We believe that by showcasing, promoting, and supporting local singer-songwriters we will fundamentally transform the live listening entertainment culture of Huntsville, Northern Alabama and all cities large and small.
Listen Local®, LLC is the passion project born in 2015 from the friendship of Alan Little and John Schmitt.
Alan, a Huntsville native, has been and a fixture of the Huntsville music scene since his height of the Tip Top and played at various venues throughout the southeast as a drummer for Plaid and later Cornbred. As a performing artist since the early 90's, Alan has been the product of a wide variety of influences; from the local sounds of folk, bluegrass, country and soul to his study and practice of West African drumming with a focus on The Mandingue traditional rhythms and studied under Mamady Keita, Mahiri Keita, Ali Camara, as well as Mohammad Decosta. He has recorded with Taylor Hicks, Nathan East, Abe Laborial Jr., Michael Thompson, Tim Carmen and performed with artists such as Kevin Kinney of Drivin N Cryin and has opened for Shawn Mullins, Sugarland, Jason Isbell and 400 Unit.
John, originally from the San Francisco East Bay, spent his youth bouncing between the ubiquitous iconic music venues of the area like Slims, 924 Gilman Street, the Berkeley Square, Bottom of the Hill and the Fillmore which were always full with the local sounds of the West Coast punk revival and third wave ska. With a singing voice like a chalkboard and no recognizable musical performance skills, John sticks mostly to writing. Professionally, John has spent the last 20 years as a US Army officer, first as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He has held a myriad of technical and leadership roles since, including Assistant Professor of Chemistry at West Point and most recently as the Chinook helicopter Block II product manager. During his service, he served two combat tours in Iraq capturing experiences that have shaped much of his early songwriting.
Both, with original music a soundtrack to their foundational lives found an incredible opportunity to help support, promote and showcase the phenomenal musical talent of North Alabama. With so many talented singer-songwriters locally, Listen Local Huntsville was born to do it’s part to ensure that a rich musical culture is sewn into the fabric of Huntsville’s growth in the coming years.
Our Beginnings and Songwriting
Initially, Alan just wanted to have a singular songwriter’s event with friends of his that were good songwriters in Huntsville. He started with those he looked up to most since playing music in town at 15 years old: Jim Cavender, Microwave Dave, and Charlie Howell. The idea for him was very personal and he saw this first show as almost a pilot and something that would force him to start focusing on songwriting again. His songwriting pace had been only about a song a year and while writing music almost daily, lyrically he was completely stagnant. For almost a year prior to their first show, John Schmitt and Alan worked on writing the song “War Without End.” It was a highly emotional song and something that chronicled one of John's stories of challenge, heartache, and pain while serving in Iraq. Alan knew after writing it that he had a songwriting partner, one that was based on brutal honesty, transparency, vulnerability, and trust. Before John, he had never written any more than 2 songs with any other people (Rob Aldridge and Jim Parker). That partnership has been a gift, for both of them… for Alan, the songs they have written have really helped him rediscover the love and passion for songwriting and has motivated him personally to advocate for the profession. For John, he has been able to express himself artistically for the first time in decades and wrestle some of his smoldering demons from the war. Several songs they have co-written are featured on the latest album by Alan Little.
From a organizational sense, Evan Billiter, who was also a co-founder (and original host of Listen Local Huntsville before becoming the full time president of the Microwave Dave Musical Education Foundation), John and Alan knew they had something. John ran with the business side while operationalizing and legitimizing their vision of growth. He took them from being an event to becoming a movement. Driving them at their core was the original music that fueled their perspective youths and love for Huntsville. And in that passion, they formalized their vision to support, promote and showcase the phenomenal musical talent of North Alabama.