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Rent Party Bringing Singer-Songwriter Slaid Cleaves to South Orange on Sunday

David Lackey

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 • 3:19pm

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Slaid Cleaves is known for writing some the most sharply observed songs in music today, and on Sunday, Feb. 23, he will be headlining the latest Rent Party show at the Elks Club Lodge at 220 Prospect St., South Orange.

Cleaves is touring in support of his latest album, “Still Fighting the War.” The Maine native relocated to Austin, Texas, more than 20 years ago and is associated with the long tradition of Texas songwriters in the country-folk-Americana genre.

“I try to always be open to inspiration, those little tiny scratches of conversations or lyrics or ideas for songs and jot those down in a little notebook,” Cleaves told The Alternative Press. “I’ll save those for when I have time to write and get into that mode of story-telling and song construction.”

Cleaves said he spends about half the year travelling, playing his music for audiences around the country.  His wife, Karen, is his manager and booking agent.  They like to travel north in the summertime to escape the Texas heat.

“Karen is really mad at me for agreeing to this Mid-Atlantic tour in the middle of February,” Cleaves said.

His new album is garnering rave reviews and should win him a host of new fans. The title song, “Still Fighting the War,” is earning some airplay on satellite radio and on Americana stations around the country.

“In the past, when I was in the process of writing an album, I would take a look at the songs and gauge what direction they were heading in thematically and use that to shape the next batch of songs so that the album would have some consistency,”

“When I approached this latest record, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to release an album because things were changing so fast.  I thought that by the time I have enough songs to make an album, albums might be obsolete,” Cleaves said.  “I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t be trying to write a cohesive album that’s internally consistent.  Maybe I should just follow wherever the muse went and write whatever kind of song I was gravitating towards and let each song stand on its own.  Records are battered and bruised, but for now they are still the best way to release a batch of music and to get some attention for your latest output.  But this time I’ve put out a record with a bit more variety than my previous records.”

The Rent Party show on Sunday is sure to be about as intimate a venue as you are likely to see an artist of this stature.

“I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve got an audience that supports us. The tours are exhausting, and I’m going to hit 50 this year, so it’s getting a little harder to keep up with the physical demands,” Cleaves said. “But I pinch myself quite often that I make a living doing music.  I don’t have a boss and a regular job.  I can control my own destiny, so I’m in a very, very lucky place.”

Rent Party founder Chris Dickson said he has been trying t get Cleaves to play here since 2010.  

"Larger feature shows like this help to bring more people into the Rent Party tent," Dickson said.  "The artists that we've had have been great.  They get what we're doing and they are very supportive."

Art Christensen, the proprietor of Les Saisons Inn at 304 Elmwood Avenue, Maplewood, has generously donated two rooms for the act to eneable them to come and perform the Rent Party.  For reservations call 973-762-3416 or visit www.lessaisonsinn.com.  And, as always, The Elks have donated the use of the room for the show, continuing their long tradition of philanthropy.

Buy tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/570405

Here is a video of Slaid Cleves singing "Still Fighting the War":

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