Hootie & the Blowfish alum showcases music scene at historic Charleston venue

Hootie & the Blowfish alum showcases music scene at historic Charleston venue
Story by Meg Kinnard; photo by Mary Ann Chastain

COLUMBIA — Charleston, South Carolina, has become a go-to destination for travelers seeking a dip into southern hospitality, history and haute cuisine, ranking consistently as a top domestic and international travel destination.

Now the lead guitarist and songwriter for one of the state’s most popular rock bands is putting on an event to showcase some of the state’s musical appreciation, alongside celebrated national music acts.

On Friday, Feb. 13, Mark Bryan’s “Live at the Charleston Music Hall” kicks off its radio run with performances by Greenville native Edwin McCain and bluegrass musician Sam Bush.

Future acts have not been announced, but Bryan says the show will have a regular run on both public television and radio channels. This weekend’s shows are airing on public radio and television throughout South Carolina. Shows later this year will be broadcast nationwide.

Bryan is perhaps best known for his work with Hootie & the Blowfish, the Grammy Award-winning band he helped found while a student at the University of South Carolina and with whom he still plays occasional shows. In 2010, Bryan founded Chucktown Music Group, a company intended to help create exposure both for his own musical efforts but also for up and coming artists in the Charleston area.

“It was a way for me to collaborate with other artists and songwriters, and as a producer to make albums with some of these up and coming artists,” Bryan said recently in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“Live at the Charleston Music Hall” has its beginnings in Bryan’s conversations with owners of the historic venue, a 19th century rail station that was transformed to an arts venue in the 1990s. In looking for artists for two pilot episodes, Bryan reached out to McCain and Bush, and then pitched the show to South Carolina Educational Television and national PBS outlets.

Audiences will be a mixture of the artists’ fans, as well as local music lovers. Bryan is energized about the exposure he hopes his show will give Charleston’s music scene.

“It’s this place where there’s a vibrant scene with a lot of talented artists, a lot of venues where you can hear music, good radio, good press, but no industry infrastructure,” Bryan said. “You can tell that there’s enough talent here for something to bubble up on a national level, but we haven’t built the infrastructure that Nashville or Austin or Athens has.”

That’s what Bryan says he tries to do though his Chucktown Music Group, as well as via a program he helped found at the College of Charleston. Since 2009, Bryan has been teaching a course to help students learn about all facets of the music industry, from booking to publicity and songwriting. Two years ago, he also helped kick start a music industry concentration, giving students the chance to specialize as part of their studies.

“We are helping kids get an education and, in turn, jobs in the music industry all over the country,” Bryan said. “If you’re not an artist or a musician, there’s still a lot you can do in the music industry.”

Image: Members of the band Hootie & The Blowfish, from left, Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Jim “Soni” Sonfeld, and Mark Bryan, arrive for the unveiling of a permanent piece of public art in honor of the band’s 25th anniversary on Oct. 21, 2010, in Columbia. Bryan is putting on a show to showcase some of the state’s musical talent, alongside celebrated national music acts. On Friday, Bryan’s show “Live at the Charleston Music Hall” kicks off its nationally-televised run with performances by Edwin McCain and Sam Bush.