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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Hampstead listening room aims for intimate live music experience

Erin Enderlin, who recently played the CMT Awards on a song she cowrote with Trisha Yearwood, performed in March at Hampstead’s new live music venue. (Courtesy The Listening Room)

HAMPSTEAD — A local multipurpose community venue that opened a year ago is expanding and bringing more live music to an area in need of more options.

READ MORE: Local actress spearheading new community theater group in Hampstead

Some evenings Upstairs Hampstead is a yoga studio, a networking event space, or a spot for Bingo night. Last month, it also debuted The Listening Room Upstairs in its 800-square-foot venue. It welcomes 40 people for intimate, one-of-a-kind concerts a few times a month.

“I am a connector, I love to bring people together, and when I moved to Hampstead four years ago, I recognized that there was a lack of space that allowed residents to connect with their community,” owner Danielle Coleman said. 

Coleman runs Upstairs Hampstead and The Listening Room, located at 17097 U.S. Highway 17. She paired up with Jason Simas to launch the intimate concert experience after inquiring with her online community of friends about its possibility. Simas owns Shuckin’ Shack in Surf City and, a longtime live music lover, often booked music for the restaurant.

“We wanted to provide a different, more intimate experience with the singers/songwriters,” Simas said.

Currently, live music is light in Hampstead, sans performers booked at Ironclad Beer Garden and a few restaurants and bottle shops in town. It has primarily been a “drive-through town” to get to area beaches like Surf City and Topsail Beach, but its population has almost doubled in the last decade, per the U.S. Census. 

Unlike bars or restaurants, the Listening Room will concentrate on meaningful shows in an intimate space, bringing in three or four artists a month throughout summer and fall. Coleman and Simas book acts who story tell, as well as sing original music. 

The closest experience to what Coleman and Simas are building is located 20 miles away at Live at Ted’s in downtown Wilmington.

“You see the joy that the artists have with people actually connecting with their songs,” Coleman explained, calling it “magic.” “There’s tears, there’s laughter, it’s really beautiful to witness it. You can’t prepare yourself for that.”

So far Erin Enderlin, whose songs appear on Willie Nelson’s upcoming album, has played at the venue. She got her start as a songwriter for country music artists, like Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis and Reba McEntire. Enderlin also recently played the CMT Awards on a song she co-wrote with Trisha Yearwood’s.

Liz Longley, John Lennon songwriting scholarship winner, and Luke Bulla — who’s performed with Lyle Lovett and His Large Band — are scheduled to visit in coming months. 

“What we’ve learned from the artists that are coming to play at The Listening Room, even if there’s only 10 people in the audience, they’d rather play to those 10 people that are paying attention, learning about why they wrote the song and what the lyrics mean and are really present for their music and their art, rather than a packed bar,” Coleman adds.

The cozy atmosphere also adds to the sense of community between audience and performers. Homey, the space has large windows adorned with greenery and rows of black chairs positioned on multicolored carpets. 

“People feel like they’re kind of at home,” Coleman said. “So it’s been a great place for people to kind-of put their guard down.”  

Coleman created The Listening Room in response to numerous requests for a live music space from Upstairs Hampstead patrons, she said.

Hampstead’s growth in recent years has led to a more diverse group of people seeking varying levels of entertainment. The Listening Room is aiming to fill a unique niche. There’s no bar in the venue, so it’s avoiding a party crowd but rather people who have an intrinsic desire to focus on songs being played. Ticket holders can bring their own beer or wine for an additional $5 fee.

“It’s very, very thought out,” Simas said. “I look for singer-songwriters to play things they don’t normally play for the audience, a deeper cut from the album or a new song not released yet.”

Simas casts a wide net for potential gigs, searching community input, social media recommendations, and nearby shows in Raleigh or Charlotte. Performances at The Listening Room range from adult contemporary and country, to folk and Americana. 

“Sometimes it’s a matter of a recommendation from someone,” Simas said. “Sometimes it’s just stumbling across somebody that no one has ever heard of. That helps us with the creativity level of bringing in something new.”

Tickets are limited for shows, with prices ranging from $10 to $30; showtimes are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The schedule can be found here.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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