The SoundHouse Brings Variety to the Brunswick County Music Scene
Tina Smith and Jamie Semmens, co-owners and operators of The SoundHouse in Shallotte, held the Grand Opening of this unique music venue on August 18, and about 60 happy people were there in the late afternoon to celebrate with them.
“I felt there needed to be another place where you can actually come and listen and hear the words, hear the message because that’s what art is,” Smith says.
“I love music,” Semmens says. “I was tired of hearing ‘radio’ music. You will hear art that is original here.”
All genres and all ages from babies to seniors are welcome at The SoundHouse. Losing Face, a local quartet who write their own songs and play psychedelic funk, entertained at the Grand Opening, along with CC Martin and Pyromatic. The audience swayed to the seven-piece Pamoja! and its Latin Caribbean beat the following week.
“I like it so far,” Elizabeth Williams of Longwood says of the Pamoja! show. She held her two-year-old grandson, Samir Orr, close because his arms and legs bobbed up and down to the music.
Vocalist and acoustic guitarist Gene Gregory, Duo Provision with its Americana and the Coastal Blues quartet appeared over the Labor Day weekend.
“What I want is excellence in a show,” Smith says. “This is a stage, and when you get on a stage you have to have a show, so that’s what I’m looking for.”
A singer and songwriter herself with four albums to her credit and performances in Nashville, Smith has reserved Wednesday nights as open mic for songwriters. Sign-in starts at 6:30 p.m. and hopefuls are guaranteed a spot on the stage, even if it rolls into the following week.
Smith and Semmens plan to expand performances to include poetry readings, spoken word artists, comedians and painters. “I would love to have a comedy show because comedians write their own work,” Smith says. “We are here to support the arts community in this area. We have space to display art, and we would love to do that.”
The pair began to formulate their enterprise two years ago and chose the building Smith owns on the frontage road at the intersection of U.S. 17 and Smith Avenue. They had to remodel the building to accommodate a stage, an audience of 100 and a beverage area. They reserved 2,500 square feet for the audience, and 200 square feet for the stage. Part of one wall displays album covers that Smith chose and Semmens assembled.
Inside the front doors is a display case, available for performers to sell their wares, which may be CDs, T-shirts and other merchandise. The unobtrusive bar serves wine, beer, soft drinks and coffee. Snacks are available, and a food truck will be in the parking lot on select dates. Musicians can regroup and relax in a green room, off limits to the audience.
Semmens took charge of the design and renovation. Now that The SoundHouse is open he manages the bar area. Charles “CA” Rivenbark ensures the sound system, lighting and other technical aspects of a show work properly. Smith approved the redo along the way and currently manages the office and marketing as well as books entertainers, who are paid for their performances. Cost of admission depends on the scheduled performers.
“There was a force propelling the project, so you want to stick with it and see it through,” Smith says. “We’re available to host events, and we’re open to suggestions and ideas about shows.” She invites people to come and use the Wi-Fi and order a beverage while there.
Smith, a Waccamaw native, says her parents and grandparents were musicians. Her family performed as the Singing Smith Family, and after graduation from West Brunswick High School, she toured with several bands. Eventually, she formed a group called The Trend, which opened for several well-known entertainers, such as Blackfoot, The Guess Who, Marshall Tucker and the band Kansas. “One of the best bands that ever existed,” she says.
AWAKE, the most recent of Smith’s four albums, was produced and recorded in Nashville with Billy Smiley. She received a grant from Brunswick Arts Council/Arts Council of Wilmington to make a video of her song Village People, which is on AWAKE. It can be viewed on YouTube..
“That song encompasses my vision of what the world should be and how people should be,” she says. “It’s a song about unity, about differences.” She pauses then adds, “More than the funding, that recognition of my work did something for me that I can’t explain. It’s the first time I’ve had that kind of support from an organized arts council.”
Semmens is a native of Vergas, MN but 30 years ago moved to Oak Island where his sister lived and began work in construction. “I love music,” he says. “A song has multiple meanings. I like to listen to the heart and soul of a song.”
The vision for The SoundHouse, Smith explains, is that it be a center where all artists congregate and share their works and ideas. Instead of letting music be background, she and Semmens want people to pay attention to the music and the words. Often performers are “stuck in a corner,” she says. “You might as well be a jukebox.”
Semmens’ son, DaKoda Semmens, is sometimes server and bartender at the venue. “You can bring your kids here,” he says. “It’s a great family environment.”
“What better way to expose a child to art, to music, than to come and see it live,” Smith says.
She’s pleased so far with the reception The SoundHouse has gotten. “People are saying this is more like a theater than a bar,” she says. “They are saying, ‘We need something like this here,’ so I’m happy about that. It’s exactly what I want it to be, a place that’s absolutely here for the art of it.”
Want to visit The SoundHouse?
Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.- 10 p.m.
Sun. noon-10 p.m.
Closed Mon. & Tues.