Breedlove artist Arsena Schroeder is a solo-acoustic performer on a mission to evoke wonder and God-awe in the lives of each listener. Crafting original songs soaked in singer-songwriter, acoustic, and pop-soul genres, Arsena lyrically intertwines issues of empowerment, love, and faith in a mix meant to free and fuel the soul. She recently released a new unplugged and live audio series that showcases her joyful energy and ebullient talent, so we sat down with her to get the exclusive scoop on the series, and to find out what's going on in her world.
Tell us about your Unplugged + Live Series!
My Unplugged + Live Series is an audio recording of a live performance at a House Concert in my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina. The funny thing is I didn't plan the series. I just played a house concert with two other singer-songwriters and the sound guy recorded it. It was the farthest thing from my mind, but when I heard how good the audio was I wanted to share the experience with others.
It was a really fun night! The recording captures live original and cover music and some of the conversation between the artist and the audience. It went so well, I had to share it on YouTube
One of my favorite artists is Lauryn Hill. The year I started writing music (2009) , I listened to her MTV Unplugged album a trillion times, so I named my series Unplugged + Live almost as a spin off of MTV's Unplugged show. The YouTube series has nine parts and is fifty-two minutes long.
I didn't plan on doing anything other than that, but because it was so much fun and because I know how much touring artists prefer playing house concerts, I've made it an ongoing series in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Each series features one touring artist and two local artists. Anyone interested in either hosting or playing a set in the series can like our new Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/unpluggedseries and email me.
What are house concerts all about? Are they the new “flash mob”?
House Concerts are really fun and informal get togethers with friends, live music, and usually food and drinks. House concerts are all about intimate encounters with singer-songwriters looking to share their music and stories to a new audience.
House concerts aren't a new thing. They've been going on for decades and decades. There are a number of artists who tour the world via house concerts. There are others who only do house concerts. Then there are many like myself who try to pair house concerts with other shows they are doing in the area.
If I had to guess, I'd say they are becoming more popular these days because of the economy and because of the increase in independent artists. House concerts allow artists to play without pressure from venue owners worrying about how profitable it is to have you play at their business. I believe that's why house concerts are so intimate and tension free because the night is solely about music & connecting with music lovers.
There's still the issue of getting the word out about what house concerts are. The average person doesn't really know what they are, so most artists (full-time artists at least) invest a small amount of time, resources, and/or promotions to inform their music supporters on what house concerts are. They do so by either passing out handouts at shows, sending out emails to their mailing list, posting a Q & A on their website or blog, or by flat out asking folks if they'd host one. There are online resources that can connect you with hosts like www.concertsinyourhome.com. There's an annual fee to join and I have yet to use it, but there are online resources that connect you with house concert hosts/attendees.
And, no, I don't think house concerts are the new flash mob! They're better.
Can I host a house concert for a musician touring through my area? If so, how?
Most definitely! As a touring singer-songwriter, house concerts serve as a place of refreshing, organic encounters that fuel us while on the road so we are always looking for hosts. Anyone with a space that can hold at least 15 people can host a show and it's really simple. The artist and the host agree on a date and time, then the host invites their network of friends to come and possibly even bring a side dish. One thing artists really need and appreciate is the suggested donation that covers on-the-road expenses. That usually ranges anywhere between $8-$20 per guest, but no one is turned away if they can't make a donation
Check out concertsinyourhome.com or www.arsenamusic.com/unplugged-series. Otherwise, I'd ask your favorite independent singer-songwriter in the area if you can host them.
On your current album, The Abundantly EP, your faith is evident. Would you say your music is "Christian music?"
Without a doubt my music is dipped, bathed, and soaked in my faith. As a singer-songwriter, I write about my life, what I'm going through or learning at the time and I try to turn it into music that possibly gives life to others.
I've fought the "Christian Music" title for a long time for a number of reasons (1) because that term can really turn non-Christians off and my music is for Christians and non-Christians alike and (2) some Christians may not like that I cover secular songs so I usually stay from that suffocating genre. But I do feel a responsibility to share who I am through my music, which is a Christ-follower.
The Abundantly EP is a snapshot of where I was in my life during the years I wrote the songs. I was a new believer so the songs express my newfound faith, joy, and desperation. But I do secretly hope the daunting and religious connotation that comes with the label "Christian Music" falls of the face of the earth.
Your Unplugged + Live series is audio only… But it's so much fun to watch you perform, we have to ask: Do you have any plans to do another series anytime soon with video too? We'd love that…
That's a great question and you're right watching is great fun, but no we don't have any plans to shoot videos anytime soon. I'm sure it will inadvertently happen just like the audio recording did. But right now, no plans.
You have such a joyful presence on stage – it’s inspiring! But like all of us, you must have rough days too. How do you get back to your happy place, offstage, when life presents you with not-so-happy circumstances?
Thank you! Yes, I do have rough days too. Honestly, I get through not so-so-happy circumstances by allowing myself to experience them in their totality. In the past, when I was in a funk, I'd try so hard to get out of it, but as odd as it sounds, whatever I'm feeling these days, I allow myself to feel them completely. I guess I'm realizing not every emotion/circumstance is negative just because it's not joyous. So I embrace what comes and find beauty in everything (even those days). Besides, it makes for a great song anyway.
In your song Manna, you mention that you want to put aside your pride and acknowledge what you can do better. What areas are you focusing on improving in your professional or personal life?
Right now, I'd love to improve personally as a wife. My husband is so supportive and so loving and so AMAZING. It's a goal of mine to out love him, so I'm working on that. I think I'm losing terribly, but it doesn't hurt to try! Professionally, I'd love to improve in my songwriting. As an independent artist, you spend way more time checking emails, booking, and promoting shows, so you really don't spend much time with you instrument, believe it or not. So I'm finding that I need to set aside scheduled time to song write, otherwise it doesn't get done, at least not as strategically as it should.
How's your next album, Seeking Shadows, coming along? What should Arsena fans expect?
Ha! Seeking Shadows is in songwriter's purgatory right now. I've yet to start recording. I don't think the songs are finished quite yet. My goal right now is to play them out more, maybe crowdfund a little, then slowly start with the preproduction process of the project.
I'm in no rush. It's important to me that I really soak up and live out the message I'm trying to send. It's a very deep and intricate theme so Seeking Shadows is a paradigm still waiting to be lived out, if that makes any sense. I like to think of each of my songs as my baby. The songwriting process is the pregnancy stage and the studio process is the delivery room (a tad crazy, I know). But the Abundantly EP's songs were written nearly three years old before I actually recorded them and I believed they were ready. I feel like the songs of Seeking Shadows would be delivered prematurely if I delivered them now, so I'm nurturing them & waiting.
My latest project (thus my latest child) was the single and music video Manna. I talk about the songwriting process for Manna in part 9 of the Unplugged + Live Series, but I've yet to talk about the vision behind the music video. The vision came to me in the shower. I had this overwhelming desire to share my story concerning the rejection I had faced in music with the message that we can't give up, we have to follow our purpose. So we shot the video, and we "mocked" my American Idol audition and we told the story the best way we knew how. With that project releasing only two months ago, I feel like I have a toddler baby lingering out in cyber world and I am content to wait for the next.
How did you learn about Breedlove?
I was actually in search of a new guitar, with a warmer sound, a while back. I worked part-time at a music lessons studio and a co-worker suggested I try Breedlove. I went and played around with the Breedlove's at Guitar Center for a while and totally agreed it was the perfect match for my sound.
Tell us about your Breedlove guitar!
RIght now, I play a Breedlove CM250/Cme. It is my earnest desire to upgrade, but this little baby does me good! She's the best I've had! Without a doubt, the warm tonality the guitar offers is my favorite thing. I also LOVE the built-in tuner that switches the pickup off while tuning on stage. That is probably the most convenient thing about her.
Did you name your Breedlove guitar? If so, tell us about it!
I did, but to be honest, I haven't been doing a good job calling her by her name. I originally named her Soulstice, because I'm an acoustic soul artist. But, most of the time she ends up just being called "Breedlove."
How did you become a Breedlove artist and what made you want to become a Breedlove artist?
I became a Breedlove artist scoping out tour sponsors. I decided, "Hey why not reach out to Breedlove?" and although they didn't sponsor my tour they DID have lots information about being a Breedlove artist. It also seemed right, so I got my application together and applied.
I wanted to become a Breedlove artist because Breedlove Guitars are my FAVORITE. It's only right I became a Breedlove artist because I talk about them all the time. I also sing about love a lot, so I naturally fell in love with the Breedlove name the moment I heard about it.