Fresh Sounds – WSU Students Launch Old Main Records Label to Support Emerging Artists

The WSU student-run label and organization will host a multimedia launch event Jan. 17 in Detroit.

A new homegrown record label will cultivate fresh sounds in the Motor City.

Known as Old Main Records, the Wayne State University (WSU) student-run label and organization will help local, regional and national artists record, release and perform original music.

“The idea of actually doing a record label at Wayne State as a student organization had been around for a while since I was a freshman taking the classes. People would say, ‘Oh, it would be great if it happened,’ but nobody actually really did it,” said Brendan Derey, Old Main Records president and a music business senior.

“Another friend and I actually did start it together. Over the summer, we got a small group of people in the room talking about our ideas, and then it snowballed from there.”

Today, Old Main Records has 20 student members, including three other leads besides Derey – Patrick Norton, creative director; Christopher Simpson, social media and marketing director; and David Jackowicz, recording and distribution director.

Named after and housed in the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues, Old Main Records also partners with two WSU Department of Music lecturers Jeremy Peters and Michael Shellabarger.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the label is create a hub. One of the benefits of being a Wayne State student organization is that there are a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, whether that’s art, film, business, music tech or music business,” Derey said. “There are just a ton of people around who are willing to do this kind of grassroots organization.”

Patrick Norton and his Dirt Room bandmates are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label. Photo by Matt Hamilton

With a team in place, Old Main Records is currently setting up the independent label’s infrastructure, accepting and reviewing artist submissions, applying for grants and creating internal processes. It also will provide students with opportunities in event promotion, marketing, recording and distribution and launch a crowdfunding campaign soon.

“They want to turn this into a class or an outlet for music business majors to use. It helps everybody out because part of the goal of the record label is to give resources out to artists,” said Norton, a music technology senior and director of do-it-yourself (DIY) Detroit music-art space Nice Place. “We’re really looking to help build the local community and give promotional and marketing support to artists.”

To demonstrate that support, Norton’s band Dirt Room, a Detroit experimental indie rock quintet, is serving as a pilot artist for Old Main Records. Along with Norton, Dirt Room bandmates Samuel Sprague, Simon Sprague, Cam Frank and Matt Hagger are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label.

Dirt Room is also featured on a “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground” Spotify playlist, which includes dozens of emerging Motor City artists across a multitude of genres. All artists added to the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to Old Main Records.

As Old Main Records finalizes its first round of artists to sign, it will host a multimedia launch event in partnership with Nice Place and feature live music and visual art Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Church in Detroit. Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood will perform at the label’s event.

“We’re taking twice as much time to do every small step now with the label, so in the future, these will be easy processes, and everybody will know what to do going forward,” Derey said. “We’re hoping for January and February to start recording projects with those groups, and then have our first releases as well coming down this year.”

Finally, Old Main Records will partner with WSU to preserve and digitize an extensive catalog of audio archives that date back to the ‘30s. It will be a multi-year project to convert audio recordings on cassette, vinyl and wire to digital formats for future preservation.

For details about Old Main Records, visit the label’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Interested artists also can submit their music for consideration to oldmainrecordssubmissions@gmail.com. General label inquiries can be sent to oldmainrecords@gmail.com.

Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album

Mark Jewett is working on a follow-up album to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Photo by Tom Sorensen

One late August night Mark Jewett stumbled upon an enigmatic vision while heading home from a show in Port Huron.

That vision illuminated the night sky while its reflection danced on the water and beckoned Jewett to stop and observe.

“As I drove south out of Port Huron on Military Street, which runs close and parallel to the St. Clair River, I looked out my side window, and I could see the Canadian shoreline, south of Sarnia,” Jewett said. “I saw a spectacle that lit up like something from a sci-fi movie. All I could think was, ‘What was that?’ I was stunned.”

Jewett turned his car around, drove up to the river’s shoreline and saw the “industrial monstrosity” known as “Chemical Valley,” which is home to more than 60 refineries and chemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

“The vibe I got standing alone on a dark river bank in very peaceful quiet was very calming,” said Jewett, a Plymouth-based Americana singer-songwriter. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, in spite of this hideous pollution-spewing industrial megaplex in very close proximity to a population of people, everything will be all right.’”

Jewett captured that peaceful, nocturnal moment in his latest single, “Saint Clair’s Promise,” a twangy, torchy ode to beauty, mystery, faith and hope that’s available  via Bandcamp. Billy Harrington (drums, percussion), Michael Harrington (pedal steel, electric guitar), Ken Pesick (bass) and Dale Grisa (piano) accompany Hewett on the track.

The track features a driving bassline and a mellow slide guitar beautifully intertwined with Jewett’s Johnny Cash-inspired vocals while Amy Petty provides soothing harmonies – “It might have been the water/It might have been the light/It might have been a silent voice calling out to me that night.”

Saint Clair’s Promise” is one of two new tracks that will be featured on Jewett’s untitled third album, which will drop in spring 2020 and serve as the follow-up to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Produced by Billy Harrington, Jewett’s new album will sonically immerse listeners in personal tales about different moods, feelings and experiences.

“When Billy heard my demos, he said he could imagine taking these tunes down a sonic road similar to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ ‘Raising Sand,’” Jewett said. “Ironically, I see my sound growing by getting simpler. With exceptions, I feel like music that I write for a conscious purpose needs room to breathe.”

Continue reading “Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album”

Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album

Bill Edwards released his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” in October. Photo by Chasing Light Photos

These days, Bill Edwards views love as the soundtrack of his life.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter eloquently chronicles his evolving thoughts about love on his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” which dropped in October on Regaltone Records.

“A year ago I decided I wanted to do an album of love songs. It seems like the times we’re going through right now we can use as much love as we can get,” Edwards said. “They’re not all songs that say ‘I love you.’ Some are about the complications and the darker side of some love relationships. I think they’re at least loosely related to the concept of love.”

Sounds Like Love” features 13 stellar tracks highlighting the ups and downs of love from different perspectives and moments in time – new love, lost love, lifelong love, past love and unrequited love. On each track, Edwards gently moves listeners from one soundbite of love to the next along a fascinating emotional path that includes paint, hurricanes and boxcars.

“I write about a song a week, and it’s just my creative outlet. I had accumulated quite a number of songs to choose from, and I just picked those 13 for the record,” he said. “I’ve long wanted to do an album all by myself in my own home studio, and I’ve accumulated an embarrassing amount of recording gear.”

Continue reading “Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album”

Sing the Blues – Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue Opens for Anthony Gomes Friday at The Token Lounge

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An emerging Motor City quartet will cry the blues Friday night in Westland.

The Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue will share gritty blues rock tunes while opening for Canadian blues legend Anthony Gomes at The Token Lounge.

“This will be my third time opening for him. It’s going to be a 30-minute set with a montage of my favorite covers and representations of the blues ranging from Chuck Berry to Son House to Robert Johnson,” said Mikolajczyk, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and harmonicist. “That’s the way I like to do it. I’m taking what they have, and I’m adding a Detroit rock and roll-flavored twist to it.”

Mikolajczyk will add Motor City fuel to Friday night’s blues fire with longtime bandmates Garrett Ramsden (drums) and Eric Noffz (sax, flute). The show also will feature the debut of the band’s new bassist Cameron Shawcross, formerly of the Detroit indie pop rock group Day Sleeper.

“It’s got a lot more feeling into it. It’s not all piano-driven type stuff,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s real in-your-face, gritty vocals to get the point and emotion across.”

Another show highlight will include two special guitars from Detroit’s Woodward Guitar Co. Mikolajczyk will use a Fender Telecaster-inspired guitar made from reclaimed wood from Detroit homes called The Telegraph. It’s the very first guitar (e.g., serial number 001) that was produced by Woodward Guitar Co.

Mikolajczyk also will play new custom-built, semi-hollow red guitar also made from reclaimed wood called Big Brother, the first of its kind and similar in style to a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

“Between both of those two guitars, I’m very excited for it, and it’s always a great time opening for Anthony,” said Mikolajczyk, who formed the Blues Revue in 2015. “He’s a major influence to me as a blues artist because he’s a little bit harder than the standard blues artist.”

Mikolajczyk developed his immense passion for music while growing up in Canton and watching his dad play drums. By age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and played Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” cover of the 1964 Kinks classic. Like Gomes, he quickly decided to trade in his hockey stick for a guitar.

“One day came around, and I was like, ‘It seems like a better idea to play guitar instead of getting chucked into the boards all day – you know, getting concussions,’” Mikolajczyk said. “At one point, it seemed more realistic to be a rock and roll star instead of an NHL star. Like how many people play hockey? How many people my age were playing guitar? I was the only person my age playing guitar pretty much.”

At age 15, he sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Detroit metal band Kro-Magnon and later became the band’s bassist. Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit after forming HazardHead, a band influenced by Guns N’ Roses and ‘80s hard rock, in 2011.

Today, he plays in more than a dozen projects, including Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall, Swizzille Trip and The Johnny Fangers Band, as well as the Whiskey A Go Go (‘80s hard rock), Bloodstone (Judas Priest), Little Liars (Joan Jett) and Pretty Tied Up (Guns N’ Roses) tribute bands.

Mikolajczyk also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. He books acts regularly at the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore.

Despite balancing a myriad of music projects, Mikolajczyk looks forward to sharing the stage with the Blues Revue and Gomes again Friday night.

“Anthony has showed me that it’s easy to be yourself, and there’s no need to produce anything that’s inauthentic,” he said. “He has guided me on several different aspects the same way that B.B. King has guided him. Anthony’s truly a great friend and inspiration.”

Show details:

Anthony Gomes with The 519 Band and Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue

Friday | Doors 7 p.m. | Show 7:30 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland

Tickets: $15-$25, ages 21 and up

Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday

The Judy Banker Band and Mike Gentry will close out the fall series of Friday Night Live Nov. 8 in Farmington.

Farmington Civic Theater’s musical guests will receive an early check-in at the “Buffalo Motel” Friday.

Upon arrival, they’ll hear the refreshing and comforting indie country rock sounds of the Judy Banker Band with special guest Mike Gentry.

The Ann Arbor quintet of Judy Banker (vocals, guitar), David Roof (drums), Tony Pace (guitar), John Sperendi (bass) and Alan Pagliere (pedal steel guitar) will headline “Friday Night Live” at the historic theater and preview new material from Banker’s forthcoming “Buffalo Motel” album.

“It’s our last band show before the end of the year, so we want to introduce people to the new album,” said Banker, who will release “Buffalo Motel” in January. “We’ll also be playing some cuts from other albums, and Tony and John are going to take the lead on a song. Playing in a band with five of us can be really intimate, and we just have this creative energy all around us.”

Banker will share that creative energy with the Farmington Civic Theater audience and include flavors of Americana, roots, country and rock music throughout the band’s eclectic set. For “Buffalo Motel,” Banker has evolved into a country rock sound with heavier electric guitars and driving drum beats compared to her acoustic-oriented predecessors, “Devils Never Cry” (2016) and “Without You” (2014).

“The sound we’ve created for ‘Buffalo Motel’ is more layered and complex, and it’s a bigger sound with a higher volume that has more percussion and is bass-driven,” said Banker, who teamed up with son Ben Sayler to produce the album. “It’s nice to play the new album in segments, and a theater feels perfect for that.”

Banker is putting the finishing touches on “Buffalo Motel” with Roof, who will master the album at his Rooftop Recording studio in Grand Blanc. Along with Roof Sayler and her band, Banker has created a strong sonic signature for each track on “Buffalo Motel” and taken creative inspiration from established indie rock acts like Beck and The National.

“You have the same instruments and the same band playing on the songs, but each song has such a clear identity – more confidence, more integration,” she said. “I like my old songs and albums, but there’s a more confident and sophisticated approach with this one.”

Continue reading “Warm Welcome – Judy Banker Band, Mike Gentry Bring Refreshing Folk Rock to Farmington Friday”

Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music

Erin Zindle is releasing new music under the new band moniker, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds. Photo by Joe Gall

Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds are ready to soar above the clouds.

The Ann Arbor infectious global groove group has taken flight with a new band moniker and migrated toward new music wrapped in breathtaking melodies, vocal harmonies and improvisational elements.

Previously known as The Ragbirds, the quartet of Erin Zindle (vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo), TJ Zindle (electric/acoustic guitar, vocals), Shannon Wade (bass, vocals) and Loren Kranz (drums, vocals) is now Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

“The name change sends a very clear message that this is different from what we’ve done before. This is different enough that we feel like it needs a new name,” said Zindle, who formed the band in 2005. “Also, there’s the sense of me stepping up and really taking ownership of the role that I have played in the band this whole time. My bandmates are just so amazing. I’m so proud of my band right now, and they’re the best guys I could possibly ask to work with.”

Throughout the band’s 14-year history, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds have maintained a passionate grassroots fan base by continually reinventing themselves with an evolving sound while remaining rooted in the high-energy sphere of world-based folk rock. Today, they’ve shifted their sound to include more melodic components along with uplifting vocals, edgy guitars and groovy rhythms.

“We have less going on in the percussive world, and in the rhythm section, it’s a little less busy. And it’s interesting how that happened at the same time as I was having this natural shift toward developing my voice and stepping forward as a singer and writing songs with stronger melodies as I improve as a songwriter,” Zindle said. “I’m just getting much more honed in my craft so that I can write songs that are more vocal forward and focus on the melodic elements.”

Continue reading “Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music”

Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday

Emilie Rivard will bring her intimate acoustic indie folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday night. Photo by Kent Koller

Emilie Rivard will forge a deep musical connection with Tree Town Friday night.

The Royal Oak indie folk singer-songwriter will share her highly personal, reflective songs with an intimate Ann Arbor crowd at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom.

“This one’s just going to be on my own. I want to give myself some time and space to focus on my own work,” said Rivard, who will perform two 45-minute acoustic sets. “I am working on some new songs that I will be performing, and I will be doing some covers. It will mostly be original music, but the covers will be my interpretation of the songs.”

Throughout her mesmerizing sets, Rivard will showcase raw emotional vocals with a heartfelt wall of acoustic sound. Her relatable sonic tales of love, travel and growth will resonate with crowds of all ages and musical interests.

“There’s the spiritual element of letting go and letting music flow through you. The best music that I’ve created is what just comes out of me,” Rivard said. “I’m not trying to manipulate it, I’m not trying to do anything – it just comes. I’m committed to it, and I’m going to keep on going because there’s so much to learn from it.”

Rivard spent the last three and half years honing her guitar chops after studying with Detroit singer-songwriter Joel Palmer. She later added guitar to her repertoire after playing drums, piano, banjo and autoharp while growing up in Royal Oak with several musical siblings. That instrumental prowess also led to a deep musical appreciation for Simon & Garfunkel, Gillian Welch, Lauren Hill and Scott Joplin.

“I discovered when I was younger the soundtrack for the movie, ‘Amelie,’ by Yann Tiersen,” she said. “It’s instrumental stuff that’s kind of playful and whimsical, so I think that played a part in the kind of music that I play.”

Continue reading “Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday”