Lyrical Songwriters are natural storytellers, and there is an audience waiting to hear yours. On Lyrical, host Jonah Grinkewitz, a local songwriter, goes behind the lyrics to showcase talented songwriters in Hampton Roads and beyond. This hour-long musical conversation features live performances, recorded music and more. It is a platform for songwriters to explain their lyrics, their influences and what drives them as a musician. Want to share the story behind your lyrics?



Songwriters are natural storytellers, and there is an audience waiting to hear yours. On Lyrical, host Jonah Grinkewitz, a local songwriter, goes behind the lyrics to showcase talented songwriters in Hampton Roads and beyond. This hour-long musical conversation features live performances, recorded music and more. It is a platform for songwriters to explain their lyrics, their influences and what drives them as a musician. Want to share the story behind your lyrics?

Most Recent Episodes

Neal Friedman of Super Doppler

Neal Friedman is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the band Super Doppler. The members of Super Doppler formed out of Norfolk where most of the members went to Maury High School. From those humble beginnings, and after playing together for nearly a decade, they've developed a sound that pays homage to their 60's and 70's influences while maintaining a sound that is uniquely their own. Their latest self-titled release effortlessly blends those influences together - with hints of Steely Dan, The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and other classic rock artists. Integral to the overall effect of their music are lyrics that place you somewhere in between the past and present. There are three core songwriters in the band - Harry Slater, Neal Friedman and Michael Adkins. I was happy to have Neal in the Lyrical studio to play a track from their recent self-titled release and another from their previous album "Moonlight Anthems."

Olivia Dyer

Olivia Dyer is a songwriter, worship leader and visual artist living in Norfolk, VA. She has released two full length albums, "The Threshing Floor" in 2011 and "Time & Age" in 2017. She also released the EP "Live in Boone" in 2018, an acoustic collection of songs performed live with her brother Josh Morgan in the Appalachian mountains of Boone, North Carolina. Aside from making music, she runs her own company Bellweather Ink & Textiles where she sells hand-crafted textile art, prints and paintings. In this episode she shares the breathtaking story behind her song "Morgan" and treats us to a soulful performance. We talk about going through our 20's and growing up as Olivia plucks her way through the song "Time and Age."

Will Overman

Virginia Beach songwriter and current Charlottesville musician Will Overman has been very active in his young music career so far. He has released two full albums as both a solo artist and as the front man for the Will Overman Band. In 2017 he struck out solely under his own name and released the EP "Crossroads" which especially showcased his growth as a lyricist. In this episode he played two new songs that will be on his next full length album which he is beginning to record this summer. On "Bad Apartment" he sings about "All of the places we lived in during our 20's." Overman excels at turning minute details and experiences into powerful lyrics, like in the conversational country croon "Miss California." He is influenced in equal parts by artist like The Avett Brothers and Ruston Kelly. After speaking with him and hearing these two new songs, I think there is a lot to be excited about on his next release.

Ben Phelps and Michael Adams of The Ben Phelps Project

The Ben Phelps Project are a Hampton Roads band that have been playing regionally since 2004. They have released two albums, "Vision and Sound" in 2006, and their new 2019 release "Wake Up the Guards" was featured as Album of the Week on Out of the Box with Paul Shugrue. The six-piece band combines jazz, rock and blues to form a lively and full sound. They have a tight rhythm section punctuated by blasting saxophone and soulful keys. Lead singer and front man Ben Phelps' powerful and expressive vocals anchor their sound. On "Wake Up the Guards" he and drummer Mike Adams primarily wrote the lyrics. As we discuss in this episode, they turn political and social for the first time on the anthemic "That Dog Don't Hunt." But the resounding theme of their lyrics and this album is hope for an equal society and love for each other despite our differences. And as Mike Adams says when talking about the song "Broken Clocks," at the end of the day love should be the most important thing in your life.

Ben Phelps and Michael Adams of The Ben Phelps Project

Jarvis Griffin and Nate Levine of Paper Aliens

On this episode of Lyrical I talked with Jarvis Griffin and Nate Levine of the Hampton Roads band Paper Aliens. Jarvis was the runner-up in the first Lyrical Singer Songwriter Contest where he impressed the judges with his powerful lyrics and soaring voice. Jarvis grew up singing in church and he comes from a long line of pastors. This explains his soulful voice and commanding presence. He's not afraid to let his voice carry the song - as he does on several acapella moments. He and guitarist Nate Levine form a formidable duo, with Nate's intricate and jazzy guitar licks weaving around Jarvis' smooth and sultry voice. On "Waltz" Jarvis charms the listener with his voice, but underneath his "shadow meaning" there is deception. The lyrics are a beautiful contrast with the elegant guitar work. Jarvis, Nate and Paper Aliens are a rising talent in Hampton Roads and I can't wait to hear what they have in store for the future.

Jarvis Griffin and Nate Levine of Paper Aliens

Kate Stedelbauer

Kate Stedelbauer was born in Virginia, but a huge part of her hails from Beale Street in Memphis. That of course is her signature red guitar, bought used from someone who used to play on the street where the Memphis Blues gained fame. "She's been playin' down on Beale Street since I was just a kid, and my mind hadn't discovered where all her songs were hid," she sings in "Red Guitar." Kate loves a good story, and she says her main approach to songwriting is to pick a concept or theme and write a story around it. "I think that's where country music came in for me," she says. "Because country music is all about the story." And Kate tells many great stories in her songs. She expertly portrays small town life in "Small Town Ballad," with the "bar flies tapping stories into each of their ashtrays." And she writes about overcoming odds despite where you come from in the touching ode "Boy Named Sunday." She turns inward to her own story on "Leave Me Be," laying her emotions bare for the listener. Kate is a songwriter beyond her years, and maybe that's because she dwells so much in the past listening to songwriters like Joni Mitchell and John Prine. It is encouraging to see such a skilled songwriter deftly balancing the past and present in her songwriting and style.

Nan Macmillan

Nan Macmillan appeared on our radar after she entered the first annual Lyrical Singer Songwriter Contest. She went on to win the contest after impressing the judges with her powerful voice, melodic hooks and soulful lyrics. Nan was raised in the suburbs of Boston, Mass. but has spent time in California, Spain and now Charlottesville, VA where she is attempting to carve out a name for herself as an artist. She employs intricate finger-picking styles in different guitar tunings to create a folk sound that is unique and yet familiar at the same time. There is power lurking behind her soft voice and she lets it out in a few of the songs on this episode - notably "Rain for the Heavy Heart" and "How Many Miles." She tackles tragedy in her lyrics - utilizing metaphor to great effect in "Sapling for August" which she wrote after the attacks in Charlottesville in 2017. And she writes about her time spent in Spain in "Rainy for the Heavy Heart" and the experience she had on a hiking pilgrimage. Nan is an extremely talented songwriter and musician, and you should keep an eye out for her debut EP which should be out sometime in the Summer or Fall of 2019.

Nate Sacks of The Lifehacks

Nate Sacks works hard - he fronts his own band The LifeHacks, lends his talents to the band Galaxy Dynamite, performs as a solo artist, teaches music at The School of Rock in Virginia Beach and somehow finds the time to run his own promotional company Local Cheers which brings beer and music together at awesome events. That's just the list of projects he's involved with right now, but he's been playing in bands since he was 16 and crafting his songwriting and music skills for awhile. A major turning point was winning the Sea Level Singer Songwriter Emerging Artist contest in 2012 sponsored by Tidewater Arts Outreach. He won on his third try and each time he pushed himself to write better songs. That maturation has paid off, as is evident in the songs you'll hear in this episode of Lyrical. Nate's lyrics can be biting, funny and sometimes filled with angst. He can be idealistic and realistic in the same song, but he's always honest. Nate and I worked together to plan and put on the first Lyrical Singer Songwriter Contest, and it's a pleasure to feature him on the latest episode of Lyrical. We share a passion for uplifting the songwriting community in Hampton Roads. After doing so much work behind the scenes, it's time to shine the spotlight on Mr. Sacks and give you a glimpse into his songwriting and musical approach.

Michael Ford Jr and Ben Ford of Airpark

Songwriting brothers Michael and Ben are nearly "Irish twins" - a term I learned during the latest episode of Lyrical. And, as they told me, being brothers gives them an advantage when it comes to songwriting because they know how to be direct with their feedback and work together to make music that they love. They were both in the folk/rock outfit The Apache Relay which enjoyed a healthy amount of success with their "wall of sound" style of music. Michael told me that he wanted Airpark to be known as "...a band that takes chances" and it certainly was a risk in departing from The Apache Relay's signature sound to make the more minimalist groove rock that Airpark started out with on their first release, "Volume 1." Since that first release though they have continued to switch it up with each new single and EP, and as Ben stated, "We have no interest in making the same record twice." Although they tour pretty constantly, they still find the time record intricately crafted songs with lyrics that evoke intense feelings. "Yours Till I Die" is perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time, with lyrics that feel so real that you forget it's even a song when you listen to it. If that doesn't make sense hopefully listening to my interview with Ben and Michael will help clear things up.

John Mark Nelson

Songwriter John Mark Nelson hails from St. Paul, Minnesota, but his ties to Virginia run deep. His story is a testament to the power of songwriting and music to bring people together. It was almost 6 years ago that host Jonah Grinkewitz heard one of John's songs on Minnesota Public Radio's The Current, sparking a long and winding road to Jonah's apartment for a house concert and the newest episode of Lyrical. John's songs are mostly autobiographical and you can hear him wrestling with the challenges he faces and the complicated emotions that come with them. Blended into this episode are moments from his house concert performance where he describes very accurately what it's like to be an independent musician. His musical career hasn't been easy, but it is evident from talking to him and hearing his lyrics that he won't give up anytime soon. The episode ends with the full story of how John and Jonah met, and they play the song that brought them together - "Reminisce."

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