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.
While wrapping up the track, Kubat invited poet Jessica Care Moore to collaborate with her and poignantly reflect on the nation’s increasing systemic racism that plagues past, present and future generations of Blacks.
Moore reflects, “What is a slave name/He asks me at ten/This is the moment our sons let go of our hand/And want to play in the park with friends/Or walk home from school alone/The answer is Tamir Rice will never/This is the collective worry of millions of Marys/Hiding their Jesus children in the shelter/Prayers, blankets, candles, family dinners/Our sons still burning/Our daughters not safe.”
“I wanted to have her perspective as the voice of a Black woman who has children and is passionate and heartbreakingly clear. I think of this young African American boy who’s growing into a man who has to fear for his life. His mother has to tell him how to not get shot by cops,” Kubat said.
“It goes beyond that as Jessica says, ‘His arms grow longer/I see him push past America.’ It’s bigger than America and so is he and so is the fight.”
“It was sort of a soft release, but in my heart I want everybody to hear the song, and I want everybody to hear Jessica’s part in the song. Jessica and I being in a video together would be pretty awesome, and Daniel and I are in the talks of doing a video,” she said.
NW Goldberg and the Detroit House of Music
Outside of “Gray Glory Parade,” Kubat is hosting “Music in the Park” outdoor community songwriting sessions in partnership with Detroit’s NW Goldberg Cares. The free Aug. 19, Sept. 2 and Sept. 16 events encourage participants to co-write a song inspired by replica artwork from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“It’s open to people of all ages, and it’s been a mixed, diverse group of folks from elders to youth and from neighbors to guests. We are very open to bringing people in from other places to join us because we really want them to see what’s happening in NW Goldberg and the great work that NW Goldberg Cares is doing as well as what I’m doing with the Detroit House of Music,” Kubat said.
In 2019, Kubat envisioned the Detroit House of Music as a community-based creative space for providing music lessons, housing traveling artists and musicians, and hosting intimate shows. Before the pandemic, she assembled a team of volunteers to transform an abandoned NW Goldberg home into the Detroit House of Music.
“The house is still being worked on, and it’s not ready for official classes like that. We did an outside performance in the garden, and during the pandemic, I built a community garden in my lot in the back,” she said.
“I used the community garden to get to know my neighbors as I was working on the house. I would go around and share my greens and my tomatoes, and it ended up being such a beautiful way to break bread as a new person in a neighborhood.”
In addition to forming new neighborhood friendships, Kubat is hoping to form a new partnership with the Motown Museum and creating a program that helps artists learn how to become teaching artists.
“Detroit House of Music is becoming more of a brand than necessarily a space that’s doing exactly this or that. It can be present in a lot of different spaces and arenas so that I don’t always have to be doing it in my living room,” Kubat said.
In the meantime, Kubat is composing the musical score for an upcoming film of Land’s about Jeffrey Montgomery, a Detroit LGBT activist whose partner was shot to death outside a local gay bar in 1985.
“This is a whole new exciting part of my evolution, and we’re going to premiere it either later this year or just after the year changes. We’re going to put a lot of energy into that,” she said.