March ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Sunny State Releases New ‘Human’ Single to Unify Quarantined Fans

Sunny State’s latest single, “Human,” reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunny State understands the concept of “Human” nature.

In their latest single, “Human,” the San Jose, Calif., reggae fusion sextet eloquently reminds people about being compassionate and unified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole idea of the song is that we’re all human, and we all have our struggles. We’re all alone in this, but our solitude in it actually brings us together and unifies us because we’re all going through the same struggle right now,” said Chris Reed, Sunny State’s lead vocalist, ukulelist and guitarist.

Released Friday and featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Human” blends uplifting ukulele, brilliant electric guitar, deep bass, rhythmic bongo slaps and intermittent drum taps into a radiating, inspirational anthem for society’s growing battle against the coronavirus.

Along with Sunny State’s vibrant instrumentation, Reed beautifully sings, “I wanna be the best version of me/Rise with a smile, not need the caffeine/Embracing the moment, not letting it weigh me down/Remembering life’s a gift with a beautiful crown/We’re just human.”

While timely and relevant, “Human” wasn’t initially meant to be Sunny State’s third and latest single from their upcoming debut album. The band’s guitarist, Julian, encouraged Reed to release the single early as way to bring peace, comfort and solidarity to their fans.

“All this COVID-19 stuff had just happened. Everyone was going on lockdown, and I was just watching all these videos of people in Italy. The next day, I was talking to Julian, and he mentioned again how much he liked ‘Human,’” Reed said.

“I asked him, ‘Do you think it’s crazy to release ‘Human’ instead as a single? I feel like it’s a very honest and a self-reflective time.’ He said, ‘No, I think it’s a great idea. We’re all absolutely self-reflective, and we’re going to be doing this for a while.’”

The band also released a new live acoustic performance for “Human” today via Facebook and Instagram. It features Tyler (guitar), James (percussion), Freddie (bass), Roman (keys), Julian and Reed each performing in their individual quarantines. Each member is featured on screen via separate feeds that are brought and recorded together.

Over the next month, Sunny State will continue their “together apart” approach while recording their full-length debut album, which will drop later this year. Reed and his bandmates have been emailing files back and forth to polish and finalize the untitled album’s remaining tracks.

Since forming the band in 2019, Sunny State has released two other powerful singles, the romantic ode to lifelong love, “When You Know,” and the freedom and stewardship anthem, “Solutions.”

In addition to Sunny State, the March edition of “The Stratton Playlist” includes uplifting, groovy and memorable tracks from The Steve Taylor Three, The DayNites, Pajamas, Border Patrol, Ohly, Maggie Schneider, Meredith Shock and 24 more.

 

Heat Wave – Maggie Schneider Releases Fiery ‘For Me It’s You’ Duet with Jack Wachtel

Maggie Schneider has released a growing roster of pop-punk singles and EPs since 2016. Photo by Jacob Adkins

Maggie Schneider instantly turns up the pop-punk heat.

The Atlanta pop-punk singer-songwriter explodes on her latest fiery duet, “For Me It’s You,” with longtime friend and fellow collaborator Jack Wachtel.

“We wrote it about my friendship and relationship with Jack,” said Schneider, who co-wrote the single with her mother. “It’s about people always having your back and knowing that you have friends to count on and being a friend for other people that they can count on.”

“For Me It’s You” single artwork

The energetic track features soaring electric guitars, vibrant acoustic strums, gigantic cymbal crashes and melodic piano as Schneider reveals, “You were always there, but never mine/Not the right place, not the right time/We have to start crossing that line now/I need you now.”

In response, Wachtel claims, “I’ve always been on the outside looking in/What’s done is in the past/We can make this last, if you wanna.”

Coincidentally, “For Me It’s You,” does look to the past. This heartfelt duet originally appeared as an  acoustic version on Schneider’s 2016 debut EP, Insomniac. Nearly four years later, Schneider decided to relaunch it into the pop-punk musical stratosphere with Alex Downtain (lead guitar), Alex Norrell (rhythm guitar), Jeremy Russell (bass), Ari Patwary (bass) and Wachtel.

“That was a song that I really wanted to save, and I wanted to re-release it in a full-band format. I brought it into the studio, and I was like, ‘I want this to have a lot more energy. I want it to be modernized and fixed up a little bit,’ so I invited Jack once again,” she said.

“When we wrote the song, I always had Jack’s voice in mind, and we were in previous band projects together and met in a punk-rock musical called ‘Spring Awakening.’ We’re super happy to bring it back and have it refreshed.”

Continue reading “Heat Wave – Maggie Schneider Releases Fiery ‘For Me It’s You’ Duet with Jack Wachtel”

Heart and Soul – Linden Thoburn Explores Personal Journeys on New ‘Scarecrow’ Album

Linden Thoburn will release her new album, “Scarecrow,” on Friday. Photo by Robin Scully

As an explorer, Linden Thoburn searches every corner of her soul to find life’s true meaning.

The Brighton country-folk singer-songwriter deeply mines the head and the heart through a majestic journey of self-discovery on her latest album, Scarecrow, out Friday. Thoburn’s Americana odyssey weaves through sunbaked rows, bitter winds, mountain tops, shadow-hearted plains and the Goodnight-Loving Trail alongside 10 heartfelt tracks of courage, growth and gratitude.

“It’s an album about personal journeys – reflective and physical. For me, all the album’s songs came from deep internal explorations, and they represent the struggles to find meaning and to resolve my confusion and find ground in the rapidly-changing U.S.,” she said. “I hope to move people to feel or think. I would love it if people saw their own questions reflected in mine. The music I love the most makes me feel mirrored and less alone in the world.”

Each Scarecrow track encapsulates a struggle, a passage, an emotional hurdle, a dilemma and a celebration as birds, scarecrows, coyotes and heroes seek new beginnings. The breathtaking opener, “Carolina Wren,” creates a timeless country sound while embarking on a life-changing path.

Bright acoustic and slide guitars fuse with hypnotic piano to accompany Thoburn as she beautifully sings, “I hope you find you and your voice, your song again/Maybe find a friend/And when you arrive in a place where you belong/I hope you sing out like a Carolina Wren.”

Hearing the Calls of the ‘Carolina Wren’ and the ‘Whippoorwill’

“Scarecrow” album art. Photo by Robin Scully

The high-pitched calls of the “Carolina Wren” instantly resonate with the “Scarecrow’s” deep desire to “follow the sun or the Canada geese” on the liberating title track. Wailing slide guitar, deep harmonica and vibrant mandolin echo in the distance as the “Scarecrow” imagines heading east while Thoburn shares her planned escape, “She’s holding on/One of these days, she’s got the notion/To get outta here, go see the ocean.”

“I am inspired by everything. I love all kinds of music, but I particularly like a compelling and harmonious melody. As for my own process, I always start with melody, and the melody generally brings a feeling to me,” Thoburn said. “I allow the melody and the feeling to begin expressing. Sometimes it’s super quick and easy, and then other times it comes out like a slow and painful birth.”

Continue reading “Heart and Soul – Linden Thoburn Explores Personal Journeys on New ‘Scarecrow’ Album”

Fully Conscious – Pajamas Revitalizes Improvisational Spirit on ‘You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound’ EP

Graham Low, Dan Schuler, Nick Orr and Owen Kellenberger of Pajamas. Photo by Toko Shiiki Santos

Pajamas magically revitalizes the improvisational spirit on their latest EP, You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound.

The Ann Arbor rock-funk quartet seamlessly blends extended guitar grooves, proggy keys, crashing cymbals, rhythmic drums and driving bass into a fluid four-track jam session on their optimistic, improvisational EP, which dropped in January. You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound is a tantalizing live soundtrack that seeps into the unknown spaces in between dreams.

“The overall lyrical message in my opinion is about accepting the things you can’t control and being happy with what and who you are. We played all of them live before releasing the EP, and I even rewrote good portion of the opening track after playing it out live for a while,” said Graham Low, drummer and vocalist for Pajamas.

“Overall, I want people to feel some emotion when they listen to our music. I’m not going to defy the moniker of ‘jam band,’ but I hope people hear ‘jam band’ and understand that to be a band committed to live improvisation and purposeful exploration, not just a bunch of spacey noodling. I think this project sheds light on our songwriting and shows glimpses of the many places we can take our music.”

Recording ‘You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound’

“You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound” EP artwork by Abbas Husain

Pajamas’ hypnotic eight-minute title track opens with an elongated synth that morphs into glistening cymbal crashes, groovy electric guitar and deep bass and slowly explodes into a star-filled prog-tastic multi-verse. Low proudly sings, “You’re awake, you’re alive/And the sun’s in the sky/Stop the hate and the cryin’/There’s a light inside so shine bright.”

“‘You’re Awake’ took me a really long time to write and a long time to rewrite. I’m really pleased with the end product, and I think the recording that we captured was one of the best takes that we’ve ever played of that song,” Low said.

Low joined Pajamas bandmates Nick Orr (guitar, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) to record You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound during a single four-hour session at the iconic Willis-based recording studio last year. They teamed up with Jim Roll to mix and engineer the majestic live project as a follow-up to 2018’s genre-defying, full-length debut, Onesie.

“Jim Roll is a freakin’ magic man. He dialed in each of our sounds and captured everything that makes our timbre unique while also isolating and getting a really clean overall mix,” Low said. “He’s been doing this forever, and it shows in his ability to get great results every time.”

Continue reading “Fully Conscious – Pajamas Revitalizes Improvisational Spirit on ‘You’re Awake: Live at Willis Sound’ EP”

World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album

Tracy Kash blends eclectic sounds to create a world music feel on “Fierce.” Photo by Aly Darin Photography

Tracy Kash fiercely brings world-class sounds and styles to the Motor City.

The Detroit world music vocalist, flutist, pianist, composer and arranger delightfully blends classic elements of jazz, soul, pop and theater into a dramatic center-stage sound on Fierce, her fourth and latest album that’s currently nominated for Outstanding World Music Recording in the 2020 Detroit Music Awards (DMA).

“It’s a tricky thing because I am kind of all over the place stylistically. When people go, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just say, ‘Um, yes, I don’t know what to say,’” Kash laughed. “Some of them are older tunes. I was never sure if I was going to record them. The rest of it came organically over the course of about eight years because I hadn’t released anything since 2010.”

For 2019’s Fierce, Kash assembled a star-studded cast of musicians called the Bro’ Fos, including Pat Shanley (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Chuck Bartels (bass) and Van Hunsberger (drums), to bring the album’s 11 sensational tracks to life. They spent six months recording the tracks with producer Tom Rice at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Studio and Eric Morgeson at Dearborn’s Studio A Recording.

“Most of it is just mastery of their instruments. When I put together rehearsals, performances or recordings, unless there’s something really specific I’m looking for, I won’t arrange each part. They’re such great musicians, and because of that, it gives them the freedom to bring something that’s more natural to them to the recording or the performance,” Kash said.

Getting ‘Fierce’

“Fierce” album artwork

With a troupe of A-list collaborators, Kash launches her eclectic Fierce sound with “Face Time,” a jazzy opener featuring swift piano, vibrating electric guitars, deep bass and pounding drums.

Her soulful vocals warn lovers to eradicate the ghosts of past relationships in favor of new ones – “I’m the one you run to/To unload a heavy heart/I’m happy knowing I can do the same/Well maybe it’s because I’m naïve/I assume that I’m the one you need/But the doubt comes when you call me by her name.”

Continue reading “World-Class – Tracy Kash Creates ‘Fierce’ Global Sounds on DMA-Nominated Album”

Long-Distance Winner – Meredith Shock Goes Beyond ‘Trial Run’ in Latest Single, Video

Meredith Shock performs in Nashville. Photo by Skylar Stierwalt

Meredith Shock elegantly tests the waters in love and life.

The Nashville country-pop singer-songwriter beautifully plunges into her latest single and live acoustic video for “Trial Run,” a heartfelt ode to long-distance relationships.

“‘Trial Run’ was a song that I wrote about a girl I’m still dating. I’m in Nashville, and she ended up being here just for the summer, and I ended up really liking her. I was like, ‘Crap, what are we gonna do because I want to keep talking to you and seeing where this goes,’” Shock said.

“One of my best friends was like, ‘Why don’t you give it a trial run or something?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, we should,’ and we started calling it a trial run, and then that just sparked the idea for the song.”

“Trial Run” single artwork by Autumn DiScala

Shock’s fervent single wraps bright intermittent synths, climbing electric guitars, clicking finger snaps and vibrant acoustic guitars into a soaring cinematic sound as she sings, “Oh, I know you’re in another state/Maybe the miles and space will give you time to think about what you need/You can give me all the excuses/I know you got your reasons/But if you’re asking me, here’s what I think.”

Initially, Shock wrote “Trial Run” as highly personal track meant solely for her partner’s ears. It started out as a raw voice memo on her phone and later morphed into mesmerizing studio and acoustic versions.

“I played it for her, and she really, really liked it. I wanted to show her how I felt, and it was directed toward her. It’s not a story, it’s really just about her. People can tell I’m singing about a specific person and not just about any experience. I’m singing to someone, which is another big thing, too,” she said.

Shock released the studio version of “Trial Run” in February and dropped a live acoustic video version for her third single today. Filmed at Nashville’s Beyond The Loops studio in December, the video features Shock performing a poignant stripped-down version of “Trial Run” with an acoustic guitar.

“When I sing live, I think there’s always a little bit more feeling rather than like a recorded produced version. I think it’s cool to see the difference between how I wrote the song with just me and my guitar versus how the song eventually played out and how it was produced,” she said.

Continue reading “Long-Distance Winner – Meredith Shock Goes Beyond ‘Trial Run’ in Latest Single, Video”

East Grand – Dirty Ol’ Men Bring Clever Rhymes, Fresh Beats to Detroit-Inspired Hip-Hop Collective Album

Dirty Ol’ Men gather in Detroit to record their latest album, East Grand. Photo by Rod Wallace

With East Grand, Dirty Ol’ Men poetically capture the creativity, camaraderie and connection of the Motor City.

The international collective of hip-hop and soul producers, musicians and curators blends clever rhymes, pulsating beats and introspective narratives into 15 compelling tracks on their latest album, East Grand, which dropped Feb. 29.

“I think everywhere we go, we’re very inspired by where we are. I’m always a huge advocate for what’s happening in Detroit and so that drove a little bit of the inspiration as well as the sounds and what we captured while we were here and being together, too,” said Rod Wallace, East Grand executive producer and a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.

“We’ve all had a really huge effect on each other. All of us have very, very diverse styles. You have producers that have very, very pronounced kind of styles that are very noticeable amongst the group, and we’ve rubbed off on each other.”

Last July, Wallace and 14 other hip-hop producers gathered in a Detroit loft at the corner of East Grand Boulevard and Oakland Avenue for a three-day Scratch Magazine retreat to collaborate on tracks for the new album. Dirty Ol’ Men collaborators arrived from Michigan; Ohio; Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia, California; Florida; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; and Japan to participate.

Creating East Grand

Together, the producers, musicians and curators brought initial stems, beats and samples to lay the foundation for their fifth collective project while magically capturing the authentic vibes of the Motor City. They also visited local record stores and dug through crates to find alternative sounds that could inspire music for East Grand.

“I think part of what’s built into the culture of digging and sample-based producing is taking the most obscure music possible and trying to pick something out of it. Customarily, we don’t necessarily look for music based on who’s making it, but we look at the potential vibe and sound that could be involved. It may just be something that we don’t have, like something with church bells,” said Wallace, who’s been part of Dirty Ol’ Men since their formation in 2014.

Continue reading “East Grand – Dirty Ol’ Men Bring Clever Rhymes, Fresh Beats to Detroit-Inspired Hip-Hop Collective Album”