Beth Longwell
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Beth Longwell

Palo Alto, California, United States | INDIE

Palo Alto, California, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Through & Through Album Review"

“You’ll love her warm voice and well-written songs. “Skeletons” starts a cappella, and then builds with hand percussion and layers of rich vocals. In fact there’s such a great blend, it sounds like she did all of the singing. In spite of the title, it’s not a morose song; it’s a great affirmation about breaking free.

“Preacher” has a beautifully simple arrangement of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and her lovely vocals. While her voice has a gentle feel there’s a simmering anger about a judgmental preacher. The song is full of compelling lyrics like “When you point your finger at me and say what I should do / Did you notice there’s three pointing back at you?” Amen, sister.

There’s a nice upbeat feel in “Elizabeth,” driven by some tasty guitar and drums. However, her vocals are mixed too close to the instruments, making them less prominent than in her other songs. And when you’ve got rock solid lyrics like Longwell’s, you want to hear them.”

-Jamie Anderson, Indie-music.com review 2/19/10
- Jamie Anderson, Indie-Music.com


"Pre-Release Review"

"Through & Through has been on rotation in my office for weeks. Beth has a hell of a story to tell and she tells it beautifully in this album. Through & Through is a brilliant reminder of the diversity of the human experience. I hope you all grab a copy and listen...and that it gives you as much as it's given me."

-Becks Hawkins, Dirty Hippie Feet Designs (blog post, Nov 09)
- Becks Hawkins, Dirty Hippie Feet Designs


"Beth Longwell: Music Gets Her 'Through & Through'"

Palo Alto's Beth Longwell doesn't have to look far to validate the concept of music therapy. It's not only her job. It's a way of life.
"I write as a way to process my own feelings and get perspective on situations, as well as to share myself with others," Longwell told The Daily News. "The songs that I write end up being about very personal and intense things."

The singer-songwriter's compelling debut album, "Through & Through," offers beautiful melodies complementing remarkably unguarded and eloquent lyrics. It takes courage to reveal your innermost thoughts and emotions in song.
"After the CD came out, I was a little nervous to share it with everyone that I know, because it was really, 'This is a piece of me that maybe you don't know about,' really putting myself out there in a vulnerable place. But I'm glad that the songs are the way they are, because people that I've talked to have said they've really connected to certain songs specifically because of the lyrics, the honesty that's there.

"People can relate these songs to their own lives. A lot of people I talk to are in recovery and a lot of the songs that I've written actually come from a place of recovering from addictions," said Longwell, who last week celebrated six years of sobriety.

"I hope that my songs can bring hope to people who are down and out."
A music therapist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Longwell said her co-workers are planning to attend
Saturday's show at Saratoga's Blue Rock Shoot. "A lot of them are like, 'Oh, my God, I didn't know you performed, too!' Most of my co-workers don't know that I'm in recovery. Most of them don't know that I'm queer. So sharing my songs is a huge step, opening up to them."

Music has been a vital element throughout Longwell's life, but especially since she began recovery. "When I perform some of these songs, it's almost like I'm singing to myself things I need to hear. On the more uplifting songs, it's a good reminder to myself."

She grew up in a tiny Colorado town. She enjoyed watching her dad perform at the annual folk festival. A naturally gifted vocalist, Longwell sang in all sorts of groups, from barbershop quartets to classical choruses to jazz bands. At 15, she and her family moved to Argentina for two years. She visited Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.
"It was a wonderful experience. It extended my cultural views and helped me to become who I am now," Longwell said. "So I feel blessed that I got the chance."
She attended Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. Her focus shifted from a music business degree to music therapy.

"A lot of it was tied into getting into recovery. Things just got worse and worse at college. I realized that I needed to do something about my life, that I needed to change something.
"So I took a year off, got some help with addictions, help with figuring out my life. When I went back to school, I realized that music therapy was something that I really wanted to do. After getting into recovery, it was like, 'Oh, I want to use my music for a purpose. I want to help other people to process what they're going through, just like it helped me to process what I'd been going through.'"

As an adjunct to music therapy studies, Longwell journeyed to Kenya, volunteering in orphanages for two weeks. She was able to put theory into practice, guiding the children in dancing, songwriting and recording exercises.
"That was a huge, eye-opening, life-changing experience. I was able to interact with a lot of these kids who were going through amazingly challenging life situations. Yet they were like any other kids, wanting to have fun. It was a wonderful opportunity to use some of the skills that I'd learned with music therapy. It was really validating, because the kids were so happy, so open to whatever we brought."

Since 2007, she has been working at the V.A., in the in-patient psychiatric unit, helping people with not only acute mental illness, but often addictions, as well.
"It was intense to work with folks, on a daily basis, who were going through one of the lowest spots in their lives. I was like, 'Oh, my God, I've been where you are.' But I didn't feel that I could say that to people, because there are professional boundaries. I can't just come out, open my heart and bare it all to people, because it's not appropriate in that situation. But I could have empathy and I think it helped me to be a good clinician on that unit."

She is shifting to the Menlo Park campus, to deal with seniors who need long-term care.
"It's going to be more about reminiscing, sharing life stories. It's also about reducing isolation, getting people out of their rooms, getting them to come to different groups and interact through music. Sometimes music brings people together in a way that other things can't.
"I find that a lot of the people will sing, even if they won't talk.
"And people who can't remember what they had for breakfast that morning remember all the lyrics to the song they danced to at their wedding. It's pretty amazing, the way that music connects to all different parts of the brain and never really leaves, no matter how low-functioning a person is."

After a hard day of using music as a tool at work, Longwell looks forward to getting home and picking up her guitar again.
"Playing my own music or just jamming with my partner, whom I live with, that's for me. That's when I can relax and have fun."
Longwell, 26, ponders focusing more on a singer-songwriter career. For now, she finds it fulfilling to divide her time between music performing and music therapy.
"That's something that I have to just take one day at a time. At the moment, I just want to get my music out there and let people know that I exist.
"Whether or not it's 'music therapy,' music is therapeutic to me ... as it is to many people. I can't imagine my life without music."

Experience her deeply moving music at www.bethlongwell.com.
E-mail Paul Freeman at romper333@comcast.net.
- Palo Alto Daily News


Discography

Through & Through- full length album of original folk-rock songs, self released on Flicker Records, 2009

All Is Well- collection of original and cover songs recorded at Berklee College of Music. Self released, 2004

Best Shots- Songs from "Feminine Mystique," the international award winning all female barbershop quartet that Beth helped form. Self released, 2002.

Photos

Bio

Some people shop. Some people drink. Beth Longwell writes songs.

Beth Longwell is a songwriter you will hear once and remember forever. Using ear-catching melodies and thought-provoking lyrics, Beth has an uncanny ability to tap into human emotion and leave her listeners wanting more. Her songs span a vast range of subjects and there’s not a person out there who can’t relate to some of Beth’s lyrics. Go ahead, see her live and find out for yourself.
Look deeper into Beth’s life, and you’ll find that dynamic songwriting is just one component that makes up this very musical person. Beth spends her days as a music therapist at a veteran’s hospital, bringing the healing and transformative power of music to veterans on inpatient psychiatric and hospice units.
Beth’s love of music began as a child growing up in a rural town in central Colorado. At the age of fifteen she moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and her musical tastes grew as she traveled to Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil to perform in musical groups. After moving back to the USA and finishing high school in Decatur, IL, Beth packed her bags and headed to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music.
Beth’s love of performing soon became secondary to her desire to use her music as a healing tool, so she enrolled in Berklee’s Music Therapy program. During her time at Berklee, opportunities for performance and musical outreach abounded. She participated in recording an original song dedicated to the survivors of domestic violence, and was part of a recording for the soundtrack to an independent film.
For two weeks in the summer of 2007, Beth traveled with several other Berklee music therapy students to Nairobi, Kenya to work in orphanages, bringing her music therapy skills and compassion to children affected by poverty, violence, and HIV/AIDS.
After five years in Boston, Beth moved to Napa, CA to complete an internship at the Veteran’s Home of CA in Yountville. While there, she helped form the rock/blues cover band Fat Toad and performed at several community wide events.
Although Beth’s life has been filled with music, in some ways her musical journey is just getting started. She has just released her debut album, Through & Through, a full-length collection of folk/rock songs. There are surely more great things to come from this up and coming singer/songwriter.