“If you learn anything from me, get a vision board,” Charlotte-based rapper Yung Citizen told the crowd at the CLT Loft Sessions show last Saturday night.
His vision board is really a whiteboard he keeps in his office where he writes down his musical and career goals. Playing the Loft Sessions was a high priority on the board this year.
Yung Citizen spent his hour-long set April 6 at Not Just Coffee in Southend showcasing new music and giving his audience an inside look at his songwriting process. That kind of advice and audience interaction are exactly what makes the monthly “listening room” concert series unique.
CLT Loft Sessions highlights local musicians and visual artists. It is the brainchild of Emily Sage and Sara Colée.
Sage moved to Charlotte in 2017 and began playing shows around the city. She quickly realized the bar and brewery scenes were not great for her softer, soulful voice. Unsure what to do next, she reached out to her friend Colée, a brand manager and graphic designer. Sage asked Colée to manage her and help create “a space that fit my music.”
Colée agreed and the first Loft Session was born: at Atherton Lofts, with just 16 people in attendance.
“We wanted to create a space where our own small, little show made sense,” Colée said.
Originally slated to be a three-part series, word of mouth made the concept take off, and by the end of the last show this past September, Colee said, “Everyone kept asking, ‘When is the next one?’”
So they decided to keep things going and change it up a little, moving to different venues as it suits their needs.
“I used to perform at all the Loft Sessions,” Sage said. “But we want other local artists to come and perform.”
They also added a visual component to the shows, bringing in local photographers like Adam Eugene, who showcased his work the same night as Yung Citizen. Once they started connecting with local creatives, they found plenty of other artists in Charlotte hungry to connect and perform in a more intimate venue.
“There’s a space and a place for the Fillmores, but in order to get to that spot, a lot of local performers are struggling,” Colée said. “The beginning and middle markets were hurt by the closures [of smaller venues in Charlotte].”
Curt Keyz, another artist who performed at Yung Citizen’s show, said the Loft Sessions are “a platform where you can be true [as an artist]. It’s purposeful and it gives Charlotte artists a voice.”
While the initiative grows, Sage and Colée have started another concert series called “B-sides,” which is a step up in size and number of performances from the Loft Sessions.
They are happy to see interest grow in both platforms, but Sage says they want to continue to keep the Loft Sessions a smaller, more intimate show.
“There’s something really special to that,” she said. “I love having a space where artists can share the real story – the stories behind the songs. A lot of people see a song on Spotify, and they listen and are done. They don’t realize it took years to make. An artist doesn’t just show up and sing, there’s more to it. It’s a beautiful, hard process and it should be valued.”
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