» Three nominees for Sunday’s Schenectady Eddies Regional Music Awards talk about their work
LIFE & ARTS – The fifth annual Eddies Music Awards will take place Sunday at Proctors. At least 100 artists are in the running for at least one of the 33 categories and some are up for more than a single honor in this event, which is an initiative of Proctors Collaborative.
Here’s a look at three of the artists and their bands who’ve been nominated.
Reese Fulmer & The Carriage House Band: Americana Artist of the Year; Music Video of the Year for “Leaving a Dream”; Record of the Year for “Leaving a Dream”
“The nominations are a reflection of my players’ combined talents,” Fulmer said. “They’ve all been Capital Region mainstream for years. My format is constantly evolving, but I think it’s refreshing for them. I trust them completely.”
Fulmer’s band formed barely two years ago with their first gig at the Cock ’n Bull in Galway and Fulmer himself only started to play guitar four years ago.
“I’d played violin, electric bass and banjo in school and I always liked the roots world,” he said. “But in college in my senior year at Skidmore, my banjo teacher suggested I go to Caffe Lena.”
The visit changed his life. He fell in love with the players, their stories, and that the audiences, who sit barely feet from the performers, were there to hear the music, he said. In 2018, he graduated from Skidmore College and knew where he was headed.
“I became house manager for four years at Caffe Lena until May 2022,” Fulmer said.
Meanwhile, he’d begun playing guitar and writing songs. When he formed the band, which ranges from him playing solo to sextet, he hit on the name “carriage house.”
“The image makes a lot of sense of where I live — now in Saratoga Springs and it’s symbolic of a certain level of wealth,” he said. “It’s sort of tongue in cheek. It gives me a flexible number and that number can fit better for an electric sound or a softer acoustic side and that also influences my writing. I don’t have to fit into a certain sound.”
As for his songwriting, Fulmer credits listening and talking with the many artists he met at Caffe Lena as well as that he “read non-stop as a kid.”
“That influenced my love of working with words. All my songs have a spoken intro to set the stage and then I [try] to find the words to have an impact on people,” he said.
For the next few months, he and his band are fairly busy, but he’s looking beyond the local area.
“From the beginning, I’ve only been interested in playing my own work. That might limit the venues I play, but my goals are to expand beyond the Capital Region and this spring will be the first time we’ll be in Manhattan and Brooklyn,” Fulmer said.
Cosby Gibson & Tom Staudle: Folk/Traditional Artist of the Year
“The nomination came as a total surprise,” Gibson said. “We’re so happy and honored … so thrilled.”
While this is the first time the duo has been included on the Eddies list, they have either as a duo or in their own solo careers received several awards and have an almost ubiquitous presence either online or in countless venues in the region.
“We’re very active … full-time, 60 hours … on radio, community projects, touring, social media, libraries, farmers’ markets, festivals,” Gibson said laughing. “Before the pandemic we were doing 90 shows a year. That dropped to 30 shows during the pandemic but we have 30 shows done so far this year and it’s only April. We love to play anywhere.”
Gibson, of Fultonville, has been playing guitar since third grade and comes from a musical family.
“My dad was an opera singer and for 30 years sang as a tenor in Europe at Brussel’s Light Opera doing Gilbert & Sullivan,” Gibson said. “We also spent time in New York City and Japan. My mom is very literary. I’m the only one in the family that plays an instrument. But I’ve always listened.”
For her solo gigs, Gibson usually plays guitar, but in the duo she learned to play fiddle to Staudle’s guitar. They’ve been working together for 12 years. Both sing. Gibson learned about writing songs from her father, who used to make up songs whose lyrics would rhyme, she said.
“My inspirations are the forest, nature, human relationships,” she said. “We only sing originals unless it’s for a history project. Then we research and find the actual songs and give audiences fun facts.”
Currently, their history project is the American Revolution with a focus on the songs. The duo has six albums out with “The Secret that the Forest Gave Me” the latest. They’re also very active in giving songwriting workshops; in their Flying Song Garden — a project geared to entertain communities hard hit by natural disasters such as hurricanes; and online websites that promote their work.
“I’m always trying to inspire artists to reach more listeners through online sites,” she said.
Although they’ll play anywhere, including playing a five-show weekend, which required them to sleep in their touring traveling music van that they’ve nicknamed the most magnificent mobile or “Maggie” for short, her goal for the duo is to do a national tour into a theater-size venue that will be “warm and intimate for my songs … gentler, not the raucous and get-the-crowd-going size,” she said.
Gail Sparlin: Songwriter of the Year; Solo or Duo Artist of the Year (Originals)
“Songwriter of the Year … a first-time nomination. What an honor,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for my counterparts in these categories. They are all gifted musicians and writers. I feel very fortunate to have been nominated.”
For those who know Sparlin, this is not an unlikely response. For 20 years between 2001 and 2021, Sparlin was Mohonasen High School’s teacher of music theory, music production, choral director and sometime theater director.
One of her favorite projects was “I See Stars” that still is on YouTube, in which her students listened to celestial sounds and then wrote compositions on what they heard as well as presenting an overall pictorial of the heavens.
Known for constantly encouraging and supporting her students’ efforts — “I was always pushing the kids to get up on stage” — Sparlin herself has been writing songs since her 30s.
“I grew up with family singalongs,” she said. “My brother is a musician; my dad played harmonica, guitar and any instrument he picked up. I played guitar. They were a very musical family. It was fun; a festive part of childhood.”
Initially, Sparlin went to Schenectady County Community College as an art major, but found it too solitary.
“I’m a happy person. I transferred to SUNY Albany and then to the College of Saint Rose in music technologies,” Sparlin said. “It took me 20 years to get my degree.”
As for performing, Sparlin didn’t get started until around 2008. As for her songs, most of those she considers personal. She’s recorded two albums, a musical and a song cycle based on Kurt Vonnegut’s writings.
“The songs are about my life, growing up … the process never ends. There are a lot of losses … about reclaiming life, making decisions, dealing with loss,” she said.
Although most of her gigs in the past have been solo, she recently started a 10-piece band she named Swamp Lily that includes her vocalist and daughter Cecelia Gray.
“Having a child who performs with you is an awesome experience,” Sparlin said.
The idea behind the band is to create a show similar to Prairie Home Companion that will be a variety show geared as a benefit for various organizations. The first gig for the band is June 11 and will be livestreamed. Music production of the gig will be done by a former student.
“This full circle moment seems unreal,” Sparlin said. “It’s a privilege.”
Eddie Awards celebration
WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday, April 30
HOW MUCH: $20
MORE INFO: www.theeddiesawards.com; 518 382-3884
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Schenectady