Saturday, February 8, 2014

Frying Up the Orlando Music Scene: An Interview with Jessica Pawli

“You’re part of the energy that makes a show not just successful, but fun and engaging—something you tell your friends about. You want to feel like you’re part of something.” And for Jessica Pawli, it’s exactly that type of excitement that makes a show a success. “You want the band to be excited; you want to make sure the community feels that the show is something they can’t miss, something they want to be a part of.” 

From growing up with Casey Kasem and WPRK to developing a love for music and radio, Jessica Pawli eventually got a job at O-Rock 105.9 and found herself no longer just a fan, but part of the music business. The next logical step for her was to get involved in the local live music scene. These days, when she’s not touring with bands across the country or working in the Orlando arts scene, her passion is booking and marketing shows for a variety of local venues.

One of them, Southern Fried Sunday at Will’s Pub, just celebrated its eighth year last month.

Ironically, however, Pawli’s first experience with live music wasn’t main-stream rock or even pop. “I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts,” says Pawli. Although she had to sit out of rock shows and events like Lollapalooza, there was one type of event she could convince her parents to let her attend: Orlando’s famous raves. But Orlando’s rave scene drew Pawli’s attention less to the music, and more to the high production value of the shows and how the events came together, often through local companies and grassroots efforts. 

Since then, Pawli’s music tastes have evolved with those of other Orlandoans. The local insurgence of Americana and the “southern fried” sound from 2008 to 2011 helped not only redefine the Orlando music scene, but also made Southern Fried Sunday a successful monthly gathering. Recently, fans have also begun exploring indie rock, punk, and experimental types of music. “Orlando music fans have been willing to take more of a chance,” says Pawli. “They want to be challenged as listeners.” 

It becomes increasingly obvious these days that Orlando is distancing itself from its pop and dance roots that have become its stigma in the national music scene. “Outsiders don’t realize the pure, cross-genre talent that there is in Orlando.” Acts like The Super Villains, Kaleigh Baker, The Attack, and Thomas Wynn and the Believers—just to name a few—are drawing the nation’s attention to Orlando in new ways.

Orlando is unique in that it’s undergoing an arts and music renaissance in which it’s gaining a big-city feel without losing the close-knit community. “In big cities, it’s hard to find the type of supportive arts and music family that you find in Orlando.” Something else that draws movers and shakers into this city is that around here, you can make a big wave in a small pond—and people notice. “It can be inspirational, and make others want to make big waves, too.”  

Just like the ever-changing Orlando music scene, Southern Fried Sunday will continue to grow and evolve. Before turning her attention to statewide expansion, her next venture will be Northern Fried Sunday, a team effort hosted by The Smiling Bison. This new semi-regular series will include all the elements that made SFS popular—good music, cool people, and home-style cooking—with a northern twist. 

This weekend, February 9 at 5:00pm, Jessica Pawli is excited to bring genre-defining band Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys to Will’s Pub, along with local acts The Wild Tones and Oak Hill Drifters. 

Also, don’t miss the first Northern Fried Sunday on February 16 at 5:30pm ($7) for a northern-style fish fry featuring live sets by BJ Sings, The Strange Trip, and The Honeyslides. 


  1. Gotta love Jessica, she has puts her heart and soul into the Orlando scene! Not to mention she has amazing taste in music!

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