Charlotte Music Headliners to See Right Now
On the road. On stage. In the studio. Discover how these four local acts shape the Queen City’s sound.
by Lauren Levine Apr 30, 2018
Charlotte's music offerings are diverse. In addition to touring acts, talented locals take the stage every night in venues across the city. Whether you're new in town or you were born and raised in the QC, here's how to tune into the city's music scene right now.
Hear the name too quickly, and you might break out in a sweat. Tom Sawyer, did you say? Suddenly you’re flashing back to all-nighters spent frantically thumbing through the English class required reading. But though the folk rock band’s name does pay homage to the classic literary character, the moniker also has a greater meaning: the pull between the past and the future, their love of their Charlotte home, as well as “the thread that runs through life.”
Time Sawyer, which features Sam Tayloe, Houston Norris, Luke Mears, Jordan Nelson and Court Wynter, hit a career high last year as they earned a spot on the Huffington Post’s “Favorite Musical Picks for 2017.” Since then, they’ve continued to land milestones: They’ve signed with Midwood Entertainment and plan to release their first new album in three years, “Wildest Dreams.” “Charlotte has an underrated music scene with so much diversity, but also an inclusive effort that brings us all closer together,” Tayloe says. “I love continuing to see it grow, not necessarily in size, since we’re losing some great venues, but to continue to see local bands be able to play together. There’s also always room to add anyone to make that bigger and stronger.”
The Business People
Their band may be called The Business People, but Hyatt Morrill, Anthony Pugliese and Nic Robinson are anything but stuffed shirts just working for the weekend. Champions of high-energy rock, they’re fixtures in Plaza Midwood, both as performers and concertgoers themselves, and they cite Snug Harbor as one of their favorite spots to shred. “They were the first real venue in Charlotte that booked us consistently, giving us a chance to really cut our teeth,” Pugliese says. Today, the band’s reach extends beyond Charlotte, including a tour up the East Coast that landed them with a Saturday night gig at the Mercury Lounge in New York City. They say it was their most nerve-wracking performance to date.
But back home, Pugliese calls the burgeoning music scene found in the Queen City a “collaborative and motivated” community. This cooperative feel permeates through the band’s creative process. Songs fans know and love usually begin with what Pugliese calls “a skeleton”— Robinson’s riff or lyrics. From there, Pugliese and Morill shape it with bass and drums. “As we say, the muscles and skin. Together, it all makes a living, breathing work.”
It’s an exciting time to be alternative rock artist LeAnna Eden. She’s currently gearing up to put out her first full-length album, named for title track, “Ease Your Soul, Chapman,” which references her Milwaukee roots, as well as her frequent trips between New York and Cleveland, and then her journey down to Charlotte. “It’s basically a letter to everybody. It’s a letter to me in the future because I feel like it’s timeless,” Eden says.
Beyond the album release, Eden has her sights set on heading out on tour and is committed to getting major sponsorships for the black alternative musical festival she organizes, BLA/ALT Music Festival. Equal parts soft-spoken and self-assured, Eden’s confidence is a trait that seems essential if you want to make it in a notoriously cutthroat business. And though she’d like to extend her musical reach beyond Charlotte in the near future, she appreciates the Queen City’s music scene and her role in it. “I’m one of maybe three people that are doing what I’m doing,” Eden says. “I understand what I need to do, and I understand how to work, and I look at the situation, and I’m able to make it happen.”
In many ways, Brent Bagwell and Seth Nanaa aren’t your typical jazz duo. Together they’re Ghost Trees, a name that pays homage to Nanaa’s time spent living in California, as well as in Hawaii. “We’ve always been partial to band names,” Bagwell says. “So many jazz people are just a string of last names, like a law firm. We wanted to feel like a band.”
The two have been playing together since 2000, appearing in various groups, including a few rock bands. They formed Ghost Trees in 2012. “We’ve developed together,” says tenor sax player Bagwell. “We were different people when we started, and now we’ve affected each other so much it’s impossible to tell who’s responsible for what.”
Bagwell is passionate about the music Ghost Trees makes, but he also acknowledges that jazz may seem intimidating and encourages newbies to go see the music performed live. “It’s way more exciting to watch than it is to try to dial it up on Spotify. It seems so remote, whereas if you go watch something, you get to watch the people play the instruments, you get to watch the communication, and you get to watch the audience. You feel it more.”