There was a time when one of the coolest places to be in Mankato was the living room of Colin Scharf and Laura Schultz.

The pair hosted living room concerts with some of the best Minnesota musicians, including Chastity Brown and Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter.

But things got a little big for their living room, which had been dubbed The Goldmine living room shows. The small, intimate shows that fostered warm vibe and give and take between artist and audience went by the wayside, but Scharf and Schultz yearned to bring back the kind of shows where songwriting and connections were the point.

Well, now they’ve got their chance. They’ve combined with Ann Fee and the Arts Center of Saint Peter for a series of intimate performances where the stories behind the songs will be the focus.

Scharf and Schultz, half of Good Night Gold Dust (one of the Mankato Area’s most popular and prolific bands), will host a series of storytelling events at the Arts Center called Songshare.

The series kicks off Sept. 19 with Ian Hilmer, an artist who has been a creative mentor/supporter/collaborator with Good Night Gold Dust and with Scharf and Schultz. The series will return in November with Nate LeBoutillier and then Jenn Melby-Kelly in January.

Scharf and Schultz explained that the idea for the series was sort of born during a fluke one night during what was supposed to be a Gold Mine performance by a Twin Cities band. Inclement weather prevented that band from coming. Rather than cancel, Scharf asked Hilmer and LeBoutillier if they wanted to “fill in.” They did, and the result was …

“There was something magical about that night,” Scharf said.

That night, the pair said, played out a little differently than other Gold Mine shows. Typically, they’d invite several bands or performers to play, and each would perform uninterrupted sets. Seems like a good idea, right?

But on the snow day, Hilmer and LeBoutillier took turns playing songs, and often took inspiration from what the other played. Between songs they talked. People who attended were riveted.

“You could hear a pin drop,” Schultz said.

So they’re hoping to bring that vibe to the arts center. Arts center director Ann Fee said that when Scharf and Schultz came to her with the idea for Songshare, it fell right in line with where she’s trying to take Arts Center programming.

It’s also a great fit for a new development at the center: its partnership with Minnesota State University’s KMSU.

KMSU has installed a satellite studio at the Arts Center, which has made it possible for Fee to broadcast live from the Arts Center. She said she’s hoping the Songshare series can be a part of a regular live music series.

“We’ve been looking at how can we make our music programming have a little more heft,” Fee said. “That aligns perfectly with what I want to do at the Arts Center.”

Fee said she liked the fact that Sharf and Schultz wanted to make the events intimate. She said she’s been changing the lighting and adding rugs to sort of re-create at least a little bit of what made the living room shows at the Gold Mine so special.

“We’ve added those things so it doesn’t feel like an austere gallery,” she said. “More like a house.”

Added Schultz, “We have a strong local music scene, but few venues that allow close listening and appreciation of the stories behind new songs.”

Robb Murray is the Features Editor for The Free Press. He can be reached at 344-6386 or rmurray@mankatofreepress.com. Follow Robb on Twitter @FreePressRobb

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