Chain of Lakes doesn’t hesitate to show his authentic self.
The Alto, Michigan indie-folk singer-songwriter candidly shares honest stories about self-acceptance, familial love and the passage of time on his latest album, Songs That Didn’t Make the Record.
“I’ve consciously been trying to not worry about how a song is gonna come off. The second I stopped trying to be cool, audiences started responding,” said Kyle Rasche, aka Chain of Lakes.
“When I play my ‘Worm’ song from the [upcoming] kids’ record because that’s the last one I finished, people wanna see who you are—good, bad, ugly. You’re just more interesting that way when you’re yourself.”
The album’s 10 tender tracks showcase Rasche’s increasing growth and strength over different points in time. Whether it’s his last day on earth or his ideal day at the beach, his wise lyrics, sentimental stories, and earnest instrumentation reflect his evolutionary mindset.
“I do write a lot, so these were all from that same season of writing. I think it makes sense there’s a theme throughout because I have been writing a lot about my family. I have been writing a lot about discontent on not being able to fully dive into art,” Rasche said.
“I use a lot of imagery … sunsets on a chapter, day or period. I didn’t consciously make these songs to be a batch that comes out like this by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it makes sense if they sound like that because they were all made in the same time period of a writer that was writing a lot.”
A prolific songwriter, Rasche’s Songs That Didn’t Make the Record serves as his second full-length Chain of Lakes release in over six months. In May, he dropped Catch, an introspective album that recounts personal tales of heartwarming comfort and raw vulnerability.
“Thematically, Catch was more cohesive as it was than if we had just thrown a random ‘Sunset’ song on there or a very sweet love song that wouldn’t really fit,” Rasche said. “Catch is about coming of age and nostalgia and finding reconciliation with parts of yourself.”
Amidst that reconciliation, Rasche compiled a timeless gem of an album with producer Josh Kaufman for Songs That Didn’t Make the Record. However, don’t let the album’s title fool you—there’s nothing ephemeral about any of its tracks.
“I put this record out because I love these songs too much to not have them on a record. I’m very, very proud of them, and now I have a little bit of regret on that name. If it sounds like these are reject songs … that last record was made to be that record, and this means those weren’t for it. I think this one is a little lighter,” he said.
“Calling this Songs That Didn’t Make the Record took so much pressure off of having it be a cohesive album because everybody just gives me liberties of it being the next songs.”
Songs That Didn’t Make the Record
While lighthearted at times, Songs That Didn’t Make the Record also features thoughtful undertones about pivotal life moments.
The speculative opener “Nostradamus” explores Rasche’s ideal last day on earth alongside carefree pedal steel, electric guitar, bass and drums.
He sings, “Old Nostradamus says the end is up on us / Me, I’m not quite sold to be honest / But it might / Might be kinda nice / To spend a day living, not just trying to survive.”
“That was a song written for John Lamb’s songwriting retreat in 2021, and my prompt was, ‘You just got a letter from Nostradamus that Monday is the end of the world. What are you doing, and what’s the song?’” Rasche said.
“I immediately thought, ‘Well, I’m going home. I’m gonna find my wife, and I’m gonna give her the bad news. Hopefully, we have a great day, and hopefully, we get naked.’ Those are my priorities. I want to go out with a smile, and I want her to go out with a smile.”
In addition to preparing for the world’s end, Rasche revisits the past with gratitude on “Half a Dozen Strings.” Appreciative acoustic guitar, pedal steel, electric guitar, bass and drums reflect on a lifetime of love and loss.
He sings, “I’m finally seeing it / My daughters know somehow / Family rite of passage / They’re singing with me now / And my little one, she’ll kill me / If I ever put it down / The only thing that helps her fall asleep / Is just a prayer with her old man / Played on half a dozen strings.”
“My friend Jake Mellema is a phenomenal player and singer in a band called Union Guns, but he does not usually write songs. I was like, ‘Well, can I write you a few songs?’” said Rasche, who co-wrote the track’s lyrics with Mellema.
“He came over, and I was like, ‘Well, what do you want to say?’ He was like, ‘I have this one idea; it’s called ‘Half a Dozen Strings.’ And I was like, ‘You mean a guitar?’ and he was like, ‘Yep.’ He told me his story, and the correlation of his story to mine is uncanny down to the daughters.”
Next, Rasche traces his mother’s family legacy in the priceless ballad “Ithalia’s Pearls.” Nostalgic acoustic guitar accompanies Rasche as he commemorates his late maternal great-grandmother Ithalia and her cherished heirloom.
He sings, “Few years before my nana died / She pulled my mother aside / And said, ‘While I’m alive these eyes have gotta see these on you, girl’ / Then the calendar turned the century / And Ithalia died with family / And everything she wanted in the world / Her rosary / And her wedding ring / And a family strand of bright white pearls.”
“She lived to be 92, so I knew her very well. Everything about her in the song is 100 percent true. My grandpa’s brother served in World War II and bought her those pearls while he was in the Pacific,” said Rasche, whose mother commissioned him to write the track.
“My mom got the pearls sized and took the extra ones … she gives them as earrings to all of her granddaughters at their first communions. She tells the girls that story when they get their earrings.”
Finally, Rasche pays tribute to another late family member, his Labradoodle Dude, on “Good Dude.” Reflective acoustic guitar helps Rasche recall fond memories of raising and loving the dog for over 11 years.
He sings, “Then you got old before my eyes / I felt your heart grow tired of trying / You laid your head upon my leg / And that’s how we said our last goodbye / I swear I stayed right by your side / We’ll see you on down the line / And I can’t say this enough / Bud, the privilege was mine.”
“We knew we wanted kids, so we decided to get a hypoallergenic dog. There was a litter of these Labradoodles … and the week we moved into our first house, we stopped and picked him up,” said Rasche, who was a winner in the Kerrville Folk Festival’s 2022 New Folk Songwriting Competition for “Good Dude.”
“He came home with us, and he had a funky stomach with diarrhea all over the carpet and our new hardwood floors. It was an adventure the whole time. He was super smart in all the bad ways, but he was the nicest dog.”
Songs and Beyond
To bring his latest Chain of Lakes album to life, Rasche recorded its 10 tracks with Michael Robertson (guitar), Mark Hugger (bass), Drew VanderVeen (pedal steel), Pete Muszkiewicz and Kaufman (piano, background vocals) at Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Recording. They quickly captured the tracks live during a four-hour recording session in July.
“They came in and kinda killed it. I don’t write super complex music, but the prep is there,” Rasche said. “I found some guys that really liked the songs, which is always a huge treat for a songwriter. It’s an honor to play with great songwriters who appreciate what I bring to the table.”
Rasche also appreciates Kaufman handling the broader vision and creative approach for Songs That Didn’t Make the Record as returning producer.
“Josh [Kaufman] also produced Catch. He took those songs and distilled them down. When we were first talking, he cut my four favorite songs from Catch, and I was like, ‘Whoa!’” Rasche said.
“He’s like, ‘Dude, I’m not telling you that you can’t put them out. This is the strongest record for this.’ On one hand, it made a lot of sense to me, and I was very grateful that he was thinking about the whole scope like that because I don’t. I just think about the next change in the song that I’m playing.”
With two albums out this year, Rasche has a wealth of material to perform live this winter in Grand Rapids, including Jan. 14 with Jan Krist and Rabbit Fur at The Stray and Feb. 3 with Sarena Rae at Music in the Heights.
“I played right after Sarena Rae at Blissfest, and she was unbelievable,” he said. “Cameron Blake puts on Music in the Heights, and he’s a treasure of a human being.”
Outside of live shows, Rasche is releasing a series of children’s music singles and working on a musical, tentatively called Keepers, with Annie Bacon.
“We’re 27 songs in [with the musical], and we’ve been working really hard,” he said. “I haven’t experienced project momentum like that since before I had children, a job and all those other things going on. It’s been really cool to let the art lead as opposed to having to kinda force it.”
2 thoughts on “Authentic Self – Chain of Lakes Experiences Personal Growth on ‘Songs That Didn’t Make the Record’ Album”
Great article, Lori, and a great album, Kyle!