Heart to Heart – Lily Milo Explores Uncharted Emotional Territories on ‘Stars Go Out’ EP

Lily Milo shares a personal journey of self-discovery on “Stars Go Out.” Photo – Jennifer Metsker

Lily Milo delicately reveals the hidden sides of her heart.

The Ann Arbor indie folk singer-songwriter shares an intimate, poetic journey of self-discovery while navigating between life’s light and dark emotions on Stars Go Out.

“This is the first thing that I’ve ever put out. I’ve wanted to work on music for a really long time. A couple of years ago, I just sat down and said, ‘All right, if you’re gonna do it, then you’re gonna make some music,’ and it’s been awesome,” said Milo, who released the project in September.

Throughout her raw, authentic debut EP, Milo beautifully explores uncharted territories of the soul across six poignant, reflective tracks that uncover internal strength and wisdom. Each Stars Go Out song provides an intense, heartfelt outpouring of emotion from past thoughts, experiences and relationships.

“Most of them are personal. ‘Sandcastles’ is about a friend who passed away. The other ones are feelings that I’ve had and worked through, and part of the reason why it seems like a strange moody mix from the heart is because it’s all very much from the heart,” Milo said.

Continue reading “Heart to Heart – Lily Milo Explores Uncharted Emotional Territories on ‘Stars Go Out’ EP”

Fired Up – Adam Masterson Ignites Timeless Rootsy Sound on ‘Delayed Fuse’ EP

Adam Masterson blends elements of rock, soul, gospel, folk and country on his latest EP, “Delayed Fuse.” Photo – Robert Ascroft

Adam Masterson beautifully ignites a fiery, sonic explosion of emotion and experience.

The New York City roots-rock singer-songwriter solders timeless, electrifying elements of early rock, soul, gospel, folk and country into his latest high-voltage, five-track EP, Delayed Fuse.

“Every song is like a gift so I’m very grateful when I finish a song. I’ve never really thought about what I want other people to take away. How we form a connection with a song is our own unique experience, and I try not to second guess that,” said Masterson, who’s originally from West London.

“But it’s been a pleasure to write the songs, and if there are people out there who will take these tunes to heart, then that will make me very happy.”

Masterson instantly jolts listeners with combustible tales of misfortune, parenthood, isolation, grit and regret against a sizzling, cinematic backdrop of spirited rootsy instrumentation. A fateful partnership with producer James Hallawell kindled a new, multi-genre musical flame for writing and recording Delayed Fuse in London.

“It was great finding James Hallawell because I felt he understood me and where I was coming from. Who you are as an artist is something you can never really explain because it’s something that has to be felt rather than explained. You need to find someone who’s equally as passionate in their love of music that they know instinctively the feeling you’re looking to create,” Masterson said.

“James has also toured the U.S. extensively working in the studio with a real hero of mine, Willie Mitchell, the great Memphis soul producer who produced Al Green and Syl Johnson, two of my all-time favorite vocalists, for his Hi record label. I know why Willie liked working with James because he has great feeling for soul organ, early rock ‘n’ roll, American country and the English hymnal style. All these styles feed into what inspires me as a musician, singer and writer.”

Continue reading “Fired Up – Adam Masterson Ignites Timeless Rootsy Sound on ‘Delayed Fuse’ EP”

Beneath the Surface – Dirty Ol’ Men Reveal Tenacious Tales on ‘Six Feet’ Album

Dirty Ol’ Men recorded “Six Feet” during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The album’s iconic cover dates back to the Elaine Massacre of 1919 and features seven of 12 men who were wrongly prosecuted and executed for an “attempted insurrection” in Elaine, Arkansas.

For Six Feet, Dirty Ol’ Men keep it 100.

The international collective of hip-hop producers, musicians and curators reveal compelling conversations, thought-provoking narratives and tenacious tales about social injustice, systemic racism, internal struggles and personal aspirations on their latest quarantine-fueled album.

“The songs that came out are representative of the discussions and conversations we have as men when we’re not recording. Because as a group, we still get together on a weekly basis or sometimes two to three times a week to just talk. We have members of our collective who may have autoimmune situations, so they haven’t been able to be out and about,” said Rod Wallace, a metro Detroit hip-hop producer.

“We have members of our group who have been through a lot in the last few months. A part of what we do is support them by meeting up and talking regularly; even a song like ‘Piss’ is a song that represents us playfully jiving with each other and talking crazy. It all was just very organic.”

Wallace and his Six Feet collaborators spent the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic writing, recording and producing the project’s seven raw, honest tracks through Songlab TV, an innovative, online one-session approach to songwriting that’s documented by Digital Hustle Films.

“When COVID hit, we decided to build something called Songlab TV where a sample or an idea is given to a producer who makes a beat while a rapper writes and records their verses and an engineer mixes it,” said Wallace about Dirty Ol’ Men’s creative approach for Six Feet.

“Four of the seven songs on the album came from that process; while the other three, they just weren’t recorded, but they went through a similar process. We acknowledge that a lot of music is made that way these days, but a lot of it isn’t made at the time because those four songs were synchronous experiences.”

Executive produced by Wallace and Anthony “Gadget” Mims, Six Feet serves as Dirty Ol’ Men’s second release this year since dropping the Motor City-fueled East Grand in February. Collaborators from Michigan, California, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois and Japan brought initial stems, beats and samples online to share their profound musical conversations with listeners.

Continue reading “Beneath the Surface – Dirty Ol’ Men Reveal Tenacious Tales on ‘Six Feet’ Album”

Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’

Melanie Pierce entombs her past on “Your Grave.”

With an eye on the present, Melanie Pierce wants to leave the past dead and buried.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter beautifully entombs former relationships, painful experiences and destructive thoughts into a secret crypt on “Your Grave,” a heartfelt, courageous anthem about moving forward.

“It was several situations that were not ideal and that happened at the same time. When the song was originally written, I had a lot of rage because it felt like so much was going wrong,” said Pierce, who released the track Oct. 30 via all streaming platforms.

“My mindset when I was younger was more angsty and negatively focused, and I was in a band at the time, and they were breaking up and a relationship was failing. It felt like too much at the time, and this song was born out of it.” 

Throughout “Your Grave,” murky, alternating synths ping-pong between yesterday and today while pulsating drums, calm bass and intermittent piano ultimately lower Pierce’s past six feet underground.

She bravely sings, “Turn left because I ran out of rights/Done pretending to be so nice/So formal like we’re supposed to/Keepin’ tabs on people livin’ my dream/I’m livin’ with the ghost you left for me/Remember when you said this was just a dream/And that’s all it will ever be/I’ve been pickin’ up the pieces slowly.”

“It’s taking the next step and acknowledging things aren’t going your way and have ended. I’m literally speaking through the lyrics that I’m throwing this in a grave, moving on and seeing the other side of the bad situation and stepping into a positive, new beginning,” Pierce said.

“I think everybody has the ability to change in all aspects of life, and I feel like I’ve shifted toward a much healthier perspective. Being able to cope with change also comes with time as you grow and learn more about yourself and the world around you. I was put on this planet to make music, write songs and perform. I’ve really stepped into the artist that I’ve always wanted to become and learned how to navigate this musical journey.”

Continue reading “Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’”

Center Lane – J.C. & the Disciples Steer Middle Course on ‘It’s Happening Here’ Single

These days, J.C. Whitelaw prefers to steer a middle course.

The Detroit classic rock singer-songwriter and guitarist cruises in the center lane as passersby impatiently zoom ahead to the left and right on his latest politically charged single, “It’s Happening Here,” with the Disciples.

For Whitelaw, the lanes on either side of him become congested as drivers yell back and forth across a growing divided national highway.

“With all the Left and Right going at each other over the past four years, it would be hard not to be affected by it. I was shocked to see the level of hate that was conjured by both parties and friends alike and the disrespect for each other over a difference in opinion and ideas. I really believe the loss of civility in these times is unfortunately something that isn’t going away anytime soon,” he said.

Whitelaw emphatically channels those lingering frustrations throughout “It’s Happening Here” as raw, crunchy electric guitars, pulsating drums, crashing cymbals, thumping bass and spirited sax erupt in a fiery Rolling Stones-esque intensity.

In tandem, he passionately sings, “As horror becomes our laughter/Now we’re left in tatters/Scattered on the deafest ears/Happens here!/So now we walk in silence/While hate becomes our triumph/Lost all sense of sanity/Had to be/You and me/We can see/It’s happening here!/It’s happening here!”

“For me, it’s a snapshot of what’s going on right now – mentally, spiritually and socially. I was watching some televised opinion show that most would call news these days, and this melody came to me. I grabbed my guitar and laid it down. I had a few lyrics fly out, and then I left it alone,” Whitelaw said.

“A few days later, one of my old bandmates, Jon Ross, messaged me some lyrics he had been working on and shared the same sentiment that I was feeling. I basically cherry-picked some of his lines and mixed them with mine, and it really took shape over a week or so.”

Along with the single, Whitelaw released new video for “It’s Happening Here,” which features the Disciples’ Jimmy Sparks (drums), James Megerian (bass) and David Reinstein (sax) performing at Jimmy’s warehouse on Aug. 22. Detroit folk rock singer-songwriter Billy Brandt and vocalist Kristin von Bernthal also contribute to the track.

“The Disciples got together for a video/audio socially distanced recording session at Jimmy Sparks’ warehouse and recorded a set for the Beats Go On program. We donated all proceeds to the cause. We were pretty excited as we hadn’t played together since February, and this gave us the opportunity to work on some new material for the new record we’re planning on recording,” said Whitelaw, who worked with The Mission Recording Studio’s Sean Morse and Stellar Videography’s Tracy Viers on the track and video.

“The recording and video is from the second pass of the track after showing the band the song. It’s mostly a live take of the band except I layered in a lead guitar track and Kristin von Bernthal’s vocal tracks at Sean Morse’s Mission Studio. Sean also helped multi-track record the entire session at Jimmy’s warehouse.”

Continue reading “Center Lane – J.C. & the Disciples Steer Middle Course on ‘It’s Happening Here’ Single”

Higher Ground – Chris DuPont Finds Strong Sense of Renewal on ‘Retrieve’

Chris DuPont ascends to heavenly heights on his latest single, “Retrieve.” Artwork – Emilee Petersmark

For Chris DuPont, a fresh start begins with finding higher ground.

The Ypsilanti indie folk singer-songwriter ascends to heavenly heights on his latest hopeful, breathtaking single, “Retrieve,” now available on all streaming platforms.

“It’s a song about trying to make someone feel seen and believed when they’ve shared a really difficult story with you. It’s really meant to be sort of a power anthem, and on a personal level, I’m just so grateful that it’s as exciting to listeners as it is to me,” DuPont said.

“And on a professional level with this being an unprecedented time putting out an album in the middle of a pandemic with no real hope of touring on it, I decided this just needed to be the first thing people hear. Listeners who have been with me for a while will have heard it already, and I wanted this to be the first impression of anyone coming into my music cold.”

To the contrary, listeners will receive a warm welcome while absorbing the emotional authenticity flowing through “Retrieve,” which blends glistening, frenzied acoustic strums and spirited cello into a soaring symphony of sparkling piano, uplifting bass and cozy drums.

DuPont intimately reflects, “There’s a fullness beyond fatigue/No, nothing is clean if you choose to live/I didn’t anticipate the ways I’d be undone/But on the other side of a breakdown/Is a silver lining for you darlin’/When everything that died in you is fertile in your garden.”

“I can’t get away from the theme of death and rebirth and uprooting and re-rooting in my music, and I think one reason I wanted to go with a garden image is because life and recovery are really dirty and messy. And to be a thriving human being doesn’t mean to do everything cleanly, everything perfectly,” said DuPont, who’s included haunting single artwork by The Crane Wives’ Emilee Petersmark.

“This is a very hard concept for me as someone who grew up in a very black and white thinking religious paradigm where there’s this idea of striving to be pure or perfect. I wanted to embrace the dirt with this whole body of work and especially that song.”

Continue reading “Higher Ground – Chris DuPont Finds Strong Sense of Renewal on ‘Retrieve’”

Full Circle – Widetrack Returns to Pontiac for Saturday’s ‘November Two Remember’ Crofoot Show

Widetrack’s Ron Tippin and Zach Tippin

Widetrack intentionally creates the perfect sonic circle.

The Waterford alt-prog, father-son duo of Ron Tippin (vocals, guitar, drums) and Zach Tippin (bass, guitar) will fittingly return to their musical birthplace of Pontiac for a Saturday show at The Crofoot.

“We are absolutely stoked to be playing our first Widetrack show together as a two-piece, premiering the public live debut of songs we wrote together for our newest album, The Unwakening,” said Ron Tippin, Widetrack’s founder.

“What makes it really special though is that The Crofoot is literally right across the side street from my old rehearsal and recording facility, where Widetrack was born back in 2006. It’ll be kind of like coming full circle for us.”

Widetrack will join eight other bands – Loud Thoughts, Roc Steady, Negative Gravity, Mars Hill, Stompbox, Cicrus, Letters from Abel and Motor City Vibrations – for Smash Concerts’November Two Remember” show and perform a six-song, 30-minute set with haunting, introspective tracks from their mystical four-album catalog.

“We’re really looking forward to playing that same stage with The Crofoot’s amazing sound and lights. We hope that people who’ve never heard us before will find our music and on-stage energy to be inspiring. Inspiring others is our deepest desire as musicians and as a creative force,” said Ron Tippin.

A Spirital Unwakening

Widetrack released “The Unwakening” in April.

With the Tippins at the helm, Widetrack continues to unleash their dark, proggy creative energy since releasing their hypnotic, otherworldly album, The Unwakening, in April. The reflective project ventures through a dozen digital tales to uncover the conflicting duality of our personal and online identities in a “Black Mirror-like” dimension.

“The idea of The Unwakening is how we immerse ourselves in this digital landscape, and it just makes our worst tendencies come out; we just wallow in it. All of our wisdom goes out the window and so does our better nature,” said Ron Tippin.

Continue reading “Full Circle – Widetrack Returns to Pontiac for Saturday’s ‘November Two Remember’ Crofoot Show”

Celestial Grooves – The DayNites Radiate Soulful Rhythms on New Self-Titled EP

The DayNites gather at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Photo – Dimitri Kaf

With moonlit melodies, gravitational grooves and rotational rhythms, The DayNites soulfully shine across the metro Detroit stratosphere.

The Detroit-Ypsilanti R&B-rock sextet of Kristianna Bell (vocals), Ryan Greene (keys, piano), Tim Blackman (bass), Shaun Maazza (guitar), Erich Friebel (drums, percussion) and Rick Coughlin (guitar) share reflective stories about love, growth, freedom and wisdom on their celestial, self-titled debut EP.

“When I was writing, it was just things that I was going through at that time in my life. It wasn’t like one main theme. It was like, ‘This is how I’m feeling, and these are the words that are coming out right now.’ I would say listen to the words and the instruments, feel the music and let it take you somewhere,” said Bell, who’s the band’s primary lyricist.

“We all have a take on everybody’s liking, and we put a little bit of something from everyone into what we do. For the first album, it was just me writing the words. But for the music, it was all the guys working together and putting their own spin on their instruments to see what worked well together.”

Available through the band’s new website, the EP’s five emotive DayNites tales unearth a deeply personal universe filled with contemplation, consideration and transformation. The lush, dreamy opener, “Cherry Blossom,” provides a welcome, cosmic escape into the relatable thoughts, feelings and concerns of a lost soul.

Palpitating drums, intense hand claps, exuberant bass, glistening intergalactic synth and fervid electric guitar reveal the psyche as Bell sings, “But I know I need to come down/Collect myself somehow/Unconnected from the physical being of my perspective/The only thing I could create was hella questions/Answers too far off to see/Searching for something that would make my soul complete.”

“It’s about trying to find ways to escape realities that I didn’t want to face. The song is pretty upbeat, and people love it, but at first it was my least favorite song because of what it made me think of every time I sang it. Once the song was recorded, it had a different feeling to me, and now I love it. I’m no longer in that place so I can listen to the song from a different perspective,” Bell said.

While Bell experiences an existential crisis on “Cherry Blossom,” she quickly shifts to newfound freedom on the Motown-esque, pro-hooky anthem, “Not Tomorrow.” Throbbing bass, banging tambourine, soulful intricate electric guitar, pounding drums and sizzling cymbals celebrate a much-needed mental health day from work.

“When we wrote that song, we were in the studio, and I had to work at 6 a.m. the next day. I was like, ‘Look, I can’t do this. I’ll be right back.’ I went and called my boss, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I won’t be there tomorrow,’ and I came back in and wrote the song,” Bell said.

Continue reading “Celestial Grooves – The DayNites Radiate Soulful Rhythms on New Self-Titled EP”

Necessary Nourishment – The Stratton Playlist November 2020 Edition Refuels for Road Ahead

With November’s upcoming arrival, some soulful sonic nourishment is needed to weather and withstand the remainder of 2020.

Fortifying morsels of lo-fi folk, shiny indie pop, fiery classic rock, breezy dance, garage-filled indie rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads and groovy, emotive hip-hop strengthen the mind and spirit for the unknown road ahead.

The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist shares a satiating sonic respite before the chaotic journey resumes. Featured sonic companions include Grooblen, Au Gres, Michael Snyder-Barker and The Mighty Rhythm Bandits, The Kodaks with Jemmi Hazeman and Quells, Lily Talmers, Louis Picasso & The Gallery and more.

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

Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single

Au Gres’ Josh Kemp celebrates a new relationship on “Nervous.”

Au Gres instantly creates the proverbial comfort zone.

The Fenton indie pop singer-songwriter quickly throws anxiety, hesitation and doubt aside in his latest warm, dreamy pro-soulmate single, “Nervous,” which dropped Oct. 16.

“The song was inspired by my girlfriend, and I don’t usually set out to write a song. Instead, I mess around with progressions until I get an idea of what I want it to be about, and the song kind of writes itself. But for this one, I just felt so comfortable with her, like right off the bat, and I wanted to write something that felt that way,” said Josh Kemp, aka Au Gres.

“I sat in my room for a long time, and I wrote that bendy hook and everything else around it because it felt perfect to me. It was just me with my laptop in my room. I think I wrote most of it in an afternoon, and then I came back to it quite some time later and added more and more to it.”

With glistening acoustic strums, whimsical electric guitars, vivid bass, pulsating drums and atmospheric synths, “Nervous” serves as the ideal romantic icebreaker that immediately puts apprehensive partners at ease. It’s the melodic, soaring anthem everyone longs to hear on a magical first date.

Throughout the Mac DeMarco-like track, Kemp reveals, “I think I overstayed my welcome/But I think you want me to/Stick around/To bring you coffee or a cigarette/I don’t think we’re done yet/Not for now.”

“It’s a reminder that the reward is worth it so to speak, and I’m talking about long-lasting, real relationships. It’s tough to make yourself vulnerable with people, and sometimes if you want to have that kind of relationship, then you have to be the one to take the plunge and let your walls come down,” said Kemp, who’s inspired by Passion Pit and Phoenix.

Eight months ago, Kemp shared bedroom laptop demos of “Nervous” with Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. Rye solidified the track’s final version while Noah de Leon (guitars, keys, synth) and Kemp (guitar, keys, synth) handled the arrangements and invited drummer Brodie Glaza.

“Noah and I had most of the arrangements filled out, but Jake would take a look at certain parts and help fill in the gaps a little bit. He gave things a lift where they needed and dove into those melancholic, indie feels. He was really good at drawing that part out,” Kemp said.

“I think it really grew into what I had in my head, like when I was in my bedroom. And to hear it come alive with real drums because I was just using samples, and even now listening to it and thinking about that experience, like COVID, and how strange it is to be back working on music, but also at the same time it felt very right and very good. It finally felt like a slice of something very nice.”

Last week, Kemp shared another slice of “Nervous” through a new lyric video recorded with Darity’s Linsley Hartenstein. The quirky video shows Kemp enthusiastically performing multiple parts on a flashy, portable ‘80s color TV (akin to Lindsey Buckingham’s 1981 “Trouble” video).

“It’s a little silly, and it’s my first go ever using a green screen,” said Kemp with a laugh. “We wanted to have fun with it.”

Continue reading “Break the Ice – Au Gres Finds Instant Romantic Comfort on New ‘Nervous’ Single”