CHS Crow | Keoni, Sarah and Nick — ‘When you have all the eyes and ears on you, you have to deliver’

Music and community were in abundance at Scratch Deli when the CHS Crow stopped by during a Thursday night open mic at the 12th Ave eatery. Among the performers and attentive audience members — and there was significant overlap — the CHS Crow met three dedicated young Seattle musicians with day (and night) jobs, and loads of talent. Read on, and if you’re inspired to stop by sometime, do know that several regulars asked that people respect the special and supportive scene that’s been created at ‘Scratch.’

  Keoni, 21

Keoni and Lewis playing a rendition of “Rocks in my Bed,” written by Duke Ellington and famously sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Who are you?
I was born in Hawaii, moved up here about a year-and-a-half ago. And I came up here to open myself to new opportunities, meet new people, have a little fun.

When I moved up here, the main event why I came up here was that, you know, I’m gay. Hawaii didn’t pass their same-sex marriage law until last winter. I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ So, I had my first Pride here with my boyfriend and a couple of his other friends. And it was so crazy, you know!? I didn’t know this whole thing happens — in downtown Seattle.

I marched with his friends, they’re part of [a club supporting undocumented queer youth]. It was great.

Have you found Seattle more gay-friendly than Hawaii?
Oh yeah. I mean, other states are trying to find their way to have equal rights for everybody and whatnot. I mean, Hawaii’s getting there. But I just decided to come here because I wanted to make my statement now. I don’t want to be, like, kind of in the closet.

… They’re playing Hawaiian music right now. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.

[Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” medley was playing during an intermission at Scratch Deli.]

I love him. I grew up with this song. My brother, he bought two CD’s from Israel. He would play all them and I was like, ‘What are you playing?’ I was so small, you know, I was like, ‘What are you playing?’

What brought you out here tonight?
My friend Lewis, I met him here. He said this was the last Scratch Deli for the year, and they won’t start again until next month. We just started working officially together, we started doing renditions together … coming up with our own melody.

How long have you been playing here?
I started playing here eight, nine months ago.

… about how how often?
Maybe every month. I started coming every two weeks, but since I started, I needed some mullah, some dollar bills, to pay my rent. Of course I gotta work like crazy. You gotta make a living somehow, you know, even if it’s not what you want to do. Something to get by.

Live in Capitol Hill?
No. I used to live in Beacon Hill … but now I live in West Seattle.

What are you up to next?
I’m gonna go home, change, and go to work.

… what do you do?
I’m a stock boy [down by Pike Place]. I do late night shifts. I do super, super late night shifts. … From like 12 to 8 AM. Sometimes 10 to 6 or whatever.

What do you have to say to the people of Capitol Hill?
Thank you — thank you for all for all of this, all the things that you guys provide. … People are always very friendly here.

Anything going for the holidays?
No, not really. I celebrate Christmas, but, the holidays are the holidays. People are definitely out more … So, happy Kwanzaa, happy Chanukah, merry Christmas — mele Kalikimaka.

  Sarah, 25

Sarah playing her song “This Waiting is Killing Me.” (You can hear the album version of the song here.)

Who are you?
I’m 25 years old, I work at a private school as an instructor for high school students who have special needs or who can’t function in a regular high school for whatever reason. And I play music as well. I’ve been playing music for about 13, 14 years. And I try to play very often.

… and said you have some CDs?
I do. I finished my album almost exactly a year ago, it’s called The Lines Describing a Face.

What drew you to your line of work?
I majored in English writing — I love writing — at Western, but when I got of school: what can you do with an English degree? So I started tutoring, and tutoring just led to teaching. I love doing it.

And what led you to music?
When I was twelve someone really close to me passed away. And I used that money to buy a guitar — she left me money, I bought a guitar and guitar lessons. And I loved Nirvana. Like a lot. That was my first love for playing guitar. And then I started listening to Elliott Smith. He’s my absolute favorite, and that’s why I write songs. Pretty much just sadness. [Laughter.]

… any other thoughts on that?
I’m just so inspired by … all the people I meet, it just always makes me better. Definitely inspired by art a lot too, especially by film. The album’s called The Lines Describing a Face, because it’s based off a film called A Line Describing a Cone. It’s an old art film. I don’t mean that to sound pretentious — it inspired me so much. I love film.

Where are you from?
I was born in Seattle, raised in Renton.

What are your thoughts on this place?
This is my favorite place in Seattle, Scratch Deli. It’s the best open mic because everybody listens, people aren’t just waiting for their turn. They’re here to appreciate you. And be good friends. I love everyone here … because they all appreciate each other. And I’ve learned to … I don’t know, it’s taken me to a different level with songwriting and with performing especially.

Because when you have all the eyes and ears on you, you have to deliver. … At other open mics, you don’t care what you’re doing, because others don’t care what you’re doing. But at Scratch, people are there to appreciate you.

How often do you come here?
I come here every week.

… how long have you been doing that?
Almost two years, a year-and-a-half.

What do you have to say to the people of Capitol Hill?
Hi, I don’t know you. Or maybe I do. But if you play music, you should come to Scratch, ’cause it’s awesome.

… do you live on the Hill now?
No, I live in Lynwood. I drive for an hour to get here, with traffic. That’s how good this spot is.

Do you have anything going for the holidays? Or a holiday message perhaps?
I’m going home to see my family. That’s my message — go be with your family.

  Nick, 20

Nick playing “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn, with gusto.

Who are you?
I am twenty-year-old man living on Capitol Hill trying to make music for a living. Right now I wait tables at a restaurant called La Spiga — I do that to pay the bills. And my dream is to play music in front of people and make enough money to survive here.

… how’s that going?
So far not great. [Laughter.] It’s pretty much as difficult as you’d think it would be.

… have you made any money playing music yet?
No, not yet. I recently acquired some recording equipment, and hopefully that’s going to help further my funding.

You played an original song in front of people for the first time tonight — how was that?
It was nerve wracking. I think it went well. Surprisingly I felt well about it. And normally when I play a song on stage, even if it’s a cover, I feel pretty poorly about the way that I performed. And for some reason tonight I actually felt like I did a good job. So that’s a pretty big deal — unfamiliar to me.

What’s the song called?
I don’t know yet. It’s untitled. I haven’t come up with a name. And it is unfinished.

… well cool, what’s it about? What’s the inspiration?
Honestly the inspiration is the guitar part. The guitar part came to me first — I was sitting around in my house just screwing around and it came to me, and the lyrics just followed. And some of my biggest influences are people like Chris Cornell, and lyricists like Maynard Keenan from a band called Tool. And they’re very abstract and they get a lot of criticism for not being down to earth and literal enough with their lyrics, and so I think that that comes out with my lyrics too. They don’t make a whole lot of sense.

… what kind of music would you say you play?
I like rock and roll, I’ll say rock and roll. But I take a lot of influence from all styles. I started playing metal when I was younger. I gravitated away from that — I don’t have much angst anymore. But I also have a lot of influence from punk and rap and hip-hop and jazz

Where are you from?
I am originally from Issaquah, Washington.

… there are a few successful musicians from Issaquah.
Really? Oh right, Modest Mouse. Gotcha’. Yeah, I love those guys. I did finish high school though, so I’ve got that leg up on them.

What brought you out tonight — obviously you’re here, but what inspired that?
Well, I started coming to Scratch Deli probably about a year ago. And I really owe a lot to this place because I don’t think I ever would have started performing originals in front of other people if it hadn’t been for these guys. They’re a very welcoming crowd, they make me feel at home here, and when I first started out I was really nervous, and I don’t think I would have ever considered playing in front of people if it hadn’t been for this crowd. So, I’ve very grateful, I owe a lot to this place, and I’ll never forget it.

How often to you come here?
I come here every week that I can. I make sure my schedule’s always free on Thursday night’s so I can be here anytime it’s possible for me to be here, I love it.

What do you have to say to the people of Capitol Hill?
Keep being weird. Keep being weird, because that’s my favorite part about Capitol Hill. When I first came here, part of the reason I moved here was because when I would walk around the streets of Issaquah, Washington, I would get a lot of looks, and they would judge me — sometimes they were dirty looks. And when I moved here, I’m the least interesting person that you see walking around the streets. That’s probably my favorite part. I fly under the radar here, it’s nice.

Have stuff going on for the holidays?
My family celebrates Solstice, because we’re not religious. So this coming Sunday we’re going to be celebrating the Winter Solstice, and doing a white elephant gift exchange, it’ll be a good time.

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