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STEALING HEARTS: Erich Skelton is a messy songwriter.
He sometimes hums melodies into his phone. Other times he records guitar riffs and lyrics onto his computer to be found later. When Skelton sits down to write, he usually has a lot of pieces to sift through.
"It's a lot more like putting a puzzle together than sitting down and writing a country song in one sitting," said Skelton, who spent a few months in Nashville. "It's a lot more than sitting on the porch with an acoustic guitar and whiskey."
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Whatever the process - and however messy - Skelton and his band, Marry a Thief, produce lovely, heart-stealing pop music. The band will release an EP, "Reaction, Explosion" (with or without the comma), tonight at New Brookland Tavern.
Justin Register, the former frontman of Madison Fair who joined Marry a Thief in January, produced the EP. How did working with another songwriter affect the project?
"We went into it with an agreement that he would kind of let me do my thing, and he would do his thing," Skelton said. "I don't do well working with others on the shell of the song."
But this record in some ways is a departure from Skelton's writing process.
"For this EP, I didn't say anything to anyone about their parts," he said. That meant Colin Brown, Josh McClary and Register could fill in Skelton's song skeletons with what they thought worked.
"I never had to tell anybody what part to play - or to play that part again," Skelton said.
And it sounds lovely.
The show is at 8 p.m. NBT is at 122 State St., West Columbia. With Sweet Vans and Cayla Fralick. $10
TELLING STORIES: Jonathan Edwards sings his heart out at concerts. But he also likes to tell stories from the heart, too. Fans at Newberry Opera House Sunday will get a little bit of both.
"I'm all about the connection with the audience," Edwards said. "I live for that level of engagement. I feel like people have a good time and feel like they know me at the end of the show.
"It's just something that happens naturally."
Edwards is known on the concert circuit for delighting fans with his thoughts and observations. It's almost as if he has a routine, but Edwards said he doesn't plan his between-song banter.
"Of course not," he said. "You just stand up there and wonder what to say and how to say it. You take a chance. At the end of the day, you listen to your live shows and wonder what are you talking about?"
Edwards, a Minnesota native, has been performing and telling tales for almost four decades. He's best known for hit folk songs such as "Shanty" and "Sunshine," the latter a vibrant statement about the Vietnam War.
He knows what his performance means to some folks: nostalgia.
"It's nostalgic escapism," Edwards continued.
Folk musicians are in demand these days. Lyricists with a guitar can put the worldly disarray in perspective better than, say, a guy in a tight leather jacket screaming about how much "you" broke his heart.
"It's authentic in the best of homes," Edwards said about folk musicians. "There's no tricks. It's a guy with a guitar. Or a girl with a guitar. With a couple of sidemen and no tricks.
"We know how to do it, because we can."
Edwards does get a little help from the crowd, though. He takes requests. Edwards, who has released 15 albums, said he has almost 100 songs at the ready.
"I let the crowd tell me what they want to hear," he said. "Whatever they want to hear, I'll give a shot at it.
"Every night it's a different situation. It's a new room, a new crowd."
Why not give the fans what they want since paying customers are the reason performers travel from city to city? Singers like Edwards know a good night of music - and some talking - for a good price goes a long way in this economy.
"It tends to relax people, help people to forget about the day-to-day," Edwards said of his show. "The economic picture. The wars. It's sort of escapism, really."
The show is at 3 p.m. The opera house is at 1201 McKibben St., Newberry. $20; (803) 276-6264
CHURCH MUSIC: The David Crowder Band titled its latest album "Church Music." That's sort of misleading. Kind of. Crowder and his band do write Christian contemporary music, but it's not the kind of sound you'd typically expect to hear in a church - unless you go to one of his shows at a church.
Crowder's "Church Music Tour" will stop at Shandon Baptist Church Thursday.
"Our sound is definitely more progressive than what comes to mind when you put those words together," Crowder said about the title of the record and tour. "But it's legit. This is exactly what we're doing."
"Church Music," the band's fifth album, was released in September and reached the No. 11 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. The first leg in support of "Church Music" was done at traditional rock clubs such as House of Blues where church music of any kind doesn't usually pack venues.
Some folks don't want sacred music to mix with secular venues, but Crowder supports worshipping in non-traditional spots. The lines between secular and sacred are blurring.
"We like to take down the presuppositions of things," he said. "You find good in places you never suspected. Lots of time, we try to cloister ourselves away and protect ourselves from cultural influences.
"Culture has had an influence even in the church where we feel safe."
Crowder has progressive ideas, but he hasn't thought of the band as a role model for Christians.
"We probably, to be perfectly honest, don't spend enough time thinking about it in those terms," he said. "We've tried to shield ourselves to those thoughts."
He'd rather keep things simple, like broadening - or is that changing? - the meaning of church music.
"We are very conscious about the language we choose," he said about the band's music. "We want it to be a natural, authentic expression. And we use language that makes sense to us."
The concert starts at 7 p.m. Seabird and Danyew will open. The church is at 5250 Forest Drive. $20 in advance, $25 at the door; (803) 782-1300, ext. 105