Tag Archives: Joy Williams

Liz Longley with Monique Barrett

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Longfellow Square, Portland, Maine

This was a perfect day. My 2019 class officers and I delivered hundreds of roses and carnations to kids at school, I had a decadent spa facial after school, and Colin met me at One Longfellow Square for this fantastic show. I hadn’t seenPortland songstress Monique Barrett in too long, so when I saw she was opening forLiz Longley, I eagerly added the show to my calendar. I am SO glad I was in the room for this stellar night.

Monique Barrett was charming and personal with the audience. I always appreciate when a musician interacts with the crowd by sharing stories behind the songs and making us feel like part of a concert experience. Monique does this so well. She played all of her songs about love for us in honor of Valentine’s Day, including a sweet song for her nephew Luca. Monique’s honesty shone through, and we laughed a lot together. Monique told us that she was first introduced to Liz Longley’s music when a friend asked her to learn Liz’s “When You’ve Got Trouble” to sing with her at her sister’s wedding. Monique said that her heart was so full in that moment, and she was honored both to have sung that song for a her friend’s sister on her wedding day and now to share the stage with Liz. She ended her lovely set with my favorite of her songs, “Make It Better.”

Monique Barrett

I’d somehow never seen Liz Longley before, but she impressed me in mere seconds. I remember leaning over to Colin maybe 30 seconds into her first song and whispering “I LOVE her!” Her voice is so strong and full that it fills the space that sometimes exists in songs by other singer songwriters. I was smitten right away. Liz told us she had to dig really deep into her catalog of songs to find any about love in a positive way. Most of her songs, and Monique’s too, were about love lost. She asked if anyone in the crowd wasn’t on a date. Colin and I raised our hands (were we the only ones?) and she looked at us and said, “so most of these songs are really for you.” I love a good break up song, so Liz’s music is firmly in my wheelhouse.


Liz Longley

Liz told us that she just turned 30 and was a little freaked out about it, but the crowd reassured her life is better after 30. She wrote a song the day before our show in the car during her six hour drive, and told us that writing in the car can be liberating because she doesn’t getting get stuck in the structure of a guitar or piano part. She also told us that one of her favorite childhood memories was driving home from the Shore with her mom. Her mom used to sing while she drove to stay awake, and “I Will” by the Beatles was a favorite of her songs to sing. Liz sang a beautiful cover of it for us.

She introduced “Weightless”by telling us that she’d dated someone for three years and they ended up fighting over how to divide their stuff when they broke up even though they’d gotten it all off Craiglist because they were both poor musicians. The lyrics are personal and relatable:

“You can have the couch, the lamp, the diamond ring/the books on the shelf, the dishes in the sink/take take take take take everything.” She told us that she stopped writing music for almost a year afterwards.

I absolutely loved learning that“Rush” was written for Jim and Pam from The Office. Liz said she was watching the episode where they have their first kiss with the sound off, and the words came to her–“as we surrender to it all, have you ever felt so alive/as I feel with you tonight.” Liz told us that she studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and that’s when it clicked for me that I loved her honest, personal, hard hitting lyrics as much as I loved her voice. I realized as I wrote this that I don’t often quote song lyrics, but that’s an area where Liz shines. “Memphis” just slays–“The skies aren’t clear and you’re not here/so I just keep telling myself/you wouldn’t make it to Memphis/you wouldn’t make it halfway/you take that lonely road/and you realize your mistake.”

I read up on Liz after this show, and I listened to her entire musical catalog. She lives in Nashville and makes her living as a musician. I spent some of the night trying to figure out who she sounds like, but she sang the first line to a song I can’t find the name of–the lyrics were “Late in September when autumn came”–and it occurred to me that she sounds like Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars), which is a sincere compliment.

Liz played the first song of hers I ever heard, “When You’ve Got Trouble,”and I was so glad to hear it in person. She joked with us all night–she’s pretty self-deprecating, actually–and told us that she was drunk shopping on Amazon years ago and bought some rollerblades. Turns out, she loves them, and bought another pair for her 30th birthday. She laughed as she told us, “if you need to spice up your life, buy rollerblades!”

Liz earned the standing ovation she received, and she kindly closed the night with an encore–a cover of the Alternate Routes“Nothing More.” She played a Concert Window show a couple of months ago to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief, and attributed the night’s success (they raised $3,500 for hurricane victims) to that song, “because it brings people together, which we need in these times.” I couldn’t agree more.

This was a special night. I felt lucky to be there. I hope you’ll look up both of these talented women and see them live.




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John Paul White with The Secret Sisters

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Red Room at Café 939, Boston, MA

My friend Mac first introduced me to The Civil Wars on a cold winter’s night in 2009. John Paul White and Joy Williams were captivating. Their April 2009 set at Eddie’s Attic was recorded and released online as a free download a couple of months later on The Civil Wars’ website. The pair had undeniable musical chemistry and their songs resonated with me. I made a friend at an Iron & Wine show in 2011 who invited me to join him for Adele at the House of Blues in Boston a month later. Those tickets were impossible to get, so I was thrilled. I squealed out loud when I found out that The Civil Wars had been added to the bill and that I was going to get to finally see them live. I stayed after the show and approached John Paul White at the merch table, which is something I rarely do. I was sure he is a genuine person who would be kind (doesn’t it ruin it for you when you meet an artist whose music you care about, and they’re not?), and he was a dear. I told him that I’d been hoping to see them for a couple of years, and that I was actually more excited to see them that night. He glanced at Joy and said “don’t you think that deserves a group hug?” And then they hugged me. It was very, very sweet, and a moment I still recall fondly. I was lucky to see The Civil Wars again a handful of months later at Berklee’s Performing Arts Center in Boston from the fourth or fifth row. They were spellbinding. Then they broke up.

I was thrilled when I saw that John Paul White was writing music and was planning a tour. He produced Penny and Sparrow’s beautiful album, Let a Lover Drown You, which I’ve listened to countless times. I bought my ticket to see JPW at The Red Room at Café 939 at Berklee College of Music in Boston the minute they went on sale. I would not pass up an opportunity to see him live in such an intimate setting. My friend Jan and I drove to Boston and grabbed an early dinner at Bukowski’s and lined up before doors opened so we could be front and center, and it paid off, because we were able to stand a foot or two away from such talented musicians all night.

I’d first seen Laura and Lydia Rogers, The Secret Sisters, open for my beloved Brandi Carlile (she and the Twins are producing their upcoming album, too) about six months after first seeing The Civil Wars back in November of 2011 at Berklee in Boston. I loved their vintage vibe, beautiful harmonies, and funny audience banter. I got to see them again a couple of years later with my concert friend Bob (who’d taken me to see Adele and The Civil Wars) when they opened for Iron & Wine at State Theatre in Portland, Maine. The Secret Sisters played a half dozen songs and told stories and entertained thoroughly. I particularly liked “Carry Me,” which was such a sweet song about being daddy’s girls and having a wonderful father. I also really wish I could find a video of “He’s Fine” to share with you because I loved it and would love to listen to it again. I guess I’ll have to wait for the next album! Here they are on Jay Leno playing “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder,” which is on The Hunger Games sountrack. Check out “Rattle My Bones” to get a sense of their more upbeat side. They’re great.


Lydia and Laura Rogers are The Secret Sisters


John Paul White and his band took the stage and he poured his heart out for us. He played fifteen songs for a captivated audience (I still can’t believe I got to see him play in such a small venue from the front row!). He talked a lot with us about feeling conflicted about the songs that started to pour out of him because he knew he’d want to share them with the world and touring meant he’d have to spend some time away from his family. He asked us to come talk to him after the show to give him feedback about what resonated with us and what didn’t. I can’t think of a time a musician wore his heart on his sleeve more at a show. It was humbling to witness someone who so desperately wants his music to connect with people. His voice was clear and haunting as ever, and The Secret Sisters joined him throughout his set and added beautiful harmonies that amplified the message.


Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters and John Paul White

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It was pretty incredible to stand right next to this man during his set!

John Paul shared with us a song about his grandparents. He said he appreciates music you can step inside and become the character in, but didn’t know how to feel about this particular song because “I loved my grandfather and thought he walked on water, but he did not. He had a lot of demons and my grandmother raised fourteen children by herself.” He played “No One Will Ever Love You,” which was featured on season one of Nashville. It’s easy to be a character in this song, John Paul—“Don’t you try to tell me someone’s waiting/They’re not waiting for you/Oh and don’t you try to tell me that you’re wanted/That you’re needed/Cause it’s not true.” Oh my heart. Check out “The Martyr” on NPR Music and “What’s So” at Rolling Stone. I am so eager to have my hands on John Paul White’s upcoming album, “Beulah,” which will be released August 19. Thanks for coming back into our world and putting yourself out there so honestly, John Paul. You’ve been missed.



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