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by Mel Fenson

The Prairie Scholars

When Andy and Jessica are on stage they entertain their audiences with high energy, enthusiasm and original music. Since they began performing as “The Prairie Scholars” in 2010, they have quickly gained popularity.

Both a singer and guitarist, Andy Eppler, who is 26, likes to explore various musical genres and mediums. He plays guitar and harmonica in live performances, then adds drums, bass, organ, dobro and several other instruments, during studio recordings. In addition to being a musician, he is also a prolific songwriter, has published poetry and short stories, and has produced his own CDs.

Andy’s musical talents were already well known in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, where he started recording music and performing. He has produced a number of Solo albums. He released “There is No Underground” in 2007, “Dark Places” in 2008, and “Disease in the Heartland” in 2009. He released another album, “Long and Lonesome Way” in 2011.

Andy’s wife and musical partner, Jessica, who is 25 years old, moved from Sweetwater, Texas to Levelland, Texas to enroll at South Plains College. Her captivating songwriting and classically inspired musicality quickly drew attention to her talent. Singing and playing keyboard, she performed in a band named, Clandestine Amigo, which played venues across the Texas south plains area. She met Andy, while at college.

Jessica has always been involved in music. She recalls, “As far back as I can remember I have memories of music. I grew up in a musical family – my mother was a piano teacher and I remember being impressed by meticulously memorized piano pieces at recitals we attended. I also remember the music at church and the emotions it stirred. ”She explained that, “Somehow, those two branches of music twisted together in me as I grew up.” She added, “An emotionally strong musical performance moves me like almost nothing else can. It’s not something you can touch physically, but you can still feel it deeply. It penetrates the skin and touches some invisible set of nerves in your chest, stomach and head. To me, the best kind of music is passionate and purposeful.” In 2009, Jessica released her first live recording titled, “Clandestine Amigo.”

Both Andy and Jessica earned their college degrees in commercial music, which was a music degree combined with business studies. Andy said along with learning about audio production in a recording studio, they were also taught how to read both music and contracts, while at South Plains College.

They were still living in Lubbock, Texas in 2007, when Andy toured Colorado for several weeks to promote a new album. He said, “I simply fell in love with the place and realized that, as recording artists, Jessica and I could live anywhere and still sell our music online.” So they decided to move to Colorado because, “it felt good and offered us the opportunity to learn more about bluegrass because of its popularity there."

Andy and Jessica teamed up to play music and were married in 2006. They moved to Colorado in 2009 and the Prairie Scholars was born. They formed their own recording company, Velvet Syntax Publishing, to produce their own label and CD’s. They built a recording studio in their house and have been producing records there since 2008. They have recorded and released ten collections since then.

The name Prairie Scholars originated as a result of their Texas high plains heritage. Andy described Texas as a, “huge, flat, hot place with a history of churning out great art.” He said, "Because we have studied the history of art and music in the Texas plains country and understand the way people there react to it, we have become students of the prairie and are therefore 'The Prairie Scholars.' "

Andy characterized the music he and Jessica play as “West Texas Soul Music.” He further described it as country music inspired by jazz fusion and blues that reflects the mood of the area and the attitudes of the people who live there.

Andy says he has drawn musical inspiration from various entertainers, including: Bob Dylan, The Band, David Axelrod, Roy Ayers, The Flaming Lips, Roger Alan Wade, Buddy Holly, Neil Young, and David Bazan.

Andy emphasized that, “Writing our own music is central to our work. It’s the part we have focused on most. It seems that well-written songs are rare today and no one is specializing in them. Well, we do.”

Andy described some of favorite work as: “Horse Thief” - a story about a young man who gets together with the wrong girl; “This is the End” - about mortality and the inescapable nature of death; “Kelly Boys” - about the responsibility of public service; “I Feel You” - one of our atheistic love songs about the meaning of love from a non-religious or superstitious perspective; and, “You and Me Now” - another song about discovering that there is no god and how wonderful it is to be alone in a relationship with someone you love.

Since they began recording together in 2010, Andy and Jessica have produced two musical collections, “Strangers in the Modern Era,” and “Live Wires.”

They plan to release three albums during 2012. Jessica’s solo project “Still No Empty Sky” came out on May 18th, "The Prairie Scholars in The Wasteland Ramble” is due out in August, and Andy’s solo project “Andy Eppler’s Traditional Christmas” is due out in October.

In addition to producing more albums, Andy is currently writing an art philosophy book, which he says, "will detail the functionality of creativity, dispel some of the superstition around the topic, and describe my own philosophy of why art is good for society." It is planned for publication in 2013.

The Prairie Scholars’ upcoming performance schedule for the summer and fall of 2012 may be seen on their website at: