Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Eddie Owen, of Eddie's Attic, has taken on the Red Clay Theatre in Duluth, hoping to bring big music acts to the venue. The first show is tonight featuring Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.
DULUTH -- You've heard of the Indigo Girls, John Mayer, Shawn Mullins or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland. Ever wonder where they got their start?
Meet Eddie Owen, founder of Eddie's Attic and new manager at Red Clay Theatre. He gives aspiring songwriters a place to perform and collaborate, which includes his new endeavor in Duluth.
Owen opens the doors Friday night of his newest live music venue with Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, beginning a new chapter in the historic building's life.
"We happen to be sitting in a building to house everything I have been working on, which took 20 years," he said while sitting on the Red Clay's stage.
Since 1985, Owen has been working with live music and singer-songwriters while working for other folks in Decatur. After many years of planning for a new space, he signed his lease and opened his own venue, called Eddie's Attic, in 1992. The rest is history.
Owen has had thousands of local and traveling musicians come through his old venue with one common thread -- they were all songwriters. He has a special place in his heart for them, since he is also one.
"I dreamt of some sort of endeavor which would include songwriting and collaborating, but also a give back to the next generation and newer people coming into the (songwriting) community," he said.
When Eddie's Attic became a popular attraction, Owen and a few of his friends founded Attic Community Playground. The initial idea for the foundation would be it is based in a place where musicians could naturally collaborate and educate each other.
"I wanted to find a home for the performances but also have workshops for touring musicians, give the public an opportunity to intimated and personally get something from these folks and have space for the local guys to come in, hone their craft by teaching," he said about the foundation.
Those who attend the "school" receive help with booking, management, financial planning and other music industry questions.
After hanging up his hat at the Attic, Owen began working on his project in Duluth. After months of sorting through proposals for the Red Clay Theatre, the Duluth City Council approved one sent by Owen.
The main reason he was chosen to manage the venue was because of his repertoire and personality.
"The great thing that Duluth has discovered is that Eddie Owen as a person is a great human being," said Chris McGahee, Duluth's economic development manager. "He's a nurturer, educator, not a promoter ... he's a promoter of the human spirit."
Now that Owen has the space, he needs to attract a crowd.
"I know that I have a task to educate metro Atlanta where Duluth is, where downtown is and where the Red Clay Theater is," Owen said. "I didn't say it would be easy, but it will be done."
In 2004, the city of Duluth purchased the Red Clay Theatre from a church and put $3 million into restoring the old building. They built it as a performance theater which has had trouble to stay lucrative in the past few years, so the city decided to look into live music.
"We are struggling to have activities at night. We hope this will create more foot traffic for the new businesses here," McGahee said. "We believe that live original music entertainment is going to be the best opportunity in that area."
Doors open at 7 p.m. and Patterson Hood takes stage at 8 p.m.