DI singer-songwriters sound off about their music and influences - Part 1
The music scene around Charleston has grown in acclaim at a surprising rate over the past decade. What used to be a sleepy hipster scene full of indie bands and Geechee-influenced rappers has become a haven for thoughtful artistic statements. Some of the Holy City’s musicians are touring regularly, SUSTO recently even began their European tour, and travelling bands are quickly making Charleston their South Carolina stop of choice. And Daniel Island it seems is generating a budding new slate of artists as well. The Daniel Island News recently spoke with three island singer-songwriters who are strumming up some attention for their talents: Glenn Raus, Hannah O and Clara Park.
Read below for stories on Raus and O, and watch for part 2, featuring Park, in next week’s edition.
As Glenn Raus puts it, he’s known around the island as “the karate guy.” And, why not? He runs the Japan Karate Institute on Daniel Island and is a fourth degree black belt in Wado Ryu karate. But, when he’s not kicking practice dummies, Raus is kicking out jams for his self-titled music project.
“What’s my music like? Just a middle-aged man trying to get in touch with his feelings, I guess,” he laughs.
He describes his most recent album, entitled “You Don’t Know Me,” as a very melancholy listen. “It’s very soft. It’s not a rock and roll album,” Raus said.
The 2018 EP is his first release, and it’s been a long wait. The karate instructor plays guitar on the album, but his first instrument was the alto saxophone.
“In that summer in between fifth and sixth grade, my parents asked me if I wanted to take a musical instrument. Then the question was: what do you want to take,” he recalled. “And I distinctly remember seeing Earth, Wind & Fire on T.V. and the sax player was just looking like he was having a blast.”
Raus practiced sax regularly, thanks to prompting from him parents, and near the end of college began to play bass guitar.
“Within three weeks of buying that bass, I was standing on stage in a band on an open mic night,” he said.
For the next two and a half years, Raus performed in a band and worked as a bartender.
When he moved to Charleston in 1996, the already multi-instrumentalist added to his repertoire of tools when his brother gave him an acoustic guitar.
“I wasn’t good at all,” Raus recalled, of his six-string abilities at the time. “Actually, I was kind of embarrassed to tell people I played guitar.”
It wasn’t until the 50-year anniversary of The Beatles’ legendary run on The Ed Sullivan Show that Sensei Raus decided to take guitar more seriously. He attempted to learn a few of the Fab Four’s songs, like “Norwegian Wood” and “Here Comes the Sun,” but had more trouble with them than he thought he would.
“It pushed me off my plateau and got me to realize that I’m not good and I need to take lessons,” he laughs.
With a new mission, he started off at Black Tie Music Academy, under the tutelage of Rich Tassin, before becoming Val Mackend’s pupil.
Raus has kept Mackend as a mentor for the past three years. She even coached him on songwriting for “You Don’t Know Me,” and she’s the namesake in the album’s “Song for Val.”
Overall, the album deals with “a general theme of loneliness, those quiet times where you have to think and reflect about things,” he said.
Raus is already planning out his next EP, and is excited to continue to expand his songwriting abilities.
“Songwriting is a craft, and a lot of people go ‘how can you study songwriting? It just comes from the heart.’ Which is true, but there are a lot of different, not tricks, but skills that you can learn in songwriting that set you apart from everybody else,” he said.
Daniel Island teen Hannah O wrote her first full song in the sixth grade, right around the time she picked up the guitar.
“I always played piano. I did the whole classical piano training stuff,” she said about her prior music training.
During her middle school years, O wrote small pieces of songs here and there, but never fleshed them out into full compositions, or really showed many people.
But at the onset of high school, she began pushing her songs beyond a simple past time.
“In ninth grade, I kind of started writing and getting more serious about it—less as a hobby and more as something to actually do,” she said.
Now about to begin her senior year at Academic Magnet High School, O has gotten a little further than just playing music for kicks.
She released a demo in 2018 and is recording her first EP with the help of multi-instrumentalist Chris Dodson, in his West Ashley studio.
As a lyricist, O derives her words from her everyday experiences.
“I usually just write about my life. I just write about what’s happening,” she said. “It helps me because I don’t really talk about myself and what’s happening in my life, so that’s kind of an outlet.”
Sonically, O shares a lot in common with acoustic singer-songwriters, but also has a special place in her heart for Amy Winehouse, the Avett Brothers, and Wilco. A lot of her musical inspiration for individual songs comes from her surroundings.
“Sometimes when I’ve been hanging out with the jazz guys at school, I’ll start trying to write some more jazz stuff. Or, if I’ve been hanging out with more singer-songwriters, I’ll try to do some of that stuff,” O said.
After high school, O hopes to stay in the music game, whether as a songwriter or not.
“I really want to go to NYU and study the music business,” she said.
She also wants to push her original music into different directions, by adding different instruments, like the banjo.
“I’ve kind of been playing with these guys lately, that’s kind of a folkish, Lumineers stuff, so maybe I’ll go in that direction, a little bit,” she said.
In many ways, music has been O’s link to the world around her.
“It’s a way for me to connect with people,” she said.