Extended Play: Easthampton mayor shares her Pioneer Valley music playlist

  • Easthampton mayor Nicole LaChapelle. Courtesy Nicole LaChapelle

  • Nicole LaChapelle GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • And the Kids

Published: 3/22/2018 9:10:14 AM


She’s the mayor of Easthampton, a co-owner of Casey’s Big Dog Saloon, and she knows the coolest drummers in town. In fact, occasionally they even play in her house on Main Street. 

“It’s always the drummers who bring people in and out of the house,” Nicole LaChapelle said. “Drummers rule the basement.”  

One such drummer is her longtime friend, J.J. O’Connell, who shares the space with other musicians like guitarist Ray Mason and singer-songwriter Eric Lee.  

LaChapelle moved to Easthampton in 1997 with her daughter, Sigrid, and partner, John. Five years later, she and John bought a house on Main Street and hosted a basement show with the Lonesome Brothers and Ware River Club to celebrate her graduation from Western New England University School of Law. Today, LaChapelle lets musicians, both local and traveling, use the space to practice, record and collaborate with other artists. 

“For artists in the Valley, when they’re just getting started, reasonable rehearsal space is really tight,” she said. “A lot of friends were doing music side projects, and we liked having music in the house.”

But did the noise bother her? Not really. 

“It’s like a cuckoo clock. Some people like cuckoo clocks,” LaChapelle said. “We worked a lot, and it was pretty great to be coming home and having that music in our basement.”

This past January, LaChapelle served as a judge for the third annual Valley Music Showcase at New City Brewery in Easthampton. In the bar, local bands competed for a slot in this year’s final competition.

“When you have music in your ears, it just gets all sorts of things flowing,” LaChappelle said on a recent afternoon in her office overlooking Nashawannuck Pond. “It makes you move. It makes you look at things differently.” 

The next installment of the Valley Music Showcase will be held tomorrow, March 23. The winners will join January showcase winners Snowhaus, a self-described “shred-pop” band based in Hadley, and other future winners of the bimonthly showcase in the final battle of the bands to be held on Nov. 30.

“The romantic and tragic involvement artists have with their art, what they give up for it ... to bear witness to that but also being able to provide space for that to happen, it is a real treasure,” LaChapelle said.

“There’s a really deep underground music scene in this area,” she added. “Just meet yourself a good drummer.”

Here’s LaChapelle’s Pioneer Valley playlist:


 LuxDeluxe: “So Far Away (Ba Ba da Ba da Ba)”

Nicole LaChapelle: “This is a great song; it really shows their maturity. I remember seeing them first play when they were eight, nine and 10, and it kills me.”

King Radio: “Famous Umbrellas” 

NL: “Looking at the heyday of Valley music, this is a primary source band. That song is everything good about Valley music.” 

National Convention: “The Indecisive Type”

NL: “This is classic … creative music energy coming right out of Easthampton. They’re not even a band, they’re members of different bands.”

Heather Maloney and Darlingside: “No Shortcuts”

NL: “I first heard her in the basement of Main Street, in my basement. The soul and the get-up-and-go, they are the next generation of Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin.”

Spouse: “Boots and Pants”

NL: “José Ayerve is a genius, and I think it just proves how tough and brutal the creative market can be where someone with such talent doesn’t make it on the level of, I don’t know, Justin Bieber.”

The Aloha Steamtrain: “Girl Planet”

NL: “An all-around creative, somewhat tropical, fun pop band with really strong rock ’n’ roll undertones. If you want to  know what Valley rock is about, they’ve got to be on the list.”

Ware River Club: “Goddess of My Street”

NL: “Matt Heber, it was his dream and vision. This song he wrote when he fell in love with his wife. It’s poppy, but rusty like Leonard Cohen. That’s a really old song. I could listen to it today or hear them playing it and fall in love with it again.”

Lonesome Brothers: “All Around You”

NL: “That is one of my favorite Valley love songs. If I ever were to get married — which I never would — that would be my wedding song. It’s so true and so true love and not sugary.”

National Carpet: “I Do”

NL: “This is a beautiful love song by J Johnson and his wife. They never thought about being rock ’n’ roll stars, and after college they all kept playing music.”

Khalif Neville: “Wishin’ ”

NL: “The son of Charles Neville has taken his own path with jazz. He has this New Orleans soul in his blood, and his fingers playing keyboard ... it’s beautiful. There is something urgent and moody about the sound; I love it.”

Pamela Means: “Truth” 

NL: “To hear her play that, it’s political, it’s feminist, it’s urgent, it’s beautiful.”

Lo Fine: “Hiding and Screaming”

NL: “It’s closer to me to lyrical poetry than it is a rock ’n’ roll song. It’s a great Saturday afternoon with wine and cheese and just contemplating where you are in the universe kind of song.”

Fancy Trash: “Three Cheers for the Cheated” 

NL: “It’s an anthem of rock ’n’ roll, but also just where you are in life and how you are going to go forward. You don’t know whether, on any given day, you’re going to be defeated or rise above. It just has this raw quality in the lead singer’s voice but also in the drums.”

Ray Mason: “Castanets”

NL: “For me, Ray Mason playing guitar is, like, genius. If you wrote a book about music in the Valley, he would be  chapter one.”

Dar Williams: “Iowa”

NL: “ ‘Iowa’ is just a classic road trip song, whether you’re going here to Whole Foods or here to Iowa. My partner, John, Sigrid and I drove across country and made sure we went through Iowa singing and playing that song over and over. Dar is a treasure. Iowa is a song about love lost and waning, but also outlines wanderlust and traveling.”

Storm the Ohio: “Proved You Wrong” 

NL: “Jerry Brookman leads a band of musicians who had different lives and relationships … It’s like John Prine, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young wrapped up in this angsty set of lyrics.”

Sun Parade: “Heart’s Out” 

NL: “Chris Marlon Jennings went to school with my daughter. He hung out at our house, and they were good friends. That song, I still hear young Chris, and where he is now — I’m so proud of him.”

Erin McKeown: “Slung Lo” 

NL: “I love her drama and the real embracing of different personalities she takes on as she goes through different phases of her career.”

And the Kids: “Pangea” 

NL: “I listen to And the Kids, and I hear the future of the Valley. I just hear Spouse, Pamela Means and Fancy Trash in the energy and creativity in the use of their instruments.”

Colorway: “Come Back July”

NL: “Alex Johnson … he’s a conductor. His music and his approach to rock and soul is one of a conductor of a symphony. It always amazes me when I see him live. He has such a deep respect for the music and the craft.”

Snowhaus: “Wishing Wells”

NL: “They blew me away at the Valley Music Showcase, and I immediately started sampling all their stuff because I couldn’t figure out where they came from. There’s just an edge, and I guess an energy and an excitement in their music.”

The Stone Coyotes: “The First Lady of Rock”

NL: “Barbara Keith is a tour de force for me. She is the rock ’n’ roll Gloria Steinem of the Valley. If I found out they were playing, I would leave my office right now just to listen to that song. I want to grow up and be Barbara Keith.”



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