Heal Over – Cameron Blake Explores Forgiveness and Finds Renewal on ‘Mercy for the Gentle Kind’ EP

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Cameron Blake embarks on healing journey of self-discovery on “Mercy for the Gentle Kind.” Photo – Eric Bouwens

For Cameron Blake, time and tenderness heal deeply buried wounds on Mercy for the Gentle Kind.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan chamber-pop vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist embarks on a cathartic journey to explore forgiveness and find renewal on his latest EP.

“That’s when the process began, and I thought, ‘OK, what are these three songs, ‘Blue Note,’ ‘Mercy for the Gentle Kind’ and ‘Cricket’s Waltz,’ about?’ I had to go back and piece it all together, but I was doing that simultaneously while preparing for my Return to the Violin recital,” said Blake, who’s also a classically trained violinist.

“Then I realized it was a very subconscious thing that I was making this record about the healing process and how the only way to heal something is not to harden up, but to show tenderness.”

Blake thoughtfully examines that concept throughout Mercy for the Gentle Kind’s six poignant tracks, which feature poetic lyrics and cinematic instrumentation mixed with indie-folk, chamber-pop and classical music sensibilities.

“And then I found the John Berger audio, which was in an interview with him talking about how we can judge systems and we can judge actions, but we can’t judge the human soul,” he said.

“I said to myself, ‘Wow, what a profoundly beautiful and incredibly difficult idea,’ but it sort of struck me because that’s exactly what I did with that past teacher of mine and that’s what healed me. It simply brought together the whole project.”

To learn more about Blake’s journey, I chatted with him about his background, a past traumatic experience that impacted his ability to play the violin, his “debut” album and latest EP, the Music in the Heights concert series and his upcoming plans.

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Upward and Onward – Patrick Sheufelt Records with Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets and Versus Versus, Runs I/O Detroit Studio

Regardless of whatever life throws at them, Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets quickly rise to the occasion.

The punk-rock solo project of Ferndale vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Patrick Sheufelt captures this fearless sentiment on their confident new single, “Rise,” out March 17.

“A lot of my family and friends have been falling on tough times in the post-pandemic era—lots of heartbreak, financial hardship and just general gloom going around. And I thought I’d write a song to try and fight back some of that darkness a little bit,” he said.

“It’s similar to what I said about ‘Firelight’ on the first record [2020’s Not Dead Yet], where I saw stuff happening (at that point it was the protests and the madmen running the country), and it prompted an emotional response and subsequently a pretty cool song from me.”

Throughout “Rise,” turbocharged electric guitar, bass and drums urge people to seize the day as Sheufelt’s raspy vocals proclaim:

“You danced with me under the snow and said / ‘They’ve got me on the ropes, this time I don’t think I can find my way out,’ / But here you are on your feet again, fighting to the bitter end, leaving these demons so far behind.”

“When I was writing it, one of my traveling friends, Xavier O’Luain, was staying here at the studio. He was a bit of a sounding board for some of the melodies and whatnot. As far as the recording, no one else was on this one; I just wrote all the parts as I picked up the instruments,” said Sheufelt, who started Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets in 2020.

“Of course, it started on vocals/acoustic [guitar], then drums, bass and guitars. I always do lead guitar last as sort of the cherry on top of the song. And on this note, I’m looking for band members for this project. If anyone wants to learn some relatively easy parts and go on tour, hit me up!”

Continue reading “Upward and Onward – Patrick Sheufelt Records with Pandemic Pat & The Murder Hornets and Versus Versus, Runs I/O Detroit Studio”

To the Brim – Eric Ripper Manages Changing Priorities on New ‘Fill My Glass’ Single

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Eric Ripper performs with Jonny Neville at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor last fall. Photo – Lance McQuesten of McQuesten Media

Eric Ripper doesn’t see life as a glass that’s half-empty or half-full.

Instead, the Ferndale pop-rock singer-songwriter sees it as brimming with changing priorities on his candid new single, “Fill My Glass,” out March 17.

“I wrote ‘Fill My Glass’ about five or six years ago, so it’s an older song,” Ripper said. “I didn’t remake this one for my Story Notes album, but I’ve been thinking for a while that this one could be played a lot faster. This song is also on my Empty Place EP.”

In its revamped version, “Fill My Glass” transitions from a mellow acoustic-pop ballad to an infectious pop-punk jam.

Determined acoustic guitar, fiery electric guitar, hefty bass, thumping drums and crashing cymbals prompt sharing struggles of self-doubt and seeking validation from a confidant.

Ripper sings, “I think I’ve had enough / I just wanna give up / Will you tell me that I’m wrong / So I can think differently about myself.”

“I wrote this song about a girl I was seeing at the time,” he said. “I interpret the lyrics as the character speaking to a bartender, addressing his problems and wanting the reassurance that he’s not wrong about what he’s thinking and feeling. He wants to think differently about himself in general.”

After confiding in the bartender, the character shifts to confronting his partner and their lack of commitment toward the end of “Fill My Glass.”

Ripper sings, “So what you say / You gonna give me an input / We’ve been here for an hour / And I’m feeling quite sour / Said ‘I’ve had enough of the bullshit’/ ‘Are you ready for commitment?’”

“He’s tired, and he’s had enough of all of this. He doesn’t want to believe that they have given up though. He needs the reassurance that he’s wrong so he can think differently about the two of them,” Ripper said.

“‘Fill My Glass’ is saying how he needs validation from others on how to feel. He’s sticking up for himself to an extent, but he still needs the reassurance from others when he should truly be doing that on his own.”

To refresh the track’s sound, Ripper collaborated with Livonia producer and Studio 222 Recording owner Brandon McLeod and Highland guitarist Jonny Neville.

“We found the right tones we needed and mapped out the song to slowly build up and have the second chorus be really heavy-hitting. He had the idea of the sounds backing away and coming back at the intro of the second chorus, a bit influenced by Travis Barker’s production style,” he said.

“We knew we needed a killer solo to end the song, and I asked Jonny if he could come in and lay something down, and he nailed it. The rest of the song is my guitar playing.”

Continue reading “To the Brim – Eric Ripper Manages Changing Priorities on New ‘Fill My Glass’ Single”

Back Home – Marty E. Relocates to Upper Peninsula and Releases ‘Benevolent Criminal’ Debut EP

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Marty E. stands near the waters of Lake Superior. Photo – Virginia @lostinthewoodsmichigan 

Marty E. relishes returning to his old childhood stomping grounds in the Upper Midwest.

The Bessemer, Michigan garage-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist-drummer recently relocated to the western Upper Peninsula near Ironwood after living in New York City for more than 20 years.

“Everybody asks me, ‘Why did you move from New York City to goddamn Ironwood?’ The reason is I grew up in northern Minnesota, and my parents and grandparents all grew up in this area, like Ironwood, Michigan and the Hurley, Wisconsin area,” said Marty E., who’s also known as Marty Erspamer and hails from Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

“My great-grandfather had emigrated from Tyrol in Austria, and he went to Cleveland, but had heard the mining business was booming up here. Along with his brother and his cousin, he jumped a train, hitchhiked and somehow got here. The three of them started building houses up here, so I have deep roots here.”

Those deep, familial roots inspired some of the raw, honest tracks on Marty E.’s debut solo EP, Benevolent Criminal, which is now available on vinyl. The six-track EP features a seamless blend of gritty, lo-fi alt-rock, punk-rock and garage-rock instrumentation fused with introspective lyrics about change, loss and renewal.

“When I was singing, Jaime [Hansen] and Keith [Killoren] both really helped pull workable performances out of me and [taught me] how to think about it and how not to freak yourself out and have a whiskey or have a beer,” said Marty E., who’s inspired by The Replacements, the New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground.

“You want it to come out how you hear it in your head. Hindsight is always 20/20 when you’re recording, and you’re like, ‘I could have done this better, and I could have done that better.’ What it is … is a snapshot of the time, and I’m just really happy that I was able to come up with a recording that what you hear reflects what was here.”

Continue reading “Back Home – Marty E. Relocates to Upper Peninsula and Releases ‘Benevolent Criminal’ Debut EP”