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Local musicians profess their love for how St. Louis has inspired their music

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Claudia Hensley feels her art deeply. Often, she has goosebumps while performing.

Claudia Hensley feels her art deeply. Often, she has goosebumps while performing.

Aaron Cooke

Aaron Cooke

Claudia Hensley feels her art deeply. Often, she has goosebumps while performing.

Liz Baker, Central Focus Editor-in-Chief

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Everyone starts somewhere and for these musicians, St. Louis was their somewhere. From the St. Charles Main Street to house parties in the area, bands like The Slow Boys and solo artist Claudia Hensley have been bringing crowds to their feet with mellow jams and rocking bangers. The local St. Charles local music scene also includes choirs like the Ambassadors of Harmony.

Bill Sanders, guitarist and frontman of The Slow Boys, lives and breathes the scene here, befriending other bands, rehearsing more than twice a week, and performing around 2 shows a month. Sanders was hesitant to categorize the band’s style but noted they strayed more indie.

“We try to diversify as much as possible, but an overarching theme, I’d say, would be indie punk,” Sanders said. “I like [our song] ‘Pizza for Peace’ a lot because it’s just really fun, a lot of people at our shows know it, people start jumping around and stuff.”

The reaction of the crowd is a favorite of Hensley’s as well. Hensley has been playing guitar for two years now and does her own vocals, she’s a Picasso’s coffee shop ‘Open Mic Night’ regular, showing up every Thursday to perform a few songs. While Hensley covers many songs, she also writes her own and nothing brings more joy than a crowd that isn’t afraid to participate.

“[I love] when people that are listening get involved, especially when I play one of my songs that I play a lot and then people will sing along with that. When people sing a song I wrote, I get chills every time, even if it’s just a cover, I get goosebumps,” Hensley said.

For Ambassadors of Harmony member Ethan White, the energy of the crowd also can make or break the show. While White’s performances contrast heavily with those of Hensley and Sanders, (a typical performance is held at a church or a performance hall), he finds the same amount of contentment in an audience that engages with the show and isn’t afraid to serve back the energy the chorus puts out.

“My favorite atmosphere for performing would be one where the audience likes to perform with you. It’s like if you’re singing a song that everybody knows, and they know when to come in, like, they either clap or they sing along with you. I like that, it kind of brings a smile to my face, because we’re able to project that out and they’re able to project it back to us,” White said

Part of the joy of performing for these musicians is the atmosphere of where they perform. Here in St. Charles coffee shops, small stores, and house parties are the favorite for artists in the area like Sanders and Hensley.

“Honestly, venues are fun, but house shows are the best for me. I like playing in someone’s basement or something because not only are there less rules as to what you can do, it just feels more organic. It’s a party atmosphere, but you’re playing a show, so people are more likely to get into it,” Sanders said.  

The Slow Boys have also gotten the chance to open for a bigger band “The Buttertones” at Off Broadway, a band Sanders and his bandmates are fans of.

 

“When they asked us to open [for them], it was like ‘How did they hear about us?’ That was really fun. We talked to some of the dudes in the band, they were all really nice. They said we were opening bands they’d had on the whole tour,” Sanders said.

The Ambassadors of Harmony concerts are a bit of a different experience than those of The Slow Boys. Most of their concerts are held in performance concerts such as the Touhill Center or churches. The Touhill is White’s favorite place to perform, there the barbershop choir sings to over a thousand people.

“It’s a very different from what I usually have for the high school performances where it’s like, we sing in a church and it’s kind of like a small group and all that. The Touhill has, I think, close to 1600 seats. So you have people like on the balcony and on the floor, and everyone’s watching you. You have this huge stage that you’re standing on, you have all this very up to date technology that they use for projecting sound, it’s just really cool to see,” White said.

For Hensley, the more chill vibes and loyal crowd of patrons at the Picasso’s coffee shop are what brings her back every week.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake Picasso’s, I really love it in this general area. The vibes are always so good, everyone’s always so nice. It’s just a good place to be,” Hensley said.

While Hensley performs at the coffee shop every Thursday, her favorite memory of performing occurred four hours away in Newtown, Mo., before she was a Picasso’s regular and before she started her own music.

“I was out in Newtown a while back, before I got really serious about music and I was just playing to play and people put money in my case. That was just the moment where I was like ‘I have to get serious about this,’” Hensley said.

Surrounded by music as a child, Hensley found the only path that made sense was a musical one. She laid the foundation for writing and creating her own music by starting with covers of other artists like Britney Spears, Survivor, and the Black Crowes; her own sound is more scattered unlike other artists who tend to stick within a genre, Hensley draws inspiration from the people around her.

“[I draw inspiration from] stories about my life and what my friends tell me about their lives. I like story during music, something to follow along with, so I like writing in that way,” Hensley said.

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