Music Festivals

Singer-Songwriter: Meet the 2016 Westword Music Award Nominees

The 2016 Westword Music Showcase is coming up fast, on Saturday, June 25! The one-day festival features national headliners on two main stages, as well as nearly 100 local bands on a dozen stages in Denver's Golden Triangle. The local performers at the Showcase are drawn from this year's nominees for the Westword Music Awards. You can use the ballot found online or in the weekly paper edition to vote for your favorites. Below, get to know the artists (in alphabetical order) nominated in the Singer-Songwriter category. 

Brent Cowles
You may remember Brent Cowles as the lead vocalist and guitarist from late indie-rock band You, Me & Apollo. Today he is known as a masterful singer-songwriter who captivates his audiences with his guitar work, poetic lyrics and passionate vocal style. Cowles recently signed to the Greater Than Collective label, which also works with Denver artists (and Music Award nominees) A. Tom Collins and the Knew, and released his debut solo album. 

Joel Van Horne, the man behind Covenhoven, found inspiration for the project in memories of exploring his grandfather’s hand-built cabin, called Covenhoven, in the Medicine Bow National Forest of Wyoming, as a child. Van Horne recorded every part of his new album, The Wild and Free, himself, with the exception of a few string parts; this independence allowed him to paint the story of his childhood the way he envisioned it. The Wild and Free features emotional lyrics backed by enveloping symphonic strings. Van Horne is not only a talented singer-songwriter; he is also a storyteller, allowing his listeners to gain exclusive access to his most cherished memories.

Grayson Erhard
Grayson Erhard is a brilliant singer-songwriter from Del Norte, Colorado, who accompanies his melodic lyrics with tap/slap percussive guitar. His musical influences range from instrumental guitarists to technical metal bands. He combines aspects of these opposing genres seamlessly in his music, which is known to stray from typical song structures, adding dimension and dynamics to his sound. He is often compared with Andy McKee, since both artists are skillful percussive fingerstyle guitarists. Erhard recently joined alternative-rock band Aspen Hourglass (nominated in the Rock category) as its lead vocalist and guitarist.

Kyle James Hauser
Kyle James Hauser is a multi-instrumentalist, playing the banjo and guitar, and a vocalist whom American Songwriter describes as “neo-folk.” He incorporates aspects of traditional acoustic folk with accompanying indie-pop sounds to create a blend of instruments and rhythms. His newest album, You a Thousand Times, was released in 2014. Having lived in multiple cities, including Louisville, Kentucky and Boston, he says his music is influenced by the different communities of people he's lived among and help him create his unique sound.

Lara Ruggles
As a gifted guitarist, pianist, cellist and vocalist, it's no wonder that singer-songwriter Lara Ruggles is nominated for this year’s award. Her debut full-length album, Cynics & Saints, took her three years to complete. She performs each song with raw emotion and immense passion, taking the listener or audience member on a journey through what it means to be broken but resilient. Ruggles is passionate about giving back to the music community that has given her so much. She started the Give:Voice Project, giving 10 percent of her on-tour proceeds to artist-related projects. Recently she has joined the “three-piece indie-rock” group Solid State Rocket. Ruggles sings and plays the cello on their tracks, recorded in bandmember Mark Venezia’s studio Wind Over the Earth, in Longmont. 

Megan Burtt
Denver native Megan Burtt is no stranger to obstacles impacting the production of her music. In August 2015 she released her newest album, The Bargain, after triumphantly recovering from a potentially life-threatening illness. She takes her listeners along through the sorrow and uncertainty of that time with strong melodies and moving lyrics. Her album follows the path she took through illness with an underlying message that love heals all. While Burtt might not call herself a pop artist, the upbeat rhythm of songs such as “Ain’t See Nothing Yet” and “Fast as I Go” have a definite head-nodding effect.

Natalie Tate
Natalie Tate is a skilled vocalist and guitarist who thrives as a solo singer-songwriter as well as a member of various bands. Tate is said to not fit the mold of a singer-songwriter, and she tends to experiment with diverse genres of music in her work. For her newest EP, Your Type, she worked in close collaboration with experimental-pop band Chimney Choir, creating beats that added a new dimension to her sound. Her powerful vocals are laid over hypnotic beats that transport the listener to places where they can close their eyes and sway freely. She is continually growing as an artist, and we commend her ability to step outside of her comfort zone and incorporate new influences in her music.

The 2016 Westword Music Showcase takes place in the Golden Triangle neighborhood on Saturday, June 25, with Dillon Francis, Cold War Kids, Matt and Kim and more, as well as 100 Denver bands across a dozen stages. Get your tickets for the 2016 Westword Music Showcase here. Current GA ticket prices are $45, current VIP ticket prices are $95, and the Showcase 4-ticket Squad Pack is $140.