NORWICH – Rising fast to become one of central New York's most popular and appreciated bands, the Lightkeepers were awarded the honorable Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist during the 2016 annual SAMMY awards in early March.
“It was it's nice to be recognized, but this specific award is pretty special. Scott Sterling, who produced our album knew Brian Bourke personally,” said Jes Sheldon, Norwich native and vocalist for the group. “Brian was a huge supporter of the live music scene in Syracuse.”
The Brian Bourke Award for Best New Artist is select by a poll of Syracuse area music professionals, booking agents producers.
Sheldon parlayed that for the Lightkeepers, clenching the nod wasn't as much about notoriety as it was about being honored. “This award is a memorial, and that makes it even more special.”
Far from a “pay-off,” the SAMMY on the mantle does instill a sense of accomplishment and merit for all five members of the Lightkeepers, who formed all of two years ago.
Forged from five long-time local music luminaries, all paying their dues gig after gig in other groups, the 'Keepers understand the importance in pushing the sometimes-stagnant CNY music scene along, and brush a broad swath honest originality and flair into the landscape.
Said Sheldon, “With the rise of shows like the American Idol and The Voice, coupled with the viral popularity of YouTube—it seems as if the days of the garage band are at an end; but the Lightkeepers hope to carry the flame of 'real' original music.”
Self-admittedly, the fuel that keeps the group moving forward is the individual influence that each of the five members bring to the table. “With Mike (Vincitore) and Aaron (Fried) coming from 20 years with local legends Dark Hollow, the two bring that 'Grateful Dead-jam' influence that resonates so well in a live setting,” said Sheldon.
PJ Will (of The Hook fame) brings along his playbook of rock rhythm—a staple of any gigging band—and percussionist Jim Dunham who’s also a member of a bluegrass act “Boots 'n Shorts” provides yet another intricate influence to the stew.
“We span genres from jam-rock and blues to soul and funk, something we like to call Soul Jam,” said Sheldon.
As far as Sheldon's influences: “It all started with church and musical theater and continued with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin,” said Sheldon, who also reveals that a recent helping of Sharron Jones, The Dapkings, and The Tedeschi Trucks Band has left a sweet taste on her tongue.
But while the Lightkeepers love to look back from time to time on the classics, the motivation to harvest new material is of utmost importance. “We have a pretty busy summer of shows coming up and we've been working on quite a bit of new original material,” said Sheldon.
The group is poised to head back into the studio to work on a sophomore followup to the the group's 2015 self-titled debut within the year, and – spoiler alert – it's not going to be just another copy of the first cut.
“Much of our first album was a result of the studio as we were still trying to find “our sound,” quipped Sheldon. “As we've continued to play and grow together, we’ve developed our own unique sound.”
And now as we all write we can do so with that sound in mind. Stagnation can be the death of a band.”
Catch the Lightkeepers at the Blarney Stone in Norwich this Friday (April 1) beginning at 9 p.m.
For more information, visit LightkeepersMusic.com of “like” The Lightkeepers on Facebook.