Alone on Stage to resonate at Prospector
November 18, 2006
A musician alone on stage with only a guitar and vocal chords generates, for some, the purest of tunes.
"It’s one person, bare on stage," said Randy Barton, founder of Mountain Town Stages. "I enjoy this style of solo-songwriters performing their music; it’s what got me hooked on music years ago."
So, it’s fitting that Barton’s last involvement in a Mountain Town Stages event is the "Alone on Stage in Park City" festival, which will be held the weekend after Thanksgiving at Prospector Square.
"I hope this is good timing for something like this," Barton said. "People can come and listen to good music rather than sit around looking at in-laws after Thanksgiving."
The audience will experience something similar to "MTV Unplugged" Barton said. Before he started Mountain Town Stages, Barton produced similar shows.
"It’s great to sit down and listen to this type of show," he said. "It’s something no one else does. I used to do a lot of them. I’ve been a fan. This business is about being a fan."
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The songwriters performing will be folk singers Slaid Cleaves and Cliff Eberhardt.
"These two are somewhat unknown," Barton said. "These two both fit the niche to hold a stage alone."
He hopes their obscurity won’t keep people at home. Barton is banking on the talent showcased in past shows to bring more fans to Prospector Square.
"I have a reputation here in town and I hope people will trust me because of what I’ve done over the years," Barton said. "If anyone isn’t pleased with the music, we will return their money."
Each musician relies on strong lyrics that tell a story. Their music is driven by moving stories and a mixture of folk-style riffs.
"One of the easiest ways to move people is to write a sad song," Cleaves said in a phone interview while driving across the country. "Sad songs always tug at my heart strings."
Eberhardt similarly writes songs that may draw a tear. His music styles, however, range from folk to blues to pop.
"I tell a lot of stories in my show," Eberhardt said. "They are pretty humorous stories because my songs aren’t."
Eberhardt’s songs deal with heavy issues and his lyrics are filled with metaphors that he hopes might cause the audience to think.
"My songs never end up tragic," Eberhardt said. "They always have a morel or a little bit of hope at the end. Generally the whole thing is a metaphor." Such as "How we feel in our hearts is how we treat the world. They are introspective," Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt’s and Cleaves’ music may seem similar but, there are differences between these friends.
"We are coming from the same nucleus," Eberhardt said. "Our approach is very different, which is interesting. We are coming from the same place but ending in different destinations."
For Cleaves, other songs don’t carry the depth that folk songs do.
"I find that pop songs are about sex and money and folk songs are about death and drama.
Music has always defined Cleaves’ life. On the back of his newest album, "Unsung," he is quoted telling how music has molded him.
"Since I was a kid," Cleaves said, "one of the most powerful experiences in my life was to be just knocked out by a song. It’s why I do what I do. Back then, it was Johnny Cash and The Beatles and Hank Williams. These days, the songs that knock me out are the ones I come face to face win my travels and in my home."
He continues to find potential songs in every day life. Each of them has a similar pattern.
"I’m always on the lookout for a character a story or a phrase that tickles my ear," Cleaves said. "The test of a song is if it moves me some how."
His motivation for singing and songwriting has changed over the years.
"It started when I was three years old, I was fascinated" he said. "Then in high school, it was the way to get chicks. In college, it was how to get beer money. After college it was a way of having a career without a day job."
Creativity and observing people enjoy his work have always been rewarding, he said, no matter how hard his career became.
"Once you record a song, it’s there forever," Cleaves said. "I see my songs effect people the way it affected me growing up."
There was a time, however, that Cleaves almost gave up his life’s work. His first 10 years, he said, were tough.
"There were many years where I lost money every year, and my wife was supporting me," Cleaves said. "After about eight years of that, it started to get a little scary."
But in 2000, he made a record called "Brokedown" and various radio stations began to play some of his songs.
"The radio introduced me to a whole new audience," Cleves said. "I soon started making enough money to start paying off debts."
Success, however, has delivered other trials. One of them, he said, is keeping his car rolling down the highway to reach each gig.
"I’ve become a pretty good mechanic over the years," Cleaves said. "You have to have a good navigation system. I spent so much traveling and my writing has suffered from it. It’s a double-edge sword. I have a career and I’m making a living now, but it takes a lot of my time."
Bringing this type of artist is what Barton is proud of in his last show. He feels Mountain Town Stages will be left on solid ground.
"We do this to create a world-class music environment," Barton said of the intimate concert setting. "It allows people to really connect with the artists. There’s something about a songwriter performing a song they wrote and playing it the way they first heard it in their head."
After Cleaves and Eberhardt perform, There will be a songwriting workshop and a singer/songwriter showcase of local musicians.
"It’s for locals and regional musicians to showcase their work in front of industry folks and record companies and help get them promoted," Barton said. "We’ve had good success in making connections and furthering careers in the past."
Eberhardt enjoys helping aspiring musicians be successful.
"I do a lot of workshops because there’s a lot of people that are very curios about this," Eberhardt said. "There’s only one college in the whole Untied States that teaches this. People want to know how to get from point A to point B. I help them a long those lines."
Barton hopes this event will grow larger. Prospector Square is an ideal venue for his concerts. Barton said the makeup of the theater inhibits an echo, while musicians and audiences can feel the music.
"We would like to see this grow into a major festival where artists come to do solo work, kind of like Sundance, to help and continue their progress in their careers," Barton said.
Mountain Town Stages will feature Alone on Stage in Park City Nov. 24-28. at Prospector Theatre at The Prospector Lodge located at 2200 Sidewinder Dr. V.I.P. tickets (seating in the first five rows) are $30 and can only be purchased at http://www.mountaintownstages.com . General admission tickets are $22 in advance or $25 at the door. General admission tickets can be purchased at Orion’s Music and The Prospector Square Lodge in Park City, all SmithsTix locations, by calling 901-SONG. Cleaves will perform Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. and Eberhardt will perform Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. The free songwriting workshop with Eberhardt and the singer/songwriter showcase will take place Nov. 26. For more information, call 901-SONG.