Happy Fan Friday! On Fridays we will be recognizing Jamwich fans or contributors who are making a positive impact on the community. As a publication for the fans, by the fans, our community members are what make the magic happen and they deserve some recognition! Our first fan for Fan Friday is Ashley Feller, a musician and writer who has been contributing to The Jamwich for a few years. She is a Florida native and her favorite festival is Suwannee Spring Reunion and its sister festival Suwannee Roots. She plays folk and bluegrass music solo and in a band and loves the uniting power of music. Yesterday we published her article Five Ways to Get More Live Music In Your Life, if you’d like to check out some of her writing. We talked to her today about both writing and playing music so you could get to better know this beautiful soul!
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am a third generation Florida native. I grew up in a historic part of Panama City Florida called St. Andrews. I now live close by in another neighborhood called The Cove which is also part of historic Panama City.
What do you like about the area, what do you dislike?
I enjoy the natural beauty that remains despite the devastation due to Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Panama City is east of Panama City Beach which is coastal to the Gulf of Mexico. This area is known for massive live oak trees, sand dunes, and beautiful beaches. I also like that despite our decline in location we still have a strong community of musicians, artists, writers, story tellers and creative people who are talented in several concentrations.
I dislike that many of the buildings that I grew up seeing every day are gone. I dislike having to ask myself “Has that business been demolished, closed forever, or relocate?” On a nearly daily basis. I also dislike that we have a limited amount of places to hear live music. The people of Panama City deserve more.
How long have you enjoyed writing? What is one of the first things you remember writing for fun?
I have enjoyed writing since childhood. My childhood was during the time before the internet was prevalent and people were still using electric type writers and word processors. I would write humorous stories about my pets, I would also write plays on my typewriter.
What do you like to write about?
Writing about music is my happy place when it comes to writing. I like to express what I see, feel and hear in such as a way that others might feel a connection by reading my reviews, articles, etc. I also like to write fiction. I haven’t actively tried to write much fiction in a long time but I am feeling the calling to write light hearted short stories that evoke various emotions in readers.
Who is your favorite author? What is your favorite book?
That would have to be Shel Silverstien and any of his poetry books but especially Where The Sidewalk Ends. I must give an honorable mention to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
What is your favorite type of music? What is your favorite band (and why)?
Progressive Bluegrass and any music that is perpetually improvisational. My longtime favorite band is The David Grisman Quintet but lately my new favorite has been Greensky Bluegrass. I also love bands like The Grateful Dead, Phish, Moe and Umphrey’s McGee. I enjoy music that focuses on experimentation, pushing the limits musically. I also enjoy the virtuosity it takes to play that kind of music. To play progressive genres of music the musicians have to use their imaginations combined with their playing ability to create something their listeners will connect to.
How long have you been playing music yourself? What instruments do you play?
I have been playing music since I was between four and six years old. I started playing the organ with my grandma so for over 20 years. I started taking piano lessons in elementary school which led to being in middle and high school symphonic and marching bands. In the school setting I was mainly playing trombone. However, in my spare time I had learned to play the flute and penny whistle by watching my father play with bluegrass bands. We went to festivals nearly every weekend throughout my adolescence. I started playing with a professional bluegrass band at about age 15. Then later learned to play acoustic guitar and sing in my junior and senior year of high school. In my early twenties I gained limited abilities on the accordion, vibraphone, and melodica. I would say that guitar, flute and penny whistle are my main stays.
What artist or musician inspires your music the most?
Definitely John Prine or Dolly Parton. Those two can write songs about real human experiences that leave the audience laughing and or crying every time.
How does your songwriting process work? How does it compare with your other writing? What do you enjoy more?
I don’t wait for something to happen to write. My mantra is “Wake up and write” when I can’t think of what to write I hand write my mantra in a notebook until something pops up my head and then I make a layout of how the piece will go. I try to take cues from every day experience for inspiration. If I am writing fiction I focus on character development and emotion. Which I guess is similar for my original songs except most of my songs are pretty well based on actual situations and people I know. If I’m writing a review of an album, concert, film I think its best to write in a concise way so readers can clearly understand the content but to also include details that give color to the piece. I like songwriting the most because it combines story telling and my love for playing music and in my situation it is a kind of performance art.
Will you be playing any shows or releasing any new music soon?
I will be playing a variety of shows in the coming months. Some will be songwriter round shows, some will be bar gigs, and some will be festivals. I released an original single September 24th for my birthday which was recorded at Eddie Owen Presents in Atlanta. It is available on AshleyFellermusic.com . I have a good bit of unrecorded music that I hope to record in 2020 after finishing helping some peers with their recording projects.