Stuart Norman

Header Photo by: Darrell Nance

“For me, playing music has mostly been about hanging out with my best buds, bouncing ideas off each other, and creating something that we can all be proud of–keep it simple, don’t overthink it, and have fun!”

Stuart’s Bio: I was born in Kentucky, but my family moved a lot for my dad’s work as a Cracker Barrel manager–we lived in Kentucky, South Carolina, West Virginia, and in a few small towns up and down I-65 here in Alabama. I went to college at the University of Montevallo and stayed a few years after earning my degree in English to play in bands and book shows at Eclipse before moving first to New Orleans and then Birmingham where I met my wife Margaret. I play guitar in Holy Youth & Dommel Mosel, and I play bass in Bad Hops.

Stuart’s First Music Memory: My dad is a big music fan, and he tried to turn me onto some of his favorites when I was young—some of it like the Beatles stuck then and some of it like Lucinda Williams I only got when I was older. Also one of the guitar teachers in the town where I went to high school turned me onto Pavement totally transforming my music tastes.

Stuart’s Primary Instruments: Guitar and occasionally bass guitar.

Stuart’s Favorite Musicians: David Berman of Purple Mountains & Silver Jews, Big Star, Prince, Yo La Tengo, Michael Hurley, Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, Kate Bush, Replacements, X, Wire, Pavement, Jonathan Richman, The Clean, Galaxie 500, Pretenders, Cate le Bon, Townes Van Zandt, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Paycheck

Check Out Stuart’s Music:

Eric Wallace

Eric Wallace is the founder and executive director of the Firehouse Community Arts Center. Eric was born and raised in Birmingham. He lived in the Southside neighborhood until the age of 6, then his family relocated to Homewood. He went on to graduate from Homewood High School in 2003 – after finishing high school, he attended Birmingham Southern College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2007.

While growing up in Birmingham, Eric uncovered a love for music and a desire to create with others. When he turned 19, he was determined to hit the road with his band, Wildcat Revival, so he purchased a 1987 Chevy G20 van to tour the country. Eric and his bandmates drove the van until the wheels came off (and the vehicle literally burned to the ground) – by that time, it was clear that music would influence nearly every aspect of his personal and professional life.

When he wasn’t on the road, Eric continued developing his incomparable do-it-yourself work ethic while managing the historic Lag’s Eatery in Homewood. He also interned for Operation New Birmingham (later renamed “REV Birmingham”) and served as an enumerator for the 2010 Census – all experiences that would inform the way he viewed and navigated the world.

During the mid-2000s, he nurtured new relationships and friendships through his creative and professional pursuits, leading to a pivotal invitation from a family that regularly visited Lag’s. They asked him to teach their son to play guitar and invited him to their house once a week to facilitate the lessons. This request launched Eric into a multi-year journey that combined music education, urban planning, and a commitment to inclusive community development in Birmingham.

After accepting his first student, Eric’s teaching roster expanded – quickly. By 2009, he was teaching 20 students (and still managing Lag’s full time). He was determined to reach more students and reinvest in Birmingham, so he took a step back and made a major decision. He found a historic building on 41st St. S. in the South Avondale neighborhood and decided to buy it, so he could teach guitar lessons to more students and offer an accessible space for bands and artists to perform and record. He also decided to live on the second floor.

The Firehouse was born.

At this point, he was all in. He moved into the Firehouse, taught full-time, and with the help of the community, created a groundbreaking performance space in the back of the building. For over a decade, Eric fostered community through music education, while hosting a DIY venue that catalyzed a local scene. During this time, he also performed in and toured extensively with a number of bands. Through these experiences, he had the opportunity to tour country and the world (many times over). As much as he loved the road, he retired from touring in 2019 and began deepening his focus on his work at the Firehouse.

As Eric concluded his touring life and approached the end of his first decade at the Firehouse, he explored how he could reach more young people in Greater Avondale with relatable and relevant music education. Over the years, he’d met and taught several interested students who lived near the Firehouse and recognized that they harbored a deep love for music and a desire to perform – much like he did as a young guy growing up in Birmingham. These experiences and reflections motivated him to reimagine the future of the Firehouse. He sat down with a close collaborator and friend, Chris Hines, in September 2019 and started crafting a plan for converting the Firehouse into a nonprofit organization.

He went on to form a board of directors and recruited several instructors, and, by summer 2020, the Firehouse Community Arts Center began to take shape. Moving forward, Eric and his team will offer a variety of music education programs, with scholarship opportunities for the musically-underserved students in the community, as well as sustainable employment and accessible recording for Birmingham’s working musicians. His long-term vision is a diverse and connected musical community where artists of all ages use their creative voices to shape the future.

In Eric’s own words, “Through art, you can make your way through this world in a way that’s not really articulated throughout primary school.”

You can reach Eric at

Randall Turner

“Thoughtful communication helps us create our best…together.”

Randall’s Bio: I grew up in Pell City, Alabama and graduated from Pell City High School. I have a Bachelor of Science from Talladega College.

Randall’s First Music Memory: I first connected with music making up silly songs with my brother. I was on guitar, he was on drums. I knew it would be a major part of my life once I became a part of Communicating Vessels.

Randall’s Primary Instruments: Guitar, drums, trumpet, trombone, keyboard, and MPC 5000.

Randall’s Favorite Musicians: Hans Zimmer — end of list.

Check Out Randall’s Music:

Matt Whitson

“Music is meant for groups.”

Matt’s Bio: I grew up in Homewood before it was Glitztown, USA. I spent a few years off and on at UAB working on a music technology degree but “took a break” my senior year when I got booked as an audio guy on a series of short films. That slowly transitioned into a job as a video editor and audio engineer at Alabama Public TV, where I still work making arts-related documentaries, a music series, and projects for our education department. All the while, I’ve been recording (mostly heavy rock) bands in my free time for fun.

Matt’s First Music Memory: It didn’t really occur to me that there was such a thing as a “local” or “unsigned” band until I was 11 or 12. My brother played me a compilation CD of all these weirdo local bands in the early 90’s and I was blown away that there were all these great bands no one had ever heard of. It also showed me that you can pretty much just make whatever you want with your friends and someone will probably like it.

Matt’s Primary Instrument: I’m here for my recording knowledge, but bass guitar is my primary instrument. These days, especially during the extended lockdown, I spend most of my music-making time twisting knobs on a modular synthesizer or learning to play guitar.

Matt’s Favorite Musicians: Lately, I’ve been listening to a ton of Kelly Moran, Miles Davis, Run the Jewels, Caterina Barbieri, Protomartyr, Kim Gordon, and Pye Corner Audio.

Check Out Matt’s Music and Work:

Abby Anderson

Header Photo by: Jaysen Michael

“Creating music together fosters personal growth, stewardship, and a sense of community.”

Abby’s Bio: Growing up in Birmingham, I attended and graduated from Auburn University in 2014. I am a multi-instrumentalist with a specialized focus on drums and bass. I have collaborated, played live, and recorded with several different musicians over the years for various projects. Currently, I play in local Birmingham based bands The Bouquets (drums), Dommel Mosel (bass), Captain Kudzu (drums), and Skinny Dippers (guitar).

Abby’s First Music Memory: I always had a song request on deck when my mother picked me up from preschool.

Abby’s Primary Instruments: Drums, bass, guitar, and piano.

Abby’s Favorite Musicians: The list is long, but two all-time favorites are Stereolab and The Meters.

Check Out Abby’s Music: