From singer-songwriters strumming guitars at local parks and waterfront patios to the jazz and rock musicians rattling the rafters at The Spire and Memorial Hall, Plymouth has become a destination for live music. Here are five dynamic music makers whose passion for their art is helping to enrich the local music scene.By Melissa Sances | Photography by Kris Hughes
A high-energy performer known for her showy stage moves and soaring vocals, Boston Catalano began singing with local church choirs when she was 4 years old. Growing up, she would blast songs by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey on her dual-cassette karaoke machine, attempting to out-sing the artists. “I would try to hit Mariah’s whistle notes,” says Catalano. “I don’t know how my siblings handled it.” The Plymouth native is now the front-woman for the local cover band Blacklist, rocking out to Guns n’ Roses and ACDC on the regular.
As a teenager, Catalano’s primary focus was horseback riding, which led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in equestrian science from William Woods University in Missouri. It was around this time that she picked up a guitar and rekindled her passion for music. “Once I learned the chords I told my professor that I was going to do something different,” she says.
Catalano released her first album, “Firestarter,” with the rock band Boston and Bosco in 2010 and her first solo project, “Body of Work,” in 2014, which featured 12 original songs with corresponding music videos filmed on the South Shore. She’s now a Bose-affiliated artist who recently wrapped up a 50-city tour with fellow South Shore musician Mike Visconti, performing in-store gear demonstrations as part of the Bose S1 Pro Roadshow.
Over the years Catalano has written more than 150 original songs and is currently working on assembling her next original rock band project, while happily touring the region with the cover band Blacklist (catch their next show on June 16 at PINZ at the Kingston Collection). “Every weekend,” says Catalano “I look forward to being able to sing at the
top of my lungs.”
Singer-songwriter Hayley Sabella wrote her first song, “Murphy’s Law,” when she was 14 years old. “It’s so cheesy,” she says. “It was about the things you want that seem impossible to have.” She never expected the exciting path her music career would take.
Born in Plymouth, Sabella was raised by missionary musicians, who moved the family to Nicaragua when she was 4 years old and returned to her hometown when she was 9. Despite a lingering feeling of displacement, Sabella settled into playing guitar and performing in school musicals. After graduating from high school, she wanted to pursue music, but ended up falling in love with literary criticism at Bridgewater State University, gradually getting back to performing when she started playing gigs and released her first EP in December of 2012.
Now 28, Sabella is touring nationally to promote her third album, “Forgive the Birds,” which followed “King Solomon” (2014) and “Farm Fingers” (2012). Released in April at The Spire Center in Plymouth, “Forgive the Birds” features 10 melodic folk-pop songs that give a nod to the New England landscape, like “Cape Cod,” and the changing seasons, like “Turn Around,” that mirror the changes in love and life. With a voice that is soft, yet edgy, Sabella’s songs manage to sound both vulnerable and empowered.
Recently named one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” by Rolling Stone, Sabella’s years of hard work are finally paying off. “From a young age, I didn’t have a natural ability to own my craft or have a strong sense of self,” says Sabella. “I think part of growing as an artist is being a bit more deliberate about the outcome – and knowing how to take steps to get to that place.”
THE TALENT SCOUT
Summer nights in Plymouth wouldn’t be the same without the sound of live music floating through the air, and much of the thanks for the town’s many outdoor entertainment opportunities goes to Mike Landers. A town employee who works at the Plymouth Airport, Landers spends his days fueling planes and plowing runways, but in his free time he runs Project Arts of Plymouth, Inc., a nonprofit he founded in 1995 to offer free summer concerts to the community.
“It’s my heart and soul,” says Landers, who is proud that the annual outdoor concert series has helped to make Plymouth a destination for tourists and locals alike. Landers procures funding, promotes the program and books top-tier talent.
“I love music and it’s always been my salvation,” says Landers, who first picked up a guitar at 6 years old and found playing to be an escape from a troubled childhood. At the age of 14, he was touring as a bass player when he met blues legend B.B. King and it wasn’t long before he was backing up greats like King and Bo Diddley. While on tour, Landers learned about concert production and stage management, which he put into practice when he founded the booking service, Nightlife Music Co. in 1995. “I’m not a rich guy but I measure my wealth in my friendships,” says Landers.
Even when unforeseen problems arise, Landers always makes sure that shows go off without a hitch. When he learned that the waterfront park typically used for the concerts would be inaccessible this summer due to ongoing construction, Landers set to work finding a replacement venue. This summer, live music fans will be able to enjoy live music performances on Wednesday nights on the grassy lawn in front of the Chamber of Commerce building, located at 143 Court Street.
THE IRISH DUO
Stephen and Susan Lindsay
Neil Young brought Stephen and Susan Lindsay together. “Music is part of who we are and how our relationship has been defined,” says Susan. “The first day I met Steve, he sang ‘Harvest Moon’ and I thought, ‘Oh God, I’m in trouble.’”
The would-be Irish folk duo met after Stephen came to the United States from Dublin in 1994. “Steve and I would go out together all the time. He had romantic intentions and I was oblivious,” says Susan. “When he said he was going back to Ireland, all of a sudden it dawned on me.”
For a time, Stephen did return overseas, where he performed Irish ballads. While he was away, Susan, a Plymouth native trained in blues and jazz, started taking Irish flute and whistle lessons. The day before Susan’s 30th birthday, Stephen returned to the States, and in 2001 they started playing music together in Plymouth. The band, The Lindsays, has released three albums: “Live at Church of the Pilgrimage” (2007), “From the Green to the Blue” (2010) and “Irish Christmas: Home Away from Home” (2016). Their music is steeped in tradition but has a bit of a contemporary twist. Stephen plays guitar and sings, while Susan plays the flute, whistle and also the saxophone. “It’s one of the things that sets us apart,” she says.
The Lindsays frequently perform with Ted Mello on upright bass at local spots like Dillon’s Local and at the Plymouth Farmer’s Market (see them there on July 5, August 23rd). The pair was married five years ago; naturally, Stephen sang “Harvest Moon” at their wedding.
THE JAZZ PERFORMER
Johnny Souza developed an ear for jazz before he even knew what he was listening to.
“I was born late in my parents’ life and they grew up in the 1920s so the music they liked was all from that era,” says Souza. “My Dad would say, ‘Play this’ and I would say, ‘I don’t have the music for that.’ Pretty soon it got to the point where I could play anything by ear.”
In elementary school, Souza took to the trumpet and by the time he was in high school he knew he wanted to pursue jazz. After graduating from Berklee College of Music, the Plymouth native made a living playing in pop bands and then stepped away from music for a period of time when he decided to start a family. Eventually, he felt drawn back to the music he loved. “You get the itch,” says Souza. “Then you think: If I do this again, I’m going to do what I like.”
Since his return to performing, Souza has focused on jazz with the Johnny Souza Quartet. He’s also on the board of directors at The Spire Center for the Performing Arts, where he plays an annual holiday concert and oversees jazz programming as well as a bimonthly open jazz jam. His album “My Shining Hour” (2000) received national airplay and his 2004 single “Boston (Hub of My Heart)” became a standard at Fenway Park.
Souza continues to find jazz ever-inspiring. “It never gets stale,” he says. “You never play the same song twice or the same way twice. That’s what I look forward to.”