The Panama-born Blades has a music pedigree, in the sense that her uncle, Rubén Blades, once a presidential candidate in Panama, is a famous Latin-music star and character actor. Plus, Blades' father has produced Latin artists such as Marc Anthony. However, because her relationship with her dad's side of the family went sour years ago, Blades says her music career has been her own doing.

An extroverted 19-year-old, Blades isn't a typical acoustic musician. Her songwriting is more jazz improvisation, mostly because she doesn't write down anything. Everything is done on the spot, from the lyrics to tempo to chord progression.

She says, "When River and I recorded the first day, I was really self-conscious because he's like, "All right. Play a song." So I played a song. Then he said, "Do you want to do another take?" I said, "Yeah. The words aren't going to be the same." He was like, "No? What?"

All photos by Jamie Peachey
At a recent CD-release show at the Trunk Space, Michelle Blades performed to a packed house.
At a recent CD-release show at the Trunk Space, Michelle Blades performed to a packed house.

Jones remembers being taken aback by Blades' make-it-up-as-she-goes approach: "I was a bit freaked out at first, but I soon realized that she has a constant flow of songs and thoughts."

In February, River Jones Music released Blades' first studio recording, Oh, Nostalgia!, in digital format. Jones decided to offer the album through an iTunes-like site called www.thinkindie.com at a bargain cost of $4.99. Jones took a similar route with Andrews' Painter's Hands and a Seventh Son, a 14-track, full-length LP. (At the time, Think Indie site manager Tony Davis called Jones and asked whether he had listed the wrong price.)

The move paid off, especially with Oh, Nostalgia! When Think Indie's Davis heard the tracks, he decided, for the first time, to become actively involved in promoting an album on the Web site's home page.

"I listened to [Blades' album] and thought that if this was heard by the right people, it could really take off in a Lisa Germano-type of way. All it needed was press," says Davis, who adds that Jones' decision to offer downloadable albums at $4.99 "is a very smart price point for a developing artist."

A French outfit took notice of the record, too, and booked Blades on a three-week tour of Europe, scheduled this month. The European label is pressing a bunch of CDs, as well, all at no cost to Blades, who is taking the semester off from ASU.

Blades needed to figure out a way to get overseas, and River Jones is making it possible. He had 45,000 frequent-flier miles from his days as a touring drummer that would soon expire. The label is using the airfare credit to get Blades to Europe. Total out-of-pocket cost: $133.20.

When she returns from her summer tour, Blades plans to meet with Mark Kramer, who sought her out through MySpace. Kramer is a former member of the Butthole Surfers and has produced Ween, GWAR, and Daniel Johnston. Kramer and River Jones Music are planning to co-produce another record for Blades beginning in August.

All this for a southern Florida girl who's lived in Phoenix for only 14 months.


In cities with more established cultural scenes, Andrews and Blades might've achieved national success without leaving home. However, in a place like Phoenix and its environs, the pair's career advances are starting to max out the area's humble resources.

"If Courtney were in Seattle, she would have been signed to a bigger indie label by now," Jones says. "There just aren't any bigger indies in Phoenix."

Because there's only so much that one person can do, River Jones has been forced to give up some responsibilities. Andrews and Jones are no longer booking shows, and the label has become more of an artist-development company that tries to take its talent to the next level, à la Andrews' upcoming appearance on the new Jimmy Eat World record.

As a result, other do-it-yourself outfits like The Color Group (which promotes local pop-folk concerts) have tried to pick up the slack. A number of wanna-be labels are attempting to fill the void, too. However, Jones says, they soon realize that they are in over their heads. Jones says these well-meaning labels, many of which are run by people in their early 20s, call him frequently for pointers.

Also, there's no a central venue right now to showcase the music.

For example, on a recent Friday evening, Andrews performed at Hidden Elements Studio. It was only her second gig in town since December 2009. The only reason she played at the warehouse space (accessible only by traveling down a neighborhood street, through a large and confusing parking lot, and into a smaller, concealed lot) was for an art opening, although most of the walls were bare with several 5-foot-tall portrait paintings of African women resting against one wall.

When Andrews finally started playing, seven people were in the audience. Toward the end of the set, she debuted a Dylan-esque ditty chronicling all the places she's traveled to and played at along the West Coast. By then, a few people wandered in, bringing the grand total to nine.

An Andrews performance has become a rare occurrence since Modified Arts passed on the indie-rock game. Days after December's folk festival, longtime Modified owner Kimber Lanning handed the reins to Adam Murray and Kim Larkin; the husband-and-wife team decided to make the 10-year-old venue mostly about visual art.

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47 comments
NJ evictions
NJ evictions

G-Data Antivirus -While at the #1 spot, the tests done by PC World shows that it

definitely swept away most of the malware found on the computer, and they liked its

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guidance when working with other software.

antivirus review

Guest
Guest

Dave Brookhouser must not remember when River Jones did a fundraiser for Dave when Dave's video equipment was stolen in Phoenix last year. River raised $300 for CenPho TV to have new equipment.

That "boring ass trend" that Dave was referring to helped Dave buy a new video camera and laptop.

Peace out. That's cool if you don't get it.

Dave Brookhouser
Dave Brookhouser

Great article. I had been wondering why this boring ass trend was so popular nationally.

In the immortal words of David Lowery:

"What the world needs nowis another folk singerlike I need a hole in my head."

Josh Rodriquez
Josh Rodriquez

I think I visited that place! I went there to eat and loved it, went back maybe a month later and it was gone... very unfortunate. Funny, I remember this because stephen was in there when I was, and I thought it was weird. We talked for a bit but he never mentioned being affiliated with the place. Was it called the Lawful Falafel? Place was tasty! Stephen knows his music AND his food!

corey martinez
corey martinez

once stephen steinbrink and his uncle monty lent me $1,200 to start a taco/falafel/boba stand in north scottsdale back in 2008. he would drive up there everyday and eat so many tacos, leave, then come back a few hours later, eat a pound of falafel and then leave. up until i went out of business, he was pretty much my only customer, except he never paid... but i did (and still do) owe him money.

a few people said that it was the location that ultimately did me in, but that doesn't matter. he allowed me to follow my dreams, and eventually achieve them although they were swept away from me all to quickly. praise allah for stephen steinbrink's giant philanthropic spirit.

secret admirer
secret admirer

Stephen Steinbrink died for my sins. I worship at his alter.

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

Shalon.....you are loved and apprieciated greatly

Aa
Aa

i think the "not a fan" gripe, from the get go, has more to do with the theory that "really good for being 19" doesn't necessarily mean "really good".....????? no matter what you think of the artists featured in the story, good or bad, (and I'm not taking sides here AT ALL) there is definitely some attention brought to Courtney because she is brilliant "for her age." maybe that's why throwing rocks from behind a keyboard is easy for some?

Shalon Jones
Shalon Jones

Dear "Dream Big,"

Even though I do not have to prove anything to a nameless and faceless wimp, I’ll go ahead and list a few things just for fun. To start, River and I started this label together, so I am not feeding off his success. His success is a combination of teamwork from many people working together. Much of the work and financing has been done by me, but I don’t go around seeking credit. That is why I work full time and attend school full time to keep things going. That alone is a contribution to the community, but if you feel like you need more, I have helped multiple local businesses and non-profits in both the Tempe and Phoenix area. In addition, I have developed 2 curriculums for ASU, and working on developing another for GCC for Rock Music History. I am working with a notable professor of music there. I find it interesting that you feel I am somehow suckling from the success of River since I have never once sought any credit for myself. In fact, I refused to interview with Steve when he asked because I’m not a fame hungry hipster. That is why I chose to remain behind the scenes and help the artists in any way that I can while attending school full time and working full time to keep things afloat. To add, the reason I do not play my music out is because I am not a good musician like some of the people around me. I know that because, like I said earlier, I am a music critic myself. I prefer to help musicians in the community that do have something great to offer.

Ginae Klasek
Ginae Klasek

Hey Dream Big, RJM wouldn't exist without Shalon Jones being the backbone. Go ahead be angry, but at least focus it on something true. Also in the mean time here is the number for Touchstone Behavioral Health Services 623-930-8705 they provide free anger management classes.

With Love,

ginae

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

Hey..."Dream Big"...put your real name up, you weak little worm. I dont think you have the balls. Its easy to pick off people from the bell tower. So go a head a prove that you have an opinion and show who you are. You disgust me with your pathetic lack of nerve and instigation. What do you contribute to community? I guess the body does have to have an @$$h*le. To expel all the crap no one wants to see again. End of the chain you are....so since we dont know your name (and Im convinced that theres no way in hell that someone like you would have the nerve)at least we can all have a visual as to what you look like.....Sphincter Boy

DREAM BIG
DREAM BIG

Haha, oh brother. Shalon, it's cute that you try, but when you stop suckling off of your fiance's success and actually contribute something (hell, ANYTHING) to the Phoenix/Tempe community then I'd be a little more inclined to do anything other than laugh at every word that comes out of your mediocre, tasteless brain. Go listen to a Devendra Banhart record and choke.

Alexis
Alexis

actually, he is in this article. is says "the valley is also home to other talented singer songwriters such as Matthew Reveles and Stephen Steinbrink, the latter signed to Gillgongo Records."

sounds like someone saw the cover and didnt even read it! lol :)

i really like the article. i went to the folk show myself and it was awesome. i wouldnt say pop-folk is my fave kind of music, but these artists are still good. congrats you guys!

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

I havent got a chance to say it yet but, Courtney Im so proud of you.

R. J.
R. J.

To "whatever"

Did you even read the article? Stephen is IN IT. And, no one said anything bad about him. Are you dense? I bet all these posts are by James Fella anyway.

jason rpbertson
jason rpbertson

i dunno the only time i saw stephen steinbrink was at some house show a long time ago and he was singing about being in a love triangle and other stupid shit. he had blood all over his shirt and two other people were making loud distortion noise and stuff and then he passed out in a base drum. i think he was drinking or something.

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

I would have to say that stephen is a genius. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform at a show recently. He set up 2 amps and a couple of pedals..(delay and some reverb)and ran the whole thing sterio. so sitting upfront was a really great listening experience. He would create walls of beautiful noise and then a wonderful melody would take shape. I was more than impressed when the lyrics would start, great words and what a voice. I knew i was watching something great happen. I havent taken French Quarter out of my player since. Absolute genius

whatever
whatever

I think stephen steinbrink is the most genius singer-songwriter in this town and it gets me sooo pissed nobody appreciates him. everything he's done has been so eclectic and perfect. you'll all be sorry when hes dead and gone and you never gave him a new times cover story.

shame on you all

Shalon Jones
Shalon Jones

It seems that the negative comments about this article stem from people that were not mentioned in the article. Clearly, they do not have the balls to actually put their real name. I bet we all know these people. These are the people that are critics about everything except their own self promotion. Personally, I love music and I, too, am one of the worst music critics out there. However, being a music critic does not require calling someone “Courtney Marie Suck” or whatever other peon brained vocabulary one can conjure. Being rude on a local paper blog is simply not necessary to qualify one as a “critic.”

That being said, let’s really talk about the article! For one, I think Steve Jansen wrote a great article. He covered artists all along this tiny scene that are ALL great artists. Maybe they are not Sufjan Stevens or Cat Power. So what? Courtney’s lyrics are not simply teenage girl angst. Her lyrics are incredibly deep and insightful, especially for her age. And her voice? Amazingly in key and beautiful- something that the average coffee shop girl cannot claim for herself. And keep in mind, as I previously stated earlier, I am one of the biggest music critics out there. But I can vouch for the amount of growth, depth, and hard work that all these artists have done to try to establish a small piece of music in a small town. Anyone who does not acknowledge this simply cannot see the big picture.

Now, are there other great artists that were not mentioned in the article? Of course there are! Despite Steve’s incredible ability to write a great story, do you really expect him to cover everyone? C’mon now. That is just silly. Do you know who my favorite band is in town? Dry River Yacht Club. They are amazing and they definitely deserve a cover story one day. But, the fact that they deserve a cover story does not negate the fact that these artists do too!

I see all the hard work that these artists do together from behind the scenes, and these people are some of the most humble, grateful, talented, and hard working artists I have ever met. A true test of their character? They would never get on a blog and call other artists names. That is just immature, and not a true picture or criticism of anything at all. Healthy criticism involves reasonable reflection and analysis, not just some punk who is jealous that he is not ion the cover of a local magazine.

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

I can apprieciate that. I may have been a bit facetious myself. I do agree that the best music critics are not musicians. It wasnt the part that you trashed my friends music or her album that bothered me. It was the fact that you worded it in a way that also trashed my friends integrity. I get it, you dont like her music. Thats cool. I appologize for the angry comment. But i still believe in respect and that assuming anything about an individuals life, that you dont know anything about, as ignorant. But Art and music on the other hand is there to be loved or disliked. So have at it. But if you want to play critic, keep the lines clear as to what you are critiquing.

River Jones
River Jones

National Record Store Day is April 17th this year!!

Becky Bartkowski
Becky Bartkowski

It's definitely "Elliott Smith," and not "Elliot Smith."

also not a fan
also not a fan

Martin, I completely agree: the best critics typically aren't musicians. I may have been facetious about it, but that was what I was trying to convey in my last argument. I'm usually in complete disbelief over the reviews you give, but even if I dislike your column 80% of the time I still support your (or anyone else's) right to not like someone else's music. That's the whole fucking point that all of these "indie" toddlers seem to miss. There doesn't need to be a schoolyard fight just because someone trashed your pal's album.

River Jones
River Jones

If this is Jake Greider! I'm honored. You have one of the best voices in town. Everyone says so, and your song-writing is immaculate! Love you, xoxo.

jake
jake

haters wanna hate... lovers wanna love...

my world has been enriched by getting to know courtney, michelle and everyone in the phoenix music scene. positive people who love each other and love making music. the rest is bullshit power trips.

Martin Cizmar
Martin Cizmar

Also,

I feel the exact opposite about critics in bands. The best critics -- meaning the ones I like to read -- don't play anything. Once you relate too much to the subject you lose your objectivity and start pulling punches. That's why Charles Barkley and Michael Irvin made terrible TV commentators, for example. Music criticism is not some joke thing where you talk about how awesome your friend's band is, at least not for me. It's about giving people something to think about while they listen, and putting things in perspective.

Some dudes in bands can do that, but most dudes in bands play guitar 'cuz they wanted to impress a girl in 10th grade English, and joined a band because they wanted to impress a girl in college English, and don't have much of anything interesting to say about it...

River Jones
River Jones

Nice. It's obvious that there is tons of talent in Arizona. Let's support it... AJJ, Smokus Pokus, Courtney Andrews, What Laura Says, Pigeon Religion, Dakota Jeane, Marianne Dissard, Naim Amor, Fatigo, Haunted Cologne, Dry River Yacht Club, The Pods, Tobie Milford, The Other 49, Coats and Villa, Matthew Reveles, J.D. Stooks, Zachary James Dodds, Hooves, Superstereo, Baby Aviators, Soft Drink, Fathers Day, Black Carl, The Whisperlights, Chandails, all of the awesome stuff that comes from Bob Hoag, Flying Blanket, 513 Analog, Modern Art, Gilgongo, Conspire, Firehouse, all of the local DJ's, dance nights, pool parties, street fairs, and tons more! Help me please, what are some other great bands/places/things in Arizona? Let's talk about something positive for a change. Let's celebrate our favorite local artists and places. I understand that it's not controversial, but dammit... It's what's good for the community as a whole.

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

just so we are clear. installation and 5 lbs bag of bird seed is free with purchase of two or more birdhouses.

also not a fan
also not a fan

To also quote AJJ:"If this is how you folks make art, it's fucking depressing." In addition, Morgan, "Go out and make your own music. Give people a reason to care what you have to say instead of making gross generalizations based on age and appearance."OH, SHIT. Somebody needs to call MRR, Razorcake, RollingStone, and every other music/cultural zine that ever existed (including our very own New Times) and let them know that they CAN NOT critique anyone's music if they themselves are not in a band. Forgive me, I'll take off my shoes and pick up a tambourine right now so that next time I'll be more prepared.

P.S., that Pigeon Religion post was hilarious.

haha
haha

tom,

thank you for the novel, and your stats. however, i regret to inform you that the music still sucks. i'll send you an email if i'm ever in the market for a birdhouse or an after-school special.

Morgan
Morgan

If you think that Courtney's music isn't saying something, then you're not listening.

I can't speak to the work that other local indies are doing, but I've been lucky enough to catch a very small glimpse of the MASSIVE amount of work these kids do and while you may not like the music, at the very least you can respect that they're doing it.

To quote AJJ: "If that's what gets your dick hard, telling people they're bad at making art."

You don't like it, don't listen to it. Go out and make your own music. Give people a reason to care what you have to say instead of making gross generalizations based on age and appearance.

River Jones
River Jones

Why did Stephen Steinbrinks post disappear? Martin C has done cool things for my label, and Stephen Steinbrink makes great art. Here's what his post that disappeared said...

"I don't desire or need a New Times cover story, I recorded most of my albums with garageband with the onboard microphone of a beaten-to-hell iBook, and Gilgongo Records (which is run by one man, James Fella, out of his closet) has put out my records, but I never "signed" anything on paper. No need to harsh my mellow with all that legal mumbo-jumbo... See More. Not that kinda scene, y'know? I did have to give a blood oath of eternal loyalty to serve Mr. Fella 'till death.

Thanks River, for the kind words, and Michelle, I am totes' jelly of working with Kramer.

PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION PIGEON RELIGION"

also not a fan
also not a fan

I agree, Stephen IS great. That's why he should have the six page spread instead of Courtney-Marie Suck.

Thomas Thorp
Thomas Thorp

I understand that not everyone is moved by the same thing. I understand the cliche that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I also understand what it is to be courteous and respectful of other people sharing this planet with you...and although some of these posts did a bit more than boil my blood through their ignorant and hateful nature....i will do my best to not return the favor. Courtney is my friend....Michelle is my friend...every single person in that scene is my friend. Meaning...i know them. I have never heard a conceeded word out of any of their mouths. I have never seen them be anything but genuine and kind to everyone around them. I didnt read anything in that artical about Courtney "claiming" to be anything. I have on the other hand heard back handed comments behind their backs and seen them shunned. and for what? the last i checked, this artical that we are all commenting on wasnt written by Courtney....or River....or your mom. It was written by a local paper, about someone who has a great talent and passion for what she does. If only we could all be so lucky to believe in something like that. Phoenix is blessed to have the art scene that it does.....really...and it pains me to see such unprovoked prejudice amidst something so great. Its not just the music, its the visual art, its the people. and whether you like it or not, you are those people. Art is community, and when i look at Phoenix, i see that. I also see some haters....but yes it does come with the territory..... and having said that...."not a fan"..."still not a fan"..."also not a fan"...(Im not sure if those are the names that your mom gave you, and if they are, im guessing you are all siblings and your mom is your dads sister but...) if youll notice I was courteous enough to put my real name so you would know who was talking smack to you. I implore you to think a bit more before you go to typing hateful comments about people. It affects them. It hurts them. It also pisses people off that care about them. and in this case its not some gangly hipster prick that works at urban outfitters....its a 6'1" 215 pound carpenter that was raised on a ranch in southern New Mexico where people treat each other with respect. You should look into it. so next time you want to blab about people i suggest you do it in person, or in an insightful way ,or with not so much contempt and hate on your tongue. but i understand... your soft little keyboard fingers sometimes get the best of you, dont they? but keep it to yourself and the selfentitled, narrowminded, hypocritical, pubescent, go nowhere click you probably run around with. Your ignorance is bleeding all over the nice white carpet. and I dont like it. Thats all.I can be reached at:Thomas Thorp 22 Gentry LnLa Luz, NM 88337foodnpooptubes@yahoo.comany sly remarks regarding this can be sent there.im also accepting texts(575) 921-7272

River Jones
River Jones

I think Stephen Steinbrink is one of the best songwriters in the valley. He's amazing! Me and Michelle played his song the other day on college radio and gave a shout out to Gilgongo Records. I agree that Stephen Steinbrink should get a cover story also. I actually asked during the process of this story! He's been around for years and has toured the entire US multiple times. The tone is great on his records. Courtney wanted to know who recorded him, she really liked it when I plyed it for her. There is a lot of great music in the valley. Congrats to all. xo Sorry if this posts twice, the first one was not showing up on the New Times comment box.

also not a fan
also not a fan

Really?Stephen Steinbrink > Courtney-Marie AndrewsBubblegum doesn't need attention, and even worse this generic, 19-year-old hipster is a carbon copy of every other girl that idolizes Chan Marshall. It's incredibly insulting for this person to say that she "built" the music scene, even for it's genre. That's complete bullshit and I know I'm not the only person reading this that would agree. Why don't we have more female musicians actually saying something, and less teenage girls that think their the only one in the coffee shop with their nose in an ever-so-cliche "spiral ring notebook"? Baffling. Write about shit that really matters, not the boy at Urban Outfitters that never called you back.

Eric Snyder
Eric Snyder

Love it! So glad Courtney and Michelle and the whole River Jones Music crew are getting this attention. So much hard work and great music has been happening! This scene is important and Modified Art or not...it needs to be supported! So excited for what is to come for these guys! But let's just enjoy this moment. Spectacular.

Still Not a Fan
Still Not a Fan

I'll defend my opinion by saying yes! she is talented, but there is nothing Special or telling about her music. I've seen her play and her presence is calming and cute but playing guitar and singing pretty songs has been done and overdone in the valley and all around. Phoenix has more to offer than that and the haters are all around and will remain. S'all i'm saying.

Elliott
Elliott

I'm glad New Times finally did an article about this scene in Phoenix. We have so many good artists here that go unnoticed.

A Fan
A Fan

how is Michelle Blades that much better (if at all)? They have very similar sounds and they're both honestly very good. It seems you're more wrapped up in the details of the musician instead of they're music. Haters gonna hate.

Not A Fan
Not A Fan

the other day a song came on the radio and i was like "ugh is this courtney marie andrews on the RADIO?!" then i realize! "Oh wait, NO! Its just joan baez!"

any cute female in Phoenix with a guitar and some kind of voice will "make it". Average Average Average.

Michelle Blades FTW.

 
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