Interview: Americana Trio Prairie Willows to Release Debut LP this Friday, June 12th, at Conundrum

11391107_424834114365817_2782219863538510765_n By: Erika Ryan

Despite Columbia cranking out more metal bands than Americana groups, The Prairie Willows have become a staple in the city’s scene.

In 2012, Kristen Harris, Kelley Douglas, and Perrin Skinner became the Prairie Willows, together writing delightfully folky, southern ballads about anything from biscuits to breakups. After a handful of original tunes and local performances over the years, their first official record is finally complete.

They’re taking the stage — and backyard — at Conundrum Music Hall June 12 to celebrate their much-anticipated album release, but also to kick back with some friends. Harris, Douglas and Skinner have been anticipating the album’s release as much as any fan. Also, after a successful partnership with local puppeteer Lyon Hill during Indie Grits, he will be joining the ladies on stage this Friday to perform a piece for their original song “Whiskey.”

They’re hardy, they’re homegrown, and they’re quirky. Their album is expected to reflect each of their personalities just as much as this interview we were able to have with them this week.

Jasper: How did the Prairie Willows come to be? When did you get together?

Perrin Skinner: We came together during the fall of 2012. Kristen moved in with me, and we knew Kelley for a while, because we’ve all been involved in the Columbia music scene for a long time…so we met and we decided to start playing music together, and experimenting to see what would happen. Kelley would just come over, and we would practice in the living room and just work up some songs and some covers. We just kind of took it from there and it blossomed.

Jasper: How is the music community for Americana in Columbia?

Kelley Douglas: I love it. I think it’s the best part of playing music here is that Americana is a really approachable genre. We’ve met a lot of people through playing music. A lot of people can connect with our music — we’re able to share it, and teach them songs that we know, so that they can jump in and play with us sometimes. It’s really fun to kind of collaborate with people, and share songs that some of us already know and learn new ones together.

Kristen Harris: Because of the community in Columbia for Americana, we’ve met some really great people just coming through town that we’ve gotten to play music with or share a bill with. It’s really exciting.

Jasper: Can you tell me a bit about your new album?

Perrin Skinner: It’s been a long time coming for us. We’ve wanted to release a full-length record for a while; it just kind of took us a bit to get everything together. We raised all the money ourselves, and got some really great guys to record us. The record is full of originals as well as traditional songs, and it’s really exciting. It’s called “White Lies.”

Kelley Douglas: What’s cool about it is that—we didn’t plan it—but it sounds like the perfect mixture of the three of us. It has elements of the different kinds of music that we like, and we brought our different tastes in. Just listening to it, you can tell it’s a beautiful collaboration of three very different people who created something unique and it came together as a way to surprise all of us.

Jasper: So, what do you have planned for the album release?

Kelley Douglas: We’re having it at conundrum on June 12, and the doors are at 7:30. Slim Pickens is opening for us—they’re some close friends—and Branhan Lowther, the lead player for that group, is going to join us on stage to play to play with us on a few of our songs. We’ve added him in on a few songs, and I think it gives it a little more of a dynamic. We’re really excited, and we have a lot of friends coming. It’s going to be a lot of fun, we’re going to hang out outside some, and it’s going to be a good night to be with friends…

Kristen Harris: Oh, and we’ll also have a puppet feature.

Jasper: Can you tell me more about that?

Kristen Harris: We collaborated with the local puppeteer, Lyon Hill from the Columbia Marionette Theatre recently for Indie Grits for the Spork in Hand Puppet Slam, and he created a piece that goes along with one of our songs called “Whiskey,” and it’s really cool. His wife, Jennifer Hill, is acting in it as a shadow puppet, and it’s a really cool piece — that’ll be our first part of our performance at the CD release.

Jasper: That’s awesome! So what’s next for the Prairie Willows after this?

All: That’s a good question [laughter].

Perrin Skinner: We’re just going to wait and see what happens — this has been a big goal for us, and we’re reaching it — we’re anticipating the album release and then hopefully it’ll bring a lot of opportunities our way.

We all love the idea of touring — going on the road to play different venues and sell our record. But we’ll be playing shows around town this summer, so that’s kind of what we have in store for right now.

17th Annual Native American Indian Film Festival among highlights of National Native American Indian Heritage Month in November

native2 November is  National Native American Indian Heritage Month, with plenty of events and educational opportunities available locally throughout the month to honor and celebrate native culture and history.

National American Indian Heritage Month is celebrated every year in November to honor and recognize the original people of this land.   Established nationally in 1990, this commemorative month aims to provide a platform for native people in the United States of America to share their culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and ways and concepts of life. This gives native people the opportunity to express to their community, both city, county and state officials their concerns and solutions for building bridges of understanding and friendship in their local area. Local, municipal, federal and state agencies are encouraged to provide educational programs for their employees regarding Native American history, rights, culture and contemporary issues, to better assist them in their jobs and for overall awareness. National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month takes place each November and is a great way to celebrate the traditions and cultures of the first Americans. Today, American Indians comprise 2.3 percent of the U.S. population. Their buying power in 2014 is 156 percent greater than in 2000, and is expected to grow to $148 billion by 2017.For more information, visit

South Carolina is home to the Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized nation, and twelve recognized tribes & groups, representing over 43,000 people of Native descent according the 2010 US Census. These tribal communities are all "body politic," and preserve their distinctive culture, heritage and history in South Carolina.

native1The Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois & United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. have been sponsoring and leading the statewide observance of National Native American Indian Heritage Month since 1994.  In 2013, the SC state legislature officially designated November 18 as Native American Awareness Day in South Carolina.


native3State government officials and Native American Indian leaders will  gather at the State House on November 18 from 12 -1 PM  to celebrate the 2nd Native American Awareness Day in South Carolina, in conjunction with the local and national observance of National Native American Indian and Alaskan Native Heritage Month. There will be drumming, Native songs, a traditional flag ceremony,  the reading of the Proclamations and H-Bill 3746 proclaiming this day, plus leaders from tribes and groups will speak and introduce their tribal communities' history to the general public.  For more information, visit

Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois, and United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc.  is an organization that works to promote  self-determination, civil rights, religious freedoms, education, history, culture, and the arts of Native people. ECSIUT is a nonprofit that serves federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Natives and “state status” Native American Indian people, and is also a tribally based intertribal consortia.


Also beginning on November 18, Columbia once again plays host to  the  17th Annual Native American Indian Film Festival of the Southeast, a community-based event which aims to present the richness and variety of indigenous cinematic expressions. The festival is a time to educate the public  about contemporary Native American talent and issues, Native themed documentaries, and to discuss film and the power it has to tell Native stories by Native people (and to entertain.)


A screening of The Cherokee Word for Water, last year's festival winner, will take place at 7 PM at USC's McKissick Museum, followed at 8:30 PM by a reception and talkback session with the film's director, Charlie Soap.  This year's films will be shown at Tapp's Art Center starting at 6 PM on November 20 and 21, and at Conundrum Music Hall on November 23 beginning at noon. There will also be programming at Main Street's Nickelodeon on November 24.


Films include:

The Mayan Connection: Lost Legacy of Southeast,  directed by  Antara Brandner, who will be attending the Festival for talkback sessions

Between Hell and a Hard Place, directed by Jaysen P. Buterin   (also attending)

Indian Relay ( 2013)

LaDonna Indian 101 (2014)

Indian Like Us (2014)

Spirit in Glass (2014)

Inner Healing : Journey with Native Trees of Knowledge, directed by Adrian Esposito (also attending)


For more information on the film festival, visit .

Additionally, the McKissick Museum is hosting a year-long exhibition,  Traditions, Change & Celebration: Native Artists of the Southeast, which features 150 pieces of Native American Indian handcrafted art, from 75 artists in nine states, representing over 25 distinct Native American Indian tribal nations and cultures,    including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole.  Also featured are  Pamunkey Indian Pottery from Virginia, art from the Poarch Band Creeks, the basketry of John Paul Darden of the Chitimacha Indians of Louisiana, and pottery by Bill Harris of the Catawba Indian Nation.  For more information on this exhibition, visit, and for a list of events taking place locally, visit











Chris Compton & the Ruby Brunettes, Post-Timey String Band, Dr. Roundhouse, and Pharaohs in Space play at Conundrum for Food Not Bombs - a guest blog by Jeremy Joseph


My name is Jeremy Joseph. I am the organizer of a benefit concert series that brings together local musicians to help raise funds and spread awareness about the work of non-profits and charitable organizations in our city and statewide. I believe that musicians are in a unique position to help mobilize social and political action. We bring people together, we attract media attention, we have microphones thrust in front our faces, and we connect often disparate groups of people in one place and time through our music. That is a unique power that we are privileged to hold, and I believe we can use it for good.

I began this series over four and a half years ago in Washington, DC. Since moving to Columbia in 2011 to attend grad school for philosophy at USC, I have had the pleasure of so far organizing six concerts for great local non-profits including Transitions, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, and the SC Progressive Network, in addition to working with many fantastic Columbia and SC bands including Can't Kids, Co., FatRat Da Czar, The Restoration, People Person, Release the Dog, and the Mobros. I have been truly impressed with the work of these organizations and delighted with the outpouring of support from local musicians and local media in helping to support their efforts. There is truly a caring community here in Columbia!

Chris Compton and the Ruby Brunettes (photo from

Friday, January 24th, I am very pleased to bring the seventh Columbia concert in this series in support of the local chapter of Food Not Bombs,who do remarkable work to feed people who are economically disadvantaged in our city, and spread a message of peace. The concert will feature performances by four excellent local groups: Chris Compton & the Ruby Brunettes, The Post-Timey String Band, Dr. Roundhouse, and Pharaohs in Space. It is not to be missed! Your entrance fee will go directly to help feed people in need in our city.

Lastly, I want to thank Tom Law for hosting each one of these concerts at Conundrum Music Hall. I cannot speak highly enough about this venue and its staff. It is unquestionably the best music club in the city and deserves your patronage.

Now, I want to turn this blog post over to Food Not Bombs for a few words from their representatives:

Columbia Food Not Bombs has helped feed people at Finlay Park since 2002. Started by USC students, Columbia FNB has evolved to sharing food with an average of 150 people every Sunday at 1 p.m. It's called a "sharing" because everyone involved helps. Some bring food, some serve food, some set up tables, and some clean up afterward.

Columbia FNB has also served the community in a variety of ways. In 2005, members helped feed Katrina survivors temporarily housed in South Carolina. Three years ago, FNB provided meals to the Occupiers at the SC State House. Columbia FNB members also feed people at the Winter Shelter and Transitions long-term shelter, both in downtown Columbia.

Columbia FNB is a community partner with Harvest Hope and receives donations from Food Lion, Rosewood Market, City Roots, and El Burrito. Approximately 35 volunteers prepare and share food each month. Excess food is shared with Hannah House, Sister Care, and the North Main Men's and Women's Shelters. Volunteers are always welcome, as are paper products, gas cards, and monetary donations. For more info call Maris at 803-331-6383.

5 BROKEN CAMERAS Review by David Matos


Raw story, not flashy editing, is what makes the 2013 Oscar-nominated “5 Broken Cameras” (Best Documentary Feature) such a compelling film.  Told in simple cinema verité style, “5 Broken Cameras” follows the viewfinder of one Emad Burnat, a peasant-stock Palestinian in the West Bank village of Bil’in.  Acquiring a video camera to document the birth of his son Gibreel in 2005, Burnat finds himself witness to the growth of a nonviolent movement over the course of five years.  Confronted with the confiscation of nearly half of the agrarian village’s land to an encroaching Israeli settlement and a security barrier, the village of Bil’in wages weekly nonviolent protests against the wall separating them from their land and faces heavy-handed repression from the occupying Israeli army.  At times, Burnat’s camera protects him; at other times, it makes him a target, leaving him with the eponymous five broken cameras.  Burnat’s footage is unflinching, at times harrowing and often poignant.  The naked faces of oppression as well as hope and humanity are glimpsed in the gas grenade strewn streets and olive groves of Bil’in.


“5 Broken Cameras” was one of two films about Israel/Palestine vying for a Oscar among  a formidable shortlist that included “The Invisibile War,” “How to Survive a Plague” and the winning film “Searching for Sugarman.”  “The Gatekeepers,”  the other Oscar contending documentary on Israel/Palestine, features a decidedly top-down approach interviewing elite former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police, who speak frankly for the first time, whereas“5 Broken Cameras” is decidedly grassroots and bottom up, taking the perspective of humble Palestinian West Bank villagers who decide on a path of nonviolent resistance despite the costs in the face of military occupation.


In war, the first casualty is truth.  Burnat’s five broken cameras are testimony to that. “5 Broken Cameras” contains a seed of raw truth.  A collaboration between Burnat and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi, “5 Broken Cameras” also points toward the way out of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, a modern conflict that is often mistaken as an ancient one, showing the Israelis and internationals who join in solidarity with the villagers of Bil’in in nonviolent resistance.  To cut through the misinformation on Israel/Palestine, many perspectives are needed: “5 Broken Cameras” is a good place to start.


Carolina Peace hosts a free screening of “5 Broken Cameras” Sunday Sept 15th at 3pm at Conundrum Music Hall located at 626 Meeting St in West Columbia, SC The film will be followed by talkback Q&A with David Matos, President of Carolina Peace, who traveled to Israel/Palestine in 2006 and 2009 with Interfaith Peacebuilders, and USC graduate Danya Nayfeh, who studied abroad in the West Bank in 2012.  The film is screened as a collaboration with the award-winning PBS documentary series POV and can be streamed on PBS website  through Sept 25th.  Carolina Peace is planning additional screenings across the state.




Oscar Nominees:

Carolina Peace:

Facebook Event:



V-Day Speak Out -- Listen to the Vaginas

Alexis Stratton, friend of Jasper and essayist in the most recent issue of the magazine (Jasper Watches: An Essay -- Reclaiming Vaginas) shared some info with us about an upcoming event that we think is pretty important. (Jasper adores the confluence of art and politics!) Rather than prattle on about it, we'll let Alexis do the talking:

Come enjoy a night of music, readings, storytelling, and speaking out at V-Day's open mic night at Conundrum Music Hall (626 Meeting St., West Columbia)!

All artists, writers, musicians, and other community members will be invited to take the stage at "V-Day Speak Out: Break the Silence, End the Violence" on Thurs., Feb. 7. We welcome everyone who has a song to sing/play, some spoken word to deliver, a story to share, or anything else you'd like--the sky's the limit! Doors open (and sign ups start) at 7:00, open mic begins at 8:00!

We're hosting this event in support of raising awareness of sexual and domestic violence, so we especially invite artistic expressions that respond to those issues. However, you're welcome to respond to those themes creatively, using them as a launching point or a place to start brainstorming.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands ( Tickets for The Vagina Monologues will also be on sale. Find out more on our Facebook event page!

We hope you'll join us for an empowering, healing evening of speaking out, fighting back, celebrating the arts, and building community!