Bryant’s VanCleve and wife making heartfelt music as Troubaduo

By Martin Couch

Former Bryant resident Bryson VanCleve followed his dream.

At age 17, VanCleve started playing guitar and singing a few times a week at Fletcher Music in Benton. In college, he led worship in the band Apostoli and afterward, for six years, fronted and wrote for his band Wake the Dawn from Little Rock.[more]

He moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and, for the next three years, fronted and wrote for BVC & The Show as well as performing as a solo acoustic artist from Los Angeles venues to the streets of Santa Monica.

In 2008, VanCleve's life changed when he met his wife Jill Marie.

Jill Marie started at age 15 writing and working on her first demo and, one year later, she performed in her hometown of Carpinteria, Calif., at the annual California Avocado Festival. She has performed every year since.

Throughout high school, she continued her involvement with music, writing, singing, playing guitar and piano for church, school and community events. After graduation, she moved to L.A. where she shared her music performances in bars, churches, at benefits, festivals, restaurants, weddings, funerals, bookstores, malls in Venice Beach, Pasadena and Santa Barbara.

In February of 2008, Jill Marie met VanCleve at Poet Roni Girl's Acoustically Speaking in the Room 5 Lounge in L.A. The two performed the first Wednesday of each month and, not too long afterward, VanCleve invited Jill Marie to do backing vocals on "Last Train to Memphis" and "We Carry On" for his 2008 album release "Halfway to Homeless". In turn, he helped her release "All Hearts" in 2009.

"We became great friends, recording and playing shows together while having the same desire to hit the road full time," VanCleve said. "We were confident we could make this dream a reality and started planning our first U.S. tour."

Troubaduo was formed.

"We were committed to being full-time artists," he said. "We were going against the advice and rules we had been told and gave up our L.A. apartments and jobs. We were homeless and hit the road."

The two were married on the road in California in May of 2009.

"We've stayed happily married through everything," Jill Marie said. "We are here to spread love and peace and were called at a young age to be troubadours for God.

"We knew that this was what we've always wanted to do and have never planned on having anything to fall back on," VanCleve said. "Music is and always will be our calling."

VanCleve was at the NAMM show in Anaheim with some Arkansas friends in 2004 and met Sammy Hagar's drummer David Lauser. His band worked on a demo with Lauser soon after and ended up meeting Bob Daspit who mixed the demo. Daspit was known for his work with Hans Zimmer, producing/mixingSammy Hagar, and as a Spectrasonics engineer.

Ever since, Daspit has helped Troubaduo out with mixing and mastering their records. He is mixing and mastering the upcoming Troubaduo release, "We Live in the Gray" for this fall and will produce, mix and master their second album in 2011.

Jill Marie started recording with an indie record label in Northridge, Calif., and she and her mother found the deal not to be as reliable as they had hoped and, due to various circumstances, never finished the project. She went on to finish high school and not too long after she moved to Los Angeles in 2002, she started working with Group 8 Productions where she released her first professional-sounding demo and, in 2006, released her album "Free".

Jill Marie went with what little recording knowledge and equipment she had and put out a self-titled EP in 2008. Around the same time, she had started recording with Bryson.

"This is when things really started to take off," she said.

She said she felt as though VanCleave was her missing link in many ways and was truly excited when he asked her to sing vocals on his "Halfway to Homeless" project. From then on, the two realized that, after many years of trying to find their way musically in the city, being given a few industry offers throughout their careers, and waiting for that right opportunity, that the business they had tried to learn was all a facade. They didn't agree with the business attitude of restricting artists into one genre of music, limiting their creative freedom.

"We weren't going to be put in one category, because we knew God's plan for us was limitless," VanCleve said. "After we finished Jill's album "All Hearts", a dedication to her brother Jason, we hit the road in April 2009. And we knew we made the right decisions and the business facade would have nothing to do with the way we would pave our way in this world. We shouldn't be sitting around waiting for something to happen, but should be out performing regularly, sharing our art with the masses. Since we made this decision, the opportunities have been endless and we've been able to cross divisions including the industry, which wouldn't give us a chance before."

After literally calling the road their home for one year, Troubaduo was welcomed into four major U.S. festivals, landed their Willie Nelson tribute song "Leave Willie Alone" on national radio distribution, and were working on the "We Live In the Gray" with drummers Curt Bisquera and Bryan "Brain" Mantia through Daspit.

Over the course of their careers, neither artist had ever appeared in front of more than 1,000 people. However, Troubaduo was invited to a studio shoot on June 1, 2010 at Time Warner Studios in Staten Island, N.Y., to appear in front of 900,000 cable television viewers in Los Angeles and New York City on Jason Taylor's "Mallet's Place TV". All of this has happened independently without a major record label, a booking agent, a manager, a recording engineer, etc., as Troubaduo claims God as their guide.

"We're just songwriters," VanCleve said. "There are a few genres we'll never write, but we just focus on what our souls say when we sit down and write a song with our voices and acoustic instruments. We write everything from folk, Americana, blues, jazz, rock, gospel, country, psychedelic and sunshine pop.

"We have made music a full-time career and have no other future plans," he continued. "We only have one life and we've found that planning and worrying about tomorrow does nothing for us nor the people we've known. So we like to stick with our heart's desire, which is to do music and help as many as we can along the way. We're not in it for the money or self-glorification, but we do like to bring awareness to non-profits such as and many others listed on our links page."

Some of Troubaduo's influences include, VanCleve said, “God and His incredible sounding creations,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Tracy Chapman, Van Morrison, Chris Whitley, Mavis Staples, Ella Fitzgerald, Willie Nelson, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Steve Earle, Otis Redding, Malcolm Holcombe, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Hank Williams Sr., Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Lonnie Johnson, Slash, The Boss, Lyle Lovett, Robert Johnson, Ryan Adams, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band, Darrell Evans, John Hiatt, Ray Charles, the Black Crowes, JanisJoplin, Cliff Eberhardt, Blind Melon, David Crowder, Counting Crows, Townes Van Zandt, Bonnie Raitt, Traveling Wilburys, Blue October, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Waits and, of course, the Beatles.

"We see ourselves as equal writers and singers," VanCleve said. "Our favorite songs to sing together are originals because we are original artists. We play guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and ukulele live, but we play other instruments on our recordings. Besides that, when we record, we use Curt Bisquera and Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums, along with studio musician Al Aguilar from Los Angeles on bass."

So far, the duo has traveled the continental U.S. including 23 states and have played venues such as the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, The Rev Room in Little Rock, Block Island Music Festival in Rhode Island, Jack and Diane's Music Circle outside of Nashville, Hillside Cafe in New Jersey, The Historic Taos Inn, The Spirit Room in Arizona.

"We plan to tour every other state in the U.S. and internationally," VanCleve said.

Troubaduo will be at Maxine's in Hot Springs later this month. To find out more information about this local duo, contact

1 comment

  1. rch3

    Great article. Funny thing is Bryson was probably the quietest guy on the Blacksox in 1996 and 1997.

    He was a good pitcher–helped us win some big games in both of those years. ch

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