"It’s kind of outrageous to think that the only place credible music business is done is Nashville. People listen to and play music everywhere, so why only do business in Nashville? It doesn’t make sense to me."
And today's interview is with an Americana duo taking an out-of-state approach to their Mid-Ohio Valley music. This… is Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy.
Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy’s newest release is The Miller Girl on Merf Records. Hear more #WVmusic on A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Connect with A Change of Tune on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds.
On beginning in music (both solo and as a duo):
Steve Hussey: I bought a guitar halfway through my freshman year of college and taught myself how to play. I did it so I could write songs. I’ve been writing now ever since then. I founded The Steve Hussey Band in 2003, and we were together for nine years, played all throughout West Virginia and up and down the East Coast. We were a bar band, and we played a lot of dance music. From there, I did a couple of other small projects, took a break to learn how to be a producer and built my own studio.
I met Jake in 2014. I had written a couple of songs I wanted to record for my wedding as a party favor. I didn’t know anybody in the world that played the instruments Jake plays. I went to high school with his parents, and I was impressed [with his music]. He was soliciting for studio work. I took him up on his offer, and we recorded three songs for the wedding. That went so well, we talked about doing another few songs, and eventually it became the album.
Jake Eddy: I play banjo, guitar, mandolin, dobro, percussion, bass, ukulele and a hundred various other things Steve has laying around. The misfit toys of the instrument world. And I play all of that on the record [The Miller Girl] as well.
I started playing music when I was eight. I started playing upright bass first in a bluegrass band. I went from that to play guitar and banjo, and then I learned to play the other things over time. I linked up with Steve, and this has been my main gig ever since, other than studio work and production stuff I do outside of this. I’ve gained my name in this circle of roots and bluegrass and also the hip-hop industry as a producer. I’ve always liked rap, but I never write it or anything like that; it’s most of what I listen to. I’ve always been fascinated with sampling and things like that. I started off messing with samples and manipulating old music to make new music as a hobby and people were like, “You’re good at this.” That’s probably my main gig financially.
On forming the West Virginia-based music label Merf Records:
Steve: I founded it to release this album. It’s been fun, and I’ve been proactive in signing folks like Jeff Ray and Tracy Allan. The reason I started Merf is there’s so much talent in this state, it’s almost absurd how much talent is in this state. And the history of music in this state, and the whole genre of Americana, has some roots in Appalachia. And it’s still here! But there’s no business infrastructure, no music infrastructure and no one scouting out this talent to get it out to the world. My project was a dry run: let’s hire a publicist, let’s hire a radio promoter, let’s get it to all the Americana reporting stations in the USA and Europe. Merf is an experiment of “why can’t we do that here” [compared to Nashville].
The mission is to take the talent that’s in West Virginia and put a spotlight on it and get it out into the world. I want us to win Grammy’s right here. Why can’t we win a Grammy in West Virginia? Tim O’Brien can do it, but why can’t we do it on a regular basis? I mean, this is Appalachia!
The inspiration is basically Americana artists I know and love that have built their following from the ground-up sans radio support. Building their fanbases from scratch. And you have to have a team; you cannot do it yourself. You have to have someone whose job it is to follow up with all the radio stations you just sent your hard copy off to. You have to take the initiative to put all of your CD’s in boxes, label them and send them out to people who might play it.
Jake: It’s kind of outrageous to think that the only place credible music business is done is Nashville. People listen to and play music everywhere, so why only do business in Nashville? It doesn’t make sense to me.
On the Mid-Ohio Valley music scene:
Jake: It’s not so much lack of talent, but lack of good attitude. People want to say that the scene is going well but not put forth the effort. They want it to grow on its own, but that’s not how it works.
Steve: It’s an older town, so if they haven’t heard it before, they don’t want to hear it. So it makes it difficult for someone who writes and records original music. But things are changing. In the last year, there has been a small group of people who are trying to change that in the Mid-Ohio Valley. I credit Corey Shields for a lot of it.
Jake: And Todd Burge is a prime example of making your own luck. Todd has been involved in the music scene for ages, and he’s never not found a way to make it work, even when it’s at its worst and now when it’s better. He never stops; Todd hustles.
Music featured in this #WVmusic chat:
Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy- “The Miller Girl”
Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy- “Little Shove”
Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy- “Into the Ether”
Support for 30 Days of #WVmusic is provided by Kin Ship Goods, proud supporter of DIY music and the arts. Locally shipped worldwide at kinshipgoods.com.