Although Taylor Council, aka Siren XO, started singing around her house as a little girl, it wasn’t until two years ago that she started publicly performing her music. Recovering from a difficult relationship, Council — who grew up in Asheville — was inspired to “be who I wanted to be,” and she turned to songwriting in earnest. Her self-recorded tracks caught the attention of local label Ponkinhead Entertainment, which signed Taylor to its stable of artists.
Making art out of opposition and finding community in song production could be a theme for many of the performers at the second installment of For the Love of Music. The show, featuring more than 20 acts and benefiting local nonprofit Bounty & Soul, takes place at UpCountry Brewing Co. on Friday, Feb. 17.
“I just like getting everybody together and having fun,” says show organizer Joseph Lepanto. “It’s fun for me to watch everybody perform in one place rather than travel around.” He humbly describes himself as “more of a fan,” but Lepanto — aka hip-hop artist Diggypop Malone — is a performer in his own right. He’ll take the stage at UpCountry along with members of Natural Born Leaders, Doug Dew, D Balla, Blaze III, Gully Millz, Hunter, Colston, Spaceman Jones, $ouf$ide Pat, Profit Levi, Kilo, Chachillie and Philo — all MCs and producers — as well as producer and DJ Nex Millen, DJ Ra Mak and pop-rock duo Rad & Jamez.
It’s a stacked lineup, but the capacity is smaller at this year’s venue. The first iteration of the group show took place at New Mountain, but Lepanto, who worked briefly at UpCountry, felt the brewery and listening room was in alignment with his vision. “This is to give back to the people who come to see us and the community that allows us to do what we do,” he says.
Many of the artists on the bill regularly perform together or collaborate. “The first year, me, Austin Haynes and DJ Ra Mak wanted to organize a local show with a lot of hip-hop acts,” Lepanto remembers. They’re “kind of a tightknit group, and we’ve built a community.”
Council has also experienced the bond forged through shared music. For example, some of the tracks and videos produced by Ponkinhead, though high-quality, use language that disparages women — but Council says public personas differ from the musicians’ real-life personalities. “I’ve been a part of [local dancer, dance teacher and musician Marley Pearcy]’s family for a long time, and the label stems from some of his family,” Council says. “I’ve always felt safe around them, and they’re all extremely respectful and really good to me.”
She’s in the process of putting out her first mixtape, which includes contributions from Pearcy, aka Marley P and Mr 1NE 5IVE, who will both perform at For the Love of Music.
Council’s own songs, as Siren XO, are R&B-influenced. They drip soul and reverberate with heartache and longing, but there are also hints of her ambition: “When the music calls my name / and I drown in the fame / will you hate me for changing?” she asks on “Choosing.” Her voice, sweeping and supple, is emotive but also modern as she sings over a sparse beat. “Ride or Die,” which opens with an emergency vehicle siren, pairs Council with DJ Audio. It’s a sultry duet with an infectious rhythm; something that would be right at home on pop radio.
The Feb. 17 show serves as a spotlight for some of the city’s up-and-coming artists. “We’ve got a lot of hidden talent in Asheville,” says Council, nodding to hip-hop performers TRiG and Sass of Musty Mark Records as ones to watch. “It would be great if people who loved music would come out and support it. If we could do more community-based music, we could all benefit from it.”
Clearly, Lepanto is of a similar mindset. For the Love of Music strives to meet a number of local needs. The inaugural event raised funds for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, the Asheville Jewish Community Center and LEAF Community Arts. This year, 100 percent of the proceeds go to grassroots initiative Bounty & Soul, which is “dedicated to creating a health and wellness movement in underserved communities in Buncombe County,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
“Because they’re such a small charity, they don’t get a lot of help,” says Lepanto. The pairing makes sense: Like the many artists he’s featuring, Bounty & Soul comes from humble roots but works hard and dreams big.
WHAT: For the Love of Music
WHERE: UpCountry Brewing Co., 1042 Haywood Road, upcountrybrewing.com
WHEN: Friday, Feb. 17, 9 p.m. $10. avl.mx/3dd