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Poster for Songwriters In The Raw w/Jessica Smucker, Jesse Terry & Craig Bickhardt

Songwriters In The Raw w/Jessica Smucker, Jesse Terry & Craig Bickhardt

Coming on December 10

Run Time: 120 min.

Doors – 6:30 PM

Showtime – 7:00 PM

$20 advance/$25 day of show

Songwriters in the Raw w/Jessica Smucker, Jesse Terry and Craig Bickhardt

Songwriters in the Raw is an in-the-round concert series curated and hosted by Jessica Smucker. This holiday-themed special show’s featured artists are Jesse Terry and Craig Bickhardt, who have in the past few years begun a December tradition of performing Christmas and holiday songs together in the round at various Northeast and Mid-Atlantic listening rooms.


Craig Bickhardt

“Craig Bickhardt stands among the giants of performing songwriters.”  – Jesse Lundy, Point Entertainment / Philly Folk Festival

When Craig Bickhardt steps onto a concert stage, he comes equipped with his trusty acoustic guitar. A side musician or two will frequently join him. He’s also accompanied by something invisible, yet ever-present: the stories of a lifetime, vividly translated into words and melody.

From the boisterous club scene of Philadelphia to the country-rock milieu of Los Angeles to the picking parlors of Nashville, Craig has immersed himself in the sights and sounds of American music. His music reflects a life lived as a rock band lead singer, a solo troubadour, a dedicated songwriter, a husband and father. Dreams, heartaches and hard-earned lessons have fed his creativity. There is no other way he could’ve written the eloquent, often bittersweet songs that have become his trademark.

“I start a lot of songs because I feel conflicted,” he explains. “I may begin from a point of darkness, but I usually end up writing towards the light because, for me, hope is the thing worth singing about. The characters in the stories I sing aren’t heroic; they’re very ordinary. But they’re reaching for something beyond themselves, and I find nobility in that.”

Craig is a singer/songwriter of the old school – you can hear echoes of such ‘60s folk revival artists as Tom Rush, Gordon Lightfoot and Eric Andersen in his work. Added to this is the melodic sophistication of a Jimmy Webb or a Paul Simon, as well as a spare but telling lyric approach. “I admire songwriters like Woody Guthrie and poets like Robert Frost because they created functional art,” he says. “Too much music today is just for the singer, not for Everyman. I think of my work as a ‘Please Touch’ museum – I want my songs to be sung until they’re worn out.”

Also crucial to Craig’s art is his virtuosic guitar work, interweaving folk, blues, country and ragtime influences into a unique whole: “The guitar isn’t just an accompanying instrument for me – sometimes it’s the front man and my voice is the accompanist.”

Craig came to music as something of a family inheritance. His father Harry worked at WIP radio in Philadelphia and moonlighted as a big band musician. As a youngster, Craig absorbed everything from Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins to Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington. At 14, Craig found an old guitar in the family attic and taught himself to play. Soon he was writing songs and performing at venues like Philadelphia’s famed Main Point.

The Philly club scene shaped his emerging musical style. “I was lucky to grow up in a town that was a melting pot for musicians,” Craig says. “I got to hear lots of R&B as well as the great folk performers of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It taught me that nothing moves people like a great song sung with some passion.”

By the mid-‘70s, Craig was co-lead singer/guitarist with Wire and Wood, an eclectic country-rock quintet that won a fervent East Coast following.  The group opened for the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Stephen Stills before relocating to L.A. in search of a record deal.  Craig and his compadres succeeded in attracting the interest of Bob Dylan’s former manager Albert Grossman, who signed them to his Bearsville/October Records label. Unfortunately, Wire and Wood’s album was never completed and the group called it quits soon after.

Craig went through another life-changing ordeal while living in L.A. One night, he awoke to find that the house he shared with his band mates was on fire. He barely managed to escape before the place collapsed in flames – and came away with a revelation: “At that moment, everything in the world felt luminous again, like it did when I was young. That experience made me realize that my happiness didn’t depend on possessions or status. I suddenly felt free and very grateful to be alive.”

This brush with mortality also re-motivated him as a musician. After Wire and Wood dissolved, Craig secured an assignment to write and sing songs for Tender Mercies, a country music-themed film starring Robert Duvall. This led to a lengthy residency in Nashville, where he saw his songs recorded by such legends as Ray Charles, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, the Judds, Tony Rice and Alison Krauss.

All the while, Craig continued playing his music live at the Bluebird Café and other clubs in the Nashville area. The call to the stage grew stronger after he released his first solo album, Easy Fires, in 2001. Five years later, he returned to his Pennsylvania roots and fully came into his own as a solo performer. By the end of the decade, Craig had won a new legion of fans on the East Coast and beyond through opening gigs for the likes of Judy Collins, Kathy Mattea and Billy Joe Shaver and club dates on his own.

A Craig Bickhardt live set is a mix of absurd anecdotes and personal confessions, accompanying a well-stocked bag of original tunes and the occasional choice cover. His decades in music have given his performances the depth of experience – his love songs seem sweeter and more poignant, his story-song narratives more true-to-life than they could have in the past. “I think people come to my shows to be reminded that there’s something profound in the small stuff we experience every day,” he says. “My goal is to get an audience to look deeper at the things we all take for granted.”

Craig Bickhardt travels light to his gigs – but he brings a great deal to the stage. He combines a seasoned troubadour’s easy command of his art with a beginner’s passion to win over his next audience and top his next song. The stories of his lifetime are simply too good not to share.




“In my book, there have been two essential Christmas albums: ‘Johnny Mathis Christmas Songs’ and ‘Nat King Cole Christmas.’ I am thrilled to add a third to that list: Jesse Terry – Peace: A Christmas Collection.”  Larry Ahearn, SongGallery/Trespass Music

Jesse Terry‘s Christmas album, Peace, is a twenty song collection featuring Jesse’s takes / arrangements on timeless Christmas songs such as “The First Noel,” “O Holy Night” and “The Christmas Song” and more contemporary classics such as “River” and “Love is Christmas.” Recorded in 2020 during lockdown, the album features Jesse on guitars, lead vocals and all harmony vocals. Eamon McLaughlin (Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell) makes beautiful contributions on violin, mandolin, viola and cello, along with Josh Kaler (Dar Williams, William Fitzsimmons) on pedal steel, dobro, electric guitar, lap steel and mellotron. Pedal steel legend Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor) also lends his magic to the album.

Of course, Jesse Terry was a songwriter in his own right long before Peace. Since 2009 he has released seven albums and collaborated on several other recording projects.

“This is music to revel in, so just revel till the starlight fades.” Nick West, RnR Magazine

Jesse Terry’s seventh album, When We Wander, is the first he wrote since becoming a parent. So it’s no surprise the family theme courses through many of its 12 songs. His music career has been a family project ever since he became a full-time touring artist a decade ago.

That was right around the time when Jesse met his wife Jess working on a cruise ship in the South Pacific. “As soon as we got back to the states, I proposed to her at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe in July 2010 and we packed up the car for the first tour right after that. We’ve been touring together full-time ever since.” Now with two-year-old Lily added to the clan, family is more important than ever to him, including the parental urge to love and protect. “If I were the moon, I’d light all of your back roads,” he sings in “If I Were The Moon”: “You wouldn’t need no headlights / I’d always be full.”

The life of a touring family inspired the album’s title track. “When we wander, when we wander / Don’t it feel like we’re finally found.” But in the face of the pandemic, he has found that “wandering is not just a literal thing. We’ve followed our hearts with so many decisions in 2020-2021, and have found that there are many ways to wander and be free and brave.”

One of those ways has been going virtual. He says that his livestream concerts have “become the highlight of my week and the thing that sustains us emotionally and financially. And an amazing community has sprung up from these concerts.”

The stage had been Jesse’s home for a decade. He plays around 150 shows a year, from Bonnaroo to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the 30A Songwriters Festival to AmericanaFest. When the pandemic canceled concerts and delayed the album’s release, he pivoted to performing online and found a strong new connection to his fans, who had helped fund his albums all along. “My musical tribe has always been there for me,” he says with gratitude.

Though recorded in 2019, the songs off the new album click with fans online too. He and his band recorded When We Wander live in the studio, a first for his career. “I wanted to try that Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young approach to live recording, prioritizing emotion and raw performances over perfection. I loved that experience.” Recorded live, the album resonates especially with the intimacy and community spirit of the online shows.

He also wrote all the music and lyrics this time, instead of working with collaborators, and took a very personal approach, including a look back. “In Spite of You” recalls his stay in a residential facility for behavior modification that traumatized him as a young teenager: “The sermons that you sold me all were fakes.”

Yet he emerged to earn a degree from Berklee College of Music, net a five-year staff writer gig on Nashville’s Music Row penning material for major TV networks, and win prestigious songwriting awards. And then to become the singer-songwriter his countless fans know today, who (in the words of Music News Nashville) “bring[s] to mind iconic artist/poets like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne… [with] a performance that touches the heart like only a whisper can.”




Jessica Smucker is an original; a real artist with a cohesive message, a drop-dead gorgeous voice that is all her own. Her background in poetry gives her lyrics a specificity and depth. Each time I listen to ‘When I Was the Weather’ I hear something new, the way I do when I listen to Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan. She is that good.”  – Nerissa Nields, singer-songwriter (The Nields) 

Jessica Smucker believes that the best way to change the world is to channel our pain into connection. Her songs have a way of reaching deeply into people’s souls and inviting the kind of reflection that feels both reassuring and unsettling. Wrapped in catchy melodies, her lyrics appear simple and relatable on the surface, but each listen will uncover more hidden pockets of nuance. She’s the kind of writer and performer who can lull a noisy room into a hush with a single line.

Although Jessica cares deeply about big picture issues like social justice, she tends to write about life’s more intimate moments. How it feels to walk through an empty house after love has left it. The difference between carrying a child in the womb and mothering them in the world outside. The particular ways a happy marriage can slide into decline. The simultaneous rush and terror of falling in love. The way humans can hunger for things (like peace on earth, or god) we don’t even believe in. The tricks and techniques we all use to shield ourselves from the kinds of knowledge that might lead to pain.

Jessica has toured nationwide, and performs regularly throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. She has opened for Cheryl Wheeler and Bill Staines, and shared billing with Heather Maloney, Meghan Trainor, Rachael Sage, Gangstagrass, Abbie Gardner, and the Stray Birds. Notable venues include the Tin Angel (Philadelphia), Godfrey Daniels (Bethlehem, PA), The Cellar Stage (Baltimore), Steel City Coffeehouse (Phoenixville, PA), World Cafe Live (Philadelphia), Muses in the Vineyard (Belvidere, NJ), Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA), and 30A Songwriters Festival (Santa Rosa Beach, FL). She has won or placed in numerous national songwriting contests including SolarFest’s Singer/Songwriter Showcase Competition, the Connecticut Folk Festival Song Competition, and the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest.

Her discography spans from 2008-2022 and includes two EPs, three full-length albums, and a handful of singles. The Sleeping World (2008), a self-titled EP released by Jessica’s first rock band, was recorded by Seventh Wave Studio in Harrisburg, PA. 2010 saw two releases, both recorded in Lancaster, PA basement studios: Reluctantly Yours (EP), a stripped-down acoustic recording featuring mostly piano, violins, and banjo; and This Broken Moment (LP), a full-band album released as Jessica Smucker & The Sleeping World. It wasn’t until she started working with producer Chad Kinsey in 2012 that Jessica really found her stride as a recording artist. Tumbling After (2014) was produced by Kinsey and features bassist Mike Bitts (The Innocence Mission) and drummer Paul Murr (Jeffrey Gaines, Fauna Flora, Jackie Evancho), with guest vocals by Heather Maloney (appearing courtesy of Signature Sounds Recordings) and Keith Wilson (Movies With Heroes). Lucid Stories, Tentative Lies, recorded with the same production team, dropped in October 2020, followed by an irreverent Christmas single, “Let’s Get a Tree” in December of that year. In August 2021, Jessica released “Dinosaurs,” a pandemic love song co-produced by Kinsey and keyboard/synth player Matt Thomas. “Rose of Jericho,” another synth-pop single, dropped a few months later, followed by “Stones to Throw” and “Phoenix” in February and March of 2022, and “War of Attrition” later that year. Jessica is currently working on another studio project, aiming for a 2024 release.

In her life beyond music Jessica is a published poet and essayist, a social justice warrior, freakishly good at Scrabble, and mother to two of the smartest people she’s ever met in real life.



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