Entertainment and Music Lifestyle

MaisCéu Dances Between Rain and Sunshine with Award-winning Music

Jimmie Griffith. Above photo by Maggie Flanigan

By Owen Hahn

MaisCéu, the stage name of Lenoir-based musician Jimmie Griffith, won the 9th annual LEAF Songwriter Competition. He will be performing again from October 19–22 at the LEAF Festival in Black Mountain. Two musicians from Asheville, Josh Batenhorst and Lyle de Vitry, were also finalists.

The LEAF Singer-Songwriter Showcase and Competition is hosted each year in partnership with NewSong Music on the banks of Lake Eden. The contest accepted song submissions from entrants nationwide and narrowed it down to eight finalists, who performed a concert on May 13. MaisCéu, softly singing over his guitar with percussive accompaniment, emerged as the judges’ favorite.

When MaisCéu revisits Lake Eden in the fall for the LEAF Festival, he plans to perform with two Asheville musicians who also participated in the Songwriter Competition: de Vitry and Bridger Dunnagan, both of whom play the fiddle.

The unique blending of Brazilian and Appalachian musical traditions in Griffith’s music is inspired by his youth immersed in the mountains of both cultures. His mother being from Brazil and his father from North Carolina, Griffith spent much of his early life moving between his birthplace of Minas Gerais and different parts of the US.

Griffith describes Brazil as a true melting pot of peoples and cultures in every aspect, from the food to its music. “You see Brazilian food, it’s like, ‘Oh, you got spaghetti Bolognese with rice and beans and yucca root,’” says Griffith. “This happens musically, too, where you have these mixtures that, culturally, from their origins, don’t mix, but they did in Brazil.”

Mending the split between linguistic understanding and feeling, MaisCéu sings in a universal language and overcomes cultural divides. “When you stay in a country for so long, you have mannerisms, idioms and ways to approach things that are very culturally bound, and when you go somewhere else, sometimes you commit some faux pas with other people,” says Griffith. “The thing I love about music is that it was always a good way for me to break the barrier of that awkwardness, to be able to start the communication where you’re not noticing the differences or what you’re doing wrong culturally. It was always a shortcut straight to the heart, straight to what matters.”

Griffith prefers not to describe his own music in too much detail, fearing he will monopolize interpretations of his work. He only goes so far as to liken his music to the contrast of the sun shining in the middle of a summer storm, the sky blue and bright but also gray. “Going through life, there’s all this duality, so that’s the thing I play with, because I have experience with that,” says Griffith. “You dance between these things.”

Listen to MaisCéu’s self-titled EP at MaisCeu.HearNow.com. Find out more about the LEAF festival at TheLEAF.org. Owen Hahn, The Laurel’s summer intern, is a student at UNCA and a music enthusiast.

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