By Mike Phillips
During cold-weather months, Wednesdays are open-mic night at the Long Lake Tavern on Sprinkle Road. It’s where musicians—mostly acoustic solo artists—can sign up and perform short sets of their own songs or someone else’s.
It’s a relaxed room providing an opportunity for area performers to hone their chops or otherwise play in front of the bar’s attentive patrons. Many of these musicians are just starting out. But every week there are also some really good sets. One of the most compelling is from local singer-songwriter AJ LaPorte.
AJ is the Wednesday night ringer. His performances are well-received. His songs are good, his voice is strong, and his guitar and harmonica playing are solid. He can hold an audience that invariably applaud and whoop after his songs. AJ is also there to help make the weekly open-mic night happen as he provides sound and technical support. He also provides cameraderie—he is personable and adept at helping the musicians quickly set up and dial in their sound.
AJ has been passionate about music all of his life. He grew up in a home where there was a lot of it. At an early age his parents encouraged him to sing and play guitar. He stuck with it. Later, he also learned piano and harmonica. In school he played sports, but he also played trumpet in the Vicksburg High School marching band. Eventually, he began writing songs. To date, he guesses that he has written about 50. Some of his tunes are exuberant and rousing singalongs. Others are quiet and introspective.
AJ’s songs cover a lot of ground. He says that his songwriting simply reflects the days and the highs and lows. Like creative people everywhere, he has a day job. He harbors no illusions about making it as an artist. While he intends to keep working, he also intends to keep writing songs and performing. He’ll “do whatever it takes” to make music and gigs while carrying on with everything else there is in life.
AJ is a solo act—it’s just him and his guitar and harmonica and his many songs. He has put together bands in the past. But since the pandemic and whatnot, it’s hard to keep a band together. His close friend and favorite drummer is no longer available, having just become a new father.
Last year, AJ went down to Nashville and recorded an album of 13 original songs. Started Again was his first album. In the studio, he was backed by capable Nashville-area musicians. The album is currently available on CD, as well as on various streaming platforms. His song videos can also be readily found on-line. AJ is pleased with the album and with how well it has been received. This has inspired him to go back to the Tennessee studio and do some more recording. He hopes to have his second album available later this year. Meanwhile he continues to perform and write new songs.
New album forthcoming from AJ LaPorte
By Mike Phillips