Tobias the Owl, Sojourn Soul and Jeremiah Craig Shine Bright in Ballard
As soon as I entered through the doors at Conor Byrne in Ballard, I could feel the love inside shared by all the performers. It was a very special night, which held a sense of community and support for one another. It was great to see everyone hugging each other, smiling and conversing, excited to share their music with one another and everyone there. From the moment I arrived, I knew I was in for a treat. Usually when I go to a show, one artist/band stands out for me, this time that wasn’t the case. This time all three stood out and held their own. What they shared that night was thought provoking, emotional and made the audience feel a connection to them. It was also somewhat educational. Upstate New York native, Jeremiah Craig taught us a few things about Bothell, and that blackberries aren’t indigenous to upstate New York in his song, “Thistle Bill”. Dustin Saksek, who makes up one part of Sojourn Soul opened his heart and showed us all his vulnerable side when he passionately sang a song inspired by his grandfather called “Love Like a Hammer”. Even Tobias the Owl’s Elijah Dhavvan dropped some knowledge on us between songs. Just listen to their song 1729 on their latest album, “A Safe Harbor for Wayward Echoes” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a show where I’ve tapped my foot and wore a silly grin on my face for that long. This particular show makes me thankful for living in Seattle, a city that has so many incredibly talented people living in it.
Yes, Jeremiah is one guy, but his personality fills the stage. He started off the night sharing a story, which was lighthearted and a bit comical, which made us feel entertained from the very beginning. His stage presence and the way he talked to the audience kept everyone’s attention and put smiles on a lot of people’s faces. I’d say he’s more of a balladeer craftsman than your typical singer-songwriter. His lyrics are different than anything I’ve heard before, which makes him stand out. Jeremiah is definitely original by saying and singing about the most unique things that most people wouldn’t even think about, like his song Odd Nog, which you should go add to your holiday play list right now. From his creative promotion for the show to his own set singing and playing guitar, he also joined Tobias the Owl on stage playing harmonica on Deep River City. He’s one talented guy! If you get the chance to ever see him, do it. You’ll be thoroughly entertained and just may leave with a big silly grin on your face.
Next up on stage was the duo known as Sojourn Soul (Dustin Saksek on vocals and guitar and Elizabeth McIntosh on vocals). Andrew Martin accompanied them on piano, which really made the sound even larger. Let me tell you, when these two go on stage, you wouldn’t expect what you’re in for. They’re way more than a guy with a guitar and a girl who sings. That’s initially all you would expect typically, but as soon as Dustin started strumming his guitar and singing with his deep, soulful voice, I knew it would be good. However, it was the unexpected powerhouse voice of the small wonder that is Elizabeth McIntosh that really sealed the deal. This girl has pipes! She sent chills down my spine when she sang “Still Like a Crow”, which you can find on their album, Wanderlust, which also features a song by that name that totally rocked the house. Their call and response vocals and harmonies had me glued. After the show, I was lucky enough to sit with them and talk a little about how they met and their songwriting process.
ALY: How long have you guys been a group? ELIZABETH: Just over three years now? DUSTIN: I’m not sure about the exact date but, oh yeah, it would have been about three years and a few months. Yeah, it was in the fall that we started working together three years ago. ALY: Let’s talk about your songwriting. What kinds of things inspire you? DUSTIN: So...I’m a big book nerd and I try to tell stories. I mean, I try. I find that painting images comes better to me. I spend a lot of time reading poetry and I’m sure that contributes to that. But… Otherwise, when it’s not just trying to paint a pretty picture, it’s talking about what’s going on in my life, like “Love Like a Hammer”. It’s specifically about my Grandpa, but I think it’s relatable to other people as well. ALY: Yeah, it’s really passionate. I felt it. DUSTIN: Thanks ALY: So, do you have a particular way you craft your songs? Do you start off with a guitar riff or…? DUSTIN: Sometimes. I mean, it kind of just depends on what strikes me. Sometimes, I’m just going through my exercises for lead guitar or rhythm and there’s something that makes me say, “I really like that” that makes me want to tweak it and turn it into something a little more personal and make it more of my own. Sometimes I’m listening to songs from other people, and I get ideas and want to write a song about the same stuff this person is talking about.
ALY: Do you have any shows coming up? DUSTIN: Yeah, Next weekend, we’re playing at Tim’s Tavern, that’s on the first (of December) Um, I believe it’s the 28th, we’re playing at C&P Coffee, On the 12th, we’re playing at Zippy’s Café’ ELIZABETH: That’s over in Everett. DUSTIN: Up in Everett, that’s right. After that, I’m doing out next set of booking. We’re kind of at the end of our show season, but we’re trying to play two shows a month. If you want to see Soujorn Soul, they appear to have more shows, I highly recommend checking them out. Tobias The Owl
The headliners for the night were Tobias the Owl, lead by singer/songwriter and wise owl himself, Elijah Dhavvan. He was there with his full band, which features backing vocals, drums, bass, violin, guitar and yes, a harpist! Yes! I said a harpist! How many bands in Seattle can say they have a harp? It was seriously amazing to hear these songs as a group with this instrumentation. The sound was huge and the songs melodic. I still have Deep River City flowing through my brain. They mostly stuck to playing all the wonderfully catchy things from their new album, or “owlbum” as they like to say, which is called “A Safe Harbor for Wayward Echoes”. They did however play “Murmurs” from “Every Eye Is a Universe” which was released in 2016 and caught international success. They were amazing and had the crowd up on their feet crowded around of the stage. I had a chance to talk to the band before the show.
ALY: How long have you all been playing together? ELIJAH: I have been with Yun-En (violinist) for like three years now, I’ve been with Rachel (backing vocals) for a year now, and I’ve been with Jerrett (guitar) for about eight months, I’d say. And with Nic (bass), this is our third show.
ALY: How did you all meet? How did this all come together?
ELIJAH: I poached Yun-En pretty hard from a band that he was in. YUN-EN: I mean, I knew they weren’t super serious, so it was totally fine. ELIJAH: Yeah. But I really did (poach him). Yeah, and since then, a lot of other people have poached him from our band, so he plays with a lot of folks around town now. Rachel (Cunha) and I know each other from the music scene. Rachel is a singer-songwriter, she’s got a great, fantastic album. And Jerret (Samples) is also a singer-songwriter and he’s got an album coming out in a few days at the Tractor and his last EP was really fantastic too. Josh (Kornblah) is the drummer and this is his first show with us. And then Alyssa (Martini) plays harp with us for probably a year or two.
ALY: So your album, A Safe Harbor for Wayward Echoes, is my favorite album right now. So, who here in this group plays on that album? ELIJAH: Aww, Thank you. Yun-En, Rachel and Alyssa are on the album. Oh, Jerret played for this album too. And then Josh is not on the album and Nic is not on the album. They’ve joined us fairly recently. Our bass player on the album was Sebastian Steinburg, from Iron and Wine, and he plays with Fiona Apple, he’s kind of a session guy down in LA.
Tobias the Owl has some more shows coming up. Check them out live at Chop Suey, December 29th and also check out their new “owlbum”, every song on there is amazing, which I find very rare these days.