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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: January 13, 2017

Stirring singer-songwriter and a contest-winning fiddler are playing Portland stages

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Maggie Rogers Photo by Katia Temkin

Maggie Rogers Photo by Katia Temkin

It was early November when I first heard the Maggie Rogers song “Dog Years,” though I can’t remember exactly how it made it’s way to my ears. What I do know is that I had to pick myself off the floor because the song hit me, as they say, in the feels — big time.

I listened to it several times in a row and still listen to it with the same level of adoration. Combining folk, electronic and pop, Rogers, 22, has made a flawless song. “Come what may I’ll still stay in your mind for all time/Singing we will be all right.” When she sings it, I believe it.

Take a listen to “Dog Years”

I followed Rogers on all of the social media platforms posthaste and, soon after, images of a video shoot for “Dog Years” taking place at a summer camp in Maine (Wohelo in Raymond, which she attended) started showing up on Instagram. Said video was released on Dec. 16, and it’s terrific.

Soon after my “Dog Years” discovery, I realized that there was another Rogers tune out in the world called “Alaska” that apparently had racked up millions of views on YouTube, though this was all news to me. It, too, is a riveting song that I’ve been all about. Finally, I got wind of the back story that, incredibly, involves Pharrell Williams.

In June, a video aired showing Rogers sitting with Pharrell Williams listening to “Alaska” during Masterclass with Williams that took place last February at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. When the song ended, Williams looked at a Rogers and said, “I have zero notes for that because you’re doing you’re own thing, it’s singular. That is such a special quality and all of you possess that ability, but you have to be willing to seek, and you have to be willing to be real frank in your music and frank in your choices.”

Watch the “Alaska” video

Fast forward to now. Maggie Rogers has been signed to Capitol Records and her debut EP “Now That The Light is Fading” drops on Feb. 17. It includes “Dog Years” and “Alaska,” along with three other tunes. Several of her shows on her current tour are already sold out, and the Portland one is headed that way too. Technically, Rogers has two other albums (2012’s “The Echo” and 2014’s “Blood Ballet”), but they don’t seem to be available anywhere, though there are some tracks on YouTube.

Maggie Rogers with Scott James

8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24. Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show, $20 preferred seating, all ages. portcitymusichall.com


She’s a classically trained fiddler and a skilled singer-songwriter, and she also won last year’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert contest.

Gaelynn Lea, 32, is from Duluth, Minnesota, and is in the midst of her longest tour to date, fueled in part by the attention she received for her performance on NPR in March of the stunning original song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun.”

The song includes the lines “We pulled the weeds out ’til the dawn/Nearly too tired to carry on/Someday we’ll linger in the sun/And I love you.”

Gaelynn Lea image courtesy of the artist

Gaelynn Lea image courtesy of the artist

Lea uses a JamMan Express loop pedal to create layers of sound, and she sings with a voice that makes her sound younger than she is, but is still an effective way to deliver her thoughtful words.

Lea was born with brittle bone disease and plays her violin like a cello. She uses a wheelchair and sometimes needs a hand getting onto non-accessible stages, but the last thing she wants is pity. More on that in a minute.

Lea and I spoke on the telephone while she was on her way to a gig about her NPR win, her music and disability awareness. We started off the conversation talking about her current six-week tour.

“There are actually quite a few states that we’re visiting that we haven’t done before. This is going to be a fun tour,” she said.

Lea then talked about what winning the Tiny Desk Concert has meant for her career as a musician.

“The biggest thing that’s changed, besides reaching a wider audience, which was a new thing for me, I’ve pretty much only been based in the Midwest for the last 10 years, so reaching out to other parts of the country with the Tiny Desk Concert was a huge deal.”

Watch Lea’s Tiny Desk Concert performance.

Lea said that the win led to invitations to play farther away places and made her realize that if she wanted to try it, she could pull off a tour.

“We got a booking agent, who I really like a lot. We (she and her husband, Paul) sold our house so that we could be a little more flexible to tour.” Paul acts as tour manager, merchandise seller and personal assistant.

As for the song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun,” Lea thinks it resonates with people because of its universal theme. “It addresses something that all of us think, which is the idea that time is fleeting and that love is kind of hard and you have to make the best use of your time.”

Lea also does a fair amount of public speaking about disability, overcoming challenges and the joy of music. One specific area she touched on is something 99 percent of us take for granted which is access to the stage.

“Stages in most places aren’t accessible yet because the idea of having a performer with a disability is still kind of a new concept. I think people are getting used to the idea of having customers with disabilities but not so much the actual performer. So when people get ramps, a lot of times it’s because they made a special effort to do that before I came, which is awesome,” she said. “I always try to encourage them not to take them down when I leave because they are such a rarity.”

During a talk at the Fishing Has No Boundaries 2016 National Convention in Wisconsin earlier this year (on YouTube, well worth your time), Lea laid out some “Gaelynn-approved disability etiquette,” which includes using person-first language, like that she isn’t “confined” to a wheelchair, she simply uses one. (And she said she loves her wheelchair because it gives her freedom.) Lea also doesn’t “suffer” from a disability, she lives with it. And, yes, there are challenges sometimes, but she faces them head on.

The reason you should go see her on Sunday night at SPACE is not to be inspired by the fact that her attitude and outlook are so damn impressive (which they are). You should go for the same reason that I recommend every show I write about — because the music is really something special. I mean, who doesn’t love the sound of a well-played violin? Also, be sure to get there on time because you don’t want to miss opener Jerusha Robinson with her cello, banjo and guitar. If her name rings a bell it’s because she’s from Brown Bird, Plans, South China and The Huntress & Holder of Hands.

Gaelynn Lea

8 p.m. Sunday. SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, $10 in advance, $12 day of show, all ages. space538.org

 

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