For countless talents out there, music is much more than notes and lyrics. It is a means of expressing emotions, feelings and thoughts. And that is precisely what nine local singer-songwriters aim to do this weekend at CoCHILLa, a free event on Oct. 13 at the Big Chill Surf Cantina in Rehoboth Beach, designed to give musicians the opportunity to feature and share their original songs for others.
Melissa Alesi, who turned to music at a young age, has been writing original songs for years. With the release of her second album, “House of Stones,” last December, she noticed a steady interest by the crowd, not only for her covers, but also for the songs she wrote.
“It can be hard to read a crowd when you’re playing somewhere,” she noted, “and the cover songs are what a lot of people want to sing along with. But as more people come out to listen to you more often, they start requesting [originals], too.”
Alsei, along with eight other area musicians, will feature an evening of original work on Sunday, Oct. 13, starting at 4:30 p.m.
“People started asking me where they can go to hear more originals,” said Alesi, who released her first album of original work back in 2008. “They wanted more than the cover songs, so we put this event together.”
Derek Shockro, part owner of the Big Chill Surf Cantina, was eager to host the CoCHILLa, an event that tips its hat to Coachella, an annual three-day music and arts festival held in Indio, Calif. “Melissa Alesi has been playing music at the Big Chill for about a year and a half now. She actually came to us with the idea of having artists from the region come to a local establishment to play original music. She asked if she could do it at the Big Chill, and we were glad to be a partner in this venture.
“We knew she was the right person. She’s a great artist and has a great following at our establishment. So, we knew she had good relationships in the community with other artists that play original music. And she has a great list of artists for this upcoming Sunday.”
Alesi will share the stage with other area musicians, including Timothy Cooney, Jason Lee, Dave Hawkins, Mike Givens, Josh Pryor, Nathan Clendenen, Gina DiNubile and songwriter Nate McCormick.
“Being from Rehoboth area,” said McCormick, “[playing original songs] doesn’t always pay great. If I was playing a show out on the town, it would be primarily covers, salt-and-peppered with some originals here and there. [CoCHILLa] is really a cool little event. It’s something where each of us will bring our own following and play our own music — a true showcase of our material.”
Growing up listening to legends such as Michael Jackson and Tom Petty, McCormick developed an early appreciation for music that has since spanned a wide spectrum.
“I’ve played it all,” he said. “I’ve been in a metal band growing up, then tried the jam-band thing after going to Bonnaroo in 2004. My music is always changing, but style is momentary. It’s about feeling more than catering toward a specific genre.”
McCormick operates sort of as a one-man-band, using loops to piece together harmony and rhythm with vocals and melody.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said. “I create a lot of my stuff on the fly. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but I can combine original grooves and reinforcements to make something completely new each time.”
While keeping busy at Lewes’ B&B Music store, McCormick only gets the chance to play shows a couple of times a month, but he anticipates a good turnout with CoCHILLa.
“It’s nice to see musicians coming together,” he said. “It’s a great idea, and should be a really fun time for everyone involved.”
For Mike Givens, co-founder of the local musical sensation Monkee Paw, inspiration comes from a variety of sources, too.
“Playing in a band like Monkee Paw,” he noted, “we all have different styles, and it’s a give-and-take situation. My style is a bit laid-back, and my personal songwriting comes out in a sort of storytelling, almost like a book. My songs are usually something relatable for the people listening.”
This past summer was the busiest Givens had seen with his band, playing nearly 110 shows in a matter of a few months, across the Maryland and Delaware seaboard.
“It was a great season, but I didn’t get to really work on a lot of my original stuff as much I’d like to,” he said. “I enjoy putting the time and energy into my own music, and events [like CoCHILLa] are perfect to see what kind of reception these originals can get. As a musician with original songs, it’s good to feed off of the audience. When you see someone tapping their feet along to your music, it feels good.”
Admission to the 4:30 p.m. show is free, and a portion of proceeds from sales that night will go to the Georgetown SPCA, as will money raised from a silent auction, which will also take place at the Big Chill Surf Cantina that evening. CoCHILLa coincides with the Rehoboth restaurant’s Dogs & Drafts Happy Hour, running from 1 to 7 p.m.
Patrons are being encouraged to bring their friendly canines along, and the Big Chill will supply the water, treats and toys, while human guests can enjoy food and beverages.
But this Sunday truly is all about the music, Shockro noted.
“There’s a lot of different music that’s being played around here,” he said, “and there are definitely some artists that are passionate about what they do. They take a lot of time to write and perform their music, and to get them together to play in front of an audience that is going to be receptive and, also, potentially new listeners, that’s why we embraced this project. It should be a great event for everyone.”
For more information about CoCHILLa, visit www.melissaalesi.com.