BEVERLY — Lending all her experience, talents and heart to March 23’s “A Song Is Born: A Songwriter’s Night to Benefit the National MS Society” will be rising country singer Annie Brobst.
Her journey from her upbringing in the Columbus, Ohio neighborhood of Clintonville, to singing in choirs as a child, to graduating from Kenyon College, moving to the North Shore and the teaching Spanish at a charter school in Salem, to launching a successful career as singer and frontman of the Annie Brobst Band, put her in the perfect position to help in the fight against MS .
“I didn’t initially have a connection (to MS), but I grew up to have one,” she said.
This connection to the disease, which affects more than 2.8 million people worldwide, first began with fans, specifically John and Tina West of Peabody, organizers of the Cabot fundraiser. After getting to know the Wests at shows as fans and then as close friends, Brobst was asked to lend her talents to the couple’s various MS fundraisers.
But since then, Brobst said she has discovered that many of her loved ones have been affected by the disease.
“What I realized was that some of my closest friends, or people I know quite well, were coming up to me and saying, ‘Did you know I have MS? And I’m very grateful to you for what you do.” So it got very personal to me because there are so many people that I know very well that I didn’t know (that I had MS) and it reaches them and can help support them in that way.”
On the March 23 show, Brobst is set to serve as host and musical director for the evening which will feature nearly a dozen talented singer-songwriters taking turns on The Cabot stage.
“I’m going to be the host that pops up between these tours, talks a bit about these artists, reminds people why we’re here and what we do,” she said, “but then I’ll be part of a towers.”
Brobst said she was happy to host the event and help the cause in any way she could.
“I’m excited for this role…(John and Tina West initially) needed someone to help them with the musical aspects of this event they were organizing, so I used my musical connections to entice really good artists. They’ve been to some of my songwriter nights where I’ve either facilitated it or been part of it and they’ve become fans.”
The format of the show will allow all members of the lineup to share the spotlight.
“It’s really going to be like a national songwriter round where you have three rounds of people and in each round there will be three artists sitting on stools and they’ll go one by one, rotating until ‘they played three songs each.’
What is behind the name of the concert?
“It’s called ‘A Song is Born,’ because sitting there with an acoustic guitar is how a lot of these songs are born, regardless of genre. It’ll be nice to see a bunch of different artists tell their story and show how their songs were born.”
Music as a passion
Born and raised in Ohio, Brobst graduated in 2007 with a degree in Spanish Literature from Kenyon College in rural Gambier, Ohio. She moved to Massachusetts where she worked for eight years – teaching Spanish and coaching softball – at Salem Academy Charter School.
She admitted that she may have learned a few lessons from her teaching years that have come in handy when she’s on stage.
“I definitely picked up some skills from being in front of a class. You have to get their attention the same way and hold it. I can see those parallels.”
She started singing at open mic parties and the seed was planted.
“Singing has always been a fun hobby, which maybe turned into a passion when I was a kid. When I was a kid, I sang in choirs. groups before arriving here in Massachusetts.”
One night she was singing karaoke and was approached to form a band.
Brobst got his feet wet singing country covers professionally.
“I was in the cover band scene for a while here, and then I met my acoustic guitarist who’s still in my band and he kind of pushed me to write original music there. My passion for it grew stronger then. I think when you write your own music, you know you want to do something with it, you have something to say.”
The group’s approach is a little different, she says.
“We were trying to build a fan base for our original music. We didn’t want to throw it in there with the covers and hope for the best. When we played cover gigs, we knew what our job was, knew what was our role. Then we were releasing original music digitally and selling CDs and so we had specials where people knew they would come to see us play mostly original music.”
The group juggled original shows and covers for a while, she said.
“We understood that our fans were really supportive, really pushing and really loving those original shows, where we were still playing some of these token covers. We just kind of made a hard cut. Here’s an original show with some covers or a cover the show with some originals. Then eventually we started to infiltrate more original shows.
She released her debut EP, ‘Ghost’, in 2016, followed by ‘My First Rodeo’, in 2019 and ‘Holler & Swaller’, in March last year. The rewards came quickly. In 2016, she was named Country Act of the Year at the New England Music Awards. She and the band racked up nominations and awards year after year. won honors as General Act of the Year, Song of the Year, and Country Act of the Year.
Dead time during confinement
In March 2020, shows in the region and around the world were suspended. Her and the group. however, made good use of the pandemic early on.
“We spent a lot of time in the studio, writing and recording, preparing our full album, which came out in early 2021,” she said.
“We just wanted to stay in touch with our fans. I had been really trying to learn these social media algorithms on how to maintain engagements. And once the shows were cancelled, it was really hard to think about how I was going to continue. Social media presence. “How am I going to connect with them now? I’m not promoting any shows, I’m not selling any tickets, I’m not saying “we have an announcement coming up”. But it was also a really big tool because we couldn’t be in person with each other.”
Brobst is engaged to Ryan Dupont, lead guitarist and co-writer of the band, and they live together in Danvers. And part of the answer was at home.
“So I said ‘why don’t we do a live show tour and we’ll do it in every room of our house and we’ll call it The House Tour? So I posted a little schedule – Monday it’s the bathroom, Wednesday it’s the kitchen, Friday it’s the basement, my dressing room, my daughter-in-law’s bedroom. the AP turned on and we started live streaming from every room in our house. Which got him so excited because it made us clean every room in our house,” she said.
“People thought it was hilarious. You know, they were so excited to see my closet, my sparkly clothes, my shoes. I put on a different jacket for every song. In the kitchen, I was shaking different spices as a percussion. was really fun and people – it was thousands and thousands of views and engagement and I was getting new subscribers – really loved it.”
Take it on the road – sort of
Once the weather warmed up, they decided to take her outside.
“We decided to do a second run – around the outside of our house. So we sat on the porch and then Ryan’s sister lives across the street and she has goats, so we we settled in the goat pen, we had the goat nibble on us while we played our set. Our garden, by the fire pit, I was in the shed with the lawnmower. Because it was hot and that people had been locked up for a few months, we started having people stop lawn chairs in our yard or on the sidewalk just to watch it live because they just wanted live music,” she said. declared.
Fans loved it and were willing to pay for the entertainment, Brobst said.
“So we were setting up ways to tip. I connected my venmo and paypal and people were really generous. They were like, ‘I would have spent $100 to come see your show, on tickets and in drinks anyway.’ It really kept us alive.”
This idea turned into a series of driveway shows when a friend with a pull-along trailer that looked like a small wooden stage allowed Brobst to take the show on the road.
The first stop was the driveway of John and Tina West, organizers of the “A Song Is Born” concert for MS, in Peabody.
“Once I announced we were doing this, I got messages from people asking, ‘How can we get you to come to our neighborhood? Then I started charging him and again that kept us alive last year. We did over 30 stops during the summer, all around and it brought in revenue like we were doing shows.”
Brobst said she was very grateful for the connection she had with fans.
“People say music saved them and I have to say you saved us, so we all went through it together. We couldn’t be more grateful for that. It’s quite amazing that there are people who realize that they would have gone out and seen our show anyway and spent money on it. People realize that and are more generous because of it. We certainly survived because of it.
“Little Girl Dreams”
If she had to choose one of her songs to be remembered, it would probably be the most obvious. His most popular award-winning songs are probably “Change of Heart” and “Red Wine on My Mind”.
“It would have to be ‘Little Girl Dreams’ because it’s about a young girl’s dreams coming true and looking back to when we were little girls and how it all felt a little more carefree, innocent and not the stress of the world today. I really like the nostalgia and daydreaming of this song. It’s upbeat and people tend to connect with them.
And it’s a song that comes straight from his heart.