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InnerVision

Sam Shepherd and Genene Blackwell didn’t come into this world together. But they’ve navigated much of their lives since then as an inseparable pair. Both born prematurely and with significant visual impairments, the duo were in the same NICU at the same time, began preschool together, started piano lessons together, rode the same bus, marched [...]
Aaron Wetli

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Sam Shepherd and Genene Blackwell didn’t come into this world together.

But they’ve navigated much of their lives since then as an inseparable pair.

Both born prematurely and with significant visual impairments, the duo were in the same NICU at the same time, began preschool together, started piano lessons together, rode the same bus, marched together in the world’s only blind marching band, graduated together, and would eventually collaborate with their band InnerVision. They are as intertwined as two individuals can be, and like Adams and Jefferson or Bird and Magic, it is impossible to tell one of their stories without telling the other.

For those unfamiliar, Innervisions (1973) is also the name of arguably the most famous and critically-acclaimed album of Stevie Wonder’s career. Naming their band in the vein of this album makes sense as Sam and Genene share their love of funk, soul, rock, and jazz with Wonder, along with their visual impairments.

Trying to make a living in Columbus as a musician has enough hurdles, but try adding being blind to the mix. It’s not like Sam or Genene can drive, and public transportation in this city —especially pertaining to those with disabilities—is sorely lacking. With the help of grandparents and parents, who double as managers, the duo have been playing the summer festival circuit. They’ve been making appearances in Columbus and beyond at Plum Run Winery (Grove City), Buckeye Lake Winery (Thornville), Tucci’s (Dublin). Mudflats (Galena), and Notes (Downtown).

Their long-term goals are humble. Sam stands firmly in practicality. He wants to build a life upon his craft.

“I want to make enough to pay the bills and make a living,” he said.

Genene’s response is closer to the heart. She wants to “bring joy to people’s hearts through my music,” she said. Those may be the least pretentious statements made by any musician. In the history of the world. Ever.

I was lucky enough to recently watch an InnerVision show at Oliver’s, a hidden gem of a downtown restaurant, where live blues is performed on Friday and Saturday nights. I asked the duo if they get butterflies before live performances. But Sam takes it in stride.

”Sometimes not being able to see the crowd is good for stage fright,” he said.

Well played, sir. Well played.

The dimly lit and intimate venue and motif was perfect for the duo as they seamlessly transitioned between blues, jazz, soul, rock, and pop covers. They touched on all the standards: “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Unchain My Heart,” “Hound Dog,” and “Summertime.” The crowd, along with the waitstaff and bartenders, were bewitched with InnerVision’s musical chops and entertained by Sam’s witty banter with audience members.

To put it bluntly, InnerVision is a well-oiled machine. Genene rocks the keys and Sam, who handles most of the vocals, jumps between guitar, bongos, trombone, and harmonica. InnerVision isn’t a couple of acoustic frat bros fumbling through a local open mic night; they are musical prodigies who take no prisoners and kill the audience with kindness.

And I don’t think the term prodigy is hyperbolic as both musicians can hear a piece of music once or twice and have it mastered (instrument, lyrics, vocals) within 30 minutes. Their only assistance is the occasional YouTube tutorial or bouncing ideas off each other.

When asked to name their favorite artists, Genene is decisive:

“Adele and Alicia Keys. Those two are the best.”

Sam is a little more traditional with favorites such as Rush, Pink Floyd, Sam Cooke, and Aaron Neville. The influence of classics come from his dad; his soul comes from inside.

However, in true InnerVision fashion, the duo put their own touches on contemporary hits. When you catch them live, ask them to perform their stripped-down, bluesy version of the Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” This cover alone is worth the price of admission.

Despite their visual impairments, Sam and Genene are like many other 27 year-olds and enjoy going to the gym, checking social media, listening to music and watching superhero movies. Unlike other 27 year-olds, their lives are significantly impacted by their disabilities, but not so much that they are giving up their dream of playing live music for a living.

What exactly can be attributed to InnerVision’s seamless on stage chemistry? Maybe it is their cosmic connection and the fact that they have known each other for the entirety of their 27 years? Maybe it’s the fact that they are brother and sister in every way except biologically? Maybe they share a bond that only persons with disabilities can share?

What I do know is that you should go see them live. Sam and Genene don’t need your pity or charity. They, like all Columbus musicians, need your attention, social media likes and cover charges. Actually, just go ahead and book them for the next event you are hosting. You will get three hours of world class musicianship from two people who are making their way by letting their inner lights shine. •

You can catch multiple InnerVision shows this month, from Worthington to Gahanna to Lewis Center. For more, visit innervisionmusic.com.

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Music

Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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Folk, alt-country, or indie rock—however you choose to categorize her sound, Angela Perley remains a pillar of the Columbus music community—and highly in-demand as a national touring act, to boot.

(614) caught up with Perley to discuss her new album, life on the road, and what it takes to make it as a musician in the Capital City.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

(614): YOUR NEW RELEASE, 4:30, IS YOUR FIRST AS A SOLO ACT. WHAT LED TO THIS CHANGE?

AP: Since 2009 until last year, I had the Howlin’ Moons. It’s always been myself, Chris Connor on lead guitar, and then we had bassist Billy Zehnal in the band up until last year. We’ve had a rotating extended family of drummers. Billy’s not in the band anymore, and we were also on Vital Companies, which is a studio/label in Columbus that did our previous albums.

https://open.spotify.com/album/04pKByd2ygDHXdvl1TcdWP?si=6njCmRpfR5GRWe5kLNghVw

So this one—it’s a solo one, it’s my first independent release. There’s no label involved, I own the masters to the songs. It’s hard to keep a band together, so Chris, who’s been in the band since the beginning, and I, we’re kind of the only members, and we have an extended family of really great and talented people who have other projects they’re in. It just works a lot better with what I want to do.

YOU USED KICKSTARTER TO HELP FUND THE ALBUM. WHAT WAS THE CROWDFUNDING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

Before, with Vital, they had a studio and video production, and they took care of all of our recording in-house. We didn’t realize how expensive everything was. We had paid for studio time [for 4:30] through show money, but to look at all of the other expenses of making a record happen and trying to get it out there, it’s pretty intense! There have been a lot of independent artists that we know that will do Kickstarters, and I’ve never done anything like it before, so I was really nervous doing it. But it was a success, and I actually just finished sending out all of the preorder vinyl that people ordered.

YOUR SOUND IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS ANYTHING FROM AMERICANA, TO ALT-COUNTRY, TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITHIN THOSE TRADITIONS IN 2019?

You kind of have to make your own path, because although there is a resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s been done before. It has those roots, but we’re not breaking the mold or anything. You just have to be true to yourself and to the music, and just go from there. Everyone’s voice is important as an artist, so that’s important to remember.

YOU’RE ON THE ROAD TOURING QUITE A BIT. DO YOU STILL KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE COLUMBUS MUSIC SCENE?

Columbus is definitely growing, and moving toward doing things independently. I’ve seen a lot of bands touring, which is good. It’s an affordable place to tour out of, and there’s a community here for sure. Whenever I have a chance, we go out to the shows. We love The Cordial Sins, and we’re having them as our special guests for our album release. The High Definitions, Souther—there are just so many good bands.

When I go to other cities and I realize that there’s not really much of a scene going on, it is kind of cool to see that in Columbus, people are very aware and supportive of musicians. Even the businesses around here, everyone’s trying to work with musicians in some way. There are so many gigs, be it at breweries, at restaurants, or little festivals that pop up. There’s work for musicians here. And some other cities, there’s really not.

IN THE PAST, YOU’VE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE 150 SHOWS A YEAR. ARE YOU KEEPING UP THE SAME PACE THESE DAYS?

I’m glad that we played that many shows at that time. We were playing anywhere and everywhere, and a lot of that was pressure financially. If that’s the way you’re making a living, you’ve got to take every gig. We’ve spread out the shows since, especially since we have been doing it for this long. We’re kind of gearing more towards quality shows. I will say, playing that many shows—I needed that. We needed the experience, and just the repetition. Every venue is different, every environment, every crowd. You cut your teeth and it makes you stronger.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LOCAL ARTISTS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER IN MUSIC?

It’s tough, because for each person it’s so different. Getting out there and working hard, playing as many shows as possible—that's all really great experience. But also focus on the music itself. If you’re going to make a music video or a recording, take your time—don’t half-ass it. Wait until you know what you’re doing. Although, you kind of have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Catch Angela Perley with special guests The Cordial Sins on September 6 at Skully’s Music-Diner for the release show of her new album, titled 4:30.

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(614) Sessions

614 Sessions: Doc Robinson

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4QdxpbrZgg&feature=youtu.be

Doc Robinson, the collaboration of Columbus music stalwarts Jon Elliott and Nick D’Andrea, joined us for this session in the 614 offices to share their unique brand of "Backyard BBQ Breakup music."

While here, the duo played stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs "Wilderness" and "Wild Beauty."

To hear more from Doc Robinson, follow them on your streaming platform of choice, or visit https://www.docrobinsonofficial.com/

Be sure to catch the group at Woodlands Tavern on Saturday, September 21, when they'll be joined by Hebdo, Parker Louis, Honey and Blue and many more for their Family Jamboree.

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5O0efDEpkqEmWbXD2zpkjz

Apple Music:
https://music.apple.com/us/artist/doc-robinson/1116027164
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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper, Mike Thomas
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley
Video Editing: Mike Thomas
Contact: [email protected]
Website: 614now.com

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(614) Sessions

(614) Sessions: The Turbos

Mike Thomas

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ThYK1D0000

The Turbos’ high-octane heroics have earned the group a fierce following in the Columbus rock scene and beyond. Combining shredding guitar virtuosity with soaring, anthemic vocals, co-frontmen Alex D. and Lucas Esterline lead the group in a sound that combines the best of the old and the new. Rounded out by the multi-talented Cameron Reck on bass and mononymous local music veteran Jahrie behind the kit, the Turbos are leading the charge for a new generation of rockers.

For the first of what we hope will be many in a new music series we're calling The (614) Sessions, The Turbos joined us in our offices for a stripped-down acoustic set. Despite leaving the electrics at home, the power of their performance was still enough to garner multiple noise complaints (sorry, neighbors).

For show dates and more, be sure to follow The Turbos on Facebook. Big thanks to the group for sharing their music as our first-ever guests in this new endeavor!

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Producer: Mike Thomas
Videographers: Mike Thomas, Adam Fakult, Mitch Hooper
Audio Mixing/Mastering: Jared Huntley Video
Editing: Mitch Hooper
Contact: [email protected]

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