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SoundCheck: Jacob Ferguson grows his songwriting skills at open mic night

Jacob Ferguson
Courtesy of Jacob Ferguson
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KSMU’s Studio Live is back this Friday, March 11, 2022 at noon and our guest, Jacob Ferguson, has spent nine years in the Springfield music scene.

KSMU’s Studio Live is back this Friday, March 11, 2022 at noon and our guest, Jacob Ferguson, has spent nine years in the Springfield music scene.

Previously with the Midwest Mutts, Jacob Ferguson is striking out as a solo performer. A regular go-to is the Cellar’s Jam Night, an open mic hosted Sunday evenings by Justin Larkin.

“And a lot of really talented songwriters and just like instrumentalists go there and kind of congregate there,” said Ferguson. “And they just had their year anniversary. It’s been like my home open mic since I’ve been looking for something new since the Shuffle shut down.”

“The Shuffle had a really good one. And then, Justin Larkin, the host for the Cellar, used to do Moon City Pub, before it reopened, so it kind of like merged those open mics in a way. And you get a lot of those two crowds there and it’s really a special open mic,” said Ferguson.

“And that’s a place I like to go to test out original songs and get ideas for, maybe if there’s a bass player there that I like, I’ll have him get on stage and you know, have him try to play something he’s never played before,” said Ferguson. “And it’ll give me an idea for maybe something I’ll want to do, maybe something I don’t want to do. But it’s just a very cozy environment to try new things and everybody is always just going for stuff whether they know it well or not.”

“Like, there’s Justin Larkin hosting, and Daniel Gore is always there, he works at SBC, and then you have some of the older guys like Craig Amason and David Hinson, who are fantastic singers and songwriters. They’re really consistent out there. My buddy Brian Pitts. There’s a regular crowd,” said Ferguson. “I could just go on and on and on, but it’s kind of like a very homey vibe, you know, if you go there consistently. And even if you don’t, people are always are welcome to get up and jam if they’ve never been there, you know. Justin is always like, ‘Let’s start a band!’ And if a position’s open, you can just get up there and play.”

I asked Ferguson what it’s like to bring new material to a crowd of such seasoned musicians.

“Well, I mean, it depends on how confident you are with the song and how new it is. You know, if you have a band of random people who are ready for it, it can sometimes turn into a crapshoot. But, that’s part of the magic of it. You know, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I had a really good teacher that encouraged me to show people the stuff that I make. His name was Darcy Stevens. And I had wrote this really crappy song. It was the first song I ever had. And I sang it for him and I was really nervous and messed it up and I was trying all these excuses and he’s like, ‘Listen man, if you make a piece of art, you have a responsibility to share it with the world.’ And that just kind of like, lit me up. I’ve held onto that ‘cause I think that’s just a wonderful piece of advice. It’s not like, it’s not sports . It’s not a competition, per say, it’s like if you can produce something, it’s important to show it to people.”

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.