Singer and songwriter Elias Deleault, right, with drummer Dustin Fuentes. - Photo by Bob Pennell

Catch a Rising Star in February

Ashland singer and songwriter Elias Deleault, Medford band The Evening Shades, string player Jef Ramsey and the Brian Swan Band are just four of the 13 semifinalists selected to compete in the third annual Rising Stars music contest.

The musicians and bands were selected from about 100 applicants this year.

Porscha Schiller of South Stage Cellars screened them first to match preliminary criteria — which included the size of each group and its location. The first cut pared the list to 25 applicants, who were sent to Britt Festivals' staff for the final choices.

"It was difficult," says Rachel Jones, Britt's director of education and community engagement. "There are so many talented people in the valley."

Jones, along with Britt's booking director Mike Sturgill, looked for bands and musicians to represent a variety of musical styles. They also looked for a balance of new candidates to mix with those reprising their performances from last year.

"There were several pleasant surprises," Jones says. "Such as The Evening Shades, Em Harris and Elias Deleault. We hadn't heard these people before."

The criteria for the final cut came down to how the applicants will sound playing this summer at Britt's Pavilion in Jacksonville — and how compatible they would be with the variety of professional acts booked this year at the outdoor music festival.

Semifinalists Deleault, The Evening Shades, Ramsey and the Brian Swan Band will kick off the competition at 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at South Stage Cellars' wine-tasting room, 125 S. Third St., Jacksonville.

The competition will continue through the month, with semifinalist competitions on Feb. 8, 15 and 22. Audiences can vote for their favorite bands or musicians by purchasing votes for $2 each. Proceeds will benefit Britt's music education programs. Admission to the events is free.

Songwriter Deleault says he hopes the contest gets him better connected with musicians in the Rogue Valley. He and his wife moved to Ashland from Los Angeles almost two years ago.

He finished his second, independently released CD, "Hold On, Let Go," in September and began playing at Caldera Tap House, Club 66, Oberon's and other local venues.

"It's been cool," Deleault says. "It's a diverse music scene, and there are some talented musicians who have been welcoming."

Deleault's songs are personal in their inspiration and explore a mix of emotions, such as personal loss and his love for his wife.

"I don't usually sit down with much of an idea for a song," he says. "Most of them come from whatever is stirring in me at the time. They start with a rhythm or progression that moves me, then that emotion becomes the lyric. The best ones come to me in a shot. I get in touch with some inspiration, and voila!"

Deleault released his first CD, "The Time Between," in 2010, a title that relates directly to living in Los Angeles and recording music in the quiet moments between car alarms, dogs barking and neighbors fighting.

"Ashland affords much more quiet time for recording," he says.

Deleault will perform with electric guitarist John Cardwell, bassist Tim Duryea and drummer Dustin Fuentes in the first semifinalist round on Feb. 1 at South Stage Cellars.

Each round's winner will be posted to www.brittfest.org, www.southstagecellars.com and South Stage Cellars on Facebook.

The finals will be held Saturday, March 1, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., with the winner chosen by a combination of public votes and a panel of judges.

The winning band or musician will be featured as an opening act during Britt Festivals' 2014 season of outdoor concerts and will perform live in the studio at Jefferson Public Radio.

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