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The Storyweavers Add Another Chapter

The band wins their first VEER Music Award.

Editor’s Note: Last night, The Storyweavers made Hampton Roads music history by taking home their first award for Best Acoustic/Folk artist at the Annual VEER Music Awards.

After many years of working the local (and regional) music scene, personnel changes, and all the other struggles that go along with being a working band we’re excited to see them finally gain the recognition they deserve for their original music. Congratulations, ladies!

Below is an interview with the band that appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Outlife757 Magazine.

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Jennifer McLaughlin and Sheela Fortner.

Sheela Fortner has been performing music since she was in high school. Anyone remember Mermaids In The Basement? That was her project. But in back in 1990 she knew it was time to start thinking about a new gig. 

“I was usually the only girl in the band, and I  traveled around with all the stinky boys,” Sheela said. “And I just wanted to bring my music to the forefront. But when I realized I was gay, I went into the bars, and I saw no representation of me or women’s music.”

At that point, she started thinking about putting together an all-girl band. Shortly after, Beth Whyle, came up to her after a gig and said, “If you guys need a drummer, I play drums.” Sold.

One night after a rehearsal, Sheela went to karaoke at the Hershee Bar and saw Jennifer McLaughlin, an amazing deaf ASL performance artist, on stage. 

“I saw her on the stage, and she was doing all these beautiful motions,” Sheela remembers. “And her hair was, I mean, it was like a  Breck hair commercial. Not only she is only as amazing looking, but she’s got this energy about her.”

Through Beth, Jennifer explains that she has never been in a band before, but karaoke was different. 

“The words are right there on the screen I could look at it and just sign from there,” Jennifer said. 

In 2016, the three women formed a new band, The Storyweavers. “It was never an option for the three of us to separate,” Sheela said. “And now all we needed was another guitar player. We are like sisters.” 

The Storyweavers perform original Americana folk music penned by Sheela with the added bonus of Jen’s ASL performance–a huge draw for the deaf community. 

Said Jennifer, “It’s so nice for them. Because to have me already signing at the show, deaf people can just show up.”

Beth and Jennifer became a couple and ultimately married, and The Storyweavers found a second guitarist. For Sheela, the band is a dream come true. 

“It was time for me as a serious songwriter to be in a place where I could be heard, where I could share stories,” she said. 

“We went out to hear someone last night, a top shelf musician, and you couldn’t hear him because everybody was talking. And I wondered how his soul felt about that. Because something like that hurts when you’re trying, and no one’s listening.”

“I can’t do that,” Sheela said. “I’m too emotional about my songs.”

The Storyweavers’ latest album is Fallen Sparrow, released in 2018.

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