The mid-Michigan and metro Detroit power pop trio of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith combines sunny melodies, lush harmonies and spirited instrumentation over a dozen contemplative tracks chronicling the pandemic, politics and personal struggles on Chapter Three.
“Music lovers value music even more now than they did before the pandemic. We hope people enjoy this record, and that it’s another decent thing that’s come out of this crappy time. We want people to put their ears on it and give it a chance, and we think there’s a little bit of something there for everybody,” Reed said.
Now available via Klingensmith’s Futureman Records, Chapter Three serves as The Legal Matters’ third infectious, compelling release since 2014. Each track provides an intimate, thoughtful perspective about moving forward in today’s ambivalent, precarious world.
“This record was mentally one of the most helpful things through all of this because it gave the three of us a chance to work on something that we really enjoy doing. We’re ridiculously pleased with the results,” Reed said.
For Steve Taylor, creative inspiration inadvertently starts with a full hard drive.
The Lake Orion Americana roots singer-songwriter surprisingly ran out of storage space on his digital audio workstation while polishing tracks this summer for his latest solo album, Beside Myself.
“I’ve had this thing for 10-15 years, and I got an error message that said, ‘Hey, You’re running out of space, and you’ve now exceeded the limit of this hard drive.’ I said, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to start deleting songs off here,’ and I put out a solo album in 2005 that I recorded in a similar fashion called And So On, and I thought, ‘I can delete tracks that have already been mastered and released,’” Taylor said.
“But I had all these other tracks on there, like ‘Do You Remember’ and some of the other ones that wound up on Beside Myself. I was like, ‘Well, I guess I should just finish these off, or I should just add something to these.’ We weren’t able to do anything; I wasn’t playing any shows. We weren’t getting together as a band, and every gig was cancelled. I felt like I needed that outlet just to kind of stay creative.”
As a quarantine-fueled creative project, Beside Myself features 10 poignant, acoustic tracks and B-sides focused on long-term love, delayed goals, deer-car crashes, childhood memories, peaceful lullabies and other classic life experiences. In a sense, it’s a closely cherished sonic scrapbook of Taylor’s musical evolution as an influential singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontman of The Steve Taylor Three.
“These songs were forgotten; they were songs that I had written for my wife or my neighbors. ‘Sleep & Dream’ was a lullaby I had written for my kids when they were little, and I used to sing it to them before they went to bed. And none of them had I ever intended to release. Some of them just started as demos so I could give them to people, and we could learn to play them live,” said Taylor, who recorded the project in a home studio located under his basement stairs.
“Some of them were already done, like ‘Do You Remember.’ I had recorded that and given it to my wife for our anniversary, but I hadn’t done anything else with it. I started looking to see how many of these were actually done and how many needed more instrumentation. I started counting them up and found there was a group of 10 that I could use.”
Andy Reed quickly morphs from one musical role to another.
The Bay City pop-rock singer-songwriter seamlessly shifts from acclaimed producer to multi-instrumental collaborator to introspective artist on his latest soaring solo EP, Relay Vol. 2. It’s his second release in a growing series of Relay EPs dedicated to highly-personal, contemplative songs written amidst other projects.
“The songs themselves are a little bit different than I typically write; I am from the power pop school of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Over the years, I’ve worked with so many artists like Michael Robertson, J.D. Dominowski and Amy Petty, and this is more on singer-songwriter side, and I love that kind of music,” Reed said.
“My goal with this was to be a little more Dawes and be a little more Jason Isbell, but in the background my McCartney-isms are still going to come through, and that kind of stuff too because that’s who I am. I tried to think of it a little bit more from the storyteller’s perspective, and I just wanted to flex that muscle to see if I could do it.”
Reed strongly flexes his songwriting muscle on five poignant tracks about long-lost friends, newfound love, sci-fi journeys, family struggles and childhood nostalgia. He wrote and recorded the reflective Relay, Vol. 2 earlier this year in his home-based Reed Recording Company studio while producing projects for other Michigan artists and working on an upcoming album for The Legal Matters.
“They were all kind of recent personal things that I observed, and it’s definitely my most personal record. I wanted to write new songs because I’ve already handed over the songs for this newest Legal Matters record that we’re gonna do. It’s all the stuff I love about music in a little five-song thing,” said Reed, who played all the instruments on Relay, Vol. 2.
Answering the Call for Ennio Floyd
Reed beautifully opens Relay, Vol. 2 with a shocked response to unexpectedly hearing from a former love interest. “Answer the Call” blends drifting electric guitars, dreamy acoustic strums and soft drums as Reed reflects, “Build the perfect version of a life/Sometimes I can get in the way/Makes it harder each day/No looking back to try to make it right/We’re all better off in the end/Don’t even try to pretend/Seeing all that you took from me/Won’t make it better now/Wonder why you’d think of me at all/I won’t answer the call.”
“I have a buddy who recently went through a separation, and we were sitting together, and his ex called him, and so he saw the number flashing, and said, ‘Oh man, I wonder what that could be for?’ All these emotions just went through his head in like five seconds. What could this be? I was like, ‘Well, we’ve all felt that before.’ Someone calls you that you haven’t talked to in years. Did somebody die? Do they miss me? What is this all about? Don’t they remember they were a jerk to me?” Reed said.
Eighteen months ago, Andy Reed and JD Dominowski heard a distant “echo” in the sprawling fields of Mid-Michigan.
That “echo” eagerly beckoned the Bay City singer-songwriters to pay homage to the late Tom Petty, who passed away in October 2017, and his musical legacy. The two friends quickly answered the call – a double tribute album of local artists reimagining Petty hits, fan favorites and deep cuts.
“We’re re-singing his songs, and we’re an echo of his music now. That’s all he has now are echoes of his music. It’s us carrying the torch a little bit and saying here’s what Tom Petty means to us. Here’s an echo of what he gave us, and we’re translating it in our own way,” said Reed, who produced, recorded, engineered and mixed the project at Reed Recording Company.
Last week, Reed, Dominowski and 21 other Michigan artists dropped their compelling tribute project, Echoes: Remembering the Music of Tom Petty, via all streaming platforms. The album also doubles as a fundraiser for All Music is Power (AMP), a Bay City nonprofit that provides live music for K-12 special needs students in the Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District.
“We thought, ‘Well, let’s make this for a good cause,’ and I started this nonprofit with Donny Brown, who’s also on the record, and I don’t play the live stuff anymore, but Donny still does, and he goes to different special education centers and plays a live concert for them,” Reed said.
“It’s basically music for all the right reasons. This is not something that we want to make money on ourselves. We just want this to be making music for another good thing.”
A Refugee Who Learns to Fly
Along with his Michigan music compadres, Reed beautifully interprets a kaleidoscope of Petty catalog “echoes” throughout the 23-track project. The first response includes Dominowski’s striking Americana rendition of the 1979 Damn the Torpedoes classic, “Refugee,” which exquisitely blends vibrant acoustic strums, vivid piano, piercing electric guitar, thumping bass and intermittent tambourine strikes.
Dominowski’s countrified Springsteen-like vocals breathe new life into one of Petty’s most iconic Heartbreaker tracks as he sings, “Somewhere, somehow, somebody/Must have kicked you around some/Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped/Tied up, taken away, and held for ransom.”
Steve Taylor vividly remembers the day Tom Petty died.
The Lake Orion singer-songwriter and vocalist-guitarist of the Americana roots trio The Steve Taylor Three drove home from a band rehearsal on Oct. 2, 2017 and officially heard Petty had passed away.
“By the time I was driving home, it was like 10:30 at night, it was pretty clear that he was gone. I was rooting around in my car trying to find a Tom Petty CD in there somewhere, and I found the album, Echo,” said Taylor about Petty’s 1999 album. “The first song on that album is called ‘Room at the Top,’ and it just starts with Tom Petty playing guitar and singing, ‘I’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight, and I ain’t comin’ down.’”
That song instantly sparked Taylor to write four pages of nostalgic thoughts about Petty once he arrived home. Those thoughts remained dormant for six months until Taylor turned it into a heartfelt tribute with bandmates Bryan Frink (bass, keys) and Carey Weaver (drums, percussion) called “The Day Tom Petty Died.” It’s one of 12 new stunning tracks featured on The Steve Taylor Three’s third album, Earn Every Scar, out Saturday.
“And the whole thing was I didn’t want to write a sad song about it. I kinda wanted to write a song that told the story of the day he passed away,” said Taylor, who studied bass at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “It’s supposed to be a tribute to everything that he accomplished.”
The uplifting ode to everyone’s favorite Heartbreaker features clicking drumsticks, driving bass and vibrant piano as Taylor beautifully sings, “I hope you like the view from the room at the top of the world/And I hope you’re dancing with an American girl/I know that Roy and George are sitting by his side/I won’t soon forget the day Tom Petty died.”
Taylor grew up listening to Tom Petty on the radio, but didn’t become a hardcore fan until seeing Peter Bogdanovich’s 2007 documentary, “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” about the Gainesville, Fla., native and his longtime band. “I’ve said to so many people, ‘You don’t realize for every 25 Tom Petty songs that you know there are 25 you’ve never heard that are good if not better,’” he said.
For Petty’s newest album and first in nearly a decade, the Saginaw folk rock singer-songwriter dives headfirst into a wondrous musical realm that exists between day and night. It’s the vivid, haunting place where dreams mimic real life, but quickly dissipate once the sun rises.
“I thought I knew what it was going to be when the songs first started coming. I didn’t necessarily sit down to write an album. I was inspired by an idea and then wrote a song. Eventually, they all came together, and I didn’t know why. In hindsight, I feel like it was more of looking at who people are and how they get to where they are,” said Petty, who dropped her new album today.
“It’s more like an observation of the real side of people, and that’s a very broad thing from murder ballads to contemplating how we fit into this vast universe, and we fall all across the spectrum every single day. It feels like a complete thought instead of just one idea that I decided to investigate at length. It just feels like lots of aspects of the same person.”
Petty eloquently explores those different sides throughout her magical 11-track observation. In a sense, she serves as an oracle predicting which scenarios or paths will best guide people toward their destiny. The glorious opener, “The Dreams That Are Waiting for Us,” urges people to follow their instincts, realize their potential and overcome obstacles to fulfill their lifelong dreams.
Deep synths, bright guitars and dramatic drum taps nicely echo Petty’s larger-than-life vocals – “In the sky there’s a lullaby/And you cannot hear it until you close your eyes/These are the dreams that are waiting for us/When you sleep there’s a melody/It will play in you the way it plays in me/These are the dreams that are waiting for us.”
“The first one was based on words that my daughter said to me. She’s just the coolest kid, and she inspired me like crazy. I love where the song came from,” Petty said. “I don’t write a lot of optimistic songs, not that there’s a lot of optimism in that song, but it just feels very uplifting to me in some way. I love the instrumentation, and it’s kind of rocking on some weird level.”