A local legend

Noah Wotherspoon returns to Gilly’s

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Noah Wotherspoon will perform at Gilly’s on Nov. 15; photo: Dustyblues

Singer and guitarist Noah Wotherspoon lives in Cincinnati, but he spends most of his time in Dayton. “I practically live there,” Wotherspoon said. “Dayton’s great, and there are so many venues to play that I find myself there more often.”

The musician will return to Gilly’s, the Dayton venue where he played as a teenager, with the Noah Wotherspoon Band on Nov. 15. Wotherspoon has been playing there since he was 16 and, he said, it never gets old.

“It’s still always an honor to play there,” he said. “It’s like hallowed ground just because of the people that play there.” He called the owner, Jerry Gillotti, a local legend, saying he’s given Wotherspoon great opportunities since he was a kid, including the chance to open for Leon Russell at 16.

Wotherspoon grew up in Dayton and began playing shows in the area when he was 13. He said there had always been music around his house, and his brother gave him his first guitar for his 11th birthday.

At 13, Wotherspoon met local blues guitarist Tim Arnold, a moment he remembers as pivotal in his musical career. He said he had already been interested in blues, citing Stevie Ray Vaughn as a major influence, and Arnold helped him develop his blues sound.

“I became pretty immersed in classic blues,” he said. “It took up a large part of my teens.”

Wotherspoon’s sound has evolved since his teens, but he still sticks to his blues roots with one of his current projects, the Noah Wotherspoon Band, which will return with him to Gilly’s on Nov. 15. The band includes Rob Thaxton on bass and Brian Aylor on drums. Wotherspooon said the band sticks to mostly blues and blues rock.

Despite his roots in blues, Wotherspoon said he’s experimented with other sounds throughout the years. He has a few side projects, including Noah + the Rescue Radio and an acoustic duo with his girlfriend, Jessi Bair.

Noah + the Rescue Radio is another three-piece band, including Tom Rastikas and Josh Johnson.

“Our sound is more Beatles-influenced, pop rock and experimental,” Wotherspoon said of his Rescue Radio project. “I’ve done a lot of songwriting over the years that probably wouldn’t go over well at blues festivals. So this is an outlet to try a lot of different things.”

As part of an acoustic duo with Bair, Wotherspoon has had the opportunity to experiment with another genre – Americana. Wotherspoon and Bair have produced one album, Carolina Songs, which is available on iTunes.

“It’s sort of like navigating different vibes, and I’m getting better at navigating it all,” Wotherspoon said. “It seems to be working. I try to keep each relative style fresh.”

He said he’s spent time working on all three projects lately and has been playing a lot of shows locally with each.

“I kind of have to switch headspaces a little bit,” Wotherspoon said. “It’s like method acting. But I keep it all honest.”

His audience at Gilly’s can expect an energetic and upbeat performance.

“When I go to do a blues gig, I like to move around a little bit and keeps things interesting,” he said. Blues could be considered his specialty, considering the Noah Wotherspoon Band has been internationally ranked. The band was a finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee in 2012. Wotherspoon explained that every year, blues societies from all over the world have regional challenges and the winners go to Memphis to compete.

“It was totally surreal. We didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s pretty wild to find yourself as one of nine bands in the finals. It was a huge honor.”

The Noah Wotherspoon Band just started working on their first studio album, which Wotherspoon called, “very overdue.” It’s still untitled, but they plan to release the full-length album, which will feature all original music, in January 2015.

Although they often play locally in Dayton, the band has been traveling more lately to play shows and festivals all over the country. Wotherspoon said they recently played a blues festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a concert in Michigan and have an upcoming trip to Galveston, Texas, where they plan to play at an opera house.

“We haven’t played in Texas yet. So we’re really excited for that,” he said.

Despite all the traveling, Wotherspoon will always consider Dayton home. He said he loves the venues downtown and in the Oregon District, and he’ll always be grateful to Gilly’s for letting him play as a teenager and get his start in the music industry.

“Gilly’s is an important part of the Dayton music scene,” he said.

The Noah Wotherspoon Band will perform at Gilly’s, 132 S. Jefferson St. on Saturday, Nov. 15. Doors open at 9 p.m., and admission is $5. For more information, please visit noahwotherspoon.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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