Band of the Week: Christopher Black

MEET THE BAND: Christopher Black (vocals, guitar)

A CASE STUDY: A former music student at Case where he studied violin and viola, Black also plays guitar and writes songs. He's pursued singing and songwriting since he was a youth. "I was pursuing solo stuff even when I was in [the local indie rock band] Bethesda," says Black, who grew up in Connecticut before moving to Northeast Ohio for college. "I would call [my upbringing as a musician] a family business. My parents are amateur musicians and my grandparents are music professors. It's been passed down through the ages." He started writing songs at Case. He played his first solo show at the now-shuttered Barking Spider. "It was incredibly awkward," he says of the gig. "It was a happy hour thing that they squeezed me into. It was good. It was trial by fire. I didn't forget any words, so that was good, but I didn't really make eye contact with anyone." He also opened for the Black Keys, the Akron-based indie rock band that would evolve into a national act.

AN IRISH INFLUENCE: Black says he thinks of singer-songwriter Van Morrison as his favorite songwriter, but his influences aren't all rooted in the past. "I like more modern stuff like Glen Hansard and Damien Rice," he says. "I love Springsteen and recently I've been listening to soul and R&B, lots of D'Angelo. Those are the big ones."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: Black recorded the drums, bass and acoustic guitar on his new self-titled album with his drummer Cass Jewell. Then he recorded the other pieces with local producer Jim Stewart. Those sessions took place about two years ago. "Some of the songs are five or six years old," Black says. "Things came together at the right place and right time. If I had only had a week in the studio, it wouldn't be as complete and as good as it is. I tried to take it back and find people who could do those things better than I can. The soul and R&B stuff made me open to horns. Being in Cleveland, there's great musicians who just want to help out." Black's quivering vocals give a song such as "We're Not Home" a real intensity — think Antony and the Johnsons — and a twangy guitar riff runs through the soaring "Where the Earth Meets the Sky." Black says he's so focused on getting this record done that he hasn't written much in the past year or two. "I'm heading more toward finger picking and Americana-type stuff. I learned that it's okay to take your time and if it's not good, it's not done."


WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: Christopher Black performs with Ray Flanagan and Holden Laurence at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Music Box Supper Club.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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