C. Shreve the Professor and Madelyn Ilana take natural paths while crafting new albums

PATIENCE PRACTITIONERS: C. Shreve the Professor, left, and Madelyn Ilana each took their time to create their latest albums, resulting in their richest works thus far. Shreve photo by Lillian Seibert. Madelyn photo courtesy of the artist

For his latest album as C. Shreve the Professor, Deep Gap-based rapper Chris Shreve strove to let the music come together as naturally as possible. Sifting through a range of beats from artists based in Greensboro (Kevo Beats), New Zealand (ThiefofBaghdad) and various spots in between, he took his time selecting the production that most inspired him, then allowed each set of lyrics to evolve organically out of his connection to the corresponding rhythm.

Opting to speak truthfully from where he is as an artist — which Shreve considers “a place of maturity, yet still growing and learning” — over adhering to a defined conceptual structure, he refrained from naming the project until near its completion. At that point, it felt right to call the collection Grown.

“The title is a reflection of the song process — allowing things to just grow into themselves — and also of my own journey as a human/artist,” Shreve says. “I’m not saying that I’m all the way grown, as in complete; I’m saying that I’ve been growing my whole life and that my art is a reflection of that growth.”

Shreve (a founding member of the hip-hop collective Free the Optimus) will celebrate the album’s release on Saturday, Nov. 16, at The Mothlight. Considering all that the MC, husband and father of a 9-year-old son has going on in his life — by day he’s a senior lecturer in Appalachian State University’s public health department — it’s somewhat miraculous that the album exists. Though the schedule flexibility of academia, the ability to teach online and efficient class preparation learned over his 12 years of teaching have allowed him to remain a prolific recording and touring artist, consistently taking care of himself remains a struggle.

“Finding balance is the real challenge of my life right now. For a long time, I made things work by depriving myself of sleep. I went for a good three years functioning on around five hours of sleep per night, and eventually it really took its toll on me mentally and physically,” he says. “I still stay up somewhat late — that’s when I feel most creative and when I can zone in on things with no distractions, but I’ve learned to not push till 3 every time because it really affects the next day.”

Other recent changes include adjusting to the closing of Timo’s House. Shreve says Free the Optimus steadily built the downtown venue into a “home space” over the course of five years and has “kind of been recalibrating Asheville this whole year,” gig-wise. Fellow FTO rapper Mike L!VE’s move to Charleston, S.C., however, hasn’t put a dent in either’s productivity or the health of FTO, both which Shreve feels are stronger than ever.

WHO: C. Shreve the Professor, Jarv, Mike L!VE and Foul Mouth Jerk
WHERE: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 16, 9 p.m. $10

The intentional dreamer

In many ways, Madelyn Ilana’s songwriting is an attempt to recapture the purity of her first musical memory. The upstate New York native distinctly recalls being in preschool and taking to a big, fallen tree on the playground that she’d often walk across like a gymnast on a balance beam.

“In the memory, it’s a really sunny day, and I’m watching my feet as I walk across the log, and I just am improvising words and the melody,” Madelyn says. “I think that’s something many children do, but I think somewhere along the line, we lose that — we lose space for that. It’s not cool to be the creative kid.”

Madelyn gained formal training at the age of 8, playing violin in the school orchestra. Now based in Asheville, she shares the joy of music by teaching the instrument in multiple programs, including MusicWorks at Hall Fletcher Elementary School and in her own original creations, which she describes as “ambient dream folk.”

Awake Dreaming, her first proper studio recording, receives an album release show on Sunday, Nov. 17, at Ambrose West, where Madelyn’s voice, violin and guitar will join forces with multi-instrumentalist Chris Rosser and percussionist Brian T. Carter. Recorded at Rosser’s Hollow Reed Studio, the collection is the follow-up to Daydreams and Dreamscapes, a DIY project that Madelyn says she needed to complete before leaving Florida, where she attended college.

“It was a different time in my life, but also an important time of waking up and freeing my creativity,” she says. “It was giving myself permission to come back to that childhood way of just playing and singing words that come out and not having to know why or what they mean.”

Writing from what she calls “a place of feeling,” Madelyn’s newer works carry an “overarching theme of wanting to understand what it means to be well, both personally and collectively.” They also explore finding “a sense of belonging in this world” and how to be a better friend, lover and steward of the natural world. Full of questions and humility, Awake Dreaming is also primed to reach listeners at a moment when its messages could have maximum impact.

“I was intentional about this timing, to have the release be around the harvest time of year — around the time of year that we are more conscious in practicing gratitude for all that we have. It’s a time of year that we also come into more generosity,” she says. “It’s felt really good to be in a flow with this and not be in a hurry. For me, the creative process has its own timeline.”

WHO: Madelyn Ilana with Scarvves
WHERE: Ambrose West, 312 Haywood Road, ambrosewest.com
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m. $12 advance/$14 day of show/$15 VIP

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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