Stand Tall – Fernando Silverio Solis Tackles Lingering Racial Injustices on ‘Keep Your Head High’

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Fernando Silverio Solis speaks volumes about the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight against an oppressive state on “Keep Your Head High.”

Fernando Silverio Solis eloquently raises his voice, holds his head high and advocates for solidarity amidst a sea of recurring racial, social and political struggles.

The Flint indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist speaks volumes about the lingering injustices against people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement’s ongoing fight against an oppressive state on his latest gripping single, “Keep Your Head High.”

“I was just reflecting an expression of what I felt or thought during so many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and watching the news of people being murdered by police and then watching the police violence unfold. It was also in reaction to the past four years and what the previous administration brought out of people,” Solis said.

Throughout “Keep Your Head High,” Solis thoughtfully shares those reflections as contemplative acoustic guitar, somber pedal steel and placid cello echo his raw, honest sentiments. He quietly sings,” When did we justify to look each other in the eyes/And decide we are strangers/When all is said and done/And we’re sent to kingdom come/Will we see we weren’t so different.”

“I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries with making it about myself or attempting to speak on behalf of anyone. I really did my best to try to present it from a perspective of ‘I’m here, I’m watching, I do have my own reactions, and these are my thoughts regarding my own reactions as to what I’m seeing happen,’” Solis said.

Solis teamed up with several talented collaborators to bring a wistful Americana flavor to “Keep Your Head High” while recording it at Chesaning’s Oneder Studios with Nick Diener. Australian pedal steel player Jy-Perry Banks lends his virtuoso guitar skills while cellist Ian Legge brings a delicate string sensibility to the track.

“After I did the Wake Up Slow EP, there was a window of time before everything got really crazy. I was able to record more music with Nick, and I have another seven songs that haven’t been released yet. At that time, I came across (Banks) on Instagram, and I saw that he was open for sessions,” Solis said.

“I said, ‘Nick, I’ll record these songs with guitar and vocals, and then let’s flesh out the rest.’ That’s when we got to talking and said, ‘Let’s get this real country feel to it.’ Those songs were finished, and then they sat. We had to mix and master them, and as that was happening, the world shut down.”

Continue reading “Stand Tall – Fernando Silverio Solis Tackles Lingering Racial Injustices on ‘Keep Your Head High’”

Escape Artist – Kat Steih Creates Alternate Universe on ‘Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … and West Park Volume 1’ EP

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Kat Steih creates a captivating electro acoustic dreamscape on her latest EP. Artwork – Kat Steih

Kat Steih thoughtfully assembles a majestic, restorative alternate universe for near and far like-minded souls.

Inside that mystical world, the Ann Arbor alt-folk singer-songwriter invites listeners into a captivating electro acoustic dreamscape on her new EP, Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … And West Park Volume 1, which dropped Aug. 28.

“My music has a strong element of escapism. I’ll be in the middle of an experience that I don’t want to be having, feeling that inner roar of resistance, and then suddenly a melody with words and a vibe will pop right into my head,” Steih said.

“A big part of musical journey is increasing my skills so that I can capture those ideas to convey them to others. It’s really important to me to share (the ideas) because they arrive like gifts from the universe.”

Throughout her latest release, Steih packs an expansive, cerebral and folky sound across four hypnotic, ethereal tracks while venturing through past experiences, changing relationships, personal growth and long-awaited renewal. It’s a mesmerizing, introspective follow-up to her breathtaking, spiritual 2019 Americana album, Hymns of the Huron.

“I’ve always loved theatrical music production like Pink Floyd, Queen and Kate Bush. The sound of this album is influenced by my collaboration with Samn Johnson while the sound of Hymns of the Huron was very influenced by the band that Ben Lorenz put together,” she said.

“I bring the melodies and chord progressions, but the final product is colored by who’s there and the vibe of the environment we’re in.”

Continue reading “Escape Artist – Kat Steih Creates Alternate Universe on ‘Songs from a Faraway Galaxy … and West Park Volume 1’ EP”

Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album

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Bill Edwards’ “Whole Cloth” serves as a poignant, reflective novel of Americana songs.

For Bill Edwards, the basement provides the ideal music lab and creation space.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist retreated to his subterranean studio during the pandemic and experimented with his recording gear.

“When we went into lockdown and realized we weren’t going to be playing live for several months, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of my recording software. I wanted to get better acquainted with MIDI instruments, or musical instrument digital interfaces,” Edwards said.

“MIDI instruments have come a long way since their invention, and the sampled instruments that are available now are just incredible. It gave me the opportunity to do things like drums, bass and pedal steel, and a whole world opened up.”

Eighteen months later, Edwards’ MIDI software explorations have resulted in an ambitious, yet prolific 30-track double album, Whole Cloth, out Friday via Regaltone Records.

“It feels like birthing a very large baby, and I’m really proud of it for a lot of reasons. I think the songs are good, and the fact that I was able to do it all by myself feels like a pretty big accomplishment,” said Edwards, who spent 15 months writing and recording his new album.

“Over that period, I probably had 70 songs, and I would finish one and then move on to the next and start building it together. I didn’t plan to do a double CD, but then I had all this stuff, and I thought, ‘Well, why not just put it all out?”

Continue reading “Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album”

Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’

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Druzi Baby embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on “I J Q S D.”

These days, Druzi Baby relishes a newfound sense of personal freedom.

The Ypsilanti hip-hop artist and producer embarks on a new quest for independence, ownership and fulfillment on his latest introspective single, “I J Q S D (I Just Quit Sellin’ Dope),” now available on all streaming platforms.

“I literally just quit sellin’ dope last summer and was dead broke. Bills paid and all, but not much extra – it was time. I had some weird ass vibes while I was on vacation in Florida and just had a hard gut feeling it was time to move on in life,” said Drew Denton, aka Druzi Baby.

“In reality, there are so many better ways to make money. Yeah, it’s harder work, but there isn’t a price you can put on a peace of mind. I hope people can take away that you really ain’t gotta take yourself so seriously. Most people are living beyond their means and portraying an unrealistic lifestyle, and that shit ain’t sustainable.”

Throughout “I J Q S D,” funky electric guitars, shimmering beats, thoughtful electronic drums and confident bass encourage listeners to think ahead and move forward.

Druzi Baby thoughtfully reflects, “I can’t spend no more time livin’ outside of my means/I’ve been lyin’ to myself/That’s not following my dreams/Put my life at risk because I’m lazy/Had some other options/Didn’t take ‘em/Can’t stand these little jobs/All these people fake/Gotta be my own boss/That’s the only way.”

“I just turned 30 this year. I’m not about to be out here living a pipe dream. I just wanna work, take care of myself and my family, and make some music while I’m at it at this point,” said Denton, who wrote the track and produced the beat.

Druzi Baby also celebrates taking charge in his new “I J Q S D” video, which features him proudly strolling along empty Ypsi railroad tracks and conducting recording sessions at The Workshop. He teamed up with director Christopher Kulick to record and edit the project.

“I met Chris through our intern, M33shka, and (Chris) is out here a bit from California and just getting started shooting videos. I wanted to work with him because he’s got a good eye and needed some experience. We recorded most of it at my studio, The Workshop, here in Ypsi, and it was shot all in about two hours,” Denton said.

“My business partner/mentor, Mello, makes an appearance in the video. That’s the OG, he runs The Workshop with me. Super talented dude who definitely doesn’t get the shine he deserves because that dude has been putting in the work behind the scenes these past five to six years.”

Continue reading “Independence Day – Druzi Baby Savors Freedom and Fulfillment on ‘I J Q S D’”

Stars and Stripes Demystified – Audra Kubat Tackles Nation’s Divisive Legacy on ‘Gray Glory Parade’

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Audra Kubat and Jessica Care Moore challenge the nation’s antiquated, divisive legacy on “Gray Glory Parade.”

Audra Kubat boldly brings the gray undertones of the red, white and blue to the surface.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter brilliantly unravels the antiquated, divisive Confederate legacy, traditions and mindset that still permeate our racial, social and political fabric on her latest single, “Gray Glory Parade.”

“Originally, the song was called ‘The Next American Revolution,’ and it was so bold in a way. I was exploring other titles, and then it hit me this line, ‘Gray Glory Parade,’ and it had this really strong ring to it,” Kubat said.

“‘Gray glory’ is sort of the southern pride around the uniforms of the Civil War. The first lines of the song, ‘Sculpted and praised/A gray glory parade/Hollow men disgracing pedestals,’ show this pride and glory around a misunderstood history, like sort of a parading around. I thought it was a stronger title than the other one.”

Throughout “Gray Glory Parade,” Kubat thoughtfully unstitches each worn, destructive gray thread as luminous acoustic strums, reflective synth and tranquil bass provide newfound strength and hope. She reveals, “Our silence now is damaging/Time for a reckoning/A great awakening/The next American revolution.”

“The revolution is that we have to deal with a falling apart first. I’m ready for the fall-apart part to happen in a bigger way, and the scary thing is so many comforts and things that we’re used to will have to change to make the real change that is needed,” said Kubat, who started writing the track during a July 4, 2020 trip to Washington, D.C.

“There’s so much to address, and it’s going to be so painful for everyone. That’s why it’s taking so long, and it takes so much self-steadiness to be able to stand up and say, ‘My lifestyle is not only destroying other people’s lives, but the environment and social structure beyond that is so flawed, that it really must be taken out thread by thread.’”

Kubat continues removing each thread as she reflects, “Yet I’m quiet and listless/Do no more than bear witness/But it’s not enough as warm blood runs from broken bodies.”

“Prior to that trip, I had been trying to write a song in response to the things that were going on, and everything I wrote just seemed so flimsy. I couldn’t find the right words, and I also felt like it was a big undertaking to try to share what I was feeling and without it sounding uninformed and as an observer,” said Kubat, who also included lyrics from the national anthem throughout her track.

“I really didn’t know how to do that at the time, and it wasn’t coming. When my partner and I went to D.C., we were walking among the protests that were going on and sharing space with folks there. Going to the monuments and being a part of everything else that was going on along with the tourists and seeing the capital was an interesting juxtaposition.”

That juxtaposition inspired Kubat to think about the American flag unraveling and how that served as a timely metaphor for the nation’s growing racial, social and political tensions. She quickly wrote “Gray Glory Parade’s” first three verses, but struggled to find the last line.

“It took me a couple of weeks to come up with the line, ‘The silence is victory beckoning.’ If we don’t have to shout anymore about it, that’s us being victorious,” Kubat said.

Continue reading “Stars and Stripes Demystified – Audra Kubat Tackles Nation’s Divisive Legacy on ‘Gray Glory Parade’”

High Spirits – Magenta Moody Pairs Favorite Morning Substances on ‘Coffee and Reefer’

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Magenta Moody, right, and James Miller bring a rock feel to the alternate version of “Coffee and Reefer.” Photo – Dominic Smalls

For Magenta Moody, each day starts with a chill morning routine.

The Roseville EDM-dream pop artist combines java and Mary Jane to soothe the senses and calm the mind on her latest carefree, reggae-inspired single, “Coffee and Reefer.”

“I love to make a nice cup of hazelnut coffee, pack a raw cone and head to my balcony to start my day. I have a beautiful balcony, and the trees are so dense that you can’t see the surrounding neighbors or anything for that matter,” said Mercedes Jefferson, aka Magenta Moody.

“It’s just trees, sunlight and a couple of very vocal birdies. Coffee picks me up and warms my soul while smoking soothes my nerves and clears my mind, so the combination is magical.”

Moody quickly creates a magical three-minute “Coffee and Reefer” escape for listeners as stormy beats, jingling tambourine, placid synths, light hand claps and breezy bass seep into the body and mind.

She shares, “I know I’ve been really sketchy/Bad decisions seem so tempting/I’m just you, and you’re my best me/You’re my best me/I’d like to meet ya/Coffee and reefer/Hot like a fever/I’d like to meet ya.”

“The song is meant to be a light, feel-good song, and I want people to start their day on a bright and chill note. I wrote ‘Coffee and Reefer’ on the aforementioned balcony, of course. Besides my car, it’s my favorite place to write,” Jefferson said.

Moody also released an alternate version of “Coffee and Reefer,” which features guitarist James Miller playing thoughtful, deep-tone electric strums alongside her echoey vocals.

“I was looking for a guitarist to a do a show with me, and James responded to an inquiry I posted. We’ve been jamming ever since. As we practiced in my living room, I showed him my version of the song,” Jefferson said.

“His interpretation of the song that he played in response to hearing it was so beautiful. He asked if I had recorded yet and insisted on being part of it. I think he adds a groovy, yet alternative vibe, and his instrumentation fits perfectly with the lyrics.”

Moody recorded both versions of the track at Parallel Sounds Studio in Sterling Heights with engineer Tony Boguth. The original version features production by SYBLYNG and mixing by Mark Ringold Jr., aka Krypto Divine, while the alternate version is mixed and mastered by Boguth.

With both versions of “Coffee and Reefer” out, Moody wants to record a video with a “That ‘70s Show” concept and feel.

“It could be some friends and me sitting in a circle getting a smoke session in like they do in every episode. I’d love to work with Joe Hendo again or Tiffadelic Media to make the vision come to life. They both are great with creative direction and execution,” she said.

Continue reading “High Spirits – Magenta Moody Pairs Favorite Morning Substances on ‘Coffee and Reefer’”

Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’

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George Montrelle shares his gratifying journey of true love and commitment on “Paradise.” Photo – Steve Selvaggio (c) 2020

George Montrelle elegantly celebrates a life filled with love, beauty and tranquility.

The Ferndale rock-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist shares that personal mindset on his latest electrifying single, “Paradise,” as a romantic, grateful ode to his longtime partner.

“I’ve had that song more since the beginning of my relationship with my partner, and I wanted to validate how much I appreciate his love for me. This was one of the songs I felt strongest about early on, and I’ve been showing it to people for a while now,” said George Wilson, aka George Montrelle.

Montrelle beautifully chronicles his gratifying “Paradise” journey of true love and commitment as propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fiery electric guitars and galvanic bass surround him.

He reveals, “Here for you till the end/Amaranthine love my friend/The very heart on which you can depend/Here for you for the rest our lives without a stress/Baby, forever, we will love no less.”

“I’ve tried to record this song a handful of times, and I finally just said, ‘I just need to get this done.’ I decided not to overanalyze it, but I also gave it my best,” said Wilson, who recorded and produced the track in his home studio.

For Montrelle, “Paradise” not only acknowledges the growth of his relationship, but also the evolution of the track from the stage to the studio. In 2018, he started performing a live version of “Paradise” with a full band before audiences at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).

“I didn’t have a steady band all the time, so when I wanted to put this song out, I was either gonna hire a drummer and record all the guitars myself, which I did. Or I was gonna track the drums using the sequencer in Ableton, and that’s what’s on the release,” Wilson said.

“I tried to embody what might feel good on stage, and I tried different arrangements. I also developed the verses so it felt progressively fluent throughout the whole song and understood how the drums and guitars needed to work while the vocals sat through everything.”

Continue reading “Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’”

Homegrown – Tom Alter Returns to Old Stomping Grounds Friday for Hamtramck Music Fest

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Tom Alter will perform an assortment of tracks Friday at Hamtramck Music Fest. Courtesy photo

For Tom Alter, this weekend’s Hamtramck Music Fest provides a welcome homecoming.

The Fraser folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist will return to his family’s old stomping grounds to perform Friday night at the Polish Village Café.

“It feels pretty nostalgic to be playing in Hamtramck since my mother was raised there. She graduated from St. Florian High School. My grandparents lived in Hamtramck until they reached their 80s, and I have memories of visiting there when I was a child,” Alter said.

“Some of those memories are captured in my song, ‘Hamtramck.’ I grew up in suburban East Detroit, which was a very different environment. When visiting Hamtramck, my siblings and I were exposed to a very different culture, even with my grandparents speaking another language through much of our visit.”

Alter quickly revisits his childhood on 2018’s “Hamtramck” as sentimental acoustic strums, sunny electric guitars and ruminative bass repaint loving scenes from the past. He reflects, “Visit from suburbia/Dropped into this urban dream/It’s a new diversity/In the streets with rising steam/I feel this city claiming me.”

“I think that experience gave me an appreciation for the many cultures that make up our nation. I released the song, ‘Hamtramck,’ on Bandcamp a few years ago. Since then, I have played it as an acoustic piece, and I plan to release a new version similar to my live performance on a new album I’m working on now,” said Alter, who also performs as part of the soul-jazz-rock duo After Blue with Katie Williamson.

For Friday’s Hamtramck Music Fest set, Alter will share tracks from his thought-provoking 2020 EP, Songs for an American Hero, which pays tribute to the late U.S. Rep. and civil rights activist John Lewis.

“It’s been just about a year since John Lewis passed. I think the impact of the equal justice protests of 2020 still resonate today, but unfortunately at a somewhat lower volume. I want to continue to put a light on John Lewis’ life and that cause in my own way,” he said.

Continue reading “Homegrown – Tom Alter Returns to Old Stomping Grounds Friday for Hamtramck Music Fest”