Arlan Feiles doesn't want to be a rock star. He just wants to be around people who appreciate and enjoy hearing live music. That's one of the reasons why he spends so much time along the coffeehouse and open mic circuit. In fact, he performed a tour entirely comprised of open mics around the country - playing a staggering 89 shows in 90 days in around 35 different states!
"For the most part, when I go out to play music and to be part of a music community I go to the coffeehouse because that's where the other artists are going to create a community of artists," explained Arlan Feiles. "I like going to see other artists play. These are my neighbors and the people making music around me. Every night of the week there's an open mic somewhere and to not take advantage of those opportunities to play and share music... For a while I was going out five nights a week to play. Most of the shows that I'm booking are built from that grassroots place.
"You go in and you meet more people who love to hear music and want to hear new songs because they're disillusioned by the pop music industry. They support your endeavors and they buy your albums. I've done better and met more people during that tour than any previous tour I've attempted to book as an artist. And it always seems to be the places where the people that are involved in the music community in those areas hang out; whether it be the local DJs or local music publisher. All the people in the community are there.
Feiles, based in Union County, New Jersey, is an outstanding singer-songwriter who is clearly making a niche for himself within the "Americana" category of music. His last record, "Razing A Nation" was released by a small label in Florida in 2004. Before that he put out a bunch of independent records featuring himself and the band Gift Horse. The label in Florida invited him to record a solo acoustic album.
"We really didn't have enough money to get it out as far as we'd like but I've been working it for the past year," said Feiles. "Traveling around the country and sending out as many CDs as I could manage to different radio stations and Internet websites."
Arlan says that he's going to start booking more club dates in addition to his open mics and coffeehouse shows. He will be opening for Graham Parker on March 9th at the Saint in Asbury Park with his band, The Lone Howdies. The band is basically just an extension of his solo work, fleshed out with more instrumentation. Basically, if it's just Arlan the show is billed as "Arlan Feiles". If his upright bass player, Dan Green, is playing also than its a Lone Howdies show. The two are essentially the core of the group. Currently, the band also includes Greg Di Gesu (veteran of the NJ music scene with bands like Speedsters & Dopers, Fisherman Stew, and Wooden Soldiers) and Corey Letterman.
"Razing A Nation" has been taking the slow, steady route but it's starting to get airplay around the world. It's got regular play on stations in St. Louis and Salt Lake City and Internet sites like "The Acoustic Stage" (UK) have made it their album of the week. Locally you can hear several cuts regularly on AsburyMusic.com's new online station.
The Lone Howdies provide the same kind of vibe that the Band provided Bob Dylan's music. You don't seem to lose any of the intimation of the folk sound; the music just seems to gain additional substance. Once you see the Lone Howdies you'll understand why people are latching on to the record. It's a disc that comes best at describing what the "Americana" label is supposed to mean.
"Americana's a really broad term that they're using to describe a lot of different music that isn't niched into what we are perceiving as country or rock music," said Feiles. "But there's definitely a prevailing American element to it that's innately rooted whether it be Hank Williams or Emmylou Harris or more modern artists like Ryan Adams. There's definitely an American culture and ethic installed in the music."
Feiles hopes to release a new record this year. He's constantly writing new songs and has tons of material to work with. In addition, he's hoping to set up a tour of Belgium and Holland just to play somewhere different. Wherever he goes, I'm sure he'll find the place where people are there just to listen. He always does. After all, he's one of them too.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.