to rotating musical collective Postmodern Jukebox, touring with the band internationally.

 

John Berry - Friday, April 27th

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John Berry has a new outlook, a new address and a new beginning. The singer-songwriter rose to stardom on the country charts of the 1990s with such mega hits as Your Love Amazes Me, Standing on the Edge of Goodbye and She’s Taken a Shine. His annual Christmas tours brighten the holidays for thousands, as does his electrifying rendition of O’ Holy Night.

During his star-making decade, John placed 20 singles on the county hit parade, 6 of which went Top 5, with Your Love Amazes Me, scoring a #1 on the Billboard Country Chart. He has earned multiple Gold and Platinum records over the years. John was nominated for the ACM Top New Male Vocalist in 1994, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel Vol. 1, was nominated for another Grammy in 1995 for his smash hit Your Love Amazes Me and was nominated for the CMA Horizon Award and Top Male Vocalist Award in 1995. In 1997 he was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year (for Long Haired Country Boy with Charlie Daniels and Hal Ketchum) and in 2013 John was nominated for the Mainstream Country Male Artist by the ICM Awards. And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, he even sang a duet with the late, great Patsy Cline.

“I love what I do, with a passion not seen in quite some time. I’m hopeful and excited about the future. I love singing and always will. I have a bus, an incredible stage presentation, a great band, hands-on management team and I’m always all dressed up and ready to go.”

He and his family moved back to Music City after several years in Georgia, and in 2016 John is pursuing a touring and personal appearance schedule that is more active than ever. Given his wide range of music and number of releases, John is fortunate in that he can book a solo show with just himself and guitar, a small-band acoustic show or a full-band engagement and has more than enough hit material to captivate a crowd and deliver an evening full of musical memories.

John’s enduringly powerful performances draw on a lifetime of making music and living life. Born in South Carolina and raised in Georgia, he began playing guitar at 13, performing shows at age 14 and making records at age 19. “By the time I was 17, I knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life”; and he has done it well ever since. 

Between 1979 and 1990 he recorded and marketed six albums on his own labels. The Graduation Song, which he wrote during his senior year in high school, became a perennial favorite at graduation ceremonies. It appeared on two of his early collections.

Those early discs and John’s strong regional popularity attracted attention on Music Row. Capitol Records signed him to his first major label contract in 1992. Berry’s co-written hits A Mind of Her Own and Kiss Me in the Car introduced him to radio audiences in 1993. Then Your Love Amazes Me, What’s in it for Me and You and Only You thrust him to stardom in 1994. Standing on the Edge of Goodbye, I Think About it all the Time, and If I Had Any Pride Left at All were all major hits the following year, with Standing on the Edge of Goodbye earning John the coveted 1995 Grammy nomination.

But it was his stunning performance of the title track of the 1995 CD O’ Holy Night that led to his most enduring legacy to date. John began doing special Christmas tours that year and 2016 marks his 20th anniversary holiday concert tour. He has big plans to celebrate and involve the fans like never before for this anniversary celebration. He has also issued three more Christmas-music collections. If O’ Holy Night is all that anyone remembers of me, that’s fine with me,” he comments about his perennial Christmas popularity. “It is a truly inspired piece of music.”

Happily, there were more successes to come. The hit Change My Mind earned John a Top-5 spot on the Country music charts in 1996. She’s Taken a Shine became an even bigger hit in 1997. Both fans and the media took note again when There He Goes was released as a 1999 duet with Patsy Cline.

In 2002, Berry returned to making records for his own company, Clear Sky Records. Songs and Stories, a double CD was issued that year.

In 2003, John Berry released his I Give My Heart collection and its critically applauded wedding anthem Will You Marry Me. The disc also contained his versions of such classic love songs as Time in a Bottle, If, Love Look What You’ve Done to Me, Faithfully, Lady and Let’s Stay Together. I Give My Heart inspired still another popular concert series, The Love Tour.

In 2008, Those Were the Days, was released, marking John’s return to mainstream country music. He created his first Christian-music CD in 2011. In 2012, John published the combination book and CD, again titled Songs and Stories. Over the years he has continued to tour steadily. “We just have a great group of fans who welcome us every year. They are always there.”

In 2015 John embarked for the first time on a crowd funded Kickstarter project that proved very successful. Overwhelmed by the fan response, John assembled an all-star studio team and cut both a Country album entitled What I Love the Most and a new 5-song Christmas EP This Christmas Night. Blessed with the ability to make the music he wanted to make (and not what a label dictated) allowed John the time to write and create what many music critics who have heard bits & pieces are saying could be his best, most complete project yet. “I'm excited to release this new music and bring it to the fans in 2016. It’s a new time in the music business and technology allows me to be closer to my fans and interact in new ways. You know, God just keeps blessing me. There are new opportunities coming at every turn.”

“With time, I’ve learned that the road to fulfillment is doing what I was called to do, love to do, and then doing it the best I can, regardless of the circumstances. And for me, that is making music and singing for people."