By Zach Collier
“Really, Utah County is the story of America,” says local folk/country artist Andrew Wiscombe about why folk music resonates with people in the valley. “”Hard working people who made the desert blossom with little to no resources. Liberty, intellect, and creativity – that is the spirit of American roots music [like] folk, country, bluegrass, and Americana. We’ve lived it here since ’47.”
You can say the ideals of hard work, liberty, intellect, and creativity have been at the core of Muse Music for the last decade – a venue that has blossomed despite humble beginnings with little to no resources.
Muse Music is Provo’s longest running, continuously operated music venue. Corey Fox, owner and founder of Velour Live Music Gallery, actually worked at Muse as their booking manager in 2003 – back when then-owner Chuck Hamm was still trying to make back the money he’d personally invested in the venue.  Muse filled a void after several other local venues like Mama’s Cafe and Wrapsody had closed down and there was nowhere in Provo to play.  The venue changed hands several times over the years – often facing extreme financial difficulties  – but it always came back. Each time it did the focus has been the same: promote growth in Provo culture by providing artists – of any kind – a place to showcase their work.
This is why folk artists will find a comfortable, familiar home at Muse Music this weekend. At their new location on center street, Muse is giving folk artists from around Utah an entire weekend to express themselves.
“This music allows me to create the thoughts, feelings, and ideas running through my brain that being in a full band wouldn’t quite capture for me,” says Wiscombe. “It keeps my music and stories raw and real. It makes people think. It captures and shares emotions with the crowd in an intimate way that is hard to do with a full band […] there is something about this genre that works for a solo artist like myself.” A one man band, Wiscombe has been playing guitar for 20 years, often accompanying himself with harmonica and percussion in the form of a suitcase drum and foot tambourine. “I’ve had people fooled into thinking that a full acoustic band is playing.”
Salt Lake’s folk rock group Johanna Johanna came together over a shared love for artists like Brandi Carlile and Rilo Kiley. Those influences shine through in equal measure in their music. Their song “Back To You” sounds like a folk harmony infused, Rilo Kiley cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn.” Listen to all three of the influences I just mentioned and then listen to Johanna Johanna. You’ll see where I’m coming from.
Formed in the summer of 2013, they’re named after lead singer Kayley Glauser’s great grandmother Johanna. “We have no statistics to back up this theory, but we really wonder if we are one of a handful bands formed from a KSL ad that has lasted longer than a few months,” says Mike Barney, drummer for Johanna Johanna. “Right off the bat it just clicked.”
Barney has played in various bands from punk to progressive rock. Johanna Johanna has been a special experience for him. “[Folk music] became the foundation of our sound […] as we solidified ourselves and started writing more and more, those different backgrounds and influences became the walls and ceiling that were built upon that folk rock foundation.”
Wiscombe shares a similar musical background to the Johanna Johanna drummer. He grew up in Spanish Fork and played in the Provo scene with a punk rock band in high school. Now living in Salt Lake City, Wiscombe has decided to release his latest album The River, The Lark, The Pine in Provobecause, in his words, “It’s my roots!” His blend of teenage punk roots and country music-style devotion to home made Muse Music a perfect venue for the release.
The album release show is tonight, kicking off Muse’s weekend of folk acts. When asked about his album, he said, “The River, The Lark, The Pine itself is about being comfortable being yourself regardless of what others think. The album has a wide array of emotions that are personal on some level. A fan of mine in Oklahoma said that I sing my life, and I think that is true through the use of stories put to music. Every song has a story behind it.”
Johanna Johanna is coming to Muse on Saturday night. “Salt Lake is a city that is so spread out that it makes it hard for people to find and follow a lot of those great artists and be involved with the scene,” says Barney. “Provo, on the other hand, is a cool college town and there are only so many places to play. For that reason, the music scene is thriving. It seems the community is aware of that and they’re all really excited to be involved with it. We think that is a really great thing to see.”
Like Wiscombe, Johanna Johanna also loves the ability music has to tell a story. “Our album is a snapshot of us as we were in that time […] There are many stories behind each song on the album. Not just in the lyrics, but also in the music. Each one of us had a lot of things going on in our own lives- some of it happy and exciting, and some of it stressful and difficult. Its interesting to see that stuff come through the recording process.”
Come enjoy a weekend of folk at Muse Music. Belle Jewel, Tate Sexton, and The Real Doug Lane will also be performing at Andrew Wiscombe‘s album release tonight, January 15th. Tomorrow, January 16, Our Lives In Indigo and Colours in the Basement will perform alongisde Johanna Johanna. For both shows, doors open at 8PM and admission is $7.