SXSW Unplugged: Volume 3

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Welcome to SXSW Unplugged, this is the third volume in this project and we had a chance to work with some amazing artist this year. This project started a couple years ago in Denver and has carried over to SXSW for the last few years. Our aim has always been to capture the artist in their intimate and casual setting. Thank you to Haelos, Madge, Cautious Clay, Japanese Breakfast, White Denim, Cuco, Taylor Janzen, Leikeli47, and of course Nardwuar.

HAELOS

Japanese Breakfast

White Denim

MADGE

LEIKELI47

TAYLOR JANZEN

CUCO

CAUTIOUS CLAY

NARDWUAR

Justin Johnson's Dream Is Grind Is Putting Denver Hip Hop and R&B On The Map

Denver native Justin Johnson and his artist and entertainment company Dream Is Grind, is taking over Denver’s hip-hop and R&B scene!

Johnson lived a double life growing up as a beat maker and football player. He took off for Philadelphia for football, but had many run-ins with Philly’s rap heavy-hitters during that time.

Justin Johnson

Justin Johnson

“Beanie Sigel, Meek Mill, Jay-Z would be on our campus…That’s when I really fell in love with music and hip-hop because I was seeing the game right there. It changed my whole outlook. Meek Mill would be on my campus freestyling,” Johnson recounts.

Upon his homecoming nearly ten years later, he connected with producers and started making music with local artists. He hustled while working an unfulfilling full-time gig that didn’t drive him creatively or emotionally, “How I created my production company Dream Is Grind was out of depression honestly. I was going through a huge breakup. I was working in cooperate America. When you go through hard times and obstacles you really start to think about yourself. So I thought to myself ‘lemme go start my own business.’”

Dream Is Grind took off from there.

“My first artist that I managed was Lo-Pez, who happened to be Timberland’s nephew. The universe is crazy on how it connects you.” Justin elaborates on those first stages on building his company, “As far as the business aspect goes, I had to learn. [Attend] workshops. I had to put myself in the game. My focus was learning how to manage artists and building a studio from the ground up. Two years later I executive produced Lo-Pez’ first album W.I.P (Work In Progress).”

After this major project, Johnson and his company had established credibility within the local scene that got him some attention nationally. Dream Is Grind was contacted by a talent buyer out of Seattle to promote the Jacquees concert in 2018; which was later cancelled. The upset didn’t stop Dream Is Grind’s momentum as they went on to take two up-and-coming artists under their wing: Jay Triiiple & Chyreco.

Kush Groove, Dream Is Grind’s newest endeavor, is an urban focused live performance party thrown at Meadowlark celebrates its first anniversary this year. Dream Is Grind is celebrating by throwing a showcase of Denver’s musical talent at Ophelia’s.

Johnson talks about how the event came to fruition, “I saw a lot of division in the music culture out here. It’s very clique-y and not supportive. There are really good artists and I believe in Denver. So I wanted to produce a showcase that shows off Denver artists. We wanted to show people how to work together. It doesn’t matter what race you are or what background you have. I’m hoping that it’s entertainment it’s fun it’s networking. It’s a platform that’s the glue of these bridges that we have created.” The night features a diverse lineup of Denver artists: Soul singer Zach Maxwell, and R&B crooner Napalm, as well as additional performances by Adiel Mitchell, Mandy Groves and Yasi, DJ sets by KDJ Above and Destiny Shynelle.

What does Johnson hope people take away from his events and Dream Is Grind?

“Those people work hard. They believe in themselves. They care about Denver.”

Catch Kush Groove’s first anniversary celebration Thursday February 28th at 8pm at Ophelia’s.

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Kiana Ledé Making A Splash In The R&B Scene

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Kiana Ledé is R&B’s most relatable, youthful female artist. “I want people to feel like they are heard and understood. I want to make extreme versions of everything. If you’re going through a breakup, when you’re talking about an ex, it almost doesn’t feel like there’s a silver lining. It’s more like ‘this sucks. I don’t know what to do.’ You're in this sad, confusing state and sometimes you just want to feel a certain way. Sometimes you should just feel that way.”

If this is a lesson on being in your feelings, then Ledé’s 2018 EP “Selfless” is the handbook. “Take It All” is reminiscent of India Arie: guitar riffs, soulful and gospel like, it’s a tale of heartbreak and hurt. Then there’s dark and brooding “Wicked Games” a bop sure to make you wail every lyric at the top of your lungs. Breakout single “Ex” has been getting major play on the Denver airwaves. Lede describes her first time hearing it on the radio:

“I was freaking out. I didn’t know what to say or what to think. I didn’t believe it was happening.”

It’s no shock, Ledé’s career shows no signs of slowing down. Back in October she opened for pop star Jessie J. Now she’s teaming up with songstress Ella Mai for a national tour.

“The difference between this tour and the one with Jessie J is my mental state. I’m a lot more prepared for this tour. I know a little bit more about what I’m doing.”

Being honest and vulnerable with her fans takes top priority during her shows and in her craft. “I’m not a good liar. I’ll always be an open book,” Lede says when asked about what she wants fans to take away from her music. “This is all I can be.”

Ledé being her truest self, is what has made her the heartfelt storyteller she is now and it looks like she’ll continue in the same theme of love and relationships, mental health, and overcoming struggle. Her next move move is approaching quickly, a full length album set for release in late spring. “[Fans] can expect a little more selfishness. My life has shifted on focusing on my own shit and myself. I was going through another breakup, so they can expect a little more maturity.”

We’re ready for Kiana to not hold back. Prepare yourself for a performance as dynamic as her songwriting.

-Demi Harvey

One's To Watch: Branson Anderson

Cut from the same cloth as Shakey Graves and Devendra Banhart with a hint of his own unique sound Branson Anderson will be bringing his talents to The Bluebird later this week opening for Corb Lund. He is also set to release two new singles at the beginning of March which we can describe as a knee-slapping-road music. The beats are infectious and the lyrics have us singing to the distinguished sound. Keep an eye out for the new tunes!

Singer-songwriter Branson Anderson hails from Logandale, Nevada, a tiny, sleepy, desert town dating back to the 1860s, best known as the home of the Clark County Fair and Rodeo. As a teen, Anderson started writing songs with dreams of rambling across the land as a traveling musician. In fact, he once ditched high school and took a two and a half day bus ride to Nashville with the sole plan of going to Third Man Records to meet Jack White. It didn’t quite pan out and fifteen hours later he was back on a bus headed home, but a love for the adventures of the road got into his blood on that trip.

Now based in Ogden, Utah, another historic frontier town rich in cowboy lore, Anderson lives in a camp trailer and fully embraces the life of a troubadour, working as a truck driver for a rock quarry when he isn’t gigging. With a creative approach to writing that eschews traditional song structure, Anderson’s influences include Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Jack White, and Robert Johnson. Fueled by a humble reverence for Americana, as a performer Anderson channels the spirit of yesteryear imbued with a fresh, unique take on roots music.

Anderson has toured the U.S. and parts of Europe, opening for Corb Lund, Charlie Parr, Brothers Comatose, Sammy Brue, and fellow Utah resident Joshua James, who produced Anderson’s 2017 debut album, Graydog, as well as his new album, Applecore, Baltimore.