On February 18, I headed down to the Shrunken Head on a whim to catch a Columbus band I’d been hearing a bit about: Souther.
The band took the stage and I was absolutely blown away by the talent that lead vocalist Carly Fratianne possesses. Even with a top notch band behind her, Fratianne steals the spotlight with a diverse guitar style and powerful vocals.
A couple weeks later, I got caught in some equally mind blowing musical discussion with her over tacos.
After we ordered, I started a question, but stopped to ask if I pronounced the band name Souther correctly.
“Yes, that’s how you say it, but I want keep it ambiguous. If the audience doesn’t know, it’s a bit of a mystery, which keeps people interested. So don’t tell anybody!”
Fratianne has a bit of an unconventional story for someone her age. After graduating high school in Columbus, she moved out to Los Angeles in 2012 to pursue music, until coming back to Ohio in 2015.
“Los Angeles has a toxic sense of competition, and it’s difficult to get gigs. I’ve experienced a lot of different music scenes, but Columbus is my favorite,” she said. “When I came back, I didn’t really know the scene anymore. It wasn’t until I was asked to participate in a local art exhibit that I got an opportunity to really jam with people.”
The art exhibit was a multimedia project called “Touch Me” by local artists Madeline Conway and Dora Rodriguez that featured strobe lights, colors, and of course, music. Multiple musicians set up their gear and picked a key to jam on as audience members roamed through.
After hours of playing, they were packing up when drummer Jack Lynch approached Fratianne and suggested the idea of jamming some more. It wasn’t until he asked again a few months later, that she decided to take it to the next step, proposing a real project that came to be Souther.
“I’ve never been in a band before Souther. Becoming a front woman was something I had never realized the complexities of,” Fratianne said. “There’s an energy between you and the crowd, where you have to be both the magnifying glass and the mirror. It’s a lot of multitasking, but it’s very exhilarating and pure.”
You’d never know this was Fratianne’s first shot in the spotlight just by seeing her on stage, but the most captivating part of her performance is her extensive knowledge of the guitar. There are jazz chords, blues scales, and pure rock coming out of every phrase.
“I got a guitar for Christmas one year after spending a lot of time with the family drum kit. I took lessons, but these guys would always tell me to bring in songs I wanted to learn,” she said. “I wasn’t really interested in playing anyone else’s music, because I wanted to write my own music and be able to express myself that way.”
“Once I learned the blues pentatonic, that was it for me. It opened so many doors, and from there I was able to figure out chords and find the diagrams online. I’m a huge fan of the blues.”
When I asked who she was most inspired by, she grappled with the question before professing a love for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band.
“I first heard Derek Trucks and I was blown away,” she said. “I listened to those records for months when I found them. Duane Allman is a fantastic guitar player, but Trucks did it for me, combining so many sounds I didn’t even know were possible.”
Eventually we dove into a discussion on music availability, with the idea of streaming in comparison to the suddenly antiquated idea of paying for digital music.
“As an artist, it’s hard to support streaming, but as a consumer of music, I love it,” Fratianne observed.
But as most of these conversations go, it’s easy to hit a dead end when trying to figure out the current musical climate.
Recovering from a whirlwind of delicious food and captivating musings, we got the checks. Fratianne stopped for a moment, as though her passion was consuming her every thought.
“Music is a force. It’s like gravity, a law of science. I’ve just never wanted to really do anything else.”
Not many people are truly capable of harnessing this power, but if anyone is going to do it, it’s Carly Fratianne.
You can catch Souther on March 30 at Rumba Cafe supporting local band Montezuma.
Featured Image PC: R.L. CARRPHOTOS