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Kites & Crows step out at Rising Stars

Mysha Caruso, principal songwriter for alternative-folk group Kites & Crows, says he spends 20 percent of his time as a musician and 80 percent as a businessman.

"You have to if you want to make it in the music industry," he says.

Caruso's primary focus for everything he writes — songs, lyrics and instrumentals — is intent on use in film, television and other media. His company, Magnetic West Music, maintains a catalog of Kites & Crows music, as well as music by another Ashland group he plays in, The Meriwethers, featuring Manda Bryne (singer for bygone band One Horse Shy), Ezra Severin of Americana band Hamfist and Nell Geislinger, an actor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"I also work with a songwriter in Texas," Caruso says. "We have a project we call Great Meadows. We hope to add more bands to the catalog. The old format of record labels is not the best business model anymore. I believe that independent licensing houses, catalogs of music that independent musicians hold the rights to, will be the new model."

Kites & Crows formed in 2008 as a duo with Caruso on guitar, harmonica and kick drum, and Jesse Baldwin on banjo, accordion, Dorbro and vibraphone. Cellist and vibe player Nancy Martin joined the group in 2010.

The group was on the local music scene for a time, then Caruso took jobs as a musician in OSF's 2014 production of "The Cocoanuts" and its 2013 production of "The Taming of the Shrew."

The band hopes to re-emerge on the local performance circuit with its appearance Saturday, March 14, at South Stage Cellars' Rising Stars music competition at Redmen Hall, 110 S. Third St., Jacksonville.

"We want to play more shows this year," Caruso says. "We thought we'd start with Rising Stars and see if we can make some good connections to play gigs at wineries."

Saturday's showdown is Rising Stars' third semifinal, with another set for March 21. Along with Kites & Crows, songwriter Ryan Marchand and acoustic soul duo David Day and Lynda Morrison vie for a slot in the final round, to be held indoors March 28 at Britt Pavilion.

Tickets cost $10 for the semifinals and can be purchased at South Stage Cellars (directly across the street from Redmen Hall), Music Coop in Ashland or by calling 541-899-9120. Tickets for the final round cost $12 and can be purchased at Britt's box office in Medford, at South Stage Cellars, or by calling 541-773-6077 or 541-899-9120.

With its full-length "More for the Mender," released in late 2012, and two singles, "We All Come 'Round Tonight" and "Good Light," released in 2014, Kites & Crows music is all about reflections on emotions.

"It's created to support emotional stories such as you'd find in movies and TV," Caruso says. "The songs have universal themes. These are not old Appalachian-style ballads.

"One of our popular songs, called 'Rusty Heart,' is gritty, bluesy, full of banjo and haunting cello," Caruso says. "The feeling of the instrumentation has a rustic and rural feel. The lyrics speak to dying and turning over a new leaf, metaphorically, rust and emotions of the heart. That's what Kites & Crows music is about. It's sonic reflections on emotions ... with the hopes and intentions of being used on TV."

From left: Mysha Caruso, Nancy Martin and Jesse Baldwin are Kites & Crows. Photo courtesy of Alli Lane