Ages of Atlanta:
The music

Ages may differ, but music is a common tie

One of the greatest joys of music is that it doesn’t discriminate.

No matter age, race, economic status or political leanings, music can be crafted by anyone, anywhere.

Atlanta’s musical heritage is dotted with Hall of Fame names such as Gladys Knight and Usher, rock heavies Ed Roland and Chris Robinson, renowned producers Brendan O’Brien and Mike Will Made It, and hundreds of Wikipedia pages worth of artists who migrated south to ignite their careers.

Here is a look at four artists — ranging from upstarts to veterans — who share the commonality of locale, but are vastly different in musical style.


Lil Yachty
Birth name: Miles Parks McCollum
Musical style: hip-hop
Age: 18
Hometown: Atlanta
Known for: 2016 mixtapes “Lil Boat” and “Summer Songs 2”; singles “1 Night” and “Minnesota.”
Worked with: Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Young Thug

Most positive aspect of starting a rap career in Atlanta: “Being able to reach out. It’s not hard to reach one another. I like being able to connect. I like the vibe and that it’s positive. … I never want to leave Atlanta.”

Influence of his dad (Shannon McCollum, a former photographer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution): “Growing up, he played a lot of music I wouldn’t otherwise hear, and that impacted the way I heard music — jazz, rock. He played Miles Davis, Paul McCartney. Coldplay, I’m a huge fan.”

Story behind his name: “I grew up around a group of guys (at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton) we would call the Yacht Club, and I was the youngest and wanted to get in, so they called me Lil Yachty.”

Biggest/most memorable performance: “Probably when I did my first festival in Miami (Rolling Loud in May). It was the largest audience; they couldn’t wait for me to come onstage.”

New project: Lil Yachty is on his first headlining tour, which plays his hometown Aug. 23 at Center Stage. “It’s very meaningful to me. I don’t honestly know why, but I really enjoy that venue. I’ve been special guests for other people there, but I’ve never headlined a show there. This will be my first show by myself in Atlanta. I did one show there and I wasn’t nearly as big as I am now. I’m extremely excited.” Also just released “Summer Songs 2.”

Center Stage in Midtown, where Lil Yachty will bring his first headlining tour in August 2016. Photo by John Spink

Larkin Poe
(Rebecca Lovell and Megan Lovell)
Musical style: Roots-rock-pop-blues
Ages: Rebecca Lovell, 25; Megan Lovell, 27
Hometown: Calhoun. Currently live outside Marietta.
Known for: albums “KIN” (2014) and “Reskinned” (2016); contributed to “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” produced by T Bone Burnett (2014)
Worked with: Elvis Costello, Steven Tyler, Kristian Bush, Conor Oberst

How Atlanta has shaped them as musicians:
Rebecca Lovell: “Having grown up here, we feel that being Southerners has been important to our lyrics, and listening to Delta blues and bluegrass and Americana and the country contingent. It’s a big melting pot. As we kicked into our own group, first as the Lovell Sisters and then Larkin Poe, we moved more into Atlanta and became more involved with the people in Decatur. Eddie’s Attic — our first Atlanta gig was there. We were invited by Shawn Mullins to play his birthday party. He had heard of us, and said, ‘I love y’all’s harmonies,’ and that was a really great powder keg moment for us. He took us into the studio and we made some tracks with him early on. Kristian Bush was another big relationship for us.”

Biggest/most memorable performance:
Megan: “Glastonbury two years ago would be a big one. We went on ‘Conan’ a few months ago, and that was a major bucket list item.”

Rebecca: “Our past tour, we played two really big fests in Germany. The headliners were Ozzy (Osbourne) and different artists we would hold in high esteem. Touring with Elvis (Costello) was a really educational and mentoring experience.”

New project: The Lovells recorded on some songs for Steven Tyler’s new country album, “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere.”

Rebecca: “We initially met T Bone Burnett (who produced Tyler’s album) through the ‘Basement Tapes.’ He shot us a message late one night and said, ‘Are you girls around?’ We went into the studio in Nashville with Steven and played on some tracks. Talk about a true creative man. He really imparted a lot of wisdom to us.”

Larkin Poe performin with Kristian Bush at his annual post-Thanksgiving shows at Eddie's Attic. Photo by Melissa Ruggieri

Larkin Poe opening for Elvis Costello at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in June 2014. Photo by Akili-Casundria Ramsess

Rebecca and Megan Lovell give their mother a kiss after performing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution studio in early August 2016. Photo by Emily Jenkins

Avery Sunshine
Birth name: Denise White
Musical style: soul
Age: 41
Hometown: Chester, Pa; moved to Atlanta in 1993
Known for: albums “AverySunshine” (2010)and “The SunRoom” (2014); singles “Ugly Part of Me” and “Call My Name”
Worked with: India Arie, Michael Buble, David Foster, Anthony Hamilton

How Atlanta has shaped her as a musician: “The fact that I’ve been here for 60 percent of my life, you never imagine that you move for college (she graduated from Spelman College in 1998) and it will become your home and your parents move there and you get married there and have kids there. Performing at the Apache Cafe and … while I’m in line you’ve got Donnie Johnson and India Arie coming through. … That scene was such a huge part of my musical life. That is where I was really able to practice this Avery Sunshine thing. That is where I was able to stand with a mic and sing, play music and test it out to see whether people liked it. You could go home and still show your face in the city. Atlanta and the Apache were the places where Avery Sunshine was born.”

On whether she’d be doing what she’s doing now had she lived elsewhere: “I can’t say that I would, because I met (husband) Dana (Johnson) in church here. He was the one who said, ‘You need to do this thing here.’ I wanted to move to the West Coast or go back to Chester. … To say Atlanta has influenced not only our music, but me, is an understatement. It’s who I am now. My children (ages 16 and 14) are Atlantans; they were born in Austell. I’m a peach.”

Atlanta music community influences: “A lot of the musicians. Tres Gilbert, who is an amazing bass player, he frequented the Apache and is Bobby Brown’s music director right now. He was one of the people who was in our ear encouraging us. Steve Bracey — I met him on the set of ‘The Fighting Temptations’ (in 2003), singing on the soundtrack at Doppler Studio. He is Dana’s Morehouse brother. Dana and I were working on the first album and Steve reached out to me and wanted to hear what we were doing. I had some stuff on MySpace, probably around 2008. He’s been working with us, mixing our albums, since then.”

Biggest/most memorable performance: She played for 35,000 at the 2015 Cincinnati Music Festival. Also: “Aretha (Franklin) invited us to sing at her birthday party in April 2015. She sent a note to my booking agent (asking) if I could sing. Dana and I are there and she and (record executive) Clive (Davis) are sitting about 4 feet behind me. That was a highlight. She wanted four songs, so we did ‘I Got Sunshine’ and some covers. I finished the four songs, she got up, walked over to me and said, ‘If you don’t sing your hit, you’re not getting your check.’ I launched into ‘Call My Name.’ She knew the song. That was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received.”

New project: likely in early fall. “We’re about 80 percent done. … the album is called ‘2064.’ I vowed I would never get married again; it’s just easier to stay like this. But Dana said to me at the top of the year, ‘This is the year we have to get married.’ I saw rainbows, rays of light, unicorns! I went from not wanting to be married again to ‘I want it all!’ That moment he asked me, I said to God, ‘I know I said I wouldn’t do this again, but if you’ll just give me to 2064 with this man,’ when I’ll be 89 and he’ll be 91. It just sang well.”

Avery Sunshine performs during a 2010 tribute to Donny Hathaway at the 595 North Event Venue & Lounge in Atlanta. Photo by Hyosub Shin

The Apache Cafe in 2001. AJC file

Avery Sunshine in the AJC video studio in early August. Photo by Hyosub Shin

Avery Sunshine and Dana Johnson in the AJC video studio in early August. Photo by Hyosub Shin

Glenn Phillips
Musical style: Rock-jam
Age: 66
Hometown: Springfield, Mass.; moved to Atlanta in 1962.
Known for: guitar wizard who formed the Hampton Grease Band
Worked with: Little Feat, Bob Weir, Peter Buck, Cindy Wilson of the B-52’s

How Atlanta has shaped him as a musician: “(In the ’60s) it was frustrating for people because the music business was located in New York and on the West Coast and in Atlanta you were very removed from that. It was harder for all bands to break out from Atlanta. Obviously that’s changed a great deal. But what was great about this was what a little paradise that we were living in and it wasn’t so much about competition, it was really a community. That’s just something that’s always stayed with me and I’m incredibly grateful for it and I look back now and I’m really thankful that Atlanta was so removed.

“The Grease Band, when we started out, we couldn’t find places to play. There were a lot of teen clubs with dance bands — we played at a dance once and literally cleared the room.”

On what Atlanta venues were instrumental in his formative years with the Hampton Grease Band: “We played the Stables Bar & Lounge. … The owner, Abner Jay, thought we might be able to draw kids to the club. We weren’t very good. … There were places like the 12th Gate, a little coffee house. The Grease Band played there all the time. They started bringing in Weather Report, Little Feat, that’s where I became close with Lowell George. There was a club called the Catacombs, one of the initial hippie clubs. That led to things like the Great Southeast Music Hall; the Moonshadow led to places like the Capri and the Roxy. … There’s an incredibly vibrant, creative community in Atlanta and always has been for as long as I’ve been alive.”

On whether Atlanta is still relevant as a music hub: “I think people see Atlanta as being as viable and important as the West and East coasts. There’s lots of great bands and music that have broken on a national level.”

New project: A vinyl rerelease of Phillips’ 1977 concert at the Rainbow Theatre is London is due this fall on Shagrat Records, which last year rereleased his best-known album, 1975’s “Lost at Sea.” Phillips also is working on his first solo record since 2003. “I started working on this record at Southern Tracks because I still record on tape - and then the studio closed. It’s been trying to find another analog studio. I just started recording at Silent Sound Studio. As to when it will be out, I don’t know what to say. (Laughs) It will be done when it’s done!” Phillips will play the Red Clay Foundry in Duluth on Oct. 8.

Glenn Phillips in his Brookhaven home. Photo by Emily Jenkins

The reunited Hampton Grease Band in 2006: from left to right, Bob Elsey, Mike Holbrook (white polo), Jerry Fields (top), Bruce Hampton (bottom in black t-shirt) and Glenn Phillips. And a shot of the band in 1969 shot by Bill Fibben.

Glenn Phillips backstage at the Great Southeast Music Hall in 1975. Photo by Richard Perez


This is the second in a five-part series about how age shapes life in Atlanta, from faith and food to music and media.

In part one, read about how baby boomers and millennials are shaping the way we live in Atlanta