ASCAP celebrates new and established artists during the Sundance Film Festival
January 17, 2015
For the past 17 years, ASCAP – American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers – has hosted the ASCAP Music Café at the Sundance Film Festival.
Since 2010, the café has presented live music at the Rich Haines Gallery, located at 751 Main St., said Loretta Munoz, assistant vice president of membership and special projects for ASCAP and the ASCAP Music Café producer.
"It’s such a beautiful space structurally," Munoz said during an interview with The Park Record. "We’ve tried over the years to have an installation of works by some of our musicians who are also visual artists, and the musicians are inspired by what’s hanging on the walls."
As an official venue of the Sundance Film Festival, the ASCAP Music Café has featured new and upcoming talent as well as established artists.
Past performers have included The Head and the Heart, The Wind + The Wave, Danko Jones, John Batiste, KT Tunstall and The Autumn Defense.
This year’s lineup will include Jamestown Revival, Lindsey Stirling, The Family Crest, Andrew Dost of fun. and The Relationship, featuring Brian Bell of Weezer. (See accompanying story)
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The café will also feature CMA Songwriter Spotlights that will showcase singer and songwriters Jessi Alexander, Kyle Jacobs and Neil Thrasher.
"We started the CMA Songwriter Spotlights last year," Munoz said. "We teamed with the CMA Songwriter Series who had taken these artists on the road. So we kind of blended our efforts for the spotlight.
"I’ve had country artists come in throughout the Sundance Film Festival, and have been a fan of these writers who are so talented," she said. "These artists have written songs that have appeared on country radio and other country formats. So, to be able to give these writers a [bigger] platform was a huge success last year, so we wanted to do it again."
One of the spotlight artists last year was Brandy Clark.
"She was introduced to me by a colleague, and has became one of my favorite artists," Munoz said. "She is just unbelievable and this year, she’s nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards, which is pretty amazing. So, the audience who were in attendance last year for her two performances at the ASCAP Music Café were lucky to see her."
This year, Jessi Alexander, Kyle Jacobs and Neil Thrasher will be featured at the CMA showcase.
"There may be one more coming, so that will be a surprise," Munoz said.
Seeing artists such as Clark, Alexander, Jacobs and Thrasher develop is what the ASCAP Music Café is all about and its mission is to connect songwriters, composers and filmmakers.
"That’s still in line with what the Sundance Film Festival has in terms of integrating and introducing artists to each other," Munoz explained. "As things change in our world, which happens very rapidly, especially in terms of how music is distributed, our goal is to create new opportunities for our artists, specifically at the Music Café.
"We try to bring our film or television composers, pop writers or multiple-genre writers together in the Café, which is one of the crown jewels of the Sundance Film Festival," she said. "We want people to have comfortable conversations in this setting and listen to great music, and maybe discover someone new."
A case point is Ryan Miller, the lead singer of Guster, according to Munoz.
"Several years ago, we had Guster perform and Ryan told us, and I’m paraphrasing, that he wanted to get into film-music composing," she said. "Well, Ryan will be at the festival this year, not as a performer, but as a film composer for the film ‘Tig,’ and this might be his third or fourth Sundance film he has composed music for."
New artists aren’t the only ones who perform at the ASCAP Music Café.
Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, award-winning country singer Lee Ann Womack and Grammy Award nominee David Gray have made appearances in the past.
This year, established artists such as Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland and Psychedelic Furs’ Joe McGinty will be among the performers, Munoz said.
"[In] our roster over the years, we have been sure to include our Legacy writers, established writers who are presently working and our emerging writers and artists at the café," she said.
Putting together the performance schedule is like a big puzzle, Munoz said.
"The staff worked together on their own wish lists and had to figure out the timing of it all," she said. "We had to see who was available and who was in the country. Then we had to make sure they also get the best out of their appearances. To do that with eight days of music with four to five artists a day is a lot to do, but it’s also a lot of fun."
One of the artists Munoz is looking closely at is singer and songwriter Dylan Gardner.
"I think he’s only 17, but he’s fantastic," she said. "Seeing someone like him who is so fresh have the sophistication and be on a stage to do that is great."
Each year Munoz has a wish list of artists she wants to schedule, and she was able to cross David Gray off a couple of years ago.
This year, she can take the Belle Brigade off her list.
"I’ve been after them for years and it never happened because of scheduling," Munoz said. "We have been huge supporters and fans, so when it worked out this year, it was a big ‘Yay.’"
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