The Soul of Asheville – CaroMia Tiller

AskAsheville.com sat down recently with one of the city’s most beloved sirens, CaroMia Tiller, to discuss her many projects and her one of a kind musical journey.

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Goldie and the Screamers performing at the Asheville Music Hall – July 11, 2015

Step out onto the streets of Asheville on any given night and it would not be entirely uncommon for you to walk past one of the city’s seemingly countless music venues to hear a sultry and seductive voice you’d swear you’d only heard dotting the landscape of your dreams.

If you by chance had this experience previously it’s possible that you were either within the midst of an enchanted symphonic reverie or more likely just fortuitous enough to be within earshot of one of the many musical performances of the one and only CaroMia Tiller.

The 29-year-old songstress may literally be the most talented vocalist, female or otherwise, plying her musical wares throughout our fair city on a regular basis.

Whether it be as a solo artist or fronting one of her other musical projects, which include the bands Goldie and the Screamers, Siamese Jazz Club or the Feels, Tiller rarely goes too many weeks without providing the residents of Asheville the opportunity to come see and more importantly experience her music in live setting.

I met up with Tiller recently at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar downtown and as I walked through the doors of the establishment it quickly dawned on me that this location, which Tiller had personally chosen for our sit down, actually kind of mirrored in essence the singer herself.

The part book store, part coffee shop and part bar is elegantly laid out with wrought iron stair cases throughout, furniture that looks as though it was plucked out East Indian Company catalog, if that actually ever existed, and shelves lined with hundreds of books, some of which appear to be hundreds of years old.

Tiller herself comes off wise beyond her years; a venerable soul whose presence immediately puts anyone within her immediate radius at ease.  She’s graceful, intelligent and would seem to be the exact type of woman who normally wouldn’t want anything to do with this reporter.

Yet Tiller is another Asheville musical transplant that welcomes me as though we have been life long friends and someone who actually seems enthusiastic about speaking with me on the day.

Literally thousands of millenials have found their way to the mountain town we call home in recent years, however, Tiller’s musical odyssey and what ultimately lead her to the Appalachian oasis we know as Asheville is as unique and eclectic as the woman herself.

Originally hailing from Michigan, Tiller was not raised nor surrounded by musicians in her immediate family or within her inner circle.

I was a bit surprised to learn of this fact because it’s somewhat common for individuals that possess the vocal and instrumental talents of someone like Tiller to often be influenced at a young age by people close to them that are musically inclined themselves.

“I come from a family that loves music and appreciates the arts but no one actually played music,” said Tiller.  I just somehow knew I wanted a keyboard when I was eight years-old and I think I just started writing songs immediately.”

It’s more than apparent when speaking with Tiller for even a short amount of time that she’s beyond astute and that she’s an individual that will continue throughout the course of her life to pursue new experiences and to seek to broaden her knowledge whenever presented the opportunity to do so.

Thus it came as no surprise to me when Tiller mentioned that high school graduation came early for her and that she decided to take a path most people at such a young age would likely never have chosen to pursue.

“I graduated from high school at 16 and my step mother worked for an airline, so the deal was before I turned 18 I could get free plane tickets anywhere in the world,” Tiller said.

She further goes on to explain, “At that point I had already traveled Europe and I wanted to go somewhere different and exotic but my parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of South America so I decided on India.”

Tiller goes on to expound on her journey to southern India to study music with a gleam of fondness in her eyes, however this would turn out to be short lived as after just a few months she would end up leaving school, instead deciding to continue her travels to unique destinations such as Thailand, Egypt and Morocco.

Eventually Tiller made her way to and through Europe supporting herself with street performances with her travels eventually winding to an end after almost two years of wandering the globe solo.

“I kind of had enough at that point so I decided to go home to Michigan and I ended up applying to music school,” Tiller said laughingly.

“Besides the couple of months I had spent in India I never had any formal music training so I enrolled in the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

Like her time in India Tiller wouldn’t stay stationary for too long as after two years in St. Paul she moved back to Michigan for a brief time, eventually making her way to of all places Asheville.

“I had never been to Asheville and I didn’t know anyone that lived there.  I think I just heard that there was a good music scene and that it may be the right size city for me,” said Tiller.

Having already traveled the world, attended college to study music and then choosing Asheville as a destination one would think upon arrival Tiller would have immediately embedded herself into the city’s thriving musical climate.

“I was a little bit burned out on performing when I got to Asheville so I just took a few years off from gigging out when I first moved here,” Tiller said.

Then with a slight smile and while unsuccessfully attempting to hold back some laughter Tiller goes on to provide insight into how she attempted to financially support herself during this time period, “I actually discovered that you can buy used computers from government auctions and resell them, so I did that and just tried to continue to do anything else I could do to avoid getting a real job.”

Following a stint as veterinary assistant Tiller found herself working in massage therapy but was eventually lead back to music kind of organically.

A friend of Tiller’s at some point ended up showing the folks over at 5 Walnut Wine and Bar a video of her signing, which in turn had the establishment eventually asking her if she would like to perform at the venue.

“So 5 Walnut asked me to come play and they just kept asking me back, so I ended up performing there every Monday night for something like two years,” said Tiller.  She continued, “It was at that point I really got excited about performing and pursuing music as a career again.”

Tiller’s music palate is quite diverse.  Her solo efforts are more roots and Americana based while her band oriented music is more closely tied to soul, jazz and R&B soundscapes.

After mostly working in town as a solo musician Tiller eventually decided to get together with a group of friends to try something different.   This effort, which started out as an attempt at just a fun side project, would eventually become local R&B and soul outfit, Goldie and the Screamers.

“I feel I have a lot of different faces of music and personalities and they can’t all fit into that “rootsy” or Americana sound so I wanted to do something more electrified that was also more soul and R&B based, so I asked some close friends if they wanted to do something like that,” Tiller said.

Tiller further goes on to explain, “It (Goldie and the Screamers) kind of evolved on its own. People liked it and were excited about it and I think that was because we were playing music that had a sound that wasn’t necessarily all that prevalent in Asheville.”

This upcoming Saturday November 21st Goldie and the Screamers will be taking the stage at the Asheville Music Hall supporting locally based groove, funk and rock outfit the Fritz.  The evening’s performance will be somewhat distinct as the band has chosen to use the show as an opportunity to record a live album.

“We knew we wanted to do a live album because we need some kind of recording to sell and to promote ourselves.  It will also be a lot less expensive to do it this way and we think it will come out better than anything we might have tried to quickly put together in the studio,” said Tiller.

Success in the current age of free music downloads and file sharing is far from guaranteed.  It seems as though if one chooses to pursue music as a career these days your goals almost have to be more rooted in something else beyond any elusive financial windfall.

I’ve spoken with quite a few musicians and bands in Asheville and all of them surprisingly have given the same kind of response when I’ve asked them to talk about what success would mean to each of them.  Tiller’s answer to my “success” query yielded a very similar response.

“You always want to keep developing as an artist and developing your fan base and hopefully I’ll be able to do that while also being able to become more financially stable.”

Humble, introspective and soulful CaroMia Tiller has already inspired countless Asheville locals and tourists alike with her extraordinary talents.

If you haven’t had the chance to see and hear why Tiller’s voice literally has stopped traffic and created throngs of crowds at venues such as 5 Walnut come be a part of it yourself this upcoming Saturday November 21st as her band Goldie and the Screamers will take to the Asheville Music Hall stage to record their very first live album.

Who:        Goldie and the Screamers

Where:    Asheville Music Hall / 31 Patton Avenue

When:      Saturday November 21, 2015 / 9:00 PM (doors) – 10:00 PM (show)

Cost:         $7 (advance) / $10 (day of show)

Also catch CaroMia Tiller performing with Jason Kenny on Thanksgiving Eve:

Who:       CaroMia Tiller with Jason Kenny

Where:   White Horse Tavern / 105 Montreat Road Black Mountain, NC

When:     Wednesday November 25, 2015 / 7:30 PM

Cost:        $10 (advance) / $12 (day of show)

One on the Rise – The Marcus King Band – ISIS Music Hall

The Marcus King Band performing at ISIS Music Hall on November 7, 2015

The Marcus King Band performing at the ISIS Music Hall in West Asheville, NC on November 7, 2015

Hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, the Marcus King Band, led by 19 year-old wunderkind and guitar virtuoso Marcus King, brought their twist on southern rock to the ISIS Music Hall in West Asheville this past Saturday.

It would be grossly inaccurate to categorize MKB’s music as solely being southern rock as elements of blues, jazz and even psychedelia are clearly embedded within the band’s musical DNA, even if these sonic overtures get overpowered at times by King’s raspy southern drawl vocals as well as Warren Haynes and Stevie Ray Vaughn inspired guitar licks.

The band’s unique sonic palate was on full display as MKB played to a near sold out crowd delivering a mind bending performance that featured cuts off of their recently re-released debut LP Soul Insight  in addition to their takes on the Beatles’s “Dear Prudence” as well as Black Sabbath’s, “War Pigs.”

At one point during their set and to the delight of the crowd, MKB welcomed up to the stage Eric Travers (harmonica/vocals), Alex Bradley (trumpet) and Dean Mitchell (saxophone) all of local music outfit Travers Brothership, to join in on the fun.

Local guitar hero himself, Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule) certainly has taken notice of MKB as Haynes not only has signed the band to his record label Evil Teen Records, he’s also invited them to take part in this year’s Christmas Jam by Day being held on at the One Stop and Asheville Music Hall on Saturday December 12th.

When it comes to their performance MKB is serious about melting faces and ensuring audience members are either wildly dancing and grooving along or simply left shocked and awed by the sheer musical force they propel into the crowd from first note to last.

MKB’s show this past weekend at ISIS spoke strongly to these facts as well as to the notion that Asheville locals would be wise to take in one of the their somewhat frequent local performances, as it’s becoming more and more clear it won’t be too long before the band is performing on much larger stages in towns and cities far, far away.

The Marcus King Band:

Marcus King (Guitar/Vocals), Jack Ryan (drums), Stephen Campbell (Bass), Justin “JJ” Johnson (Trumpet/Trombone) and Matt Jennings (Organ/Keyboards)

 

 

 

Playing Dress-UP

I changed the way I look at jewelry Monday night.  I didn’t learn anything about measurements, techniques, or jewelry biz lingo really.  I don’t remember the names of the gorgeous gems or stones I was tinkering with either.  I didn’t want to know those things.  However, when Asheville jewelry-maker, Nadine Fidelman invited me into her home, she taught me all I could ever hope to learn about why we choose to decorate ourselves the way we do.

At first glance jewelry is like looking out into a crowd of people.  There are a lot of shapes, sizes, colors, and styles all running together into rainbow overload.  The first thoughts are, ‘oh I see pretty things,’ and then we start searching for a focal point.  It is in that search that we realize we’re being pulled towards certain things and we start to examine why.  While I was zeroing in on a generally smooth black stone with a noticeable organic crack in the upper right corner I could overhear one of my side kicks talking about the jewelry.

“It’s not just beads, they’re individual pieces,” I heard my fellow playmate Kelly Allen offer.

At first I thought, ‘yeah, ok, there’s a lot of different jewelry here.  I can see that.’  Then I took a breath and thought about that word individual. I realized what she meant, and that I wasn’t just looking at the pieces, I was meeting them.  I went back to my black stone, noticing the gorgeous, crystal-esque inclusions the flaw revealed.  I was in love.  I thought of my own personality, how I like the rawness in life, and the beauty I find in truth.  I also believe in fighting like hell and collecting battle scars…I thought of how hard it is being a writer and how far I still had to go in the world of manuscripts.  I wanted that beautiful stone.  I had found my connection.

Lorna's Fave!

  Lorna’s Fave!

 

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We moved the party to the carpet where  the impossible not love, Nadine plopped right down with us, kicking her shoes off ready to dig in.  She shared stories with us about where she had found inspiration for her work, and let her obvious passion for her trade seep out onto us.  We started tossing necklaces and bracelets around, trimming ourselves in the jewelry like we did our mothers’ as children.  We’d try a piece on in between sips of girly shelf white wine, and chat about what we’d chosen. I asked the other three girls what they thought of what they’d selected.

Nadine chatting with Kelly about healing stones

Nadine chatting with Kelly about healing stones

Kelly, who had remarked earlier on the individualism, was drawn to stones she knew to have healing qualities.  As cancer survivor, officially in remission since January; she keeps her eyes peeled for items in nature than bode healing qualities.  Her journey with her sickness, and attention to wellness has brought her upon her choices in jewelry.  Out of those stones, one in particular jumped out at her.

“This one looks like a fishing lure,” she commented excitedly holding up the yellowish vertical stone,” like my Daddy used.”  She set it down smiling.  She had found her connection.

Whitney Thompson, a native Ashevillian piped up from the other side of the circle, holding up a gorgeous blue stone in a similar fashion. “This one reminded me of the sea,” she said.  “It’s like when you’re little.  I just wanted to take my flip-flops off.  When I saw it I wanted to go to the beach and run around.”

Whitney explaining what she loved about the peice whitpic
Whitney explaining what she loved about the piece 

Whitney’s stone actually provoked a childhood memory to surface, making her feel carefree again as she had in her most innocent years.  Whitney had found her connection.

The youngest of the group, Hannah, a 16-year-old, chose a piece unlike the rest of us, without a stone.  Her piece was raw, twisted sterling silver wired, manipulated by hand into an untamed yet simple set of earrings.  I chuckled thinking how the piece was like being a teenager, beautiful, unsure which direction it was going, and not as simple as it appeared to be.  They fit Hannah just perfectly, and hung daintily on her young ears.  She had made her connection.  I wonder if she knew…

Dainty Hannah

Dainty Hannah

While I was pondering this Whitney was perusing the backside of a necklace, “you know, their backs are just as pretty and detailed as their fronts.”

Nadine explained to the group how this is one of her trademarks.  I thought how much it made sense because there are different sides to women…many sides.  They are sometimes tucked away against our own skins for only us to enjoy and sometimes decided to be displayed so people can see our normally hidden sides.  Nadine told us she’d even been in public and saw her creation flipped over, showing them from the opposite sides.  What self-expression.

I learned something Monday night.  Jewelry isn’t just embellishment, it’s an embellishment of us.  Often times who we are is in the tiny details of the things we choose to let represent us.  We weren’t wearing jewelry, we were wearing little pieces of who we are.  I thought I was going to just play dress-up, and I did to an extent.  I just didn’t know I would be using Nadine’s art to dress up as myself.

 

If you want to make your connection with Jewelry by Nadine check out her collection at the Kress Emporium in downtown Asheville.

19 Patton Ave,  Asheville, NC 28801

If you’d love your own play date with Nadine call her 828-654-0993 or email her at nfidelman@pobox.com

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Have an interesting story?  Contact AskAsheville’s Lorna Hollifield at lornalh@gmail .com 828-280-1799

 

Find out more about Lorna’s writing journey at http://lornahollifield.com

Help UNC Asheville win $100,000!

Jaron Lane

Photo: Jaron Lane celebrates after UNCA Men’s Basketball’s big win over Coastal Carolina that put them into the Big South Conference regular season lead.

If you follow #Asheville on any form of social media, you’ve probably read about this “NCAA 6th Fan” competition. So what is this competition that has clogged your news feeds since January? “6th Fan” – a play on the “6th Man” title given either to the best reserve player off the bench or a team’s fans – is a contest between all Division I member institutions in which both schools and individual fans can win cash and prizes. Set up like a typical bracket, all member schools competed for a month for the top 16 spots because all Sweet Sixteen entrees receive sweet, sweet $10,000 scholarships each.

Last week, after feverish Facebook, Twitter, and online voting, UNC Asheville succeeded in landing a spot amid the top 16, garnering a $10,000 scholarship to be dispersed to random students (in the university’s own reward competition.)

But, just as Sweet Sixteen competitors still have 4 more games to win it all, UNCA has to make it through 4 more voting rounds to win the ultimate prize – $100,000 in scholarships. That’s where you, Asheville’s loving community, can help! With only 25 hours to go, Asheville is tied with round adversary Bryant University. Every single vote counts, so for UNCA to move on, we need to take to the Twitter-verse, the Facebook-osphere, and the world wide web (sorry, I ran out of creativity for that one.) Simply use the hashtags #UNCA #6thFan together for every Facebook or Twitter post, or vote for UNCA at 6thfan.ncaa.com. There is no limit on the number of votes per day, so vote your fingerprints off!

But wait, “what’s in it for me?” On top of awarding scholarships, the 6th Fan contest also gives away an iPad Air for each round, and all entrees are submitted to the final drawing for an all expenses paid trip to the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis. So, let’s bring the “madness” to February and push UNCA in the Elite Eight!

-Adrian Etheridge, UNCA Cross Country and Track runner, photographer




Artimus

I started hearing tales of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash of ’77 from my father when pampers were still my favorite pair of pants.  I knew who Ronnie Van Zant was before Big Bird, and my Sunday dinners at Mamaw’s house were really jam sessions that became my lullabies. My father’s hair was longer than my mother’s at that time, and all the men in my family sported bloody finger tips that were slaves to those beckoning long-necked instruments.  At 27 years old, in the age of whatever it is music has become that I haven’t a word that qualifies, I can bank on every family get-together bringing me back to a place when it was pure.  It’s a place I can only visit through my father’s time machine in a land that existed around the time my mother discovered boys.  I go back whenever my now greying father and Uncle pick up their guitars, close their eyes, and try to perfect still, that long ever-growing famously tricky six-string solo in Free Bird.


 

Artimus Pyle, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, and only original band-member still touring traipsed into the Applebee’s in Candler, North Carolina, my hometown about two weeks ago. 

“Lorna, you got to get down here, now,”  My husband’s voice was urgent on the other end of the phone.

“Why?  Is something wrong?”

“No.  Artimus Pyle is here.  We’re hanging out, and he’s cool as hell,”  my husband’s speech was hurried.

“You’re lying!”

“No…”

“I’ll be there in five,”  I replied with my mind reeling all the things I knew about this legend.  I knew he had a house in Asheville, but what was he doing at an Applebee’s in the down-home Candler suburb of the artsy town?

When I walked in, I saw him immediately and I had to catch my breath a little.  I was genuinely star-struck.  I swear I could smell a faint trail of smoke permeating from his long burly hair, that grew like ragged wires from under his distressed leather cowboy hat.  I wondered what the eyes from behind his aviator glasses had seen in the world of rock n’ roll, fame, and heartache.  I knew his eyes would certainly tell the stories of things I had never and would never see. 

When my husband motioned to him, and it was our time to finally meet, I don’t remember exactly what I said.  It was something to the effect of how I grew up on his music, and was proud to keep the band alive in my generation…you know, the things you say, but trying to stand out all at once.  In retrospect, I may have sounded rushed, and looked like a pre-teen meeting Justin Bieber.

When I handed him the clean white half sheet of paper the waitress rustled up for me, I first noticed his time-worn hands.  They shook a bit as he started to write, “Laugh, Lorna.  Peace, love, and happiness (in symbols).  Artimus Pyle, Drums, Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame 2006.”  I took the sheet from him, perusing it in awe.  Then, I noticed the initials, RVZ.

“You, signed Ronnie’s initials, didn’t you?”  I asked, moved that he’d not omitted the lead-singer and founding member’s name.

“You wouldn’t even know my name had it not been for that man,” he replied seriously, “and after the crash I started signing his initials.”

Artimus Pyle Band

I thought to myself what a class-act this man truly was to carry-on the memory of his fallen band-member and how proud I was to meet him.  It was then I relaxed a little bit and started just chatting with him.  I found out how he co-wrote my favorite Skynyrd song, Tuesday’s Gone, and how he was always drawn to Asheville, NC. We chatted about his respect for the philanthropic Asheville-born musician, Warren Haynes, and how he’d played with him here and there.  He spoke of his son, River, and how proud he was of him. I was careful not to bring up the plane crash, though I was so painfully curious about his take on it.  All I knew was that Van Zant and the Gaines members perished, and Artimus survived.  I wanted to know more, and maybe he sensed it, because he went into the story all on his own.”

“You know, after the crash, there was just smoke everywhere,” he began, “and I ran to the barn to get help.”

“I didn’t know you were able to that,”  I replied in awe.

He went on to describe the only things he remembered, and the whirlwind it became.  I could tell some of it was cloudy to him, yet still felt as real as it had over 35 years ago.  My guess is it was cloudy then.

After telling me to remember that money ruins everything, I gave him a hug, noticing an unimagined raw musk about him, and he went on his way.  I rushed home and googled him immediately, seeing what else I could learn.  I discovered when he ran from the plane wreckage to the nearby barn, the farmer’s son actually shot Artimus in the shoulder with an air-rifle because he was startled by his appearance.  I learned he never stopped revering Van Zant and the other members, and had made the legacy of the band his life.  I discovered he’d had ups, and downs, but understood the things that matter in life…, respect and downright allegiance to his band, family, art, and fellow man.  He is yet another jewel tucked in these blue ridge mountains; an ARTimus form in Asheville that we’re forever proud to claim.

Artimus Pyle and Lorna Hollifield January 3, 2014

Artimus Pyle and Lorna Hollifield January 3, 2014