Longmont is a town with its eye on music. We have more than twenty venues in town that host live music, six independent music stores downtown, and this many live music events every month. It hasn’t always been like this. Andy Eppler of The Prairie Scholars recalls, “When we moved to town it was maybe Left Hand, Oskars, and The Eagle Grill. Those were the gigs for bands.” But Andy and Jessica, his wife and the other half of The Prairie Scholars, have been an integral part of the growing music community in Longmont.
The duo hails from Texas. “I was touring up here for several weeks in 2007, and I kinda fell in love with the area. I tricked Jess into coming up with me a couple more times,” recalls Andy. At the time, Jess was performing with another band, and Andy was a solo act. The two formed The Prairie Scholars in 2009 when they made the move to Longmont. “You gotta love the place you’re in. We chose here, so that’s where our energies are going,” explained Jessica. The musicians focused their energies on Longmont’s music.
Since 2009, that scene has boomed. According to Andy, “What’s changed is the mentality. Now the venues have seen that you can make money with music, and it’s sustainable.”
“There have always been songwriters, but now it seems that everyone is really proud to come out and show their work, ’cause a lot of times people want cover bands, they think that’s what the audience will want, but Longmont… it’s kinda taking on that culture of the local craft brews, now we’re starting to see that with the music,” explains Jessica. “It’s a craft community.”
This change wasn’t immediate, it was a slow progression over time that many local musicians credit The Prairie Scholars with jump-starting. Andy sees it in a different light, “I wouldn’t say we’re leaders as much as opportunity makers. We want to provide opportunities for people because it helps our business, too, to create a marketplace. It helps us to help venues understand that local music makes money.”
The Prairie Scholars say they have a few ideas to continue making opportunities for musicians next year. “One of the things we’re trying to do is going to be event-oriented. We don’t think that the city does a good job of showcasing local talent, and so we’re just gonna take it upon ourselves.” In the past many city events have featured musicians from out-of-town. Andy reasons, “If we invest in the artists that are really playing in town, show them to the whole city, they’ll get fans, and those fans will follow them around town, spending their money in town. It’s like, what the f*** are they thinking? Put Denny Driscoll orNick O’Connor up there to open!”
This weekend The Prairie Scholars are performing with two other local acts in Longmont Live. They will join Nick O’Connor, another local musician, and Bella Musser, a 16 year old singer-songwriter. “We did another Longmont Live with her [Musser] earlier this year, and with Foxfeather, and I think this next one is gonna be a rad show. The Longmont Council for the Arts booked us one at a time.”
Longmont Live groups well-established bands and musicians with less-established artists on stage. The three acts play individual sets, and end the night with a finale that brings all of the acts together. “We inked-in their date immediately when they approached us, it’s a good community-building event,” says Andy.
Update: Unfortunately this weekend’s Longmont Live was cancelled.
“We wouldn’t be successful if the city wasn’t with us,” explains Andy, “We want to be known for helping people in ways that no one ever helped us before.”
The Prairie Scholars are currently working on a double album, and will be taking a short break from shows in December. They will host two open-mics and play their monthly show at a Main St. venue, but other shows will be slim pickings. One of the few shows will be the LeftHand Label Art Show with the LeftHand Artist Group, and will feature some of Andy’s paintings. Andy also released a book New Reason New Way: How My Skepticism Changed My Art in September, an Art Philosophy book discussing what happens to the creative process when its origins are questioned.
LONGMONT -- After the September flood, the local songwriter Andy Eppler was conflicted.
He wanted to write a song about the disaster, but -- to use the political phrase -- he was worried about the optics.
"At first I wanted to write a song and console the community in some way, but then I thought it might seem opportunistic," he said.
He aired his ambivalence on Facebook, and someone commented with a suggestion that he thought was a good one.
"Someone said you could donate the proceeds to the community, and that became the idea," he said.
Andy and his wife, Jessica, are known as The Prairie Scholars, a duo, and lately a full band, from Longmont that plays throughout the region. The couple, full-time musicians, didn't lose property in the flood, but they know musicians who did, and they lost gigs in the wake of the devastation.
Jessica was moved by the community cooperation she saw after the flood.
"It really was beautiful seeing so many volunteers," she said.
The song Andy and Jessica wrote is called "100 Year Flood," and it's available for download for $2.98 from their website, prairiescholars.com. All proceeds go to the Longmont Community Foundation for local flood relief, Jessica said.
The two wrote, recorded and released the song in only about three weeks. They feel thankful to be able to put their skills toward helping the community, Jessica said.
"People are being helped," she said.
The Prairie Scholars have been community boosters ever since they arrived from their native Texas several years ago. They put together a book with coupons good at their favorite local businesses, and they give the books away at gigs in other communities.
"The hope is that it will bring new business to some of the companies that we love," Andy said.
The couple also recently released a solo album by Jessica, called "Planted in the Wind," and a new Prairie Scholars album, called "Wasted Tracks." Those recordings also are available as downloads from the band's website.
Now there’s a smart use of a release. Jessica Eppler, who makes up half of the Longmont band The Prairie Scholars, had a half-dozen songs to release and instead of letting those six songs go out on their own, she and her husband Andy, the other half of The Prairie Scholars, used the extra space on the disc to release band tracks that had been shelved previously. It makes for a tidy two-in-one package. Both Epplers play on both ‘sides’ of the disc, but the first six tracks see Jessica taking on a sultry adult contemporary sound with poppy influences. Her voice shines particularly brightly on the piano ballad “Run Forever.” The five songs that close the release, however, are all Prairie Scholars, focusing more on their West Texas style, with both Epplers singing. Hearing those tracks begs the question why they weren’t released earlier, as it sounds like some of their best work yet. The group also released a new single recently that is available online, called “The 100 Year Flood.” All proceeds of sales of that single will be donated to the Longmont Community Foundation for flood relief.
Press Release from Velvet Syntax Publishing:
Songwriters Andy and Jessica Eppler perform their music as "The Prairie Scholars" in venues all across the front range of the Rocky Mountains. They have lived in Longmont since 2009 and have developed a strong relationship with the community there. They have recently been honored by their favorite local sandwich shop "Subworks" in the form of a glorious and delicious sandwich which will be officially named "The Prairie Scholars Chicken Caprese Sandwich".
"We spent long hours in the studio this last year when we released three different albums and we ordered a lot of delicious sandwiches for delivery. The owners, Tim and Sarah Test, are friends of ours and we are glad to support their most excellent shop. Jess and I are so honored by the gesture and the sandwich itself is very tasty." said Mr. Eppler.
The sandwich will be celebrated at the "home venue" of The Prairie Scholars, Left Hand Brewery on March 9th from 5-8pm in the Tasting Room.
At this event The Prairie Scholars will perform. Subworks will have staff on hand both to take orders to be delivered to the venue and to collect payment for those purchases. There will even be ballots available for voting on the final ingredient of the sandwich.
"We want our community to be part of this with us so we worked it out with Subworks to let the folks at this event have a little say about the final product. There will be forms to fill out with some choices for a final ingredient for the sandwich. I hope they pick bacon or something like that. We love this town and the folks we have met here. Left Hand Brewery has been a big supporter of ours over the years and it's the perfect place for this event."
For this one you will have to follow the link to the digital edition and flip over to page 19.
When Andy and Jessica are on stage they entertain their audiences with high energy, enthusiasm and original music. Since they began performing as “The Prairie Scholars” in 2010, they have quickly gained popularity.
Both a singer and guitarist, Andy Eppler, who is 26, likes to explore various musical genres and mediums. He plays guitar and harmonica in live performances, then adds drums, bass, organ, dobro and several other instruments, during studio recordings. In addition to being a musician, he is also a prolific songwriter, has published poetry and short stories, and has produced his own CDs.
Andy’s musical talents were already well known in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, where he started recording music and performing. He has produced a number of Solo albums. He released “There is No Underground” in 2007, “Dark Places” in 2008, and “Disease in the Heartland” in 2009. He released another album, “Long and Lonesome Way” in 2011.
Andy’s wife and musical partner, Jessica, who is 25 years old, moved from Sweetwater, Texas to Levelland, Texas to enroll at South Plains College. Her captivating songwriting and classically inspired musicality quickly drew attention to her talent. Singing and playing keyboard, she performed in a band named, Clandestine Amigo, which played venues across the Texas south plains area. She met Andy, while at college.
Jessica has always been involved in music. She recalls, “As far back as I can remember I have memories of music. I grew up in a musical family – my mother was a piano teacher and I remember being impressed by meticulously memorized piano pieces at recitals we attended. I also remember the music at church and the emotions it stirred. ”She explained that, “Somehow, those two branches of music twisted together in me as I grew up.” She added, “An emotionally strong musical performance moves me like almost nothing else can. It’s not something you can touch physically, but you can still feel it deeply. It penetrates the skin and touches some invisible set of nerves in your chest, stomach and head. To me, the best kind of music is passionate and purposeful.” In 2009, Jessica released her first live recording titled, “Clandestine Amigo.”
Both Andy and Jessica earned their college degrees in commercial music, which was a music degree combined with business studies. Andy said along with learning about audio production in a recording studio, they were also taught how to read both music and contracts, while at South Plains College.
They were still living in Lubbock, Texas in 2007, when Andy toured Colorado for several weeks to promote a new album. He said, “I simply fell in love with the place and realized that, as recording artists, Jessica and I could live anywhere and still sell our music online.” So they decided to move to Colorado because, “it felt good and offered us the opportunity to learn more about bluegrass because of its popularity there."
Andy and Jessica teamed up to play music and were married in 2006. They moved to Colorado in 2009 and the Prairie Scholars was born. They formed their own recording company, Velvet Syntax Publishing, to produce their own label and CD’s. They built a recording studio in their house and have been producing records there since 2008. They have recorded and released ten collections since then.
The name Prairie Scholars originated as a result of their Texas high plains heritage. Andy described Texas as a, “huge, flat, hot place with a history of churning out great art.” He said, "Because we have studied the history of art and music in the Texas plains country and understand the way people there react to it, we have become students of the prairie and are therefore 'The Prairie Scholars.' "
Andy characterized the music he and Jessica play as “West Texas Soul Music.” He further described it as country music inspired by jazz fusion and blues that reflects the mood of the area and the attitudes of the people who live there.
Andy says he has drawn musical inspiration from various entertainers, including: Bob Dylan, The Band, David Axelrod, Roy Ayers, The Flaming Lips, Roger Alan Wade, Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and David Bazan.
Andy emphasized that, “Writing our own music is central to our work. It’s the part we have focused on most. It seems that well-written songs are rare today and no one is specializing in them. Well, we do.”
Andy described some of favorite work as: “Horse Thief” - a story about a young man who gets together with the wrong girl; “This is the End” - about mortality and the inescapable nature of death; “Kelly Boys” - about the responsibility of public service; “I Feel You” - one of our atheistic love songs about the meaning of love from a non-religious or superstitious perspective; and, “You and Me Now” - another song about discovering that there is no god and how wonderful it is to be alone in a relationship with someone you love.
Since they began recording together in 2010, Andy and Jessica have produced two musical collections, “Strangers in the Modern Era,” and “Live Wires.”
They plan to release three albums during 2012. Jessica’s solo project “Still No Empty Sky” came out on May 18th, "The Prairie Scholars in The Wasteland Ramble” is due out in August, and Andy’s solo project “Andy Eppler’s Traditional Christmas” is due out in October.
In addition to producing more albums, Andy is currently writing an art philosophy book, which he says, "will detail the functionality of creativity, dispel some of the superstition around the topic, and describe my own philosophy of why art is good for society." It is planned for publication in 2013.
One thing to know about Andy Eppler is that he looks at the world through different eyes than most of us. That unique view of the world and his sharp sense of humor show up clearly in this short interview. Enjoy!
Liedjes schrijven, liedjes zingen, gedichten schrijven, kortverhalen schrijven en producer spelen: Andy Eppler slaagt er in om als deze activiteiten te combineren en ze daarenboven ook nog succesvol uit te voeren.
Lubbock, Texas was de plaats waar hij het levenslicht zag. Het is een relatief klein stadje met zo’n 200.000 inwoners waar grote singer-songwriters zich thuis voelen en het was bovendien ook de geboorteplaats van o.a. Buddy Holly en de favoriete stek van Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock en Jimmie Dale Gilmore (aka ‘The Flatlanders’).
Er moet dus iets extra muzikaals in het leidingwater van Lubbock zitten want ook Andy Eppler heeft er al een drietal soloplaten opgenomen gedurende de voorbije 5 jaar: “There Is No Underground” (2007), het ‘spoken word’-album “Dark Places” (2008) en “Disease In The Heartland” (2009).
Samen met zijn vrouwtje Jessica - die een muzikaal verleden heeft bij de groep ‘Clandestine Amigo’ - vormt hij daarnaast ook nog het muzikale duo ‘The Prairie Scholars’ en heeft hij een eerste plaat onder die groepsnaam gelanceerd met “Strangers In The Modern Era’.
Op dit conceptalbum brengen ‘The Prairie Scholars’ tien door het echtpaar samen gecomponeerde folk- en folkrocksongs die hij en Jessica met de nodige passie en liefde samen inzingen. Het centrale thema van deze plaat is ontgoocheling en de moeilijke zoektocht naar een definitieve verblijfplaats voor hun rusteloze jonge zielen.
Dat ze niet de ambitie hebben om via deze plaat rijk te worden mag blijken uit het feit dat de geïnteresseerde muziekliefhebber de gehele plaat gratis kan downloaden op hun website en de bijhorende, niet altijd erg opbeurende songteksten kan u vinden op de website
Als we u tot slot nog enkele nummers extra mogen aanbevelen, dan raden we u aan om eens van naderbij te gaan luisteren naar “The Kelly Boys”, “You and Me Now”, “The Open Road (Ballad Of Ronnie And Darla)” en het slotnummer “If You Don’t Feel Like Lovin’”.
“Strangers In The Modern Era” is alweer een erg leuk klinkende cd van dit jonge echtpaar dat beschikt over bakken vol talent. Het zal dan waarschijnlijk ook niet erg lang meer duren vooraleer ze opnieuw met een vers muzikaal project op de proppen zullen komen. We zien het graag tegemoet.
Several years ago, Lubbock native & now-expatriate Andy Eppler was frustrated by the audience reaction to a one-man show (he did have Nic Shute accompany on trumpet) which Eppler had performed in Austin, and which I had co-produced. He asked me if I had any advice for him. I know nothing about the music business but, with that caveat, I offered my impression. “Maybe you should try to perform with a band.” Eppler is a serious songwriter who prides himself on his craft, and he demands an audience’s attention, so he does not like to share the stage, I imagine. However, I explained many great songwriters augment their performances with great bands: Dylan, Springsteen, Ely. He thanked me for the advice but I got the impression he dismissed it as the amateur advice it was, in fact.
Here’s the thing about Andy Eppler, Eppler is a one man band. Listen to his newest self-published CD “Long and Lonesome Way” (2011), which he describes as “fully actualized” re-workings of 12 of his favorite songs from his over 240 song catalog from the past ten years. When you hear this fantastic recording, the first thing you might think, “Damn, this man paid a lot of money for some top-notch session players. This band ROCKS.” Then read the liner-notes (yes, I still buy CDs because I like the liner notes), and you learn that Andy Eppler IS the band. With the exception of a few credits to guests Jessica Eppler (his wife & collaborator), Lubbock saxophonist Don Caldwell and singing legend Kenny Maines who contribute to Andy’s notorious classic song “(Why Don’t You Kiss Me) Lubbock, TX,” otherwise Andy Eppler plays EVERY instrument on this tight and thick, well-tuned collection of great indie-rock and folk-pop songs. Maines adds some hilarious new lyrics with his vocal backing to "Lubbock."
Eppler knows how to craft an excellent song in its entirety and record it with high quality. Eppler never ceases to amaze me with the apparent facility he has with a variety of instruments and with lyric and melody writing. Working alone is nothing new for Eppler. He always plays all the instruments on all his albums (excepting his “Prairie Scholars” side-projects with Jessica), and does his own background vocals. Every song on Eppler’s recent and diverse collection has groove, soul, style, wit, and bad-ass music. The harmonica, electric guitar, drums, organ, bass, they all are sublime and they are all tracks conceived, written, performed, laid down, and mixed by Andy Eppler. This amazes me. I want to compare him to Paul McCartney but that is more than what Andy’s ego needs, so don’t tell Eppler I said that.
Eppler is committed to making quality art, as he calls his work (it is art, in my opinion), that will stand up to critical acclaim and the test of time, and he is notoriously his own best promoter. So Eppler often asks me to write about him for virtualubbock. I am flattered he is a fan of the site. I did interview him a few years back when he was still living in Lubbock (he and Jessica now live in Colorado; listen to “Lubbock, TX” and hear the appropriateness). But I don’t always have the time or inclination to write about Eppler every time he thinks I should. I mean, I don’t get paid for this or anything. I have to really feel it before I can write a story. However, after Eppler sent me “Long and Lonesome Way” and I had the chance to give a listen to these re-worked songs, I felt compelled to give him a few words and some well-deserved credit. I heard a vast improvement to what I previously felt to be excellent Eppler songs in the first place. I like every song on this CD and I like them all better now. Sometimes I have felt Eppler’s songs were a little long but now after listening to these great “fully actualized” versions on the new CD and I don’t want any of these songs to end.
Extremely well-done young man, I say to Eppler. Well done. You are truly one of Lubbock’s musical treasures. Now quit bugging me for awhile. Love you, bro.
Prairie Scholars: Unpredictable, entertaining Jessica, Andy Eppler earn fans
South Plains College Newspaper
Andy Eppler's "Lubbock, Texas" is a killer song that gradually also becomes a sing-along, and most likely will become a requested favorite when played in Lubbock music venues by Eppler ... or eventually by artists who are going to feel a growing kinship with the Lubbock-born singer-songwriter.
The song already works, but adding Kenny Maines familiar voice on harmony and chorus is a blessed stroke of genius as it dilutes any perceived bitterness and puts the emphasis back on fun.
Sure, " Lubbock , Texas " is an original composition that will continue to reflect the frustrations of a young artist -- any young artist -- but it isn't ugly and the door is left open for Andy and Lubbock to one day kiss and make up.