- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) - It could have been the coffee talking, but a casual conversation with the extremely effervescent Sam Love this week revealed a genuinely enthusiastic, energetic and community-oriented specimen.

The polite and welcoming 24-year-old buzzed back and forth inside The Willow Tree Coffeehouse & Music Room at 216 E. Main St., tending the coffee bar, preparing java and food and accommodating customer needs.

After a few years of “gophering,” Love has found a new and developing talent as the Willow Tree’s sound man. It’s a skill that melds well with his wide-eyed, attentive personality.

Inside its confines, the downtown business offers a warm, informal, Bohemian-flavored ambiance that invites wanderers, adventurers and free spirits to enjoy both unique foods and musical tones.

So how does the Asheville, North Carolina, native, Science Hill High School graduate and East Tennessee State University student figure into this equation?

“I was dating Teri’s daughter (Willow Tree owner Teri Dosher),” Love said while parked near a window inside the coffee bar, club, library, art museum and “relaxatarium” combo. “Teri always had a dream to do something like this. When the stars aligned, it just snowballed from there.”

Though the guitarist, drummer and former performing keyboard player still does a little bit of everything, he found another musical avenue when sound man Jon Chambers took a job in Nashville.

“He took me under his wing and started showing me how to run the soundboard,” Love said, now stationed in front of the gadgetry facing the stage.”I started doing open mics and then the shows. Probably one of the trickiest things was learning how to equalize the sound. You can adjust the high and low frequencies. You balance the frequencies so neither the highs or lows overwhelm.”

Love also is responsible for setting up the stage and conducting sound checks with musicians who range in styles from bluegrass to blues to folkish Americana and an occasional stroll into rock ‘n roll.

“I really enjoy interacting with the band members,” he said. “My philosophy has always been to do sound checks very early. If you’ve done that ahead of time you’re not likely to have any problems.”

Do your own “site search,” and you’ll notice realize what makes the Willow Tree what it is.

“Atmosphere,” Love said. “People who have never been in here before tend to talk about how comfortable it is. Teri has always said, ‘A rising tide can carry more ships.’ It’s about the diversity in the community, and the fact that we get a very diverse group of people that come here: Doctors and lawyers, housewifes, students - old and young.

“We love it. It’s very rewarding here. You feel so attached to the community, because you come in contact with it in so many ways. Hopefully, downtown will keep growing. I think Founders Park really got the ball rolling.”

The Willow Tree Coffeehouse & Music Room averages about 50-60 musical events annually and seats up to 350 patrons, Dosher said. She also remarked that Love is a big part of the businesses’ synergy.

“He’s probably one of the nicest and most generous people you’ll ever meet,” she said. “He started just helping us paint the place. Then he started cooking. Then he moved into a management position doing the sound. For the longest time, he worked for us with no pay. Now the bands tell us he’s one of the best they’ve worked with.”


Information from: Johnson City Press, https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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