At 18, Mariee Sioux Sobonya picked up her mother’s old guitar and started playing. The Nevada City native had no experience with the instrument when she began. But within two years, the self-taught picker was invited on as the opening act of a national tour.
The etherial folk singer/songwriter, who will showcase her music Jan. 31 at the Haven Underground, is one of many talented musicians to emerge from Nevada County’s rich artistic community in the past few decades.
Next week’s bill includes Aaron Ross, another local known for his singing and songwriting skills.
“Highlighting two of Nevada County’s most treasured and mesmerizing musicians, Haven Underground is honored to present such talent in one evening. The combination of Aaron Ross, Mariee Sioux and New Orleans-based musician Walt McClements of Lonesome Leash is sure to captivate music lovers and locals alike,” according to Sara Zahn of the Haven.
She should know. The venue, which opened less than two years ago, has quickly become the place to catch amazing live music from local musicians. While the Haven also books national touring bands, hosts dance parties and is available for rentals, the place was designed with a focus on music.
“At the heart of it is definitely live music,” Zahn said.
Sobonya performed there last spring for the release of her latest CD, “A Gift for The End.” Zahn said she is looking forward to next week’s show.
“Her songs are simultaneously expansive and undulating. They pull you in and ground you,” Zahn said.
Sobonya’s music, described by some as folk and psych indie, often references her Native American background.
“(Sobonya’s) music is guided by a deeply spiritual connection to nature and uncompromising sense of compassion,” Zahn said, noting her skills on the guitar stand out during performances as well.
“She really does have an innate talent,” Zahn said, adding that Sobonya is an amazing picker.
No one is more surprised by her talent than Sobonya. While she grew up around music — her father is also a musician — she didn’t play music. When she graduated from Nevada Union High School in 2003, she planned to attend community college and pursue a career in photography. After teaching herself to play a couple of Beatles songs, her music began to take off from there, Sobonya said.
When she began writing songs, it was magic, she said.
“It was just so fun. I didn’t have a way like that to express myself really,” Sobonya said.
The creative process opened up a new world for the self-professed shy girl.
Two years after she began playing, the band Brightblack Morning Light invited her to open for their national tour. She has been touring ever since. Sobonya toured a lot in Europe the past four years and has just recently moved back to the community to settle down and write new songs.
Sobonya credits the Nevada County music scene in the early 2000s as inspiration.
“Amazing musicians, like Aaron Ross — I saw his shows when I was 18. He was a huge inspiration,” she said.
The Haven describes next week’s headlining act as a “local hero and folk-savant.”
“Aaron is an enigma,” Zahn said.
The local 30-something singer/songwriter releases an album every year, and every song of his is deep, brilliant and poignant, she added.
Ross’ mesmerizing, stream-of-consciousness-inspired songs will be a highlight next week. The Nevada County native has released eight albums of incandescent music ranging from the Americana-influenced “On The Hallelujah Side” (2003) to the electronic-based “Idle Worship” (2012). While his production styles vary wildly, his distinctive melodies and dense lyrical images always shine through, according to the Haven.
While the guitar and piano remain his primary composing tools, Ross has stretched his production skills to include electronic elements like samplers, looper pedals and Kaos pads. The introduction of electronic elements came naturally to Ross, who found himself growing bored with traditional music-making formats. Electronic production became a new avenue of composition for his roving muse, and naturally, when he grew tired of it, he gravitated back to guitar and is now pursuing ways to integrate the two divergent forms, according to the Haven.
“With a poet’s penchant for wordplay and a wide-eyed attitude toward music production, Aaron Ross has earned his place as one of Nevada County’s most gifted musicians and songwriters,” according to Haven publicity.
Opening next week’s performance will be New Orleans’ Walt McClements as Lonesome Leash.
Anchored by the sinuous accordion sound that’s become a McClements trademark, Lonesome Leash takes some mad aesthetic stabs, incorporating drum loops, piercing feedback and brass flourishes, in the end creating a sort of future-rustic musical aesthetic, according to the Haven.
The all-ages show begins at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31. Tickets are $12 and are available online at www.ticketfly.com/event/200463, at BriarPatch Co-op and Nevada City Box Office.
For information about the show, or Haven Underground, go to www.havenunderground.org.
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.