Four Michigan artists will share the stories, successes and secrets behind their music tonight in the Motor City.
Brian Perrone, Shawn Butzin, Mike Gentry and Mark Jewett will host a “Singer-Songwriter Night” today at Detroit’s historic Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux Road, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
For the artists, it’s a rare chance to share their eclectic, timeless music in a live, intimate acoustic setting on the city’s east side. Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter, relishes any opportunity to bring talented local artists together.
“I try to find artists who are somewhat similar, but still different enough for the audience,” said Perrone, who’s organizing tonight’s show. “I like to set it up where we either all take the stage at the same time and take turns rotating songs, or we each go up, play two songs and do a round like that. That way, it’s not just one act for four or five songs.”
During tonight’s show, each artist will reveal past and present tunes from their musical catalogs and introduce their favorite covers. They also might surprise the audience with a new song.
As an emerging singer-songwriter, Brian Perrone likes to trace the evolution of his music, artistry and creativity over the past several years. He’s excited to share those self-discoveries and reflections with tonight’s audience in Detroit.
“I may go back and play one of the first songs I ever wrote to showcase as a songwriter how somebody might grow over time,” said Perrone, who’s influenced by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Smiths and Radiohead.
Perrone grew up striking a chord (or cymbal) with metro Detroit crowds as an in-demand drummer for heavy metal, grunge and alternative rock bands. While crafting his chops as a drummer, he also played piano at local jazz clubs and frequented open mic nights to share new songs before releasing his 2014 debut, “All Growns Up.”
Last October, Perrone released a “Dog with Ball,” a five-song EP with stripped-down, piano-based tracks that chronicle changing relationships, personal growth and inner reflections. It’s a warm, dreamy follow-up to the jazzy “All Growns Up.”
Earlier this year, Perrone launched a “#52covers” project, which features him performing a different cover each week via Facebook and Instagram. His latest cover of Modern English’s “I Melt with You,” is a gorgeous slow tempo, piano-fueled rendition of the 1982 new wave hit.
Perrone also covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara,” The Cars’ “Drive” and other classic pop-rock tracks. He credits metro Detroit singer-songwriter and guitarist Tom Butwin with inspiring his “#52covers” project.
“Tom had done this exact same thing a few years ago, and he said, ‘You gotta commit to it, you gotta post every week,’” Perrone said. “It’s a huge commitment, but at the end of the year, you’ll look back at all this content you’ve generated, and you’ll feel really good.”
Next up, Perrone will return to the studio this fall to record two new tracks with a full band and release a live video recording of three tracks via Dogtown Studio Sessions in Grand Rapids.
Back in March, Shawn Butzin braved a Michigan snowstorm to join Perrone for a “Songwriters Night” at PJ’s Lager House in Detroit. The Traverse City singer-songwriter traveled more than four hours in inclement weather to make a rare downstate performance.
“I was driving through a blizzard and thinking the show was going to be cancelled, but right before I got to PJ’s, it completely stopped,” Butzin said.
Luckily, Butzin won’t have to trudge through snow and ice to appear at the Cadieux Café tonight. He’ll be bringing his heartwarming northern Michigan indie folk-rock to a Motor City audience and sharing tracks from his most recent releases, including the 2018 four-track EP, “Adventures,” and the 2017 full-length debut, “Northern Trails.”
“We’re each going to do three or four rounds of two or three songs apiece, and we’re going to do mostly original songs we each wrote,” Butzin said. “We’re also going to do covers as the final songs that night.”
Hailing from Chesaning, Butzin grew up listening to Neil Young; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Joni Mitchell and Creedence Clearwater Revival, thanks to his older siblings. After college, he moved to Colorado, played in several bands and toured throughout the U.S.
“I started fiddling around with the guitar when I was 25, just fresh out of college, and I started strumming a little bit,” he said. “I also started playing the drums in my late 20s, so I’m a late bloomer.”
A few years ago, family circumstances brought Butzin back to Michigan, and he relocated to Traverse City. The quiet, clean surroundings and natural beauty of northern Michigan inspired Butzin to write and release his own music.
“I did a lot of camping and hiking up there, and that’s when I really started to sit down and start writing,” he said. “I know guitar and play drums, so I decided to record an album and put it together over a summer.”
On “Northern Trails, he eloquently chronicles his move back to Michigan in “Hometown Blues” and laments leaving behind the mountainous landscapes of his previous home in “Leaving Colorado.” Fittingly, he embraces his stomping groups once again on “Adventures” in “Fell in Love with Michigan” and “Make a New Start.”
“It’s a little discouraging being from a small town when there are not a lot of options for things to do,” he said. “When I came back home, I hardly recognized anyone, so I decided to put pen to paper about it.”
With an EP and album under his belt, Butzin is getting ready to record and release new material before the end of this year. He’s working on a five-song EP and planning to tour out east this fall.
As a troubadour, Mike Gentry transports listeners to peaceful place somewhere in between the emotion and the experience. It’s akin to taking a nostalgic head trip filled with small towns, dirt roads and full moons.
“I tend to play songs with a story that have a direct thread to it, and I focus on songs that are more emotionally based than what you might call craft based,” Gentry said. “I try to play stuff that people will find interesting and that has a good story to it so they can get to know me as a person.”
The Dexter singer-songwriter is quite easy to get to know through his self-titled, 11-track acoustic folk-rock splendor of an album. He’ll share tracks from that release as well as ones from his nearly three decades in music. The crowd might even get to hear a new track.
“When I perform, I use imagery and the style of language to contextualize the song more fully, so I can teach people how to listen to the song,” Gentry said. “They can form their own connections to it, but that’s what I’m really after.”
While growing up in Dexter, Gentry listened to Elvis Presley and learned how to play guitar. He later fronted the local bands Max and True Story before moving to Hollywood and attending the Guitar Institute of Technology/Musicians Institute, where learned first-hand from Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Eddie Van Halen and other guitar legends.
From 1989 to 1994, Gentry worked at A&M Records in Hollywood and met a well-known host of musicians, including Gene Simmons. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, he moved back to Michigan to attend Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University, where he studied music education.
In 2003, he released a melodic rock album with Shining Farmer, a band that included colleagues he met while teaching at the Day Jams Rock and Roll Summer Camp in Ann Arbor. He also taught guitar and drums at the Ann Arbor branch of the National Music Workshop’s Day Jams program.
These days, Gentry performs at local listening rooms, such as The Ark and Trinity House, as a solo acoustic act and often teams up with other musicians, including his manager Mike Vial. He’s currently working on a solo album as a follow-up to last year’s release.
“I’m doing a solo record in my basement right now, and I’m playing all the instruments myself, but I don’t think I’m going to drum up a whole lot for it,” Gentry said. “It’s a weird rock and roll record with songs that I can’t really play live with loud drums and electric guitars, stuff that used to turn me on when I was a teenager. You know, rock and roll for the people.”
Like Perrone, Mark Jewett, a Plymouth singer-songwriter, knows how to coordinate engaging and inspiring “Songwriters Round” performances with some of Michigan’s most well-known and respected artists.
After releasing his 2016 full-length, genre-defying album, “Tending the Fire,” and forming a series of friendships with local singer-songwriters, Jewett hosted shows at the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington, 20 Front Street in Lake Orion and other metro Detroit venues.
Now, he’s gearing up for tonight’s show with Perrone, Butzin and Gentry, and making a rare east side appearance. “I’m going to do something from the last record, and I have new ones where the recording is already underway,” Jewett said. “I’ve been trying to nudge three other new ones over the finish line, but I don’t think they’re going to be over by Sunday.”
In June, Jewett started recording his untitled third project at Ann Arbor’s Big Sky Recording with producer and drummer Bill Harrington as well as Ken Pesick, Michael Harrington, Geoff Michael and Amy Petty. First, he’s planning to release a series of singles that will eventually be compiled into an album.
“We’ve done the first basic tracks for five songs, and since then, we’ve revisited a few things and made some edits. We’ll get together and decide what other parts we want to add to these songs and get one or two of them finished as early as possible,” he said. “It’s important to stay relevant because people are more interested if they think you’re producing something new.”
Initially a bassist with Whitewater, Jewett put music aside in the early ‘80s for a career in program management, but was inspired to revisit music after watching Nolan Mendenhall and his band, Grevious Angel, perform at the South Lyon Hotel. By 2011, Jewett had released his four-song debut EP, “Love Has No Heart of Its Own.”
Over the next five years, he honed his singing and songwriting skills to craft 11 memorable tracks for 2016’s follow-up, “Tending the Fire,” a mix of folk, pop, country and blues intermingled with stories about cheap mascara, broken coffee mugs, slate-colored skies and life changes.
Today from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cadieux Cafe, 4300 Cadieux Road in Detroit