A metro Detroit crowd will experience the live music of “Three’s Company” Friday night in Farmington.
While it won’t involve Jack, Janet or Chrissy, it will spotlight three “Steves” who’ve made a lasting sonic impression on the Motor City and Music City.
Stephen Clark, Steve Taylor and Steve Acho will bring their catchy acoustic country, Americana roots and pop-rock classics to the “Friday Night Live – Even Steven Songwriters Round” at the Farmington Civic Theater. It will be an intimate evening filled with live music and laughter all round.
Let’s take a closer look at each “Steve” and how they will even up the musical score Friday night in Farmington.
Stephen Clark, a former anchor for channel 7 (WXYZ-TV) in Detroit, will share his personal, countrified musical dialogue with Taylor, Acho and about 100 others in the nearly 80-year-old historical music theater located in the heart of downtown Farmington.
“We entertain each other to no end, so we crack each other up. I love doing shows with other writers, and I love this kind of show where you sit on a stage and you tell a little story behind your song, and the other writers kind of all weigh in,” said Clark, who now co-hosts a 104.3 (WOMC-FM) morning radio show with JoAnne Purtan.
“It’s not like a monologue, it’s like a dialogue. We all talk about it, and there’s some joking around that goes on. It’s a fun time, it’s always amusing and informative.”
For his round, Clark will perform carefree, memorable tracks from his latest album, “T-Shirt Songs,” which dropped earlier this year and features fun tales related to fish, trucks, whiskey, workouts and heroes. He’s held a deep appreciation for country music since his early days as a DJ and reporter at a country radio station in Greeley, Colo.
“At one point I started thinking, ‘Well jeez, every one of these song titles would look good on a bumper sticker, and then I said, ‘Nah, they would look good on a T-shirt,’” said Clark, who started as a music major in college and later became a broadcast journalist.
“If you have them on a T-shirt, they’d all make sense, and that came from when I did ‘More Gym, Less Jack.’ My daughter actually printed up T-shirts because I was doing a show, and she printed up T-shirts for everybody to wear that said ‘More Gym, Less Jack.’”
“More Gym, Less Jack” opens the 10-track lighthearted “T-Shirt Songs” album and features pounding drums nicely meshing with a strumming acoustic guitar while the playful lyrics hint at exercising more and drinking less. It’s the ideal pro-workout anthem to pump people before hitting the gym.
For the “T-Shirt Songs” album, Clark recorded a series of demos mostly in and around Nashville as well as Detroit. The tracks are based on several real-life stories Clark encountered over the years that turned into joyful musical tidbits.
“All of my songs are true. ‘More Gym, Less Jack’ was absolutely true, although I may have to add it to my setlist on this show coming up because I like the song so much. My wife was suggesting I try more gym and less Jack, and that’s how the song came about,” said Clark, who travels to Nashville one week each month to work on his music.
“I am also doing ‘My Hero First,’ which I only have a couple of really heavy, serious songs. I don’t dwell a lot on ballads, but it is a true story, and it’s heavy and it’s serious, and it’s a message I’ve always wanted to have.”
Another Clark setlist gem will include the heartfelt “Unplug” ballad, “I Will Walk for You,” which spotlights his seven-year-old granddaughter Scarlet’s battle with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). As a genetic cause, SMA robs people of their physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in their spinal cord and taking away their ability to walk.
In honor of Scarlet, Clark adorns a “I Will Walk for You” tattoo on his forearm and supports Scarlet’s Smile, a Commerce Township nonprofit dedicated to making the lives of children and their families barrier free.
Currently, Scarlet’s Smile recently completed the construction of an 18,000-square-foot barrier-free playground in Commerce Township located near the new library on South Commerce Road. Known as Scarlet’s Playground, the site is a destination where all children, regardless of their ability, can play together with their family and friends.
“Now, we’re depending on the city of Commerce to put sidewalks around it as part of their master plan,” Clark said. “They’ve taken the bids and that would actually help from a state grant we were awarded. We’re done, we just have to wait for the others power that be to finish what they’re supposed to do.”
For Friday’s “Even Steven Songwriters Round,” Steve Taylor will bring his introspective Americana roots music to Farmington with bandmates Bryan Fink (bass) and Carey Weaver (drums). Known as The Steve Taylor Three, the trio will showcase personalized tracks from their growing catalog, including 2018’s “The Tennessee Sessions” and 2014’s “Check Your Baggage.”
“I’ve done songwriter rounds before with Stephen Clark, and I’ve done them with Steve Acho as well. When Tom Birchler suggested this show, it seemed like a good way to do it rather than have a traditional show,” said Taylor, who grew up in Birmingham and now lives in Lake Orion.
“It’s fun to be on stage with other songwriters because you can joke around, you can tell stories and you can jump in on each other’s songs. We’ve done it before, and thought it would be fun to do it in the round.”
As a singer-songwriter, Taylor is no stranger to songwriter showcases. After attending similar events in Nashville at the Bluebird Café and The Listening Room in 2015, Taylor brought that style of live performance back to Birmingham, Royal Oak and Lake Orion at different venues, including the Elm Room at The Bird & The Bread restaurant, the Dixie Moon Saloon and 20 Front Street.
“It’s been great because I’ve met so many songwriters as a result of it. The problem with being a working musician is that you never get to see your friends play,” said Taylor, who studied bass at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and previously performed with Detroit’s Vudu Hippies and Five Days Straight. “In a songwriters’ round, you get to hear original music and hear other people play.”
Taylor knows the Tennessee music scene well after recording his band’s last album, “The Tennessee Sessions,” in both Nashville and Memphis. Along with Fink and Weaver, Taylor laid down the album’s first four tracks in Music City one year and then ventured to Memphis the following year to record the other four tracks at the iconic Sun Studio.
“We recorded live in the studio with a four-piece horn section, which was really, really cool, and I had written a song called ‘Memphis Sun,’ which is about Sun Studio,” Taylor said. “It was very meta.”
Taylor and his bandmates relived that meta experience while writing and recording tracks for their third album, which will come out next year. Together, they worked with producer and former Verve Pipe bassist Andy Reed of Reed Recording Company in Bay City on their next project. They also returned to Nashville with Reed to do some additional recording at the Welcome to 1979 studio.
“Two days ago, I just listened to the whole record, which has now been mixed and mastered. I realize this is the record we’ve been working toward for the 10 years that we’ve had this band together,” Taylor said. “I think it’s definitely the best we’ve ever sounded and the best group of songs, and everything sounds amazing because of the work Andy has put into it.”
Detroit singer-songwriter Steve Acho’s profound acoustic pop-rock will strike a memorable chord with the Farmington Civic Theater audience Friday. He will share stripped-down versions of originals from his expansive catalog of singles, studio projects and live albums.
“I always try and do a mix of songs that are very profound and deep that make you think and can be applied to many situations. One example of that is a song that I wrote called ‘Legacy,’ and that’s one of my more popular original songs,” he said. “I’ve been asked to perform that at funerals and retirement parties. It just resonates with so many people, and they apply the lyrics to so many different situations.”
While some of Acho’s music carries a serious tone, others reflect his comedic side and penchant for crowd laughter, especially “I Wrote This Song,” which features an Elton John-esque playful tone.
“And then on the other end of that, I have joke songs, which are like stand-up comedy music with punchline after punchline,” said Acho, who started doing stand-up comedy at age eight. “I wrote a song while I was waiting for a girl to get ready to go out for the evening. I thought women would get mad at me, but they love it as much as the guys, maybe more.”
Acho became a music aficionado after seeing a Billy Joel concert in high school and started playing the family’s piano without any training. He listened closely to albums by Billy Joel, Elton John and The Beatles and could effortlessly reimagine those tunes on his own.
“I have never taken a music class of any kind actually, and I still haven’t. I think my only God-given skill is that I have a good ear,” Acho said. “I can mimic things, I can mimic accents, and for that one attribute, it makes me pretty decent at learning foreign languages because I just hear the sounds.”
In 1992, Acho received a scholarship to go to Japan, learned the language and wrote songs in Japanese. He also translated songs in English to Japanese and developed a following while living and performing overseas. A year later, he performed in coffee houses, restaurants, bars and private events throughout metro Detroit.
By the early 2000s, Acho got a head start on releasing a bunch of downloadable live acoustic music through iTunes. He specialized in acoustic originals and renditions of popular songs by Gavin DeGraw, Coldplay, Bon Jovi and other artists.
“It would just draw all these people to become fans however they were fans – the email list, online or buying everything that came out. Then Spotify came out, all my stuff is there, and I get up to a million listeners a month,” said Acho, who also works as keynote speaker, author, entrepreneur and bilingual business executive. “It’s a big mix of my original music and songs that I love to do, and that I try and do a nod to and not to copy them. I don’t play them in the same key.”
Acho’s latest release, “Influential Sessions,” features nine gorgeous acoustic renditions of tracks by Jackson Browne, Simon & Garfunkel, OneRepublic, Billy Joel, Elton John and other artists. He provides a relaxing, stress-fine way to listen and unwind after a long day.
“I started looking back at my influences in music over time, and some of these songs were so influential to me that they either just got me to fall in love with music yet again, or they were just songs that I wish I would write,” he said. “All I have is passion, and all I have is the dynamics of me connecting with the music while I’m performing it.”
Friday | Doors 7:30 p.m. | Show 8 p.m.
Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand River Ave. in Farmington