Detroit’s New Musical Evolution — DIME Sessions Volume 3 Album Spotlights Rising Motor City Artists

DIME Sessions Volume 3 showcases some of Detroit’s best musical talent.

DETROIT — For 13 aspiring artists, a new Motor City compilation album captures their musical passion and growth.

Known as Detroit Institute of Music Education: DIME Sessions Volume 3, the album features 11 original tracks written by DIME students and weaves themes of political frustration, Motor City pride, personal struggle, relationships and musical tributes.

“This is the crème de la crème of our student body who are in a position to write and record at the time or who may have songs even if they’re in the simplest form,” said Sabrina Underwood, label manager for Original 1265 Recordings at DIME. “This is their opportunity to know what it feels like to have a record released internationally on a major label. They can use this as a calling card to open up other doors.”

DIME released its third annual album Aug. 25 on Original 1265 Recordings, which is an independent label owned by CND America, DIME’s parent company, and distributed by Caroline Distribution.

“We do have a few DIME students who are signed to us,” Underwood said. “We’re just hoping to be a great voice and great label to help platform the new music that is coming out of Detroit.”

To be considered for the album, students submit originally written songs, and the best 11 or 12 tracks are selected. Professional producers are assigned to work with students in a local recording studio to finalize songs for the album.

Kevin Nixon, DIME president; Elise McCoy, DIME head of recruitment and admissions; and producers Quentin Dennard and Drew Schultz produced the tracks on the album.

Most of DIME Sessions Volume 3 was recorded at Tempermill Studio in Ferndale, Mich., while Aaron Jerome, who’s known as the artist A\Villain and doubles as a producer, recorded his track, “Anthem of Detroit,” in his home studio. The album was mixed and mastered at Studio A in Dearborn, Mich.

“This is a great compilation. It’s a mix,” Underwood said. “It shows the diversity in our students and the diversity in the music that is created and worked on and pushed under the DIME umbrella. These are the mix of songs that rose to the top of the submissions.”

Here’s a track by track breakdown of DIME Sessions Volume 3 and the artists behind it:

1. “Dear America” – Written and performed by Lex Whyms, sung by Devin Woodson

Lex Whyms, 21, wrote the song as an open letter asking the nation when it will start accepting people of color. “When I wrote that, I was tired of seeing everybody vent on social media. I became so numb to it that I blocked it all out. I wasn’t talking about it, and I wasn’t doing anything. I felt I should be more proactive. I just want people to think about who they’re around, think about how they impact their neighbors and how we impact each other in this country,” she said. Whyms grew up watching Michael Jackson DVDs, currently performs as part of New Soul, a Detroit-based R&B, jazz, electronic and heavy bass duo, and admires Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Too Short.

Whyms recruited Devin Woodson, 22, to provide his powerful vocals on the politically-charged track. Woodson originally recorded a demo of Whyms’ song on an iPad before class one day at DIME. “We are far more like than we are different. If people can just get past the physical things – how dark our skin is, what we look like, what if somebody is sagging their pants, they look dangerous walking down the street. When we get past these things, we’ll realize love is truly the only way we can push forward,” he said. Woodson grew up singing in church choirs and musical theater and seeks his musical inspiration from The Clark Sisters, India.Arie, Stevie Wonder and Cynthia Erivo.

2. “Fad.e” – Written and performed by Frankie P

Nineteen-year-old Frankie P, or Frankie Peterson, wrote “Fad.e” as a personal hip-hop anthem of self-confidence. She started rapping in third grade, playing saxophone in fourth grade and seeking musical inspiration from Prince, Common, Kanye West and D’Angelo. “With ‘Fad.e,’ I was in a vulnerable spot. I hadn’t written in a long time when I wrote that song. It was hot that day. I’m pretty sure I was naked doing beats. I was angry. That’s what came out that day. It was humidity and sweat and hot a** beats. What I want people to take away from that is you should never question your ability in what you do, and when you feel confident, you know that you can do it, you shouldn’t let anybody stop you. You should do it with all your might, and you should put your whole leg into it, not the foot, the whole entire leg,” she said.

3. “Daddy Issues” – Written and performed by Brother Son

Detroit-based Brother Son features Francis Harrington on vocals and guitar, Chris Pecorelli on drums, Jimmy Walkup on bass and Drew Gijsbers on drums. According to the band’s Facebook page, Brother Son are “Detroit bred heartthrobs bringing you easy tunes in these historically crazy times.” The pop song opens with a catchy acoustic strum and includes references about growing up in Detroit and being on Woodward Avenue. It also deals with a strained relationship, and Harrington asking the person to stay. An electrified guitar solo serves as a strong musical transition from the first half of the song to the second.

DIME Sessions Volume 3 artists from left: A\Villain, Alex Murphy of Grainger, Frankie P (seated), Ally Evenson, Devin Woodson, Alivia Combs and Lex Whyms.

4. “Hunger” – Written and performed by Ally Evenson

Twenty-year-old Ally Evenson wrote “Hunger” on her guitar in her living room. She had just learned open D tuning before writing the relationship-inspired pop tune that features two perspectives. “I started placing my fingers in random places, and I started writing the song because I was in a really rough place because I was trying to find a really polite way to break up with my boyfriend. I was sobbing trying to write this song, and when I finally wrote it, I wrote the first half and then left it for a really long time. Then, things passed, and I got over most of my hardships at that time, and I moved on to another person, and I wrote the second half.” Evenson started taking vocal lessons at age four and wrote songs with her dad while growing up. She credits Radiohead, St. Vincent, Joni Mitchell, Raffi and Rufus Wainwright as some of her musical influences.

5. “Anthem of Detroit– Written, performed and produced by A\Villain

A\Villain, or 27-year-old Aaron Jerome, wrote “Anthem of Detroit” about the revival of the city. “It’s kinda coming back. So many people still view Detroit as a bad, negative place, and it isn’t that way anymore. I’m trying to paint it in a better light,” he said. A\Villain produced the track in his home studio and released it on social media before submitting it for DIME Sessions Volume 3. He spiced it up for the DIME album by adding drums, doing new vocals and remixing it. A\Villain started playing drums in fifth grade, formed and produced bands and still seeks musical inspiration from Blink 182, Eminem, D12 and Detroit’s own Royce da 5’9”.

6. “Purple” – Written and performed by Angelo Coppola

Angelo Coppola

Macomb resident Angelo Coppola, 21, wrote “Purple” after Prince died in 2016. “A lot of my favorite artists had passed away around then – David Bowie, Scott Weiland, and then Chris Cornell even happened. He was one of my ultimate favorites,” he said. Coppola started playing drums when he was three or four and credits his musical growth to his father, who’s also a musician. He grew up playing shows with his dad and later formed a several bands in middle and high school. These days, he’s ready to release a new EP of music under The Lows. “That’s kinda a play on my name, and I wanted to use a band name. One of my idols is Dave Grohl. When it was just him, he named it a band name. That’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

7. “Stellar” – Written and performed by Constantine Jajas

Based in The Hague, Netherlands, Constantine Jajas wrote the pounding guitar-driven instrumental, “Stellar,” for DIME Sessions Volume 3. According to his website, Jajas is a blues rock-oriented guitar player who started playing guitar at a young age and cites his brother as his first musical influence and mentor. “From the beginning, I was interested in making my own music (noise), and to this day, it has been my main focus,” Jajas wrote on his website. “I am hugely influenced by instrumental music, blues, rock, hip-hop and rhythm and blues.” He also credits Joe Satriani, Eminem, Jeff Beck and Robin Trower as some of his musical influences.

8. “Pushing 2” – Written and performed by Alex Murphy of Grainger

Alex Murphy, 21, wrote the alt rock “Pushing 2” track for DIME Sessions Volume 3 since the first version of it appeared on Grainger’s 2016 album, “Summerspin.” “I just sat alone in my basement and made these little number of recordings. The whole theme of the album is driving and so ‘Pushing’ is like pushing on a pedal, it’s like the feeling of wanting to go somewhere, you want things to change,” he said. “I imagine someone driving down the highway to a party or something.” Murphy started playing guitar at age six and taught himself how to play different instruments, including drums and cello, while listening to music. He cites nu metal, metalcore, emo and shoegaze as the genres that influence him the most. Murphy’s favorite musical artists include Breakdown, Citizen and Turnover.

9. “Easy”Written and performed by Alivia Combs

Alivia Combs, 22, penned her soulful jazz ballad after seeing several relationships go wrong. “Don’t let somebody talk to you and put you down like that in such a way that you feel like you have to stay there,” she said. “You are your own person, and you should be treated like a person, not like an object that somebody can just throw around.” Combs, who originally wanted to be a teacher, started singing at age 4 and remembers singing in the grocery store. “I just love to sing, and I love music,” she said. Combs cites Barbra Streisand, Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Adele as her musical influences. These days, she working on new songs to add to her repertoire.

10. “One Look” – Written and performed by Ian Griffiths, sung by George Montrelle Wilson

Ian Griffiths

Ian Griffiths, 24, cites Medusa as his inspiration for writing “One Look,” a jazz-oriented rock tune. “I thought of the setting as two guys being in a bar talking at a table about this girl, she’s really seductive, very attractive, and all these guys are drooling all over her, or whatever,” he said. “Then when one guy sleeps with her or gets to know her, then she’ll turn your heart to stone, or turn your life bad in general.” He worked with Drew Schultz to bring Wilson in on vocals and add catchy horn arrangements as well as piano solo. “When George came in and sang on it, it was like it was fresh again, and that was super exciting for me and Drew,” he said. Griffiths started playing guitar in third grade and later picked up piano and bass. He’s inspired by pop punk (think Linkin Park and Fallout Boy) as well as techno, electronic, jazz and fusion. Griffiths currently plays in two bands, Ma Baker and Honey Monsoon.

George Montrelle Wilson

George Montrelle Wilson, 25, teamed up with Griffiths to lend his soulful vocals to “One Look.”  “I like the storytelling aspect of it … it has the relatability that people sometimes will go to that certain place of feeling a certain way about a past relationship or somebody,” Wilson said. “For me, it was embodying the lyrics and trying to just bring it to life with the proper vocal to really elicit the smoothness of jazz.” The Ferndale singer-songwriter grew up playing trumpet and baritone in elementary school and later developed a passion for playing guitar in ninth grade. He credits Metallica, Public Enemy, Kanye West, Hiatus Kaiyote and Emarosa with influencing his evolution as a musician. Wilson is currently working on several new musical projects.

“Feeling the Earth Move” – Written and performed by Andy Basiola

Italian-born Andy Basiola penned the electrically charged guitar instrumental for DIME Sessions Volume 3. According to a DIME website article, Basiola, an online student who’s currently based in London, has been playing guitar for 14 years and credits his dad and a friend with inspiring him to become a musician. “He (Basiola’s dad) was also the person who got me into rock music, showing me bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple,” Basiola said. “One day, I went to see a friend playing guitar and his playing was so good and had such a rich and warm tone; that it inspired me to start learning guitar.” He also cites guitarist Randy Rhoads, who passed away in 1982 and is best known for playing with Ozzy Osborn and Quiet Riot, with influencing his guitar-playing style. Basiola is a guitar teacher and currently plays with a band called Future Shock.

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