ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Troubadour Blues is not a who’s who of singer-songwriters. I’m interested in what drives artists to pursue their artistic dreams over the long haul, not in who is the most popular or sells the most records. I met the artists one at a time, got to know them for a while, and asked if they would introduce me to other artists. Sometimes these introductions took place in person, sometimes by phone or e-mail, and sometimes by chance encounter. Here is a short bio of each artist with a note on how we met.

Page 1: Peter Case, Chris Smither, Mark Erelli, Amy Speace, Karl Mullen, Slaid Cleaves, Garrison Starr, RB Morris,

Page 2: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Hayes Carll, Anne McCue, Troy Campbell, Dave Alvin, Sam Baker, Gurf Morlix, Jeff Talmadge

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Peter Case

Peter Case is the first artist who agreed to participate, back in fall 2002, and is the central figure in the film. Peter is a native of Hamburg, NY, who left home as a teenager and lit out for San Francisco. A founding member of influential bands the Nerves and the Plimsouls, he has been performing solo since 1984. In addition to many recorded performances, we see Peter conducting songwriting workshops, interacting with fans, and showing us the sights of Hamburg on a rainy summer day. The concluding scene features his first live performance after recovering from major heart surgery in 2009. www.petercase.com

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Chris Smither

Chris Smither is a veteran of the national folk scene for more than four decades, whose quicksilver guitar technique, soulful voice and philosophical lyrics have made him widely admired. A troubadour in the truest sense, Chris is constantly on the road, playing more than 200 shows a year. I met Chris through Peter, who was opening for him at a 2002 holiday show in Arlington, Mass., just down the street from the Smither homestead. This established a precedent that carried through for the remainder of production: each artist would introduce me to other artists who he or she felt should be included in the film. www.smither.com

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Mark Erelli

Mark Erelli was influenced to begin playing music in his teens, when he saw a performance by Chris Smither. Mark, who lives in western Massachusetts, was opening for Smither in Virginia and pulled out a new song at soundcheck that made reference to Chris in the first verse. As soon as I heard “Troubadour Blues,” I knew what the title of the film would have to be: the song covers all the major themes of the documentary, from touring to songwriting to the role of music in people’s lives. When not performing his own material, Mark frequently hits the road as a sideman for other New England artists. www.markerelli.com

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Amy Speace

A longtime New Yorker, Amy Speace relocated to Nashville in 2009 to pursue co-writing and performing opportunities in Music City. Amy’s childhood dream was to be an opera singer; later she studied theatre at Amherst College and toured with the National Shakespeare Company. I met Amy in 2003 when she played at a tiny coffeehouse in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, and her reputation has been growing ever since. Her powerful voice, heartfelt songwriting and personal sincerity have won her numerous fans and a recording contract with Judy Collins’s Wildflower label. A relentless traveler, Amy has logged hundreds of thousands of miles playing clubs, coffeehouses, concerts and festivals across the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Europe. www.amyspeace.com.

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Karl Mullen

Karl Mullen has worn many hats in the music business, from bandleader to talent booker to show promoter. A Dubliner by birth, Karl moved to Pittsburgh in the late 1970s and began playing with the experimental New Wave band Carsickness, performing at many of the same small bars as the local bands I was involved with at the time. Carsickness evolved into the Ploughman’s Lunch and then the Karl Mullen Band. Meanwhile, Karl was booking Pittsburgh clubs such as Rosebud and Club Cafe. Since 2005, Karl has lived in Philadelphia, where he remains active in music while launching a burgeoning career as a visual artist. www.karlmullen.com

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Slaid Cleaves

I was sitting outside a church in Lexington, Mass. that serves as a folk music venue when the headliner, Slaid Cleaves, drove up in a huge late-1970s Dodge van. It was quite the arrival — out of the van spilled Slaid, his wife Karen, three musicians, two guitars, drums, a double bass, and a dog. It was my first encounter with one of the hardest-working troubadours on the road today. Slaid is a native of Portland, Maine, who lives in Austin and travels an epic circuit throughout the U.S. and Canada each year. He calls himself a documentary songwriter and certainly has an eye for unique characters and colorful locales; most of his bittersweet songs are based on real life. www.slaid.com.

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Garrison Starr

Growing up in a religious family in ultra-conservative Hernando, Mississippi, Garrison Starr used music as an outlet for her free-spirited nature. She was signed to — and dropped by — a major record label before her 21st birthday. I met Garrison in 2003 at the Odeon Theater in Cleveland, where she and her electric trio were opening for Steve Earle. I was impressed with the way she handled Steve’s rambunctious fans and with the honesty and sincerity of her songs. I had just started working on a documentary, and Garrison readily agreed to participate. It took us a couple of years, but we managed to connect for a couple of shows and a memorable interview in the backyard of her East Nashville apartment. www.garrisonstarr.com.

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RB Morris

A poet as well as a singer-songwriter, RB Morris recently spent two years as Writer in Residence at the University of Tennessee Libraries in Knoxville. He lives in the Fort Sanders neighborhood of Knoxville, also home to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Agee, about whom RB wrote a one-man stage play, The Man Who Lives Here Is Loony. I meet him in fall 2001, when he drove from Knoxville to Pittsburgh to open a show for Peter Case at the Rosebud, a much beloved and now-defunct club. He brought the house down with his dramatic originals and an impeccable cover of Marty Robbins’ impossible-to-sing Devil Woman. www.RBMorris.com

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