While many families are spending the holidays knee-deep in eggnog and obliterated wrapping paper, Cheyenne Champion and her musical clan of Friendly Fire plan to spend Christmas break practicing for their New Year’s Eve show at Burnt Mill Creek. They have new material to add to their set, as well as guest player Chris Tuttle (keyboard) joining them for the show and forthcoming studio time in 2019.
“A couple originals to look out for [on NYE] are ‘Black and White’ and ‘Buzzy Bee,’” Champion notes. She and the band, made up of Lloyd Snider, Matthew and Jack Marion, take pride in their robust collection of original music, written collaboratively.
Rounding out Friendly Fire as of late is Michael Vindell, who recently joined as their second drummer. He adds to their improvisational jams, which continuously expand with unique twists and turns. “This elevates our sound and keeps spirits very high throughout our show,” Champion tells. “I will be playing the saxophone throughout the night, too. One is an original called ‘Company’ I wrote early this year about independence.”
Champion can often be found wrapping her soulful vocals around her acoustic guitar, too. Her sound and style easily ebb and flow between bluesy roots and rockin’ dance numbers. Champion and company have been making rounds throughout Wilmington’s music scene as of late, from Bottega’s singer-songwriters’ circle on Wednesdays to larger stages at Brooklyn Arts Center and Greenfield Lake. They’ve also touched down in 2018’s local and regional festival circuit, including Wilmington’s Azalea Festival and Virginia’s High Country Bus Fest.
“[High Country was] essentially a Volkswagen campout over the course of a week on a river,” Champion quips. “We were also to play Front Porch Fest in Spirit Haven, Virginia; however, we were rained out of that one.”
As well, Champion is enrolled at UNCW’s education program. encore caught up with the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to learn more about her music and what’s to come in 2019.
encore (e): Are you studying music education at UNCW?
Cheyenne Champion (CC): I am currently enrolled in Watson College of Education at UNCW for elementary education. I have changed route, as I have found a normal inclusion job is more accessible for me to personally spread the arts to all students.
e: How does your education play into performances/work and vice versa?
CC: Despite a lack of arts funding in public schools, I plan on integrating musical arts into the education system to the best of my ability. Children respond to arts, and it fuels their inspiration for other curriculum. It is something I am very passionate about.
After college, I plan on continuing to play music and living as an active member in education, using music to uplift children and adults alike, fueling their passions.
e: Tell our readers a little more about yourself as a musician—how long you’ve been singing, songwriting, playing guitar/sax, and how you’ve grown as an artist in Wilmington’s music scene/community.
CC: I began playing music in sixth grade on the saxophone. It is my favorite instrument, and I still play it in Friendly Fire. I received my first guitar at 14 and wrote many songs before moving to Wilmington. After my move, I began attending local open-mic nights at Bottega and Grinder’s Cafe. I quickly was offered the position of open-mic host at Grinders (currently relocating due to hurricane damage).
I have had so many opportunities to play shows for organizations, such as the United Way and Jam For the Kids at the Brooklyn Arts Center and Greenfield Lake. My time on the music scene in Wilmington has taught me I can use music to uplift and support local communities and good causes. My favorite part is having the opportunity to meet amazing musicians and supporters along the way!
e: Have any personal or professional resolutions for 2019?
CC: This is always an exciting question. This year one of my focuses is on my quest to be a better saxophone player (learning never stops!). I hope to play more festivals with my family and keep momentum moving forward with the band and positively throughout the new year. I also plan on finishing school and doing my best to get the most out of going to college, as many people do not receive this privilege.
e: Do you have plans to enter the recording studio in the new year?
CC: We do! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Steve Greenwell this summer in New Jersey to record some solo songs. Steve is a producer for platinum album earning Joss Stone, among others. He has agreed to come out to North Carolina and record with us in January.
While an album is in our sights, we may do a three-song EP with Steve as a step in the right direction. As previously stated, we also are excited to have Chris Tuttle help develop our studio sound, as he has toured with artists such as Emmylou Harris, Jewel and Big & Rich, among others.
e: Anything else to come in 2019?
CC: We will be playing [two] days at the Azalea Festival [April 3-7] this time around in 2019, one of which will be on the Beer Garden Stage. We also will be playing the Women’s March [in Wilmington on January 26] to show a supportive hand in the community to help spread equality for all.
We hope to see everyone out supporting local music at Burnt Mill Creek to ring in the New Year the best way we know how!
and Friendly Fire
December 31, 9:45 p.m.
Burnt Mill Creek Billiards
& Wine Bar
2101 Market St., Unit 7
Find more NYE events, concerts and such in Extra Extra pages, as well as online on our calendar at encorepub.com