The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will livestream a show Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios as part of Arts, Beats & Eats’ “The Beats Go On” virtual and drive-in live music series. Photo courtesy of Valerie Barrymore

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will bring sparkling, soulful grooves and delectable, dancy R&B to an Arts, Beats & Eats livestream performance Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.

Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”

“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.

Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.

Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”

“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.

Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”

“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.

Who’s Got My Back – Now and Then

Valerie Barrymore

Outside of family life, Barrymore leaves a toxic relationship on “Who’s Got My Back,” an old-school Foundation of Funk single infused with newfound soul.

Released in 2015, the funk-fueled track weaves pounding drums, groovy wah-wah electric guitars, fiery synths and soft bass as Barrymore recalls, “There have been times I thought I had a friend/But I find out in the very end/There was a game to use me/To hurt me, dog me out/But it’s OK/I never did miss out/Who’s got my back/Who’s on my side.”

“I think I looked back to some younger days, and the words came to me. And it’s a song I want people to realize that everyone is not your friend. Most people are kind, but there are mean people who want to hurt you, so be careful. I wrote it, took it to the band, we added it to the show and the hook worked. People were asking for it, and we hadn’t recorded it yet,” said Barrymore, who recorded the track with Stacia Petrie Ford and Motor City Josh at The Sound Shop in Macomb Township.

While growing up in Detroit, Barrymore laid her initial foundation of funk while singing in church and listening to Natalie Cole, Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin. After high school, she attended Michigan Christian College and sang lead in the school’s annual “Celebration in Song” program.

For Barrymore, it served as a pivotal moment in her burgeoning music career. “It was the first time I sang with instruments since I sang a cappella during church worship. It was fun, and being chosen for that position was special to me. The bass player from ‘Celebration in Song’ called me after school in the summer to tell me a group heading to Japan was looking for a female vocalist,” she said.

With an international tour itinerary, Barrymore visited Japan, Italy, Hong Kong and Singapore before heading to the East Coast. During the tour, she added her next foundation of funk after hearing a Zapp song in a Hong Kong mall and later working with a Zapp horn player in the band.

“We went back to Japan, and I got serious about writing. I bought a keyboard, drum machine and a four-track recorder. In Japan, I was very encouraged by one of my friends who heard some of my originals and said, ‘You should make a record,’” Barrymore said.

Steve Somers and Foundation of Funk

Once Barrymore returned home, she collaborated with legendary Detroit techno DJ and producer Blake Baxter on several up-tempo house pieces. Those initial techno tracks encouraged Barrymore to write additional music and later answer a “Detroit Metro Times” ad to join the Steve Somers Band in 1990.

As part of the Steve Somers Band, Barrymore added blues to her pop, rock, R&B and soul repertoire and wrote songs with future husband Somers, an Ypsilanti jazz guitarist-composer. Nine years later, their fruitful collaboration encouraged Barrymore to form and lead her own project, Foundation of Funk.

“The late David Gilbert was in the audience one night in Commerce, and he sat in with us. At one point he said, ‘Listen to how the drummer and bass player lock. That is the foundation of music, and you can put anything on top of that,’” said Barrymore, who still performs with the Steve Somers Band.

With Foundation of Funk intact, Barrymore and her new band opened for The O’Jays, The Time and Gladys Knight and focused on writing and performing original material. Today, Barrymore continues to front Foundation of Funk and shares the stage with Jesse Godfrey (drums), John Bass (bass), Kenny Jackson (keys), Squirrel (saxophone, keys), Somers (guitar) and Petrie-Ford (backup vocals).

“I think I will always write, and there is nothing like performing an original and having people tell you how much they love it. Foundation is also hoping to have new originals ready soon, and there are more singles to release. I also hope to release the L.O.V.E. CD soon,” she said.

Show details:

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Live

Arts, Beats & Eats – The Beats Go On

Virtual livestream at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios

Saturday, Aug. 29 | 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Limited in-person tickets | $20-$25

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