April 22, 2016

Willie Thrasher & Kevin "Sipreano" Howes

Willie Thrasher & Kevin "Sipreano" Howes
Photography by Amanda Leigh Smith

Music can change your life. It can shape how you see yourself and how you see the world. It is one of the most transformative and educational tools we have. It helps us share our stories, allows us to connect to others and to our spirit in a way that has no comparison.
Willie Thrasher, born 1948, is a trailblazing singer-songwriter based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, who uses his music to educate and inspire his community and those around him. At 5 years of age, Thrasher was taken from his home in Aklavik, Northwest Territories and placed in the Inuvik Federal School, a federal initiative of the Canadian government designed to assimilate Indigenous children into mainstream society. For over 10 years, he was strictly forbidden to practice his traditional Inuvialuit culture. Needless to say, it was a devastating experience for Thrasher, his family, and thousands of First Nations, M├ętis, and Inuit children across Canada. The recent Canadian government sanctioned Truth and Reconciliation Commission has publicly acknowledged this tragedy as a “cultural genocide.”
Thankfully, music was a lifesaver for Thrasher. After discovering a drum set at high school, he taught himself how to play while pounding out his frustrations. In the mid-1960’s he drummed for the one of the first Inuit rock bands, The Cordells, but at the advice of a stranger he began to tap into his Aboriginal roots for inspiration rather than the Top 40 charts. Thrasher learned to play the guitar and started to write songs about his life, his people, and nature, spending the next several decades gigging across Canada and into the United States with other Indigenous musicians. Thrasher’s debut LP, Spirit Child, was released in 1981, but due to limited media and industry support it failed to receive the attention it deserved. Nevertheless, he continued along his musical path. Over the last 10 years, Thrasher has performed as a city sanctioned busker with his partner Linda Saddleback on Vancouver Island. He is a recognized storyteller, ambassador, and a treasured pillar in his community.
In late 2014, Thrasher was one of 23 artists and groups featured on the Grammy-nominated compilation Native North America (Vol 1): Aboriginal Folk,Rock, and Country 1966-1985, which introduced his music to new generations. After a 15-year journey by producer Kevin “Sipreano” Howes, this 2-CD/3-LP/digital set, has raised awareness about these nearly forgotten stories and songs. Howes, born 1974, is a music historian, journalist, record collector, DJ, and a champion of marginalized music and culture with a long and respected relationship with the Canadian music scene. Learning about and working directly with musicians whose stories were never featured in mass media and in reference books has given Howes a special insight into the musical past, something that he openly shares through reissues projects like NNA V1 and the Jamaica-Toronto series. His extensive research has been incorporated into academia and has helped to blossom career resurrections and forge friendships with many, including Willie Thrasher. 

April 18, 2016

Jonny P for White's Boots

Jonny P for White's Boots
Photography by Amanda Leigh Smith 
Written and Produced by Claire Everson
Shot on film in Nashville, TN

I first heard the soulful sounds of Jonny P while leaning against a taco truck on a hot summer night outside one of Nashville’s oldest industrial areas. Train tracks behind me, a pool of Nashvilles’ Who’s Who standing and sitting cross legged in front of me—peering up to a voice that remained just beyond my taco slangin’ station. His dulcet melodies made me forget for a hot minute about the sweat dripping down the small of my back. 

Later as the night came to a close and the musical guests carried gear to their cars I looked up to see a sharply dressed man in a perfectly fitting, vibrant-lilic suit with an old mic in one hand, a tambourine in the other. Enter, Jonathan Powell, aka Jonny P.  Fast forward a few months and I found myself rolling around Nashville in the backseat of his cherry red Impala with Amanda riding shotgun. We listened as he talked about how the city is changing and growing, why he moved years ago when Nashville was still not much to look at, where he sees music heading, and the nerves of expecting his first child. A soul singer based in Nashville, Tennessee, it became clear early on that Jonny is the embodiment of a new era of creative gentleman coming up the musical ranks.  Whether heard in his voice or seen in one of his custom suits, he personifies with ease and finesse, a confidence only his humble dedication to being a man of substance can bring.  Born and raised in New York, Jonny began his singing career at 20 years old and has since released his first EP, Right to You, with a second out in spring and a full length album set to drop in September, 2016. Like many creatives, he has his hands in multiple projects at one time. He and his wife, Holly started their fashion brand, JandHP in L.A., sourcing and reworking vintage finds and have since grown it into a custom and ready to wear brand based in Nashville, whose garments can be seen on red carpets, grooms and grammy winners.  

With a voice reminiscent of the soulful days of Motown and an attention to detail in every stitch he wears, Jonny uses both his vocal and personal style as powerful mediums to tell his story. We couldn't have dreamed up an easier man to work with and shoot. We sifted through records at Grimey's, took a stroll down the historic Printer’s ally, and got to see him take the stage for a quick shot at Skull’s Rainbow room.

Since our shoot, Johnny and his wife have welcomed their daughter Ivy Rain into the world, he has taken the stage from Guatemala to Birmingham, shared the spotlight with good friend Leon Bridges and is now on the road full-time for tour. Checkout his schedule and if he’s coming your way, try to snag a ticket. His warm smile and honest melodic crooning will make you forget about everything else for a night and remind you what a man of class really looks and sounds like.   

(Jonny P. wearing- Boots- custom White’s “Northwest” boot. Suit- Winter weight herringbone suit by Rugby Ralph Lauren, Shirt and Tie- JandHP Clothing Co., Hat- Stetson)

April 14, 2016

Art Arcinas for White's Boots

Art Arcinas for White's Boots
Photography by Amanda Leigh Smith
Produced and Written by Claire Everson
Shot on film in Nashville, TN

When Amanda and I walked into Art’s motorcycle shop at Fort Houston, it took all of about 90 seconds before they realized Art knew James, Amanda’s husband and builder working out of Whistler, British Columbia. They hadn't actually met in person, but Art lit up after learning that James, the dude he’d reached out to and emailed back and forth about custom builds was in fact Amanda’s, “James”. 

“Oh my god! I had so much fun following your South America ride on Instagram! That bike he built looked like a beast!”, he bellowed. 

Amanda told him about some of the hairy situations her and James got into while traveling, and they both got a good chuckle about how small the builder community was. 

I poked around the shop a bit, letting the two of them dork out on bikes and dream rides, finding myself taking in deep breaths of the oil and gas smells that brought back smiles and memories of garages of my youth—my dad’s old 76 Chevy, working on a friends’s old ’56 Ford F100 in his garage—they’ll do that, garages. Take you back.

Meandering around the shop, one wall lined with BMWs, Hondas, a Triumph, a Harley and scooter, it was clear Art liked working on ‘em all. Builder and owner of Atlas Motorworks, it was easy to see his dedication to building bikes runs parallel to his thirst for building community.  Clearly a passion-chaser working to figure out how to build a life based on what he loves, Art spent as much time rapping about his love of figuring out the next build as he did talking about how much he wants to provide a space in Nashville for riders of all kinds to connect.  

Leaving corporate America to step out on his own and build custom bikes, the Nashville native is no stranger to dedicating long hours to build something that matters.  He wrenches on bikes while relentlessly striving to provide a space and community for riders from all walks of life to talk shop regardless of what kind of wheels they roll on.

“Our common thread is that we have a passion and a love for two wheels…with Atlas, I just want to bring some unification to all types of riders.”  

He told us about the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival the past weekend outside of Birmingham and how he entered into his first flat track race—falling in love with yet another part of the motorcycle world. We talked about the clique-iness of riders, his dislike for the game of self promotion on Instagram, and his dream of opening up a cafe/garage in Nashville for people to hang and build. 

Art’s smile is as grounding as his humble approach to business and bikes. He just wants to build something that matters and brings people together. With the garage door always open, people popped in and out during out visit. Other dudes tinkered and asked Art random questions regarding the bike they were working on—the shop dog puttered around, looking half feral, half civilized, a look all of us seemed to be familiar with. 

Art works from his shop based out of Fort Houston, a 10,000 square foot creative and collaborative space in Nashville, Tennessee. Complete with a full-scale wood shop, print shop, bike shop, photography studio and miscellaneous work and desk space open to members, Fort Houston facilitates growth, community, creativity and learning with space to work as well classes and events throughout the year. Its a great place to build. 

Like almost everyone we met during The Hatter and The Hound Tour the “making” or “building” part of what they do was really about so much more than the actual materials in hand. And you know, what Art is trying to do with Altas Motorworks reminds me of something a professor I had in college once said, “Community building isn’t rocket science, it’s much more difficult. There’s a formula for rocket science.” 

It was easy for Amanda and I to see Art has got the will and endurance to figure it out. And I’m not sure if he knows it, but he’s already provided a space for people to connect—the feral and the civilized, the Harley dudes and dirt bike guys, riders and the non-riders alike. I encourage you to pop in sometime and take in the sights and smells of both Fort Houston and Atlas Motorworks. You’ll be welcomed with a smile and Art seems hyped to talk shop just about anytime.

Words by Claire Everson

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