MEET SOME ATLANTA MUSICIANS WHO COULD BE THE NEXT BIG DEAL.
When Justin Bieber walked into Jan Smith Studios in 2008 for basic vocal and artist development, he was a “fun kid with a natural talent, but he had never been in a studio,” says Smith. Usher, who worked with Smith and dubbed her “Mama Jan,” brought Bieber in after seeing him on YouTube. Smith lined Bieber up against a door frame and measured him. Every time he came back, out came the pencil, and she marked his growth.
“He was just a little guy about to go through puberty,” she says. “It was important for him to be taller, and obviously he’s grown. When young guys would come in for development, they would go to the door frame and measure themselves.”
They were literally, and figuratively, measuring themselves against Bieber in Smith’s Brookhaven studio.
Smith works with about 200 artists at any given time. Some are trying to break into the business; others are trying to get to the next level and stay there. The city is “pregnant with talent,” she says. There are “artists here who are fabulous. It’s an exciting time in the music and film industry. The spotlight is on Atlanta, but it’s throughout Georgia and the South.”
Smith is working with two artists she believes have the talent and desire to make it. Sage Hammond relocated with her family from Nebraska when she was 15 so she could work with Smith. So far, they have produced several videos and songs, and are about to release her debut album. She is poised for major label involvement, says Smith. “I heard her voice and believe she has a unique thumbprint. There is a difference between great singers and really great artists who are also great singers.”
Another Smith protégé is Atlantan Grace Asbury, a developing country artist and writer who has worked with Smith for three years. Her singles have done quite well, she says. “Both artists are now 21 years old, residing in Atlanta and looking forward to taking the music industry by storm!”
Marcy L. Sperry, who founded the boutique intellectual property and entertainment law firm Vivid IP, has her eye on three local talents: Mystic Wind, Leah Culver and A-Lex. Mystic Wind is an Atlanta violinist who has performed all over the country, including at the House of Blues in Chicago, the Fillmore auditorium in Philadelphia and the Tabernacle in Atlanta. Although classically trained, Mystic Wind’s sound weaves contemporary, classical instrumental, folk, rock, Celtic and electronic music. That’s a lot of sound melding but it works; Sperry calls it a “visionary new sound.” Among the singles are “Summoning Spirit” and “Return to Your Rituals,” which are available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play, among others.
Atlanta born and raised, Culver is undeniably multi-talented, says Sperry. The queen of electronic dance music, Culver is a singer, songwriter, producer and DJ. Now based in LA and New York City, she has racked up more than one million cumulative SoundCloud plays and has more than 30,000 followers on her Facebook and Instagram pages.
Friends told Sperry about A-Lex, a Grammy nominated singer and songwriter who used social media to build his fan base and control his creative direction. Born Alexander Lloyd, he wrote and did vocal production for artists such as Musiq Soulchild, Austin Mahone and TPain. He received a Grammy nomination as a songwriter on Soulchild’s album, Feel the Real. His first album, From a Seed, was released last year.
We also have our eyes on Nolan Bennett, whose musical resume belies his 21 years, and his soon to- be-released album, Rainbow Dream Interpretation, is highly anticipated. His mom is Cindy Wilson of the iconic B-52’s, and the pair performed a duet in a living room video during COVID. The singer/ songwriter/musician started his first band, Already Taken, when he was 9 with his Dunwoody school chums. Since then he has played in local clubs with several bands, including Array, which was named the Best Youth Act, Country/Rock at the 2016 Georgia Music Awards.
STORY: Mary Welch
Simply Buckhead is an upscale lifestyle magazine focused on the best and brightest individuals, businesses and events in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Chamblee. With a commitment to journalistic excellence, the magazine serves as the authority on who to know, what to do and where to go in the community, and its surroundings.