With the 2023 music awards approaching this month, we are instituting a new guideline – starting this year, any band or performer that wins 5 times in the same category will receive a special award and will not be eligible in future years. A dynasty like that is extremely rare, so these legend awards won’t happen often – we can only think of only three or four over the 17 years these awards have been happening – but we were inspired to take a look back at some of the bands and performers that have won repeatedly over those years (even if it’s not 5 times – we won’t know who might qualify for that until voting concludes).
Here’s a random sampling of “Where are they now” updates on musicians that inspired some of our writers.
Kris & Tara Hansen
Kris and Tara Hansen have been local musical stalwarts for decades (though they definitely don’t seem old enough for that). Known for the band Viking Jesus and their more recent duo act, Man & Wife, their friendly and enthusiastic demeanor makes those around them feel welcome and supported. They are a consistent presence around town, whether as performers, supporters, or Kris working sound at numerous venues. They have won multiple Motif awards in various Alternative and Folk categories throughout the years.
“Winning multiple awards is still unbelievable,” Tara says. “Having your peers recognize the work you have done is a huge inspiration to do more. Being an artist is a constant struggle and we all want acceptance alongside authenticity.”
“To me, the nomination is everything,” Kris adds. “Winning means we have an actively participating fan base. It is great to be recognized. I will probably not be going to the Grammys at any point in my 40s so, to be recognized by the only publication in [Southern] New England that really focuses on art brings me great pleasure. We’ve been through a lot in all these years.”
Kris and Tara both credit Viking Jesus guitarist George Dussault and bassist Ian Pharo with developing their sound. They consider their songwriting a collaboration, with each member bringing important contributions.
“The whole VJ design is George Dussault and me, in his laboratory,” Kris says of his songwriting partner. “George is the producer! I have always written the core song and then George will write arrangements and other parts to fill it out.”
Both bands are currently writing new material and Tara is working on songs that she plans to record independently in the Spring. Kris says that Viking Jesus has a new single and a record of ballads that will be uploaded and available in the near future. They have not had a permanent drummer since Nick Iddon passed away in 2022, but they may have one on the horizon, which has them all hopeful for their future.
“I love our music scene and all of the musicians in RI,” Kris says when asked about the Motif Awards event. “The event is quite diverse and fun. It’s a great networking opportunity. You have every genre under one roof!”
“Rhode Island has such a vast network of talent as well as strong artistic ties within a small community,” Tara adds. “It is always unbelievable to see so much talent and love in one room together. Everybody wins when we all support each other.”
– Bobby Forand
SexCoffee is a hard rock band that has been playing since 2007 (with a break from 2009-2014), releasing four albums and winning the trifecta of prestigious Motif Awards (Band of the Year, Best Female Vocalist, Rock Album of the Year). Cofounders and songwriters Ruth Charbonneau (vocals) and Sharlene DeNardo (bass) have seen five drummers, nine guitarists and one manager come and go throughout their time, but are thrilled with their current lineup, which features drummer Al Diaz (joined in 2017) and new guitarist, Phil Martelly, who joined in 2022. All members are excited to see the music they create in 2023.
“We are ecstatic to have him on board,” Charbonneau says of Martelly. “With Al’s humor, Sharlene’s sarcasm, and my battling personalities, his chill attitude and professionalism is the perfect fit for our band family. We are excited to write some new music with Phil in 2023 and eager to see what creativity evolves with our new energy.”
Charbonneau says that it’s always an honor to be nominated for an award and to be a part of the tremendous original music scene in Providence. She comments that the camaraderie of everyone involved is one of her favorite things. She adds that she truly enjoys the “magical experience” of the award show itself, with “eclectic presenters, amazing performers and a professional photo shoot that makes everyone feel like a celebrity.”
“Winning multiple Motif awards in a span of 13 years, proves to us that regardless of what we endure as a band, we will always return to the music.”
Charbonneau says that SexCoffee is a musical autobiography of the trials and tribulations that she and DeNardo have endured for the past 21 years. She invites listeners to travel along with them.
“Our music has grown with us from our ridiculous college days to our current state of…well….mostly adulting,” Charbonneau says. “I’d say our music has progressed and it tells one hell of a story. It’s an honest and humbling journey!”
– Bobby Forand
Atwater & Donnelly
Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly met at the Stone Soup Coffeehouse in 1987 and have been playing music since. They have released 14 albums, several books of poetry, songbooks, and a documentary DVD. They’ve toured stateside and internationally and won multiple Motif awards in the folk / world / Americana zones.
“It’s a very nice compliment and honor to be recognized for our work here at home,” Atwater says of the numerous awards they have won throughout the years.
Atwater-Donnelly performs in many configurations: as a duo, a trio/band, solo, and with their gospel project, Jerimoth Hill. Their endeavors keep them busy throughout the year. A look at their agenda proves that they are some of the most active artists in the RI. Most of their acts have performances scheduled each month, mostly local with a few long-distance tours.
“We are performing in concert series, festivals, libraries, etc., somewhat more locally after decades on the road,” Atwater, who also teaches music and dance classes at Blackstone River Theatre, explains. “And, as ever, we continue our therapeutic and educational work in nursing homes, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, schools, etc.”
In addition to their extensive calendar, Atwater-Donnelly’s website gives an in-depth history of all of their projects, along with workshops offered and a link to Donnelly’s handmade woven baskets webstore. There is also a hidden gem in The Lonely Things that is well worth your eyes, ears and time.
“We like to think we have modeled a life of coloring outside of the lines, creating a unique career and making a solid living as full-time musicians for over 30 years,” Atwater says when describing their legacy. “We have taught, mentored and influenced many people over the years and have often been told our music is like a soundtrack for some families — in their childhoods, their weddings, at the ends of their lives.”
– Bobby Forand
Steve Smith and the Nakeds
It’s 1973. A 22-year-old Steve Smith hops out of the ocean in the haze of a Matunuck Beach summer. He shags his hair, throws his longboard up over his head, and takes off at a gallop towards the special community that is Roy Carpenter’s Beach: a collection of “shacks” which features porch sittin’, beer drinkin’, guitar strummin’ men and women playing tunes and wailing notes into the sun-kissed night. Smith jogs through the place he’d spent every summer as a kid and stops quickly at the cottage he grew up in with his cousin (John Cafferty, of the Beaver Brown Band), to change into his night attire. As he waltzes to the fridge to grab a cold beer, he is struck by a fading childhood memory: Saturday night kitchen performances for his father and his uncles, a skinny 4-year-old swinging hips to a high-pitched rendition of “Love Letters in the Sand.” He sits reminiscing for a few minutes, allowing the memories to flow through him like the beer. Sweltering days at the beach, barefoot nights hopping between shack porches… a jukebox that ran in the corner of a crowded room, its bright lights whirling with each tune… a night of opportunity all under one chaotic musical roof…
Shit! Smith is now running late for his first gig with his new band The Nakeds at South Kingstown High School: a show that would solidify state-wide recognition for the 10-piece, Rhythm and Blues groove phenomena, Steve Smith and the Nakeds.
I crossed paths with our protagonist on a blustery winter afternoon, very far from his native beach vibe. A casual man in a black coat and blue jeans, Smith met me in the parking lot of Motif’s office in Pawtucket, and as we took the five million or so steps up to the third floor we talked about everything from surfing to the Ocean Mist to what CD he has in his car right now. Turns out Smith is a Spotify-er like the rest of us, but it did bring up an old memory of his father’s words after returning home with the first Beatles album: Listen to these guys, they’re going to be great.
“My father loved music,” Smith said. “He was a salesman, he was on the road all day… he listened to the radio constantly.” He smiled in his reverie. Smith appreciates his father for having the foresight to send him to voice lessons at a young age, endowing him with a skill he can reach for again and again.
Smith went to PC and was juggling a lot of extracurriculars, including his college band, Bloody Mary. He decided in his sophomore year to pull the trig’ and dedicate most of his effort to being “in the band,” a decision described by Smith as being a “pivotal moment.” By the time his senior year rolled around, he had formed The Naked Truths (a precursor to Steve Smith and the Nakeds) and was ready to hit the scene running. They began touring up and down the East Coast, rocking 7 nights a week at colleges when the drinking age was 18.
“We always focus on the music. When you’re younger, alcohol becomes involved, women become involved, drugs become involved… These things are temptations, they’re easily acquired, and we’ve had guys leave the band because they’ve lost their focus on the music. We have a reputation that you’re going to see good music, and there’s no bullshit.” 50 years later, Steve Smith and the Nakeds are as intrinsic to RI as coffee milk and Iggy’s doughboys.
Steve Smith and the Nakeds are a show-stopping, foot-stomping, wreck of a time and the vast assortment of people at Steve’s shows will attest: from 70-year-old women to 16-year-old kids. Their consistent, athletic showmanship, larger-than-life attitude and frequent sweaty bare-chestedness has won the band renown in every corner of our state, throughout the region, and nationally – they are the only RI band to have appeared, in caricature, in Seth MacFarlane’s RI-based series Family Guy, and they’re one of the few still-performing bands to be inducted into the RI Music Hall of Fame. They have, you might imagine, picked up a few Motif awards as well over the years.
Next time (or the first time) you see Steve Smith and the Nakeds, and he roars “Hi Neighbor!” from the stage with a Narragansett can in hand, make sure to shout back “Howdy Neighbor!” congratulate him on the band’s 50th anniversary, and take a slug for our li’l corner of the world.
– Mara Hagen
The Silks won Best Alternative Act back in 2016. The band is still the original trio of singer/guitarist Tyler-James Kelly, bassist Jonas Parmalee and drummer Sam Jodrey. In 2017, they added another guitarist to the group named Johnny Trama which they refer to as “the consummate professional six-string hitman.”
When reflecting on what the Motif Awards meant to the band, Parmalee said, “it felt great. What we had been working so hard on was recognized and voted on by our fans. People have always supported us, even today. It was a statement.”
Now a band with over ten years together, they are still on the road playing all of New England into Pennsylvania. “We keep busy [from] the spring through fall. Even in winter we play 3 to 4 shows a month,” said Parmalee. “COVID posed a problem for us like many other bands, but we managed to get through it.”
Front man Kelly has also seen recognition for his solo work both vocally and on strings, and Cowboy & Lady, the acoustic duo featuring him and partner/chanteuse Jess Powers. The Silks have performed at a past Music Awards event, garnering a standing ovation for one extended guitar solo jam
The band will be playing at The Met in Pawtucket on March 24, their first gig there since COVID. “We hope fill the place like we used to,” Parmalee said. Country artist Houston Bernard will be appearing as well.
– Trevor May
Ravi Shavi, at this point, are annual nominees for the Motif Music Awards, being nominated every year in one rock category or another since 2018, most recently last year for Best Alternative Rock Music Act. Lead singer and guitarist Rafay Rashid was asked what the awards mean to him, “to be nominated is always a pleasant surprise… people thinking of putting our names in. Providing that support after all these years. It’s great to be acknowledged… To win, art is a very subjective medium. In some ways it’s hard to feel like you deserve it. But it’s awesome when a group can give you props like that… We’re extremely proud to belong to this city of Providence. We appreciate being acknowledged when there is such a vast amount of quality music in the city.”
Ravi Shavi formed in 2011 and continued with the same lineup until last year when drummer Nick Iddon suddenly passed away. Understandably, Rashid declined to say much about his friend’s passing. “We’re coming back with a new lineup. We were lucky to add John Ferron; a talented writer and drummer on his own. Bassist Chuck Perry from Joyboys. Nick Politelli (who has a solo album as well). We added guitarist Shahjehan Khan from the Muslim punk band The Kominas … It’s a lot, but we’re lucky to have the crew we have now.”
While the band have been adjusting and rehearsing with the lineup, Rashid has also been hard at work on his first solo album. Rashid didn’t want to give away too much about the album, but he did divulge that it was produced by bassist Christopher Ryan of Deer Tick, that they both are very excited about the album. Rashid is also part of local repeat-nominee Happiness with Ryan, Ian O’Neal and Dennis Ryan, a mash-up of Deer Tick and Ravi Shavi. Rashid intends to release the new solo album soon and to tour this summer. He also made it a point that the new lineup of Ravi Shavi will be going back in studio to work on a new album and tour soon. Stay tuned on their social media pages to get informed of updates.
– Trevor May
After their 2019 Motif Music Award win for Favorite Wedding Band, perennial nominee Brass Attack continues to do what they do best – play as many small gigs as possible of their classic soul, rock, pop, and funk covers while juggling the demands of everyday life. They have a few concerts slated for summer 2023 as well as an early spring gig at The Met on Sunday, March 5, from 5 – 8pm.
Now that they primarily play at private functions and local events instead of larger shows, band leader Tom Petteruti looks back fondly at some of their biggest and brightest gigs, which included opening for Earth Wind and Fire at The Dunk back in 2005 and performing for an annual reunion of World War Two Eighth Air Force pilots and personnel.
“We have [also] played for two US Presidents (the first President Bush and President Clinton), which was fun. They were both very friendly and chatted with us and danced to our music,” he said. With lead singer Kate Winslow in tow for the last six years, Brass Attack continues to stick to cover songs, which they play at each gig on the spot without practicing beforehand.
“Our fan base has continued to grow ever since [the Motif win], as a result of years of club and private party performances as well as the advent of the internet, our website, and social media,” said Petteruti. “I feel very fortunate that I get to play with excellent musicians who also happen to be really wonderful people. We make a really great sound together. I am the band leader and I feel lucky they let me play with them!”
– LuzJennifer Martinez
The Copacetics are living up to their name when it comes to making music. Their third album, which is the first being composed and written in the studio, is slowly in the works and the group is gladly taking the time to experiment and grow as songwriters. But their mission remains to create signature ska and reggae tunes that are fun and danceable for newer listeners and established fans alike. They’ve taken home Motif ska category awards multiple times.
“Usually, the music-making process goes one of two ways — I come in with a vocal melody and some lyrics, and the rest of the band has to figure out the chord progressions behind it,” said Matt Di Chiara, lead vocalist and trombone player. The second way is to come up with new material on the spot while jamming together. “I’ll start singing stuff and adding horn melodies over it. Eventually, it gets refined into a simple tune. From there we will add intros, outros, bridges, hits, etc. Both kinds of songwriting end up getting polished in that same way,” he said.
Overall, The Copacetics like to keep their music live and fresh, playing throughout Little Rhody and sharing the stage with local artists. Their hope is to one day play with local punk legends Neutral Nation. “We also enjoy playing mixed bill shows with all the wide variety of styles that RI has to offer,” said Di Chiara. There are so many great bands in our small state. We need more local music festivals!”
Check out The Copacetics at Narragansett Café in Jamestown on March 3, Scottish Dave’s Pub in Clinton, Connecticut on March 10, and Askew in Providence on March 18
– LuzJennifer Martinez
Roz Raskin/Nova One
Catching up with nova one’s roz raskin is like diving into an ethereal, welcoming and ever-expressive space. Since winning Motif Music Awards, roz has continued making music as nova one, with a new record — “create myself,” being released on March 31, 2023. They have also launched self luv records — a once-booking-entity-turned-record-label, described as “a vessel to support other artists and community events.”
When asked about nova one’s third album with New Orleans label Community Records, the artist says, “A lot of the record is me talking to a queer closeted little roz.” The new record, written between 2020 and 2021, revealed itself to be a vehicle for their inner child to experience healing, certainly apparent in lyrics like, “Sometimes I cry about the way I used to hide myself…” In addition to releasing two singles off this new album, “dangerous” and “crying,” limited edition vinyl records — pressed in New Orleans in lilac translucent and crystal ball purple — have been made available for pre-order at novaonenovaone.bandcamp.com.
Also happening in the nova one world is the planning and promotion of their upcoming northeast tour with Boyscott, a New London, Connecticut band. Want to see new nova one music live? You’re in luck, as the record release show will happen at the Columbus Theatre on April 22. In a nutshell, nova one has been busy since being a Motif Music Award winner — “I have a lot of eggs in a lot of baskets… (like any good Sagittarius, which roz is), but I’ve gotten better at setting boundaries. This is a year of a lot of strong yes-es, and a lot of strong ‘no’s.”
– Mayté Antelo-Ovando