Match made in music

Acoustic duo Higgins-Madewell at Gilly’s

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Erin Higgins and Jeff Madewell will perform April 11 at Gilly’s; photo:

Jeff Madewell and his musical partner-in-crime, Erin Higgins, play a unique style of blues-tinged rock music you just don’t hear much anymore. Playing together as Higgins-Madewell, the West Milton duo has released two CDs of their roots-influenced songs, 2008’s Spider Bite and 2011’s Sweet Medicine. The duo headlines Gilly’s Benefit for WNKU radio 105.9FM this Saturday, April 11. I recently had the chance to ask Jeff Madewell a few questions about Higgins-Madewell and what WNKU means to them.

How did Higgins-Madewell get started?

Jeff Madewell: It kind of started out just as a side project, just to make a few extra bucks. I moved to Dayton after I graduated and you know, kind of went straight into music. If I made it back up in West Milton to see friends or something, I just kept hearing about this young girl that could sing like crazy. Erin was in a band called Barefoot. She was probably 19 or 20. Our drummer used to go see them every chance he could if we were not playing. He absolutely loved her vocals. We’d always heard of each other but we never met until probably 2005, and then kind of hit it off.

You must have really hit it off, if you’ve been playing together this long.

JM: We’re pretty good friends, you know, “friends” almost doesn’t even cover it; I mean it’s a mutual respect from both a personal standpoint and a business relation standpoint. Her and her husband and her kids, a lot of the times in the summer we’ll play a couple of private parties or festivals and we’ll all be there for the four days or so together; you know, kind of a close-knit little family there.

How do you describe your sound?

JM: We call it hippie country but rock. That’s kind of our tagline I came up with some years back. She and I both come from a lot of different musical influences. She’s been classically trained on violin, and she loves Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin and I know she has some pretty big influences in classic country stuff as well. I grew up when I was little listening to Johnny Cash and country artists like that from my parents. I hit the teenage years and got more into like AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, things like that so we’ve got quite a bit of musical influences and they all kind of come out a little bit. It’s kind of, I don’t know, indie/country/classic/folk kind of sound.

Tell me about the show coming up at Gilly’s.

JM: We just try to do everything that we can to help, and [WNKU] is a fantastic radio station. It has been very supportive of our music. You know, it’s just awesome that it’s given artists like Erin and me some airtime. So this is the second year we’ve done this for them, and last year we had a blast, and we’re really looking forward to it this year. We got Blue Moon Soup playing, and then a friend of ours named Mark Cantwil. He’s got a couple CDs out. He’s from up around Fort Loramie. So, it’s just going to be a really fun night. We’re looking forward to it.

Tell me about your albums. Was there a progression from Spider Bite to Sweet Medicine?

JM: The first one was kind of a, “Hey things are going pretty good here. We should record a CD.” There was a couple, three or four songs that we had from the years past and other projects that we kind of rekindled. And then, there was the remainder of the stuff that was written before that CD. I sing a couple of the songs on it, and now it’s more of Erin’s vocals as kind of the signature thing … her vocal style, my guitar style. So, we were like, “OK on the second CD let’s just kind of keep it at that.” She is an incredible vocalist. After knowing each other longer and really getting to know each other’s musical styles, the second CD, a lot of the stuff that I wrote on it, I wrote with her voice in mind. I could hear her singing in my head. There are several songs on the second CD that we wrote together and that was a lot of fun. That’s kind of the way that our next CD’s looking like it’s gonna be too.

Higgins-Madewell performs Saturday, April 11 at Gilly’s, 132 S. Jefferson St., as part of a benefit for WNKU FM. Blue Moon Soup and Mark Cantwil are also on the bill. Admission is $10. Doors open at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Omega Music and Huber Music and Video. For more information, please visit higginsmadewell.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at josherlumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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