Sage Advice – The Steve Taylor Three Finds the Right Balance on ‘Travel Light’ Album

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The Steve Taylor Three’s Carey Waver, Steve Taylor and Bryan Frink share gratitude, wisdom and honesty on “Travel Light.” Photo – Daniel Roth

Steve Taylor follows a valuable piece of advice from his father.

The Lake Orion Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist carries an optimal load of “supplies” through life’s peaks and valleys with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, guitar, keys, vocals) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion, vocals) on The Steve Taylor Three’s insightful new album, Travel Light, out Friday.

“Once a year, my dad and I would go hike the Appalachian Trail in the Appalachian Mountains. He would always talk about how you had to bring everything with you because you’re going to be up in the mountains,” Taylor said.

“You’d have to carry all your water, and you don’t realize how heavy water is until you carry it with you all day. The idea is you only bring what you need. I thought the whole idea of camping and hiking and having to carry everything in your bag is a great metaphor for life.”

Inside The Steve Taylor Three’s Travel Light “bag” resides a comforting assortment of gratitude, wisdom and honesty across 11 transformative tracks. Each one introduces a past, present or future destination along an unpredictable journey filled with heartwarming experiences.

“The older we get, the more reflection there is. I seem to be writing a lot of songs now about the passage of time and what it means. That wasn’t the case when we were younger,” said Taylor, who last released Earn Every Scar with his bandmates in March 2020.

“The simplicity of that phrase, ‘It Doesn’t Take Long,’ I try to take that title or that refrain and just come at it from family, relationships and everything. You realize when you get to close to 50 … I’m going to turn 49 here in a couple weeks and Bryan and Carey have already turned 50. You think, ‘Wow, 50.’ When we were younger, we thought people who were 30 were old.”

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Hit-Worthy Parade – Matthew de Heus Unveils Hidden Gems on ‘Greatest Misses’ Album

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Matthew de Heus shares his multi-genre gems on “Greatest Misses.” Photo – Avram Golden

Matthew de Heus prefers to acknowledge life’s under-the-radar moments.

The Bay City Americana singer-songwriter and bassist thoughtfully unveils those hidden milestones on his new hit-worthy anthology, Greatest Misses, out today.

“I had planned on having two releases. One was gonna be a new EP, but then I was gonna do what I initially called a Greatest Hits album, and it was almost self-deprecating,” said de Heus.

“I wanted to take some of the songs we had already done and put them on one album, so that people who wanted those could get them. I don’t reprint any of the old albums, they’re just gone … because that way if I ever do get famous, they’ll be worth a fortune.”

With Greatest Misses, de Heus assembles a priceless 15-track collection of multi-genre gems, including old favorites from prior releases and three new songs. Filled with melodic hooks, memorable lyrics and clever instrumentation, the album glides through country, power pop, jazz, blues and indie rock terrain.

“Traditionally, in pop music, and in the early days of rock and roll, you might put the same song on more than one album. That was part of it. Though I did want to throw those three new ones up front, I tried to still sequence it like an album, so it was a decent listen,” de Heus said.

“In way, this is almost like a second version of Silk Purses. Andy Reed called that my Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or White Album in the fact that every song is a different genre. Making the songs individually is one thing, but mixing and mastering them so they can sit next to each other on an album is another.”

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Personal Empowerment – Aspen Jacobsen Confronts Negative Emotions on ‘Shouldn’t Give a Damn’

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Aspen Jacobsen practices self-care on “Shouldn’t Give a Damn.” Photo – Scottie Magro

Filled with confidence and purpose, Aspen Jacobsen boldly shares a sense of personal empowerment.

The Americana-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist confronts internal guilt and fear from toxic relationships on her latest defiant single, “Shouldn’t Give a Damn.”

“I struggle with people-pleasing, and at times, have given a tremendous amount of energy to others, leaving nothing for myself and getting nothing in return,” said Jacobsen, 17, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy.

“What inspired me to tackle toxic relationships and the effects it has on someone was through my own personal experience. I felt powerless and used, yet guilty and afraid of putting an end to an unhealthy relationship to prioritize myself.”

Jacobsen strongly channels that “Shouldn’t Give a Damn” energy as steadfast acoustic guitar, pulsating drums, fearless electric guitar and earnest fiddle create a protective barrier of fortitude.

She sings, “3 a.m. caffeine I don’t want to fall asleep/‘Cause your misted over eyes are haunting my dreams/Yes it helped me but hurt my guilty mind/Now you’re cleaning up my ashes and what’s left of your pride.”

“The first two lines … I wrote after a sleepless weekend. I had constant nightmares that left me scared to fall asleep because of feeling guilty. It was through writing this song that I had let go of the guilt and reminded myself that it’s OK to be ‘selfish’ sometimes and take care of yourself before others,” Jacobsen said.

“That is healthy, that is self-love. This song is me declaring to myself and the listener that you don’t have an obligation to give a damn for someone with whom you have a toxic relationship.”

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Zip Code Tour – Bill Edwards Revisits Princeton, Illinois Childhood Days on ‘61356’

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Bill Edwards revisits his Princeton, Illinois childhood days on “61356.”

Bill Edwards intricately designs a nostalgic roadmap to childhood.

The Ann Arbor Americana singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist revisits his carefree days of growing up in rural Princeton, Illinois on his reminiscent new album, 61356, via Regaltone Records.

“I was eight when we moved there, and I was 13 when we left. Most of my childhood memories are from there. I don’t remember a whole lot before that, but I remember a ton about Princeton,” said Edwards, who lived there from 1960-1965 and named the album after the town’s zip code.

“It was a great place to be a kid. And sort of like I say in the first song, you’re just so unaware of what’s going on in the larger world beyond your handlebars. There was so much to explore, and you could just ride your bike anywhere you wanted to go.”

In his 61356 mind’s eye, Edwards pedals to hardware stores, community pools, patchwork fields, county fairs, neighborhood homes and other memorable locales. He quickly transports listeners to a pastoral era filled with vivid tales, multiple perspectives and complicated relationships.

“I just kept writing away, and some of the new ideas kept coming to me. Some of them are reminiscences and others are completely made up with different characters. All of them though involve some personal connection, like the one from the point of view of the farmer,” Edwards said.

“My parents went out of town one time, and they had us kids stay with this farm family for a weekend. We got to see pigs being born in the middle of the night, and we got to learn something about farm life a little bit.”

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The Lucky One – Mark Jewett Expresses Gratitude on New Album, Headlines Dec. 3 Trinity House Show

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Mark Jewett’s “The Lucky One” provides a thoughtful, folky passage through time. Photo – Misty Lyn Bergeron

These days, Mark Jewett feels immensely grateful.

The Plymouth Americana singer-songwriter remains thankful for a supportive family, an introspective new album, The Lucky One, and a Dec. 3 headlining show at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre.

“When I look back on it, I still feel like gratitude is the theme. ‘The Lucky One,’ ‘Warren Zevon’s Birthday’ and ‘Sophia’ have threads of gratitude that run through them. Then, there’s some curious pondering of things, like ‘The Only Thing,’ and ‘Voices’ is a little bit mystical,” said Jewett, who recently retired after a long career in program management.

“Yeah, I think almost everybody can probably relate to it in some way, but ‘Guilty’ is the outlier, and I have a fondness for dark music.”

Whether dark or uplifting, Jewett’s insightful music beckons listeners to reflect on their life’s purpose, their favorite moments and the people who surround them. His third release, The Lucky One, provides a thoughtful, folky passage through time across nine astute, indelible tracks.  

“There have been a lot of changes in recent years that have caused me to step back and think, ‘Wow, it doesn’t seem like it’s been very long since that happened,’ or ‘Wow, it seems like it’s been forever since that happened,’” Jewett said. “And how you get both of those feelings about similar events, it’s just kind of mysterious to me.”

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Midwest Sounds – Wiltsie’s Nov. 27 Festival Showcases and Supports Local Artists

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The Real Dan Minard, Aaron Markovitz and Jackie Pappas perform at Wiltsie’s. The three singer-songwriters also are part of the Midwest Sounds festival lineup. Photo – Brandon Still

Wiltsie’s thoughtfully highlights the artistic brilliance of independent Michigan artists.

The intimate Clarkston listening room will spotlight and support local singer-songwriters during their inaugural Midwest Sounds festival on Nov. 27 at Bay Court Park’s Brady Lodge.

“Festivals have a whole ‘nother dynamic and atmosphere, and I think we’ll get a different crowd in to see these musicians and artists. The goal is for them to get more recognition and acknowledgement for what they’re doing while being able to pay them,” said Jackie Pappas, an Americana singer-songwriter who co-runs Wiltsie’s with Brandon Still and Paul Angelini.

Midwest Sounds will feature a star-studded lineup of Americana, folk, country and rock artists, including The Real Dan Minard, Sean Miller, Emily Rose and Pappas, as well as a young songwriters round.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Americana quartet of Jason Dennie, Aaron Markovitz, Keith Billik and Scott Kendall – also known as Through the Thicket – will headline the daylong festival.

“It’s all about giving back to the musicians, getting more of a crowd in and shining a light on everyone because they work so hard and are so talented,” said Pappas, who’s also partnered with Oxford’s HomeGrown Brewing Co. and Fenton’s D&W’s Street Eatery for refreshing festival craft brews and food.

In addition, festival ticket proceeds will support a new Wiltsie’s grant and mentorship program for independent musicians. As a newly established nonprofit housed in Main Street MI’s historic co-working space, Wiltsie’s will help one artist each month with recordings, videos, photos and music distribution.

“We want to help get them on their feet and give them that first nudge, so they can have a great portfolio to move forward and send their stuff to some venues. If they really like what we’re doing, then they’ll come back and have the funds to hopefully continue with us,” Pappas said.

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Due West – Desmond Jones Explores Vibrant Americana Landscape on ‘Why Not?’

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Desmond Jones opts for a cohesive Americana sound on “Why Not?” Photo – Purchase Productions

Desmond Jones boldly explores the sunny, vast terrain of the undiscovered countryside.

The Grand Rapids jam quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) proudly ventures through blazing deserts, rolling hilltops and sprawling mountains on their latest Americana-infused album, Why Not?

“We’re lucky it fell together in a cohesive way because some of the songs were written almost 10 years ago. Others were written two years ago or right before we started recording the album,” Nowak said.

“We tried to collect them in a way that made thematic sense, even though we didn’t write them all together with the intention of releasing a concept album.”

As a refreshing, countrified conceptual immersion and stylistic detour from their funky, glam-jam sound, Desmond Jones’ Why Not? glides through 15 insightful, majestic tracks filled with nomadic adventures, lovelorn moments and bucolic musings.

The addition of warm, folky instrumentation – pedal steel guitars, fiddles, banjos, Dobros and mandolins – and rich four-part harmonies allow the band’s newfangled Americana sound to travel beyond the Midwestern landscape.

“A lot the songs we’ve been performing for over eight years now, and the Americana sound and songwriting style have always been a part of our live show and our catalog. We just never had the opportunity to record a lot of it or package it in that way,” said Nowak about the band’s third album.

“Once we started writing more songs that were a verse-chorus structure and a singer-songwriter style, they started to add up. We realized we had enough material to put it all together in one album, so that it wouldn’t feel as disjointed if we had put some of this stuff together with our funky or more progressive songs.”

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Thread Count – Bill Edwards Stitches Americana Stories into New ‘Whole Cloth’ Double Album

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Bill Edwards’ “Whole Cloth” serves as a poignant, reflective novel of Americana songs.

For Bill Edwards, the basement provides the ideal music lab and creation space.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist retreated to his subterranean studio during the pandemic and experimented with his recording gear.

“When we went into lockdown and realized we weren’t going to be playing live for several months, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of my recording software. I wanted to get better acquainted with MIDI instruments, or musical instrument digital interfaces,” Edwards said.

“MIDI instruments have come a long way since their invention, and the sampled instruments that are available now are just incredible. It gave me the opportunity to do things like drums, bass and pedal steel, and a whole world opened up.”

Eighteen months later, Edwards’ MIDI software explorations have resulted in an ambitious, yet prolific 30-track double album, Whole Cloth, out Friday via Regaltone Records.

“It feels like birthing a very large baby, and I’m really proud of it for a lot of reasons. I think the songs are good, and the fact that I was able to do it all by myself feels like a pretty big accomplishment,” said Edwards, who spent 15 months writing and recording his new album.

“Over that period, I probably had 70 songs, and I would finish one and then move on to the next and start building it together. I didn’t plan to do a double CD, but then I had all this stuff, and I thought, ‘Well, why not just put it all out?”

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Pathfinder – Athens Creek Discovers Strength, Inspiration on ‘The Road Home’

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Athens Creek’s Taylor Haring and Nate Jones address growth, divorce, nostalgia and sobriety on their debut EP, “The Road Home.”

For Athens Creek, The Road Home represents a poignant, personal mile-marker in a lifelong journey to overcome adversity and find redemption.

The metro Detroit Americana duo of Taylor Haring (vocals) and Nate Jones (vocals, guitar) proudly reflects on that introspective odyssey nearly a year after releasing their debut EP.

“Our original plan was to write a full album, and we wrote down on paper the ideas we had for it. The ideas that were there mostly came from that paper, which captured what we wanted to write over the next year. Unknowingly, we didn’t realize other things were going to come up,” Jones said.

“Right now, we still have a sense of pride about it. We’re glad we got through it and did it, despite the fact that it took a year and half for us to release it. It was worth it.”

Released last August, The Road Home beautifully documents Athens Creek’s original destinations of professional and spiritual growth, yet refreshingly chronicles the unexpected detours of divorce, nostalgia and sobriety across six tracks. It’s a realistic, relatable portrayal of life’s ups and downs zigzagging from one point of uncertainty to the next, especially in a pandemic.

“When everything first started to happen, we didn’t know how long it was going to last. First, it was only going to be a couple of weeks, and now it’s been nearly a year and a half later. We all had our own struggles and learning curves, but it allowed us to create and share in ways that we didn’t before as far as recording and having live meetings with each other,” Haring said.

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Ebb and Flow – Chris DuPont Surges through Personal Upheaval on ‘Floodplains’

Chris DuPont intricately weaves a series of reflective, tender vignettes into a cathartic, cohesive whole on his exploratory new album. Artwork – Emilee Petersmark

Chris DuPont doesn’t envision Floodplains as a stand-alone musical chapter.

The Ypsilanti indie folk singer-songwriter intricately weaves a series of reflective, tender vignettes into a cathartic, cohesive whole on his exploratory new album. Filled with ethereal soundscapes, hypnotic guitars and mesmerizing vocals, Floodplains surges through the vast peaks and valleys of the soul to unify past and present experiences into a hopeful future.

“As a project that’s loaded with very difficult emotional content, I just had to sit by myself and grind. It was a very frustrating, solitary experience, and I had to really develop my work ethic and show up. It’s really tough to show up literally in your bedroom when you have a whole list of things that you have to get knocked out,” DuPont said.

“I learned the value of solitude and just sitting with your feelings and allowing them to move through you without making a knee-jerk reaction about what they mean. That’s been a big growth point for me. Working on this record really forced me to sit with difficult feelings and hear them tossed back in my ears over and over again. But as valuable as solitude is, I also learned the importance of asking for help.”

For Floodplains, DuPont sought help from a talented team of collaborators, including Frances Luke Accord’s Nick Gunty (piano vocals), Billy Harrington (drums, orchestral percussion), Johannes Stauffer (piano), Luke Jackson (bass), Christina Furtado (cello), Lea Kirstein (violin, viola), Rin Tarsy (vocals) and Olivia Dear (vocals).

Together, they created and navigated the majestic Floodplains throughout apartments, houses and recording studios in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. The album slowly ebbed and flowed over two years alongside a period of personal upheaval and change for DuPont.

“Working with producer Nick Gunty was a fabulous experience. It was a big deal working with a producer, letting them in on your process and giving them creative push and pull as you’re letting go. That was a very important part of the process,” DuPont said.

“And toward the end wrapping it all up and getting the mastering done, I pulled in my dear friend Chris Norman, who’s an electronica producer out of Texas. I was running out of time and needed someone to master the record, and I knew he would love to do it.”

As an exquisite finished product, Floodplains rises and swells with intense emotion across 12 thoughtful, vivid tracks that steer listeners along a highly personal, poignant odyssey. It’s the ideal sonic outlet for releasing deeply buried troubles while seeking solace and starting anew in an uncertain world.

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