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The Midwest Songwriter Circle

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Midwest Songwriter Circle at Schubas in Chicago (left to right: Jonah Malarsky - Brandon Whyde - Nick Shaheen - Landon Keller)
  • Katie Moon
  • Midwest Songwriter Circle at Schubas in Chicago (left to right: Jonah Malarsky - Brandon Whyde - Nick Shaheen - Landon Keller)

This Saturday, acoustic aficionados might consider heading downtown to The Earth House for a show featuring songwriters from the Midwest Songwriter Circle. It'll be presented in the round, with each artist playing one song and then taking a seat until all others have also played a song.

“The idea itself is not original,” explains Landon Keller, organizer of the Midwest Songwriter Circle, of the in-the-round concept. “New York and LA have songwriter circles, too." But Keller thinks that it's rare to see in-the-round shows in Indianapolis — and they have been relatively scarce since the Indianapolis Songwriters Cafe closed up shop a couple years back, after putting on a year's worth of monthly in-the-round shows.

The Danville native founded the Midwest Songwriter Circle while a Chicago resident. After several successful shows in Starbucks stores across the city (including one during a store's grand opening), the coffeehouse and performance space Uncommon Ground expressed interest in hosting the event. Two shows were booked, both of which sold out. Once again a resident of Indianapolis, Keller is bringing the concept to Indy.

“A lot of songwriters around here are opening for rock bands," Keller says. "They’re doing 7 p.m. shows in venues whose sound quality stinks. This event is based totally around an intimate singer/songwriter session. If you don’t like one particular artist, for whatever reason, then you don’t have to wait 45 minutes for somebody else. You get exposed to four people, instead of just one. So it’s sort of a marriage of the people who really want to hear this type of thing and the people who really want to do this type of thing. There’s not going to be cell phones, beer bottles clanking in the trash, girls taking their clothes off, guys getting into fights or someone yelling ‘Free Bird!’”

The Midwest Songwriter Circle itself is a collective of seven Midwest musicians, hand-picked by Keller. Saturday's concert will feature four of those seven, each of whom will play four songs.

In the future, Keller plans to expand to other cities — he is currently researching the potential for a Nashville installment — and arrange a college tour. But he doesn't want to soak an already-saturated market. “In Chicago, we did a show once every six months or so," he explains. "This is an event, so it won’t be in the same place every time and it’ll only happen a couple of times a year.”

In the long term, Keller’s goals are more expansive: “The philosophy, drive and passion behind this is certainly social and artistic. I want to spread the songwriters’ love for music around. I want to get moral and ethical companies involved. I want to get other types of artists and art involved. It’s certainly a thing that anybody can come into, but I also don’t want to flood the membership. Because it’s fragile right now, right? It’s just a baby. But the end all — if this can be successful— is just about changing peoples’ mind about music; that it’s not just a hobby, that it can be a profession and that it can be a lot of things that musicians stereotypically are not seen as.”

Ultimately, though, The Songwriter Circle is about people who love to play acoustic music playing for people who love to hear acoustic music. Keller concludes on a sentimental note: “For me personally, I’m sort of addicted to performing ‘in the round’ now. The energy on stage, for me… It’s kind of like when full bands talk about having ‘moments’ on stage amongst each other- which I’ve had, and those are great- but it’s like, that only lasts like a minute. This is like a slow-buzz almost.”

Landon Keller, Brandon Whyde, Bob Stamper, and Nick Shaheen will perform at The Midwest Songwriter Circle on Saturday February 26th at The Earth House at 7:30 p.m.

Danielle covers local music for NUVO.net and IndyMojo.com.

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