The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will livestream a show Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios as part of Arts, Beats & Eats’ “The Beats Go On” virtual and drive-in live music series. Photo courtesy of Valerie Barrymore

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will bring sparkling, soulful grooves and delectable, dancy R&B to an Arts, Beats & Eats livestream performance Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.

Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”

“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.

Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.

Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”

“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.

Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”

“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.

Continue reading “The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday”

Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks

As a longtime musician, Marcio Hendrik composes film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio in Rio. Photo courtesy of Marcio Hendrik

Marcio Hendrik relishes solving complex sonic puzzles.

The Rio de Janeiro guitarist-bassist-producer strategically connects discrete audio pieces to create captivating film scores and soundtracks through Artigo Audio.

Together, those emerging instrumentals unfold a hidden classic-meets-alt-rock world filled with enticing people, places and experiences. With limitless possibilities and choose-your-own-adventure storylines, listeners travel to an undiscovered, intergalactic dimension, a drug-infested Edinburgh and a nocturnal-inspired Hollywood.

“I like to dismantle all the pieces that I put together, like a puzzle, and then dismantle them again to make the music neat and clear,” Hendrik said.

For his latest score, the forceful, driving “Russian Dance” jumps to hyperspace as charging, vibrant electric guitars, booming drums, throbbing bass and crashing cymbals provide a Black Sabbath-esque space jam.

Next, listeners instantly shift to Scotland as “Skag Boys” propels into an alt-punk rock frenzy with swift, crunchy electric guitars, pounding drums, banging cymbals and driving bass in an Irvine Welsh-like heroine culture.

After sonically leaving the U.K., a third Hendrik stop includes a late-night stroll down Sunset Boulevard on “Hollywood Moon” as bluesy, fuzzy electric guitars, shimmering cymbals, delicate drums and thoughtful bass echo along the concrete jungle.

“I have an inclination for making soundtracks, especially because Hollywood has this feel of a classic place. If you see the buildings, it looks like you’re in the ‘50s, and the people you see on the street are totally different. It’s like you’re in a time warp,” said Hendrik, who studied audio engineering abroad at Los Angeles’ Musicians Institute in 2016.

“I put myself in the shoes of somebody who’s delusional walking around Hollywood searching for something that may fulfill their delusion. Sometimes I would go to Jameson’s Irish Pub, and if I got loaded, I would leave the whiskey bar and start walking around Hollywood to talk to everybody.”

Hollywood Moon” also features Hendrik’s mesmerizing instrumental collaboration with Ania, a Los Angeles heavy metal singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso, who beautifully shreds throughout the haunting psych rock track.

“I found her online during social isolation. I was building my website for my production company, and I started reaching out to people saying, ‘Hey, do you want to produce or record something?’” he said.

“I was on Facebook, and I added Ania because I saw she attended the same school I that did in Hollywood. After we had a conversation, I realized she was just like me, a musician who wanted to record. It was amazing because she brought me results within a week.”

Continue reading “Pieces of the Puzzle – Marcio Hendrik Makes Sonic Connections for Film Scores, Soundtracks”

Internal Monologue – JanaeSound Battles Self-Doubt on ‘Feared’

JanaeSound personifies and conquers her worries on “Feared.” Photo – Michael Henson

JanaeSound triumphantly overcomes internal self-doubt and anxiety.

The Portland, Maine pop-rock singer-songwriter holds intense conversations with her inner saboteur in “Feared,” an upbeat, take-charge anthem about personifying and conquering your fears.

“I wrote this tune because I really struggled with fear at the beginning of my career. I would experience extreme paralyzing anxiety whenever I did something new and just before each breakdown. I was fighting panic attacks before some of my biggest gigs and opportunities, which is not sustainable or healthy,” said Janay Woodruff, aka JanaeSound.

“I began to acknowledge my fears, thanking them for trying to keep me safe, and then I try to release them. This is something I continue to practice. With COVID-19, everything I worked so hard for seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. It was fear I couldn’t talk myself out of, and it just seemed like the right time to release the track.”

Throughout her latest single, “Feared,” JanaeSound crushes lingering worries as she soulfully sings, “I know you wanna keep me safe/I know you want me in my place/Even if this dream’s just a wild chase/I’m runnin’ out of time/I gotta face my fears.” A strong sonic army filled with bouncy bass, zippy synths and pounding drums help JanaeSound emerge victoriously from her emotional battle.

“In the track, I have a conversation with my fear. She’s doing the whole ‘let’s panic about a million things that could go wrong’ thing. I really do have that voice, ha-ha! She tries to talk me out of some of my best ideas. If I listened to her, life would be so boring,” said Woodruff, who released the track in June.

“I like to think of her as someone who means really well and wants the best for me. I let her know that growth (which I want) and being comfortable and safe (what she wants) aren’t compatible, and that I’m running out of time to reach my goals.”

JanaeSound will squash any remaining struggles in an upcoming video for “Feared,” which will drop this fall. The video will remind listeners about banding together to fight recurring fears, worries and anxieties.

“I want anyone who listens to know that you are not alone if you are experiencing anxiety or fear, especially given current events. Take care of yourselves first. Then smash those goals one step at a time. Even the tiniest step forward is progress. If all we did today was exist and feel kind of OK, that’s progress, too! I believe in you!” Woodruff said.

Continue reading “Internal Monologue – JanaeSound Battles Self-Doubt on ‘Feared’”

Hip-Hop Hope – Formula 734 Brings Sense of Community to Washtenaw County Men of Color

Formula 734 brings intergenerational men of color together to create hip-hop anthems about overcoming struggles and sharing successes. Artwork – CW Creatyv for Be Creative Studios

As a fresh community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734 poetically encapsulates shared stories of struggles and successes for men of color in Washtenaw County.

“I feel as though we’ve created a historical document for this particular time in history for Washtenaw County that people can refer to, or they can gain some primary source analysis of what it was like to be in Washtenaw County during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest related to the death of George Floyd,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the project with Jamall Bufford.

In partnership with Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK), the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Wallace and Bufford assembled an intergenerational group of disparate male creatives to write, record and release a compelling 12-track album with emerging hip-hop artists, producers and engineers.

“Jamall and I started to talk about our desire to engage young people with hip-hop in a positive way that taught a number of different skills. We started planning for the project, and our first meeting was in November,” Wallace said.

From November to February, Wallace and Bufford hosted Formula 734 meetings and recording sessions every two weeks with male creatives and hip-hop collaborators to build trust, teamwork and camaraderie at Grove Studios, The Workshop and The Neutral Zone’s Orpheum Studio.

Each gathering included a meal and a huddle to enrich, energize and inspire participants before they wrote and recorded music with Louis Picasso, Tru Klassick, Sam Watson, Beretta Shells, Konphlict, King Ogundipe and Approachable Minorities’ Drew Denton and TJ Greggs.

“One of the intentions of WMBK is to engage in discussions with men across generations as opposed to only focusing on young men. There are men across the spectrum of color who need support and who need positive experiences, so we try to bridge that gap, and through this project, we were able to do so,” Wallace said.

Concocting Formula 734

With Wallace and Bufford at the hip-hop helm, Formula 734 weaves introspective rhymes, thoughtful monologues, crisp beats, old-school jams and deep grooves while authentically amplifying the voices of local men of color. All 12 tracks challenge false narratives about men of color and raise awareness about the underlying causes of systemic racism.

“We want change to happen in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. One album probably won’t accomplish that, but we want this to be a stepping stone in the right direction to some of the systemic changes that we want to see for black men and young men of color in our community and around the country. We want this to hopefully be a catalyst for the conversation that needs to take place about what’s happening in our communities,” said Bufford, who’s a WMBK project specialist and Formula 734 co-executive producer.

Continue reading “Hip-Hop Hope – Formula 734 Brings Sense of Community to Washtenaw County Men of Color”

Saturday Stroll – Nina & The Buffalo Riders Headline Aug. 8 Grove Sessions Live in Ypsilanti

Nina & The Buffalo Riders will bring their groovy psych-blues rock to Grove Sessions Live Saturday in Ypsilanti. Photo – Carmel Liburdi

Nina & The Buffalo Riders will stroll through Ypsilanti Saturday night.

The Detroit psych-blues rock septet of Nina Ledesma (vocals, acoustic guitar), Daniel Decker (guitar), Oscar Sosa (guitar), Mike Fritz (keys), Ramiro Romero (bass), Chris Kaszuba (drums) and Baba Bohmbaedio (percussion, djembe) will headline Grove Sessions Live, an outdoor studio production session hosted by Grove Studios, before a masked and socially-distanced small audience.

They’ll share the intimate Grove Studios courtyard stage with three Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti acts, including progressive jam quartet Stormy Chromer, funk-soul-rock sextet Sabbatical Bob and jazz composer-guitarist Adam Kahana.

“It’s always great to connect and share stages with bands we have never met before. The more we can get together, the more we can learn from one another instead of competing. We have played with Stormy Chromer before, but none of the others. Stormy is always very entertaining – their music is incredible as well as their off-stage presence,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma and her Buffalo Riders bandmates are among a growing roster of local artists, including Dani Darling, Doogatron and Louis Picasso & The Gallery, performing at monthly Grove Sessions Live production events, which offer 50 people ticketed VIP access to four hours of live music. Those live performances are recorded and later combined with Grove Sessions livestream artist interviews every Wednesday and Friday at 4 p.m.

“The Grove Sessions livestream series began online out of necessity in March due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order here in Michigan. We were determined to continue connecting with the music community and our clients by offering them a virtual space to share their creativity, even though our revenue had dropped to zero since we had to close our rehearsal and production space,” said Erich Friebel, Grove Studios co-founder and director of community engagement.

“Bringing performances and other content to livestreaming was something we had envisioned doing long-term, but our new reality pushed us to innovate sooner and quicker than we planned. The monthly production event gives artists an opportunity to be directly involved with our team in spreading their music and stories.”

Continue reading “Saturday Stroll – Nina & The Buffalo Riders Headline Aug. 8 Grove Sessions Live in Ypsilanti”

Big Dig – Nick Juno Unearths Local Singer-Songwriter Lyrics through The Detroit Song Mine

Nick Juno shares lyrics from local singer-songwriters through The Detroit Song Mine. Artwork – Andrea W

Outfitted with a Fender Telecaster and a worn pick-axe, Nick Juno unearths a treasure trove of Detroit musical gems twice a month.

The Motor City folk singer-songwriter carefully excavates and shares priceless song lyrics from local artists through the newly discovered The Detroit Song Mine, which launched today via Facebook.

“For the last several months, we’ve had online access to such wonderful and varied music on all different levels. Oftentimes when hearing people play their songs, I think, ‘That was great live! What did they say?’ And I thought it would be great to see the lyrics to some of these because as a writer I’m always reading the lyrics,” he said.

“It’s all about ‘the song,’ and then I was thinking about how in the ‘60s Greenwich Village had the ‘Broadside,’ which became ‘Sing Out!’ magazine. I thought it would be great to have something like that on a very small, basic level here. I didn’t want to have a contest, review or critique; I just wanted to have the bare bones skeleton lyrics of people’s songs.”

As a new online music community spearheaded by Juno, The Detroit Song Mine publishes original song lyrics from a myriad of talented, multi-genre metro Detroit singer-songwriters, including Tom Alter’sSelma,” Judy Banker’s, “Sweetest Rain,” Darin Francis’ “Lake Superior,” Dirk Kroll’s “West Thalia,” Brion Riborn’sHalf My Friends,” Milan Seth’s “Our Dear Leader” and Bob Youngs “Firestorm.”

“The first batch of writers in issue No. 1 were chosen randomly from the first handful of people who sent in songs. When I first envisioned doing this, I thought with hat in hand maybe a few people might want to do this monthly, but I got a terrific response. Now, I will be doing this twice a month to keep things moving,” Juno said.

Juno also sought inspiration for The Detroit Song Mine from the city’s historic salt deposits, which date back 400 million years and were left behind by the retreat of an ancient inland ocean. In a sense, he captures that timeless tradition and aesthetically transfers it to publishing song lyrics. Each online issue of The Detroit Song Mine invites artists to discuss and share each other’s songs.

“The idea of mining for rock salt or digging your way for songs out of thin air rang familiar, and I hope people would pick up on that. As writers, it’s often useful to play for other people and get feedback about what they think, what they heard or how things worked out,” Juno said.

“None of that’s happening right now with the ongoing shutdown, so I thought it might be good for people to have an outlet to put their songs out there good, bad or otherwise just for others to see them.”

With the next issue launching Aug. 14, Juno will announce and publish another six or seven songs from a different group of singer-songwriters. He’s interested in highlighting creative lyrics from a multitude of genres, including folk, rock and hip-hop.

“I want this to be like putting up show flyers on a kiosk or wall where you slap up your song with wheat paste and walk away. The people sending in songs are varied and different, so whatever we get I’m happy to put up. Ideally, I’d like to see this in printed form available for people to have in their hands, but I just wanted to get it started,” he said.

“Being online is a good thing because I’ve had people way outside of the Detroit area interested. My hope is that when we finally start up again playing live music readers might say at a show, ‘Oh, I know this song! I’ve seen these lyrics.”

To submit song lyrics, contact Juno at thedetroitsongmine@gmail.com.

Tasty Tracks – The Stratton Playlist Whets Musical Appetites with July 2020 Edition

Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, there’s a new bunch of tasty tracks ready to sample.

The July edition of “The Stratton Playlist” will whet your musical appetite with shimmery pop-rock, upbeat country, mesmerizing post-rock, metalized modern rock, steamy blues rock, soulful folk, spunky hip-hop, groovy R&B and more freshly-squeezed tracks.

Featured artists include Melanie Pierce, The Steve Taylor Three, The Spider Accomplice, Asklepius, Seth Bernard, LovelyOcean, Adam Plomaritas, Nina & The Buffalo Riders, Kenyatta Rashon and more. Prepare to love every track at first bite.

Interested in becoming part of “The Stratton Playlist” on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres are welcome.

July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments

Melanie Pierce reflects inward on her latest single, “Illusions.” Artwork – Jenya Po

Melanie Pierce magically travels to the other side of the mirror.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter ventures beyond the looking glass and reflects on misunderstood life moments in “Illusions,” a spellbinding glimpse into vivid realizations and intense ruminations.

“I was in this relationship for a long time and had felt misunderstood on so many levels throughout that period of time. And not just by that person, but also by my family because they were not super on-board with music. I also lost some friends in a short amount of time due to music and that relationship,” Pierce said.

“I was really reflecting on that time, and I remember exactly what I was doing when that song came out of me. The first line that actually came out was, ‘Painted words on paper-thin walls,’ and I was watching this TV show, and I paused it and went to the piano. That song was written in like 40 minutes, and it was written very easily and clearly, like I knew in me what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get out.”

Featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Illusions” blends somber synths, sorrowful piano, shimming electric guitars, soaring electronic drums and throaty bass into a hypnotic, sonic head-trip.

Akin to Vanessa Carlton, Pierce’s soulful vocals implode her romantic mirage as she ponders, “I thought I’d figured it out/Wide-eyed, I mapped it out/But you say I’m too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I try to pull back/Quiet the noise inside my head/But you say it’s too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I’ll never let this go.”

Pierce recorded “Illusions” earlier this year with producer Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. He helped Pierce crystallize the track’s vision and added majestic arrangements to quickly transform it in the studio.

“We would go back and forth like, ‘What do you hear for this part?’ and he had a good direction of where the production was headed. He came up with an awesome, meaty bassline, and I can’t really say enough positive things about him,” said Pierce, who learned about Rye through his collaborations with Michigander.

Continue reading “July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments”

Ship Ahoy – All At Once Navigates Pop-Punk Sea of Possibilities on New ‘Sailors’ Single

All At Once’s Pablo Gonzalez, Adrian Garth and Eduardo Guajardo. Photo – Diego Carrales at Voce Studio

All At Once proudly takes the helm while sailing toward a sea of new possibilities.

Throughout their latest uplifting single, “Sailors,” the Monterrey, Nuevo León pop-punk trio of Adrian Garth (vocals, guitar), Eduardo Guajardo (guitar) and Pablo Gonzalez (drums) energetically chronicles encountering rough waters en route to uncovering a buried musical treasure outside Mexico.

“The chorus says, ‘We are the sailors who don’t leave this ship.’ Well, the ship is the band and our dreams. I know for every band it’s super difficult to make it and have success, but I find it extremely more difficult to be in another country and try to make it in a scene that’s not in your country or in your hometown,” said Garth, who wrote “Sailors” in February and co-produced it with Mauricio Colunga.

“We were talking about that right before we got on the plane to LA for the music video for ‘Break Me.’ We were like, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter if it’s difficult, and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon, but it doesn’t matter because we want what we want, and we’re gonna get it no matter what.”

All At Once’s admirable determination surges throughout “Sailors” as reverby, crunchy electric guitars swirl amid echoey background vocals, exuberant bass, humming synths and pounding electronic drums. About 20 seconds into the track, the trio erupts into a Blink 182-esque, sea-faring fury as driving electric guitars, rhythmic bass and thumping drums bounce listeners from one sonic wave to another.

While moving full-speed ahead, Garth enthusiastically sings akin to Owl City, “The warmest lights are here right now/We’re shining bright up in the sky/Together we can touch the clouds/We’ll sail this boat until the end/We are the captains once again/Roller-coasting our way.”

“The ‘captains’ part is about us handling ourselves and not letting anyone else interfere with us, but I really like the lyric that says ‘Roller-coasting our way.’ I love roller coasters, and this was something that took me a long time to figure out – everything you do no matter what it is has its ups and downs, so that’s what I meant about it. It’s gonna be good, it’s gonna be sad, and I’m gonna be angry sometimes, and I’m gonna be super happy, but I’m going to be crying sometimes,” Garth said.

All At Once beautifully captures their optimistic outlook through a “Sailors” companion lyric video, which features an 18th century-inspired ship coasting along a pink turbulent ocean in a pastel neon dreamscape.

“We decided to include the lyrics on the screen with these really cool movements from side to side that mimic a ship on the water. My bandmates really liked it, and we couldn’t wait to release it,” said Garth, who created the lyric video.

Continue reading “Ship Ahoy – All At Once Navigates Pop-Punk Sea of Possibilities on New ‘Sailors’ Single”

Fall That Jazz – Steve Somers Offers Virtual Music Classes through Washtenaw Community College

Longtime guitarist Steve Somers performs live in Ypsilanti. Photo courtesy of Steve Somers

Steve Somers plans to jazz up fall classes in Washtenaw County.

The longtime Ypsilanti guitarist-composer will offer fall semester jazz, guitar and music courses virtually for aspiring musicians through Washtenaw Community College (WCC). Starting Aug. 31, Somers will teach jazz combo and improvisation I & II (MUS 105-106) along with beginning and intermediate guitar (MUS 133-134) to 20 students per class.

All 16-week classes will include a combination of online class meetings with individual virtual consultation and assistance with various recording projects. Students can now enroll for fall classes through WCC’s website.

“The virtual classes will be offered with Zoom meetings, and we will do recording projects online where people submit their parts or solos, and then I will mix it all down here at the studio at Alley Records,” said Somers, who also leads the Ypsilanti Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble.

Somers also will host a non-credit jazz orchestra class virtually through WCC starting in October. The class will feature a mix of online meetings and performances for all ages.

As an influential musician, creative entrepreneur and community leader, Somers has taught jazz guitar classes at WCC for nearly 20 years and performed in jazz, classical, blues, R&B and rock solo and group projects since relocating to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area in 1979.

Somers relocated to Michigan after touring nationally and internationally with a California-based band in 1970s. They hosted mini-residencies five to six nights a week at clubs and hotels as far east as Minnesota before disbanding a few years later.

After that, Somers started studying classical guitar with Nelson Amos at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in classical guitar music performance in 1984. Two years later, he studied with world-renowned composer and conductor Anthony Iannaccone while earning a master’s degree in music theory and composition from EMU.

“When I was still an undergraduate, he accepted me, and we worked for a couple of years and made some good progress writing music for piano, guitar and other instruments. Then, he accepted me in the master’s program, and I wrote a piece for the chamber orchestra that’s still in the library there,” Somers said.

Continue reading “Fall That Jazz – Steve Somers Offers Virtual Music Classes through Washtenaw Community College”