Erica Wheeler
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Erica Wheeler

Northampton, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Northampton, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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“Her voice and lyrics are beautifully expressive....a Major Talent.�

- The Boston Herald


"A top notch singer-songwriter whose best work coexists comfortably in the company of Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter and the other Wheeler (Cheryl)…Not everyone can turn their impressions into three minute works of art that resonate with compelling truths. Erica Wheeler is one of the rare few who can. “The Harvest is a work that should instantly propel Wheeler to the front ranks of contemporary, new folk.�

- he Berkshire Eagle


“Too often in contemporary folk music, there’s a sense of infused self importance that can make it abrasive, frightfully unapologetic and difficult to endear. But when Wheeler sings, she does so as much for her audience or the listener at home as she does for herself. And there’s no doubt that what she has to say is imaginative and valuable. Each song comes across as more a gift from Wheeler to you than as some trophy with a killer hook that another artist might thrust in your face as some testament to his or her greatness. Wheeler’s songs don’t need the extra attention because they’re some of the best you’ve heard right out of the gate. While folksingers are quickly becoming a dime a dozen and music writers exhaust the world’s supply of adjectives to describe them, Erica Wheeler is busy painting her wings and inventing new reasons for the rest of us to turn our ears towards something beautiful, subtle and extraordinarily insightful. Just listen�

- Albuquerque Weekly Alibi


The literary sensitivity of New England is combined with the spiritual vision of the American West by Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter Erica Wheeler. Her original songs inspired the New England Folk Almanac to observe that "...one of (Wheeler's) greatest strengths is her ability to temper love, light and goodness with darkness and wistfulness."

A self-taught guitarist, Wheeler grew up listening to folk-pop vocalists such as Judy Collins and Joan Baez. After seeing the documentary film Harlan County U.S.A., Wheeler was so inspired by folk singer Hazel Dickens that she bought a songbook, 1001 Folk Songs, and began to take music more seriously. She subsequently taught herself to play songs from the repertoire of Cat Stevens. After writing a few original songs in high school, Wheeler focused on songwriting in college. Although she enrolled in Massachusetts' Hampshire College in hopes of becoming a wildlife biologist, her studies convinced her that she had more to say as a writer.

Wheeler's skills as a performer were sharpened by her appearances at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA. As a frequent opening act, Wheeler not only gained exposure, but she learned showmanship by watching headliners like Bill Morrissey, Patty Larkin and Shawn Colvin. In 1989, Wheeler released a ten-song cassette titled Strong Heart. Her first full-length recording, From that Far, was released in 1992 and produced by Darlene Wilson. It included stellar musicians such as Johnny Cunningham (fiddle), Doug Plavin (percussion), Peter Calo (acoustic slide and electric guitars), and Diane Ziegler and Cosy Sheridan (harmony vocals).

Shortly after placing first in the troubadour contest at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival in 1995, Wheeler recorded her second CD, The Harvest. Produced by bluegrass fiddler and bandleader Laurie Lewis, the album featured top-notch instrumentalists including Darol Anger, Barbara Higbie and Todd Phillips. Wheeler's third CD marks her first collaboration with producer Steve Miller (no relation to the musician), who previously produced two CDs by Dar Williams.





- All Music Guide


“Add Erica Wheeler to the list of more-than-folkies that matter, such as Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dar Williams...her new CD “three wishes� is full of sharp, detailed storytelling… Wheeler’s talent is ripe to sustain a wider pop audience.� - San Francisco Bay Guardian


On "Almost Like Tonight" , Massachusetts singer-songwriter Erica Wheeler weaves a tapestry of the America betweenNew York and Los Angeles--a place of back roads and working class heroes, blended with lost love and sorrow found to paint a bittersweet picture of our homes and lives.
The live CD is a perfect vehicle for Wheeler's bluegrass and folk styling: her voice is warm and welcome, showcasing a wealth of vocal power and prowess held in reserve. You can tell that Wheeler could belt out a tune to shake the rafters, but she chooses to whisper instead of shout, murmur instead of scream. It's an effective technique for her intimate songwriting and the personal nature of her live performances.
A collection of Wheeler's tunes and an ample amount of covers, "Almost Like Tonight" gives Wheeler a chance to chat with the audience, crack jokes and explain herself--a"VH1 Storytellers" for the NPR crowd.
Wheeler's vocal delivery is what makes these songs; she's a combination of Ani DiFranco at her folkiest, the Indigo Girls at their most mellow, and a healthy dose of old Appalachian bluegrass. "Maryland County Road" and "The Harvest" are simple country tunes that evoke laughter, memories and Americana. Wheeler flexes her comedic muscles on the sing-alongs " I Can See Your Aura" and "Sober Harley Guys", and her cover of Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" is pure magic...
Overall, "Almost Like Tonight" is a great CD for folk, country and bluegrass fans. Wheeler is that new breed of songwriter: an eclectic mix of styles forming a truly American sound. She's political and socially aware, but not self-conscious, pompous or too serious.
When she opens the Acoustic Brew Series in Lemont on Saturday, expect this bard to win fans the old-fashioned way--with stories, passion and heart.
- Centre Daily Times


Discography

"Good Summer Rain" 2008 (forthcoming)

"Almost Like Tonight" (2004, Blue Pie Music) is a live CD, which showcases her spontaneous stage patter along with acoustic versions of requested favorites and several previously unreleased songs.

"three wishes" (1999, Signature Sounds), was produced by Steven Miller (Dar Williams). The CD enlisted Bob Dylan�s road band to create alternative country sound.

"The Harvest" (1996, Signature Sounds), produced by Grammy nominee and bluegrass wiz Laurie Lewis has been said to be Erica�s breakthrough release.

"From that Far"(1992, Blue Pie Music) was produced by Darleen Wilson (Patty Larkin, Bill Morrissey).

Photos

Bio

�Wheeler is the perfect Americana fit.�
--Billboard's Gavin Americana Chart

Based in western Massachusetts, Erica Wheeler is an award-winning songwriter with five critically acclaimed releases to her credit. She has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and WXPN's World Caf�. Her CD "The Harvest" remained on Billboard's Gavin Americana Chart for five months with a solid month in the top ten. The Fall 2007 issue of Yankee Magazine gave her music the honored distinction of being named the second best thing about fall: Best Soundtrack. Erica has appeared as clubs, concert halls, colleges and festivals across the country and has shared the bill with Shawn Colvin, Indigo Girls, Greg Brown and many others. She also facilitates her writing workshop "The Soulful Landscape," which connects people with their stories of place and belonging. Her forthcoming 2008 release "Good Summer Rain" was sponsored in part by the Trust for Public Land.

Her music ranges in style from contemporary folk to country and bluegrass. Her voice is rich and warm, often conversational in style; her performances are engaging, inspiring and filled with hilarious stage patter and story. Erica writes songs that are full of sharply detailed portraits of the American landscape and the lives lived there. �All Music Guide� noted that her songs combine the �literary sensitivity of New England with the spiritual vision of the American West."The Berkshire Eagle noted "Not everyone can turn their impressions into three minute works of art that resonate with compelling truths. Erica Wheeler is one of the rare few who can."

More about �Good Summer Rain�

Erica Wheeler�s 2008 release; �Good Summer Rain� is full of literate songs about people and their relationship to place. On it she paints a vivid travelogue of the North American landscape, often feeling as expansive as the land itself. Known for her visual, "cinematographic" song-writing style, the 11 songs �Good Summer Rain� span from the intimate streets of Greenwich Village to the sweeping vistas of Jackson Hole.. Charged with emotion ranging from awe to loss, her songs include both the beauty and the grit of our landscapes. They reach out to the edges, where farmland gives way to urban sprawl, wilderness gives way to industrial growth, leaving the listener to contemplate the impacts of change, and the dilemmas that ensue.

Produced in Boston by Crit Harmon (Martin Sexton, Mary Gauthier, Lori McKenna) "Good Summer Rain" draws on some of the Northeast's finest session musicians. It fuses the rootsy Americana sounds of dobro, mandolin, guitar and drums with the elegance of piano and upright bass, offering a rich textural foundation for Erica's expressive lyrics and intimate, conversational vocal style.

Wheeler�s intention with �Good Summer Rain� goes beyond the music and appeals to awaken our awareness of our place in the world. She does so with the kind of poetry that lets the listener draw their own conclusions. Beautiful, thoughtful, deeply spiritual and satisfying, Good Summer Rain will make you smile, laugh and cry but most of all, it will make you think.

Biography
Erica�s music career began in Northampton, MA, an area known as "home" to a host of touring songwriters and a hotbed for the New England revival of the acoustic music scene. At a local club of national fame, (The Iron Horse Music Hall,) Erica quickly developed from an opening act into a headliner. She honed her skills there watching artists like Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Suzanne Vega in the 170-seat room. Erica was also a frequent participant in the Northampton Songwriter Group, which then included fellow songwriters Dar Williams, Cliff Eberhardt, Annie Gallup, Jim Henry and more.

Raised in the suburbs of Washington DC (Chevy Chase, Maryland) Erica exposed to traditional folk and bluegrass music through family escapades to the surrounding regions of rural Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. She began playing guitar in 8th grade, inspired by the music featured in the coal-mining documentary �Harlan County, USA.�

Her early musical inspiration also came from her parents collection of folk artists such as Odetta and Judy Collins, followed by her older brother�s collections of seventies singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. In college she was moved by artists such as Ferron and Joan Armatrading. Erica has also been deeply influenced by writers such as Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and the poet Mary Oliver.

A troubadour in the classic sense of the word, Erica enjoys traveling back roads, exploring small towns and collecting impressions along the way that eventually work their way into her songs. She sees her �job� as a way to take people on a journey through internal and external landscapes. Her concerts provide songs and stories that resonate with her