Introducing Oliver Esposito: Songwriter. Singer. Multi-instrumentalist. Trans. Queer. Activist. 18 years old. It should be no surprise that in 2018, folk music at its finest is being made by a teenager. Esposito’s music is an acoustic mixture of folk, classical, bluegrass, an unsurprising blend considering the company this young artist has been keeping. In 2012, Amos Lee, in his headlining set at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, introduced 12-year old Oliver to the stage to join his band. “In that instant, the lives of everyone in attendance changed for the better,” wrote The Huffington Post about that appearance. Since childhood, Esposito has shared the stage with a veritable who’s who of the folk/bluegrass community, including David Grisman, Tim O’Brien, Chris Thile. "I’ve had the great privilege to play with some incredible musicians in my life. Rarely have I come across one who is both virtuosic and profoundly raw and soulful at the same time. I don’t think many people are given either, let alone both. Oliver’s got it.” says Langhorne Slim. “It’s mind blowing to watch, spiritually elevating to play along with, and damn exciting to see what this incredible human has in store for us all.”
A Colorado native currently living in Boston, MA, Esposito is honored to have studied/currently study with Chris Acquavella, Ron Browning, Amy Speace, Sandy Munro, Jason Anick, Joe Walsh and more. They currently attend Berklee College of Music in Boston where they attained a spot on the Dean’s List and started The Berklee Mandolin Orchestra.
Esposito’s latest EP, “Ghosts Underneath My Skin” was recorded and produced by Neilson Hubbard (Mary Gauthier, Kim Richey, Amy Speace) in Nashville, TN. Brave. Bold. Simple. By Track 3, we know we are listening to someone deeply committed to truth-telling. “Breathe” begins as a poem, a tumble of words over mandolin, guitar and piano, until they break into melody “and when I finally spoke those words...it felt like coming up for air. For the first time in 16 years, I can breathe.” It is one of the most direct statements of self from any songwriter, any artist, at any age, and it is exhilarating. “Ghosts Underneath My Skin” is an audacious debut from a voice well beyond Esposito’s years. We would do well to listen and follow as they shine a flashlight in the dark.
- Amy Speace, Nashville, TN. April 2018
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Oliver Esposito and AC Muench
A powerhouse duo consisting of Berklee College of Music students AC Muench and Oliver Esposito, playing poignant originals and funky fun covers.
Oliver Esposito, on mandolin, guitar, piano, and vocals, has played with Amos Lee, Langhorne Slim, Chris Thile, Mary Gauthier, and as a solo artist, has released a CD of all original music produced by Neilson Hubbard. Says Langhorne Slim, “Rarely have I come across one who is both virtuosic and profoundly raw and soulful at the same time. Oliver’s got it. It’s mind blowing to watch, spiritually elevating to play along with, and damn exciting to see what this incredible human has in store for us all.”
AC Muench, on bass and vocals, has played as many styles as you can name, some things of note being their work at Berklee as a session musician for the Berklee Film Scoring Orchestra, a member of the house band for the Perfect Pitch Competition, and as the principal bassist of the Berklee Motion Picture Orchestra. They also played Jenni Rudolph’s Momentum Album Release Concert and are featured on her upcoming album.
THEY has played at many well respected Boston area venues including Club Passim.
JUNE 22ND THEY duo at Stone Church Arts Bellows Falls VT
20 Church Street
News and musings
MAY 5th 2019
BIG NEWS! The cat's out of the bag y'all! I am so honored (and still shocked) to announce that I will be TEACHING at this years Rocky Mountain Song School! This is the place and people who raised me and it means the world to me. I'll be teaching along some of the most amazing impactful artists out there. My first song school was almost 10 years ago, and I'm so happy to be returning to my musical home once again. Thank you Planet Bluegrass. I cannot wait.
MAY 3rd 2019
Today, I played my first show since I started testosterone. I was beyond nervous. And I had rough moments. My voice cracked. I couldn’t find a note. The pitch slipped out from under me. I tried to go up an octave out of muscle memory. Things that have never happened to me before, things that felt unacceptable. They weren’t things I could hide from the audience, even though I have nearly ten years of experience doing that. I felt the shame rush in, I felt my face flush, I heard the voices of everyone who told me not to go on T screaming in my head as I stood in the bright lights of the stage and searched for the strength to go on. This will ruin your career, they said. You can’t give up your voice, they said. It was the first thing many people in the music industry said when I came out, even while claiming to be supportive. “Oh but you’re not going to go on testosterone right? I mean that would just be foolish.”
So after three months on T, naturally, I wanted to come back strong, to show them all that they were wrong. I didn’t think I could afford to make any mistakes.
I was devastated when I did.
But with the support of a very good friend I realized that I was wrong.
I don’t have to be perfect.
I don’t have to sing like I used to.
I am allowed to be on new ground, to have my voice be unreliable and uncontrollable as it’s changing.
I am allowed to be in transition and still perform, because honestly, these moments did not take away from the impact of my songs.
Those people who first told me these things are transphobic. What they said and how they reacted is unacceptable. It was not a foolish choice, because this is who I am, and MY VOICE IS STILL MINE. It is still expressive, it still delivers my songs, the music of my heart. Regardless, I am making the choices I need to to live fully as who I am and THAT is the most important thing.
So this is for all the trans kids out there. You can be in transition and still pursue your dreams, even as you are changing and you have to relearn things. Because you are always, always amazing, just showing up as who you are. The world needs to change to us, not us to it.
The EP is also on Spotify and Soundcloud. Email me below to purchase a hard copy! PayPal is email@example.com if you want to support a young artist.
Me and Thee Coffeehouse interview:
SOMERVILLE SONGWRITER SERIES INTERVIEW
You’ve just left Colorado and begun your first year at Berklee School of Music in Boston; how is that going so far? What have been the most interesting or useful things you’ve learned there at this early stage?
Berklee has been amazing so far!! It is incredible to be breathing, eating, and sleeping (or not sleeping in most cases) music. The complete immersion plus being surrounding by so many brilliant and lovely peers and professors creates an environment for learning and creativity like no other. I am SO happy and my understanding of music, and thus ideas for music I want to create, has grown visibly.
For awhile you were best known as an instrumentalist, garnering all sorts of attention for – especially – your mandolin playing. What led you to decide to focus on songwriting? Has your background as an instrumentalist influenced the way you approach songwriting or performing?
Songwriting for me is a necessary thing, like we need water. It deeply influences the way I process and walk through the world. Being a classically trained instrumentalist absolutely influences how I approach songwriting, especially my experience with classical music - I try to think of the music as helping to tell the story of the song just as much as the lyrics, and I have a wide variety of tools available, from classical techniques to my experiences as a bluegrass mandolinist so I try to seek out the most effective way to tell the story and not be limited by what I know how to do.
You’ve turned a lot of your songwriting attention to writing about important social issues. How do you approach writing a song with a social message?
I think there are essentially two types of social justice songs in existence, the first being those that try to not be too controversial, to get everyone to listen. The issues that I have with those songs is that truth often gets traded out for trying not to be preachy or too controversial. For example, I’m trans and simply writing about my experience in a way that doesn’t sugar coat it and worry about cis people’s feelings will make people stop listening. I should be able to be honest about my experience.
The second type is those that are intensely raw and honest, and those are the songs that I want to write. One can speak the truth without being preachy, I think that the danger is when telling someone not to be preachy becomes a way to silence the full truth of that person’s experience, because yes, for some of us it is radical and controversial to exist. Preachy can be what people call you when they don’t want to hear your truth. Yes, these songs are hard for people to hear, and they cause controversy, but they are TRUE, and for some people they are saving their life, making them feel seen for the first time. Change never comes easily.
B will be playing on Saturday, December 1st, 7:30 p.m., in the Somerville Songwriter Sessions, along with Jude Roberts and host Beth DeSombre, at the Somerville Songwriter Sessions at the Somerville Armory Cafe, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville MA. (Great music, great food, free parking.) The show will be preceded by a 30-minute open mike: contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a slot.
Michael Bialis - Huffington Post
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