True Wit: Curtis Eller Strikes Again

Curtis Eller just completed his tour through the UK and we are sad to see him go.

Eller during his tour through the UK

Nursing laryngitis while giving back-to-back performances in a different city every night, he draws from a seemingly overabundant sense of professionalism and talent.

Unstoppable, he rushes back to the stage to gulp down doses of honey in order to get through the next song.

He manages, through all of this, to elicit genuine laughter from the audience.  “Excuse me, but this is a little disgusting,” he exclaims, just before throwing his head back and dowsing his throat with honey from the bottle he squeezes into his mouth.

Then he’s back in the middle of the audience, belting out his best songs.

Not just another singer

Eller isn’t just a singer/songwriter/banjo player/yodeler (as if that isn’t enough).

Other than these impressive skills, he is also a bonafide comedian.

Singing a song about coal mining he stops mid-note to offer the audience another of his witticisms.

“I don’t know anything about coal mining, but you have to sing these kind of songs every once in a while in order to renew your banjo license.”

His humour may be one of the reasons why the artist is so popular amongst Brits, who undoubtedly appreciate Eller’s dry, irony so reminiscent of British comedy.

Curtis Eller at the Green Note in Camden, London

The show must go on

Eller stuck to old favourites that were easier on his aching throat.  But no one was disappointed, especially not his loyal fans who faithfully sang the chorus at Eller’s command.

Green Note is a small venue, but the intimacy of the place is perfect for performers like Eller whose interaction with the audience is such a delightful part of the show.

The audience laughed gleefully as he randomly blew out candles on tables, climbed atop chairs and chased waitresses and audience members while playing the banjo behind them.

Slightly ill, he may have been, but lacking in entertainment value Eller was not.  As energetic as ever, there was not a corner of Green Note the singer did not dance, run or play his way through.

Yet, behind the fun, it is almost impossible not to notice a sort of awareness of his own cultural identity.  Eller’s songs consistently remind us of the America that he sees, with all of its problems and promise.

Never failing to deliver, Curtis Eller also reminds his audience that though he is a performance artist, he is also a teacher.  And though the attendees of his class may be willing students, his lessons about “Robert Moses” and others acts as a reaffirmation of his hope that America may someday be a better place.

He ends the show as he begins, with another witty joke, a knowing shake of his head, his honey in one hand and his banjo in the other.

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Carrie Haber: A Maltese at ease

Carrie Haber

Carrie Haber has devoted her life to music, which is not at all extraordinary for a young singer/songwriter.

But what is unique about the Malta-born artist is that she hasn’t spent the past few years doggedly searching for a big break.

She, in essence, goes where the wind takes her.  Yet, despite her relaxed attitude about her career, opportunities seem to have fallen into her lap like overripe fruit.

The artist received a free offer to have her video filmed by a producer in Malta, who kindly decided to take her on as a project for his marketing company.

She also received vocal lessons, which gave her the skills she needed to become a vocal coach in her spare time.

Performing Right Society

After earning enough money to produce her own EP, Haber attended a Performing Right Society meeting for artists in Malta.

The organisation, created to make sure artists get paid royalties for commercial use of their music, had drawn an interesting array of people.

When one of the attendees asked Haber to loan her keyboard to him for a show he was doing later, she agreed.  The artist was none other than British music promoter Tony Moore.  He was so grateful that he asked Haber to open his show that night.

“He invited me to come to London and perform in his venues.  I was coming over regularly at first, for a week at a time and then a month.  I made the decision that because things were happening for me in London, I should make a move.”

Haber’s move to the richly diverse and cultural city of London caused her fans to develop a greater respect and recognition for her as an artist.

Carrie Haber at The Bedford

The Malta Music Awards

In 2009, she won Best Songwriter and Best Female Artist at the Malta Music Awards.

By 2010, after living in London for just over a year, the talented singer/songwriter had already attracted some influential people in the music business.

“I’m working with Sting’s producer, U2, and Peter Gabriel.”

But while Haber’s good fortune is seemingly a windfall, it is her attributes as an artist that is undoubtedly the secret to her success.

On stage, her humility is as much a part of her energy as the songs she belts out with incredible self-assuredness.

“I’ve improved so much,” admitted the singer, later on.  “I received a lot of constructive criticism.  I had one to one’s with Tony Moore that have opened up my mind.  I have a better understanding of what talent scouts are looking for.”

Backup

Like any young artist, 25-year old Haber has difficult moments in her career.

“I have moments of worry, but nothing ever happens when I panic.  It’s also about having a backup.  I live music.  I breathe music.  I teach music as a backup so that I can be around it all the time.”

Almost every decision Haber makes is based on self-improvement, not only as an artist, but as a person.

“I studied psychology in university because I wanted to understand myself and others a little better.  It opened my mind a lot.  I check in with myself often and ask questions like, ‘Why am I going through this?’ and ‘What’s going on with me?’

Her willingness to self-improve has made it easier for her to make vital connections in the music business.

Her magnetism is obvious to everyone in the room, even if it isn’t to her.  Over coffee, Haber’s cheerful disposition infects another singer and friend nearby.  The two begin to giggle like schoolgirls.

Animated, Haber continues to talk about self-therapy.  And even in this, her philosophy of letting inspiration find her comes through.

“You don’t have to go looking for whatever your spiritual muse is, just stop and look within.”

Her face a bit more serious, Haber warns against musicians being unclear about their art.

“Artists tend to focus on the business side of things too much.  If you forget about the spiritual and the passionate side of music, you’ve lost the plot.”

When asked if she had any advice for young artists out there, she simply responded,

“Lie on the grass and just breathe. Be inspired by quiet moments.  There’s a difference between someone who’s writing from the heart and artificiality in songwriting.  Don’t do it if it’s not who you are because things won’t connect that way.  You’ve got to be genuine.”