Sounds Local: Andre Villoch, singer-songwriter, comedian
“Marlando the Magnificent made his true love disappear/He hasn’t see her in years/She was supposed to become a bird/But he used the wrong magic words.”
— The story of Marlando, a magician who paid the price for a magic trick gone wrong.
Marlando is just one of the many characters who populate the songs of Maine-based singer-songwriter Andre Villoch. There is also Benjamin, the lonely retired professor who loves to talk, the bearded lady from the circus, The Petersons, who sold the family farm to a big box store and on it goes.
Villoch’s songs cover a breadth of emotion. Some, like “Midnight Conversations with Ida,” are sad: “Ida, oh Ida/ It just helps me to live/ To see all those wrongs/ Melt away now that you are gone/ And do you forgive like I do.” Villoch also writes songs that are romantic, whimsical, issue-oriented and even funny. He embellishes his words with percussive guitar work and foot tapping all while singing in a clear, warm voice.
You can experience this for yourself when Villoch performs two shows in Franklin County this weekend.
He will be at Mocha Maya’s, 47 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls, Friday, Feb. 22, at 7:30 p.m. Matt Cranstoun will open. Then, on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m., he will perform at the Brick House Community Resource Center, 24 Third St., Turners Falls. This show is part of a family friendly music series presented by H’Art & Soul Productions, which will be presenting shows at the Brick House on the last Saturday afternoon of each month. The Brick House is an alcohol-and-substance-free venue
Villoch is a funny guy. His shows are a mix of comedy and music and if you check out any of the numerous videos he has posted on YouTube, you’ll hear that many of his song introductions are downright hilarious.
Villoch, comes by his humor naturally, but he honed his skills while a student at Ball State University in Indiana, where he became a member of the college’s comedy improv group, Absolunacy.
“Improv comedy helped me develop skills that are helpful to have on stage. If there is only one person in the room with a microphone, it sure helps if that person is entertaining,” said Villoch. “That should probably be a rule. Imagine how much fun insurance seminars could be if they followed that rule!”
“Improvising humorous songs is always fun to do at shows,” he added. “Those are the kinds of things I remember when I go see shows.”
So, do expect a lot of laughs when Villoch hits the area this weekend. But, also knows that it’s a balancing act when blending humor and music.
“I will always be on the lookout for places to share humor,” he said. “I have a few songs that were definitely written to be funny, but I don’t try and force funny into every song. Humor is like a vibrant flavor that can get overused if you use it in every dish.”
Where do all those characters that inhabit his songs come from?
“I’d say they are inspired by the relationships and experiences I’ve had with real people. The characters are often collections on those pieces to give the characters some depth, with some relatable imagery. So, I guess the characters end up being made up from the spare parts I’ve collected in my experience.”
Villoch grew up in the Midwest and recently moved to Maine. He has primarily performed out in Indiana and Michigan, opening shows for musicians like Chris Smither, Dana Cooper and Jerome Brown. He is now focussed on establishing himself here in New England. Villoch looks forward to his first visit to western Massachusetts and even though he is playing two shows on this trip, they will not be the same.
“There are a lot of variables with shows — venues, audiences, time of day, etc. I never do set lists. I figure out the first two, maybe three songs and establish a relationship with the audience. From there, you just kind of feel it out together,” he said. “How the audience responds to the songs, tempo, volume, jokes between tunes —- that’s what steers the show for me. How did the audience like that last tune, and what will they really dig next? The audience deserves that kind of attention.”
Villoch said that, for him, it’s really all about playing new venues and meeting new music lovers.
“I find real joy in those things. Connecting with new people and making new friends is the best part of the job.”
The show at Mocha Maya’s is free, but tips for the performers are strongly encouraged.
There is a suggested donation of $10 for the Brick House show, children 17 and under are admitted free.
Darlingside at Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse Saturday. 8 p.m.
Last year, I was completely won over by the band Darlingside, the group’s incredible melodies and the way it blends string instruments with an indie rock folk sound is truly irresistible. The band will take the stage at the Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse at the Wendell Town Hall on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m. and I can’t think of a better venue to see experience them. There will be plenty of room for dancing and, as usual, coffee and baked goods will be sold. www.wendellfullmoon.org
Partial proceeds from this show will benefit Friends of the Wendell Free Library.
Admission is sliding scale of $6 to $15. The Wendell Town Hall is located at 6 Center St. All ages are welcome. Doors open at 7 p.m. There will be an open mic at
7:30 p.m. All the slots for this open mic are filled.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org