Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves will headline a concert Saturday, July 22, at Sunrise Stage in Fayetteville. Tickets for the event are $30 and are on sale now at SunriseGuitars.com.
Now 25 years into his storied career, Cleaves’ songwriting has never been more potent than on his new album “Ghost on the Car Radio,” just released on June 23. The characters in Slaid Cleaves’ songs live in a stark reality – much like the rest of us. They work dead-end jobs, they run out of money, they grow old, they hold on to each other (or not), and, yes, they die. With an eye for the beauty in everyday life, he tells their stories, bringing a much empathy to their uncaring world.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maine, Cleaves now lives in Austin. Described as “terse, clear and heartfelt” NPR’s “Fresh Air” program, his songs speak to timeless truths. “I’m not an innovator. I’m more of a keeper of the flame,” he says.
“Ghost on the Car Radio” is Cleaves’ first release since 2013’s “Still Fighting the War,” which was praised as “one of the year’s best albums” by American Songwriter and “carefully crafted songs about the struggles of the heart in hard times” by The Wall Street Journal.
The New York Daily News called his music “a treasure hidden in plain sight,” while the Austin Chronicle declared, “there are few contemporaries that compare. He’s become a master craftsman on the order of Guy Clark and John Prine.”
Cleaves is a full-time touring musician, but like most musicians he has held many day jobs: janitor, warehouse rat, ice cream truck driver, rope-tow operator, film developer, groundskeeper, meter reader, and pizza delivery driver. He was even a human guinea pig: He was paid to be a subject in drug studies by a pharmaceutical company.
Cleaves’ musical roots extend back prior to his days playing in a high school garage band with his childhood friend Rod Picott. The two shared a love of music, especially Bruce Springsteen, and they named their band The Magic Rats, after a character in Springsteen’s song “Jungleland.”
He took his love of American artists such as Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, CCR, and more with him to Cork, Ireland, where he spent his junior year of college. To help pass the time he learned how to play his favorite songs on guitar, and on November 18, 1985, he made his debut as a busker in Cork City.
After a few years with a band called The Moxie Men – a favorite in the Portland, Maine, music scene – he and wife Karen moved to Austin, and the next year, 1992, he was a winner of the prestigious New Folk competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival, an award previously given to such artists as Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, and Steve Earle.
Cleaves continued to work hard in Austin, playing various clubs around the city, touring, and honing his craft as a songwriter. In 1997, he recorded and released his first national album, “No Angel Knows” for the Rounder-Philo label, which has been his home ever since.
In 2000, Cleaves had an Americana charts hit with his album “Broke Down” and song of the same name. The title track was co-written with childhood friend Picott. He continued to gain notice with his follow-up album, 2004’s “Wishbones,” appearing on the ESPN2 show “Cold Pizza,” and his music was praised by Nicholson Baker in his 2009 novel “The Anthologist.”
About Sunrise Stage
Sunrise Stage owner Don Nelms, along with partners David Nelms and Roy Shorter, built the venue with the intention of becoming a premier destination for performing and listening to live music in Northwest Arkansas. Nelms enlisted local acoustics expert Darin Novatny to design the room and J.T. Huff to install the high-quality, advanced sound system. With 120 seats, this intimate venue creates a deeper connection between the audience and artist.
“First and foremost, Sunrise Stage is about the music,” Nelms said. “We plan to bring local and regional musicians from all musical genres to our stage.”
The beauty of a sunrise has been a consistent theme of Don Nelms’ photography over the years, and the spacious reception area features many of these images. Anyone interested in renting the venue can contact Sunrise Stage Event Manager Kelley Carey at 479-442-7021 or email Kelley@sunrise.guitars.com.
For more information, visit SunriseGuitars.com.