Whether it’s summertime visits, thumb-less mittens or minivan jams, Chain of Lakes instantly finds himself at home.
The Alto, Michigan indie-folk singer-songwriter openly recounts personal tales of heartwarming comfort and raw vulnerability on his introspective new album, Catch.
“As an overarching theme of my writing, I’m always going to write autobiographically from where I am a lot,” said Kyle Rasche, aka Chain of Lakes. “That’s not a big stretch, especially since everyone’s only been home for the last two years. I’m sure there’s been an exclamation point behind some of those themes.”
Throughout Catch, Rasche shares a 37-minute, visceral response to life lessons across 11 tender Chain of Lakes tracks. As a son, husband and father, he dedicates an emotive craft to past and present family members who embody honesty and courage.
“You’re taking home with you, and it’s what you hope your kids do. You want nothing more than for them to have the confidence to leave and explore and see it and do everything,” said Rasche, who has three daughters.
“Then, you hope they’ll never do it because you’ll miss them so much. You want to raise them up to be confident, strong women who aren’t afraid of anything.”
Gold-Toe Socks and Anz Bananz
Rasche beautifully depicts that steadfast courage on the nostalgic, acoustic title track. Threaded with sorrowful acoustic guitar and melancholic strings, the track honors a rite of passage that comes with sharing a beloved children’s game.
He sings, “I grew out of that glove/But kept it safe and sound/Now my own kid’s growing up/So I found it and pulled it out/Turns out she’s a lefty/I hear grandpa laughing now/As we break in her brand new mitt/Same way grandpa did.”
“I have very vivid memories of my grandpa in gold-toe dress socks hiked up past his knees just playing catch with me. That story’s a mix of who my grandpa was and the grandpa that I want to be, and right now, it’s more acutely the father I want to be,” said Rasche, who was named a finalist in the 2021 Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition for the title track.
“(My oldest daughter Eve) is my little lefty, and she thinks that song is her song. She always asks, ‘Are you going to play the lefty song?’ And I said, ‘Honey, I think I’m going to have to play the lefty song every time I get up to a microphone for a long time now.’”
After playing “Catch,” Rasche pays tribute to his longtime Great Lakes sanctuary on “Home State.” Grateful piano, calm drums, traveling bass, proud lap steel and jovial electric guitar celebrate Chain of Lakes’ cherished family members and “mitten-shaped” home base.
He sings, “Ah peninsula, la lovely/Seasons cycle through/I know it in my bones/My one and only home/Goes hand-in-hand with one and only you.”
“I think raising my family here is a big part of it, and I was raised here. What I love and remember about the outdoors and this state in general, I get to impart from a parental perspective now,” Rasche said.
“It started as a love song to the state, and the only thing I knew is that I wanted to write a love song to my own state without naming it. That’s our song, that’s not everyone’s song. Then, that ‘one and only you’ line came out, and my wife, my daughters, my parents and my sister all popped into my head.”
Rasche continues his inward Catch shift on the poignant sobriety ballad, “Clover,” as somber acoustic guitar, pensive electric guitar, despondent bass, earnest drums, shiny cymbals, contemplative piano and delicate pedal steel embrace him.
He sings, “But you’re three days sober/Hey, quick before it’s over/Throw some four-leaf clover in your pocket/Oh, I think you’re one of those reasons/Why the wagon goes so slow/Still hanging on don’t seem so easy yet.”
“There are a lot of people who are very close to me that are gonna find out that I’m 118 days sober when they hear that song or read this article. That was a big one to put out there, but I love this art form because of that,” said Rasche, who started writing the track three days into his sobriety stretch.
“There’s pertinent information that I haven’t told the people that I really love, but I’m willing to sing it, compose a piece of music about it and publish it to the world before I’m willing to have a sit-down conversation about it. That’s craziest paradox I can think of, and it sums up what I love about songwriting.”
Rasche also expresses unconditional love for his daughter, Annie, on “Honest,” an endearing Chain of Lakes ode to authenticity and heredity. Benevolent acoustic guitar, rich bass, heartfelt electric guitar, bouncy drums, hypnotic percussion and sentimental organ echo everlasting parental pride.
He sings, “Girl, we get that minivan jammin’/I think we both trail off in the very same way/And I’m loving how you wail on the wall during your bedtime songs/Lost and gone to some stage.”
“I hope Annie loves that song, and I called that song ‘Anz Bananz,’ but got talked out of that. I want her to be able to claim that song if she wants to,” Rasche said. “As she gets older, I hope that she continues to get that message about me understanding exactly what she’s going through.”
For Rasche, Chain of Lakes’ Catch started as a series of songwriting prompts that inadvertently became an album. At the start of the pandemic, Rasche and 11 other songwriters met weekly online for “Song Haul” to share and perform new tracks derived from one-word prompts.
“It’s evolved a little bit, and people come and go. It was weekly, and then it became biweekly,” he said. “As the world kind of came back and our jobs and tours kicked up, we’ve been meeting monthly for a little over a year.”
Those songwriting sessions fueled Rasche to write dozens of songs and share 30 to 40 with producer Josh Kaufman at Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Recording. From that batch, Kaufman selected 15 to record live with Rasche and then narrowed Catch down to 11 tracks.
“This is the first time I’ve worked with a proper producer. Josh has this beautiful studio that he just built, and he wants to be a producer. And I don’t want to be a producer; I want to make as many songs as I possibly can. It’s done when I’m finished with it,” Rasche said.
“It was interesting for me to go through and listen when these masters and mixes came back … I got to listen to it as a cohesive piece.”
As a cohesive Chain of Lakes piece, Catch features an array of Michigan collaborators, including Theo Ndawillie II (drums, piano), The Accidentals’ Sav Buist (violin, viola) and Katie Larson (cello), David Vandervelde (electric guitar, bass, lap steel), David Beeman (drums) and Kaufman (piano, Mellotron, percussion, organ).
“Josh had his musicians in there that he put on it, and I was incredibly blessed to have them all participate. The Accidentals did strings for me, and I met Sav (Buist) through Kerrville,” Rasche said. “It was a pretty good stretch of songs. I didn’t submit a record to Josh; I submitted an era of songs.”
“I was blown away that I’m a finalist again this year, and that they’re actually doing the festival,” said Rasche, who was named a 2022 finalist for his song, “Good Dude.”
After playing at Kerrville, he will perform at several Michigan festivals: July 8-10 at the Blissfest Folk & Roots Festival in Harbor Springs, Aug. 12 at the Harrisville Summer Concert Series in Harrisville, and Sept. 9-11 at the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus.
Alongside his festival appearances, Rasche is writing a children’s album and prepping for another round of recording. There’s also a musical in the works.
“I’ve got a new band, and I’m gonna do another 10-song record … I have studio time in June. We’re gonna do that live with Josh Rose’s band, The Founding Fathers,” he said. “I’ve been playing with him for the last seven years. We’re gonna try to do a little bit more of a rocky thing, and I’m calling that ‘The songs that didn’t make the record.’ That should be out by fall.’”