A tantalizing blend of acoustic Americana roots will waft throughout the Farmington Civic Theater on Feb. 21.
That blend will include singer-songwriter Rochelle Clark sharing a delectable opening set for Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys as part of the theater’s “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. Special guest Caleb Peters also will open the show.
“Well, it’s not very often that you get to sing in a movie theater, and that in of itself, makes it unique. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time that I went there, but I love the whole setup that they have,” said Clark, who last performed at the theater in November 2018. “You feel like you’re walking into a performance space, and the audience is really in tune with what’s going on.”
During her opening set, Clark will share raw, poignant tracks from her debut EP, “In Time,” which dropped in January. The EP beautifully chronicles Clark’s creative journey from half of the Americana roots duo The Potter’s Field to a flourishing solo artist.
“I wanted to have a progression of songs that are covers, songs that I helped co-write, and songs that I wrote by myself, and pay homage to where I’ve been coming from and where I’m hoping to go. It started as a creative challenge for myself because I was feeling like I was in a rut creatively,” Clark said.
“Music is really important to me, and I was disappointed in myself that I wasn’t pushing myself more. I started playing out solo shows more, which was scary at first. That was about two years ago, and that steamrolled this whole thing.”
Recording ‘In Time’
Clark’s exquisite “In Time” journey begins with an infectious cover of May Erlewine’s classic 2010 track, “River Jordan,” which features a melodic fusion of acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo – “Well take my hand my one and we’ll shove off to the sun/Together we will run the River Jordan/And with stars in our eyes, we’ll sleep under the sky/Safe on the banks of the River Jordan.”
“She is probably one of my biggest influences as a songwriter. I have a lot of respect for the songs that she’s written, but also the way that she holds herself as an artist. Her songwriting has elements of vulnerability and truth in them that I aspire to have in my own writing,” Clark said about Erlewine. “There are a lot of songs that I could have chosen to cover by her, but ‘River Jordan’ stuck out to me because I kept coming back to this theme of time.”
Clark continues to weave the passing facets of time throughout another striking track, “In Time,” which she co-wrote with John Natiw of The Potter’s Field. A magical symphony of banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar envelope Clark as she powerfully sings, “So I don’t mind, if I fall behind the rest/Just give me time, and I’ll do my best in time/Forgotten dreams, they gather dust/The best laid plans, well they turn to rust.”
“John knows I’ve been playing that one a lot solo because I love the message of that song, and it’s just evolved over time to have different meanings for both of us. It’s a song that’s really personal to me, so I really wanted to put it on there,” said Clark, who grew up in Livonia, but now resides in Ypsilanti.
Clark closes out her six-track journey with “Topiary Garden,” a dreamy tune that seamlessly merges her haunting vocals with an instrumental waltz of banjo, electric guitars and percussion – “A garden unlike any I’ve wandered is where I often retreat to savor its secrets and trees/This garden this is my secret place, it’s carefully hidden away, it fades as night yields to day.”
“This song is based on a dream that I used to have as a kid. I used to have this same dream repeatedly, the details itself would change, but the dream itself was essentially the same. I wanted a certain dream-like quality to it, but I also wanted to have that reflected in the recording,” Clark said. “And Billy Harrington in particular delivered on that song, and he was like, ‘How weird do you want me to go?’ And I was like, ‘Full Tom Waits.’”
The Familiars and The Potter’s Field
Clark joined forces with co-producer Jason Dennie (guitar, mandolin), Keith Billik (banjo), John Sperendi (bass) and Harrington, aka The Familiars, to record “In Time” at Big Sky Recording and Willis Sound. It’s Clark’s first official studio release since The Potter Field’s “Pleasureville” album in 2011.
“The reason I call them ‘The Familiars’ is sort of obvious. They play with everybody, and they can be a rotating cast of characters depending on who’s available. I would like to continue working with them, and I’m actually trying to seek out opportunities where we can do another band show,” said Clark, who also includes drummer Mike Shimmin as part of The Familiars.
It wasn’t that long ago that Clark traded the theatrical stage for a musical one. Eight years ago, she made the transition to music after yearning for another creative outlet and returned to playing the guitar after a short hiatus.
She randomly met Natiw at an open mic night after they bonded over John Prine’s 1971 gem, “Angel from Montgomery.” Ultimately, that led to forming The Potter’s Field with Natiw.
“We have a couple of things coming up together, and I’m always down to do another Potter’s Field record,” Clark said. “I was really happy with the one that we did. If the opportunity presents itself, then I think that would be a cool thing to do.”
Friday, Feb. 21 | Doors 7:30 p.m. | Show 8 p.m.
Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand Rive Ave. in Farmington