On a typical summer-ish night in Hollywood, something special happened…
Redwood Stills, a relatively new, and yet surging musical force took the stage. The scene was The Hotel Cafe; a Cahuenga Boulevard venue that seems as much a testing ground as a trendy LA club. A rousing set of diverse bluesy-rock kept the expectant audience engaged. On that Hollywood night, Redwood Stills delivered…
A few years back…
Few of us get the opportunity to watch a band evolve into a musical force from its true beginning. Redwood Stills is a relatively new band. Its founders, Ronnie McCawley and Ben Uhrig have been collaborating since 2010. The band’s current lineup has been together for just over a year. Given Redwood Stills’ short history, their success is staggering.
Ronnie and Ben were musically introduced by actress Jennifer Cozza James at a restaurant where all three worked. They had crossed paths many times but neither Ben nor Ronnie knew the other was a musician. The two eventually got together to jam and a normally soft-spoken Ben plugged in and began to play. Ronnie was immediately sold. Both their friendship and artistic collaboration has grown from that day.
Redwood Stills’ first gig was at a small Los Angeles Chinese restaurant. They have quickly evolved from those humble beginnings; playing the main stage at the House of Blues, many well-known clubs throughout Hollywood and the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival in Texas.
Early on, the group started out as singer-songwriters. Not entirely satisfied, Ronnie decided to explore the blues and wanted to add more of an alternative rock-and-roll feel to their performances. It was at this point the band had to make the ultimate decision to turn their musical endeavors from a hobby into a job. This key decision helped to redefine their work ethic—and eventually put Redwood Stills on the map.
As Redwood Stills evolved, it became clear that getting people to come to their shows was not enough. Instead both Ronnie and Ben agreed that they needed to build a true interest in the journey of the band. In a strategic effort to take great care of their growing audience, Redwood Stills endeavored to turn each show into an event—and then back up that event with social media, word-of-mouth, flyers and travel opportunities for their most loyal fans.
Ben and Ronnie are aware of the obstacles that exist for up and coming artists in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles native, Ronnie understands that the size and scope of the entertainment industry in LA makes building a loyal audience more challenging than in smaller markets. “There's a real give-and-take. On one hand, opportunity and resources are everywhere. However, LA audiences are used to the biggest and best offerings in entertainment—and rightfully demand a certain level of commitment and proficiency.” Ben agrees that LA is a tough market and believes self-promotion is the key. However, in the end, it’s the music that matters. “There is nothing more important than a satisfied audience, and those who actually do dig the music become our greatest salespeople.”
Ronnie and Ben feel that they have found their own unique rhythm and, after a few small set-backs, a permanent lineup. The five-member band now includes: Ronnie McCawley (lead guitar/Vocals), Ben Uhrig (Lead Vocals/Acoustic Rhythm Guitar), Benny Romzek (Bass), Reid Cunningham (Drums), and Seth Gordon (Keyboard and Mandolin).
Their focus, at present, is playing gigs and establishing both their live audience and their stage-presence. They both expect, however, to suspend the live gigs in the near-future and begin writing and recording again. Ben is excited to start his unique process, that of getting six or seven songs going all at once. With a wry smile he suggests, “The one I actually finish is probably the good one.”
As I sit with these two ascending artists I get the sense that they are honing in on their own unique and important sound. The musical sensibilities of the two have clearly merged with Ben leaning towards a folksy-blues tenor, while Ronnie is inclined to create a more alternative sound. They agree that their distinct hybrid-style could be designated as “alternative-blues.”
On that typical summer-ish night in Hollywood…
There was no “look at me” feel to the performance. Instead, Ronnie, Ben and the band created an energy that was all about the “we.” The band’s disposition and banter generated just the right amount of audience interaction; walking a fine line between interacting with each other and the audience. There's an artistic generosity that many aspiring musical artists do not possess. At a Redwood Stills show you feel like you're part of things. I enjoyed their cover of She Talks to Angels, by The Black Crowes. However, I was most struck by the fact that the bands original songs were intricate, diverse, and retained a common musical thread that defined the band and its artistry. While everyone in attendance was onboard and having a great time, I was moved by what I can only call a determined and collaborative artistry—rarely found in today’s new bands.
"Redwood Stills is currently working on their second studio release due in the fall of 2014."