hemlock

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There’s an obvious sense of vulnerability found in music — memorable artists are able to be transparent with the listener, expressing their hearts with authenticity.

It’s incredible to me that some of the most memorable musicians that I’ve ever encountered have been very local to Lafayette.

Hemlock, the solo singer-songwriter project of senior music business major Carolina Chauffe, has been performing soul-cutting ballads for the past year, with her notably delicate voice bringing impact and finesse to every song.

Chauffe is an extensively trained musician, with a background in choir and years of experience playing the guitar. She’s a virtuoso and a stellar performer. Whether it’s with UL’s choir or singing at Saint Street Inn’s jazz nights, she pours herself into every moment on stage.

Hemlock is Chauffe’s outlet for self-expression, combining her musical prowess with honest and moving songwriting.

Hemlock spent the months of July and August on two separate tours: one playing bass synth with forward-thinking folk duo Little Mazarn of Austin, TX, and the other with New Orleans-based Palm Sunday, whose music resembles Hemlock.

Palm Sunday and Hemlock used portions of their shows to perform together, featuring dynamic harmonizations and cozy Cajun French tunes. The closing show of their tour was in downtown Lafayette at Rêve Coffee Roasters, where I was happy to witness this chemistry for myself.

Hemlock played in coffee shops, dingy saloons, bookstores, at a commune for vagabonds and squatters and in beachside Canada, all within the past two months.

The material she performs is largely from her Bandcamp project, “February.” This 28-track album covers the 28 days of the month of February, playing out like a journal that a close friend has allowed you to read.

It’s incredible when you realize Hemlock was willing to be this personal with strangers across North America in foreign locations, encountering challenges and living stories of all sorts along the way.

On a plane to Portland to meet Palm Sunday, a kind flight attendant gave her a ten dollar cheese tray free-of-cost, with a simple fortune of “Today’s your day!”

The Palm Sunday tour began immediately with a nearly-totaled vehicle, but friend and fellow musician Adam Torres (go check out his material, it’s lovely) rented out his tour van for the duo.

They played in El Paso two days after the Walmart mass-shooting to an unthinkably empathetic audience.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her experiences this summer.

“You’re only tied to the present moment,” Chauffe told me while recapping her time on tour. The nature of touring requires you to be fully involved with the day-to-day. Things like housing, food and destinations can be uncertain in unfamiliar places while trying to focus on a goal: to play her music.

Chauffe’s next step is in an internship with Light in the Attic Records, spending six weeks in their Seattle office, and four weeks in Los Angeles. Light in the Attic is known for reissuing lesser-known cult records of the past, such as their recently acclaimed compilation of Japanese ambient music from the 1980s.

They’ve also reissued records of Karen Dalton, who they describe on their website as “the muse for countless folk-rock geniuses,” a fitting assessment considering Chauffe is the one who introduced me to Dalton’s music.

If it isn’t clear already, Hemlock is not your typical, local guitar songstress. They are one of the most inspired musicians that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I urge you to listen to “February.” It’s one of the best collections of songs that 2019 has to offer.

I’ll be eagerly waiting for whatever she shares with us next. We may live in a smaller city, but we have no shortage of extraordinary musical talent.

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