Spring Forward – Earthwork Music Celebrates the Season with Michigan Tour and Sampler Album

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A Michigan music collective is ready to spring forward with a new tour and music sampler.

Earthwork Music, a collective of artists and musicians that fuses music with cultural and environmental awareness, is kicking off its first collaborative tour in five years this week with a run of Michigan shows.

Tour stops include April 19 at Kalamazoo’s Dormouse TheatreApril 20 at Lake Orion’s 20 Front StreetApril 21 at Grand Rapids’ MidtownApril 22 at Traverse City’s The Alluvion and April 23 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts in Ludington.

“The spring tour features 18 musicians and will be a cabaret-style show featuring each person leading one song with a varying backing band supporting. It will be beautiful, chaotic and absolutely magical,” said Nicholas James Thomasma, a Grand Rapids folk singer-songwriter and an Earthwork Music collective artist.

“Sometimes it will just be one or two people on stage; sometimes it’s a full band. Sometimes there are strings, sometimes drums, sometimes acoustic guitars and sometimes all 18 of us will be on stage together. Part of the excitement about this tour is that even the artists aren’t sure how it’s all going to work yet!”

Thomasma will share that anticipation alongside 17 other Earthwork Music artists, including: Dede Alder, Earthwork Music founder Seth BernardRalston BowlesSari BrownThe Antivillains’ Sarah CohenSamantha CooperChris GoodJordan HamiltonAmber HasanJosh HolcombAudra KubatElisabeth Pixley-FinkThe Crane Wives’ Dan RickabusThe Appleseed Collective’s Vince RussoThe Go Rounds’ Mike SavinaJo Serrapere of Stella! and Ben Traverse.

“The thing I enjoy most is the thoughtful and creative people that make up our collective,” Thomasma said. “It’s a treat to play music with these folks, but even more so it’s a treat to simply know them as friends and spend time with them off stage.”

Off stage, Earthwork Music showcases the talent of its star-studded lineup on the newSpring Sampler 2023 album, which features 21 tracks that range from acoustic folk to hip-hop to experimental rock.

To select the album’s multi-genre tracks, the collective put out a call for artist submissions and partnered with Traverse to organize and compile it. Fellow Earthwork musician Gregory Stovetop created the album’s vibrant spring-themed artwork.

“Earthwork Music has been putting out artist samplers for many years. We wanted a new sampler to help promote the spring tour, and it seemed like a great time to revive this tradition,” Thomasma said.

“We’ve put out a number of samplers over the years, and some, like this one, are showcases of the artists. [Others] are more specialized like the 5 Alive cassette that featured previously unreleased live recordings, or the more recent Earthwork Voice Memos, Vol. 1 compilation that features … voice memos instead of fully produced recordings.”

One of the many standout Spring Sampler 2023 tracks includes Thomasma’s tender ballad “The One That Got Away” from 2020’s Rolling Home. Contemplative acoustic guitar, eager strings, bouncy bass and driving drums recall the possibilities of a past love.

Thomasma sings, “Where she ended up, I don’t know / I stopped following when I saw that photo / A diamond ring on a mountaintop / It nearly made my heart stop / She’s better off, so I had to let her go.”

“I specifically chose [that song] because it features several members of the Earthwork family. We recorded the string section with Ian Gorman at La Luna in Kalamazoo, and it features Josh Holcomb on viola, Sam Cooper on violin and Jordan Hamilton on cello,” he said.

“Mike Shimmin played the drums, and Greg Baxter played bass and produced the track at Second Story Sound in Grand Rapids. It’s one of my favorite recordings to date.”

After this week’s tour, Earthwork Music artists will focus on their own projects this summer, including Thomasma with his band Nicholas James and the Bandwagon. By fall, the collective will reunite for the Earthwork Harvest Gathering music festival Sept. 15-17 in Lake City.

“If nothing else, I hope people recognize the incredibly diverse group of artists that make up Earthwork Music,” Thomasma said.

“I think Earthwork has a reputation for being folky and acoustic, but we are so much more than that. Our mission is to encourage community healing through collective musicianship.”

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