Here is the bio for our next feature...
John Boehmer in tribute to Peter Neuendorffer
and Michael Troy
At about the same time that the Beatles were on their first tour of the United States, John Boehmer was growing up in a big Victorian house in uptown New Orleans, three miles from the Mississippi River and the Audubon Park Zoo.
“I had this big corner room on the second floor of that big old red house. There were six windows in my bedroom, so when I would open them all up on hot summer nights it was like sleeping in treetops. When the wind was just right I would lie there and listen to the whistling of the boats on the river, the lions roaring in the zoo, and the streetcars rumbling down St Charles Avenue. And sometimes in the mornings I would hear the strange, ethereal music that the grain elevators would make on the wharves. I think all of those sounds had a big influence on me. They’ve had a lot to do with the way I think of music, as something that comes from far away. If you’re paying attention you hear it. If you’re not, it’s gone!”
Boehmer’s music influence is broad indeed, ranging from traditional folk and rock icons like Neil Young, Joni Mitchel and Paul Simon, to more eclectic artists such as Jane Sibbery, Lauri Anderson, Brian Eno and Ricky Lee Jones. His love of classical music and Jazz, combined with his love of New Orleans R&B and celtic music fuse to create a style that is unique and accessible. With guitar, harmonica and piano he weaves the musical landscapes that serve as the backdrop for his evocative lyrics.
For the past thirty years Boehmer has written songs that travel easily back and forth in time from his earliest years to today; from memories to current life. But for the first 35 years of his life those songs were locked away, never to see the light of day.
That all changed in the winter of 1998. While stopped in to get a cup of coffee at a coffee house in Boston, John happened to pick up a course catalogue for Cambridge Center for Adult Education and thumbed through it. He originally considered taking a course in Celtic Harp, but eventually decided to take a course on songwriting taught by local singer songwriter Chris Brendt. The first two classes were dedicated to songwriting and the second two were on performance. He was originally not going to take the performance portion of the class because it did not seem relevant to him, but eventually changed his mind. The course ended with a showcase at the Blacksmith House in Harvard Square.
“When I arrived that night I was very nervous but very excited. I couldn’t wait to get up there and play my songs for a room full of attentive listeners. When the show was over, about ten of us went to the Border Café to eat, laugh and talk about songwriting. That night I remember thinking, ‘this is exactly where I want to be right now. Talking with other songwriters’. After we finished eating, this guy that I had never met leaned toward me over that big round table, looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You know, I really enjoyed your songs’. That was my epiphany. My music had always been such a personal thing that I had always felt that it held no relevance for anyone but than myself. At that moment I thought ‘Maybe I can do this. Maybe I should just keep putting this out there and let people respond to it for themselves”. It’s been a big surprise to learn that other people can listen to what I’m singing and relate to in on a personal level”.
Boehmer began playing on the open mic scene in and around the greater Boston area and was soon being asked to perform as the featured artist and opening for larger acts. At about the same time he also joined The Center for Arts in Natick (TCAN), a venue where songwriters meet to play their music, talk about song-craft, and to help promote each other.
In the summer of 2002, when TCAN decided to put out a CD to benefit the center, John, along with artists like Kevin So, Lori McKenna and Don White, was asked to contribute an original song to the project . In July of that year he was one the artists asked to perform at the TCAN benefit concert.
In 2002 John released his first CD, and EP titles Day Gone Buy. He has also just completed mixing his second CD of original compositions for Piano under the title The Ivory Coast.
“I write these songs because they are expressions of who I am. I just hope that when people hear them, that they will hear themselves in them somehow. I’ve been fortunate in that people have been responding to my music. It is such a privilege when someone approach me after a show to tell me how a song has affected them. What could be better than that?”
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