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[EASTOWN] Brie Stoner's Road to Eastown

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/Lee Hardy

Underwriting support from:


Access writer, Amy Wolterstorff

POPULAR SINGER-SONGWRITER Brie Stoner loves living in the sun-filled, eclectically decorated Eastown home she shares with her husband and young son. But it’s been a long road involving more than 24 moves to this “deeply settling, peaceful and positive space.” Stoner spent her first 12 years with her family in Spain and did some traveling in Europe. They returned to Indiana for Stoner’s first two years of high school and then to Grand Rapids for her final two years at Northview High School.

With the encouragement of her Northview music teacher, Stoner began playing the guitar, composing and singing. She played talent shows and coffee shops, and she wrote and performed the class song at the graduation ceremony in 2000. For the next few years, Stoner made recordings and performed solo and with a band, signing with the small, local and now-defunct Fonic Records in 2003. She traveled back and forth to Chicago for awhile where she recorded with the late, well-known musician Jay Bennett. Then, urged by musician friends with lots of connections, she moved to Silver Lake, California, where she “came alive” in the freeing, bohemian atmosphere, worked at a vintage clothing store “that served the starlets,” learned a lot, performed a lot, and was able to gain a first-hand glimpse of the music industry. She left a year later in 2006, when the music scene she had initially found energizing became draining.

Nashville—with a publishing deal—was to be her next stop. But Grand Rapids—intended as a one-month stopover—became a destination after she reconnected and fell in love with her now-husband. Stoner was then able to “embrace everything I loved and adored about the Midwest” and realized that she needed to be away from an industry town. While she misses the camaraderie of fellow musicians, she feels that “the separation has made me the kind of artist I need to be.” Drawn to Eastown because of its open, artistic community that reminded her of Europe, she has found contentment in a place where ordinary tasks like gardening, shoveling and changing diapers provide a balance that informs her songwriting and performing and help her “find beauty in the menial.”

Stoner characterizes her music as folk/rock that borrows from many genres. She cites her greatest influences as Neil Young, Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) and Fleetwood Mac. Currently, Stoner maintains control over her music and tour schedule by producing it herself. Although she also records in Los Angeles and Nashville, most of her recording is done in the upstairs recording studio in her home.

Following a recording break of several years “to grow up a bit and live,” Stoner released her Delicate Hour EP last August, a Christmas EP called Feliz Navidad last November, with a third EP scheduled for a spring 2011 release, all of which showcase her sultry, resonant voice and acoustic guitar playing. Stoner does jingles and vocal work and produces soundtracks for film production companies, including Rob Bell’s NOOMA series. She also provides soundtracks and vocals for commercials— maybe you saw the one for the Nokia N8 that aired during the Grammy Awards.

WHAT ENERGIZES Stoner now is the process of creating in her recording studio. Her songs, Stoner says, “come from another place.” To allow them to emerge, she plays chord progressions on her 1969 Gibson Hummingbird guitar, working her way to melodies. Then come the garbled sounds her mother calls “Briespeak,” and later, sometimes much later, come the actual words. Stoner feels her strength is in her melodies and points out that she is successful at soundtrack production, not because she is a skilled musician but because she is able to hear the feeling the clients want and translate it into song.

If you missed Stoner’s recent performance at the WYCE Jammies, you can still catch two upcoming shows at the Ladies Literary Club on March 8 as part of Women’s Day International and on March 11 as part of a local music showcase.

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Here's a video of Brie's performance at this year's WYCE Jammies (video courtesy our pals at GRTV).