IF YOU GO
2007: "the ep"
2008: "The Nashville Cuts"
2009: "Southern Fried Soul"
2010: "Magnolia Blue"
and "Live at the House of Blues New Orleans"
A.J. Valcarcel is a local soul singer/songwriter blending elements of pop, R&B and jazz. He is backed by a two-piece rhythm section: Mark Merritt and Robert Grier. For more information, visit the group's Facebook profile at www.face book.com/AJVBL.
New Orleans-based funk/soul singer Mia Borders is at the midpoint of a 15-part weekly songwriting challenge. At its conclusion in September, Borders will compare the songs from the project against previously prepared material to decide what to include on her next album, which she said she hopes to release this winter.
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After a banner year that included a nomination as New Orleans' best emerging artist and performances at marquee festivals such as Bonnaroo and New Orleans JazzFest, Mia Borders is playing by a new set of rules in 2011.
Borders' star has been rising in her native New Orleans for the last five years. There, her soulful, funky vocals and tight, funk/rock backing band have earned her recognition in local music publications and choice gig bookings.
Last year, however, Borders' band members left to focus on their families, forcing the 23-year-old singer to reconsider her musical approach.
"Even though we knew that was going to happen because they're married with kids and can't go out on the road every weekend ... that threw a wrench into the plans," she said. "It seemed like the best idea to rethink everything.
"It's daunting, but I'm enjoying it."
Part of her process of creative rediscovery has been taking on a challenge to write a new song every week for 15 weeks. At the midpoint of the project, Borders said she is becoming more confident.
"I'm definitely stretching and doing a lot more than I thought I was capable of doing," she said. "That's refreshing - to know that I'm capable of a lot more than I thought."
Tonight, Borders will demonstrate her new sense of empowerment when she takes the stage at Miller Plaza as this week's Nightfall headliner.
Borders said she plans to perform music drawn mostly from her last two records, 2009's "Southern Fried Soul" and 2010's "Magnolia Blue," as well as some of her favorite covers, including Bill Withers' "Use Me."
Although she has achieved notoriety in her native city, Borders said she doesn't expect to ever feel content enough to rest on her laurels.
"I'm still, in my mind, pounding the pavement," she said. "I probably always mentally will be. There's no relaxing in this game."