Two years ago, TJ Zindle discovered an unexpected clarity.
With a quiet mind and a fresh creative spark, the Ann Arbor indie-rock artist and guitarist immersed himself in a pandemic-induced songwriting retreat.
“The first couple of months during the shutdown everything felt clear. All the noise was gone, and I was just writing a ton. A lot of it was about mental health stuff and trying to figure that out … because all of sudden, I had time to think,” said Zindle, who’s also a vocalist-guitarist with Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.
“The hum of life was gone for a bit, and I wrote about 45-50 songs for this record. I also have another record coming out later this year with some friends from another band.”
Those sessions produced Now Let Go, Zindle’s first new album since 2017’s Hold On with All Your Might. Filled with nine insightful tracks, it features an emotive narrative chronicling personal and societal reflections on life, growth and change.
“I’m at the point where it’s not so difficult to be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a real fucking musician,’ which is something that I had never felt like all my life. We all fight that imposter syndrome … we’re all there, every single human,” he said.
“But to be like, ‘I made a pretty damn good record on my own,’ and I got a lot of stuff out … I honestly know I did my best, and it was just me. There was just a lot of power in that.”
Filled with gratitude and anticipation, Pajamas wants to show their hometown some love.
The Ann Arbor rock-funk jam quartet of Graham Low (drums, vocals), Nick Orr (guitars, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) eagerly awaits their first headlining show Friday at The Blind Pig in nearly two years.
“Since we do perform in Ann Arbor pretty regularly, this one is going to be a love letter to our friends and fans, something unique and special. We’ve put a lot of work into making this happen. It’s a chance to celebrate our town, our community and where we are now as a band,” Orr said.
“I think people have a lot to look forward to with this show. We’ve hired a professional lighting engineer to accompany the music with an incredible light show. The Blind Pig is an Ann Arbor institution, and we’ve all been attending and playing shows there for years.”
As part of their show, Pajamas will share The Blind Pig stage with Toledo’s Cactus Jack, a quintet of talented friends quickly gaining traction with live Michigan audiences.
“We met Cactus Jack by putting a show together with them at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids. It was our first time playing together, but I think we fit together really well musically,” Orr said.
“They’re really talented players with very good original songs. We got along really well and are happy that they were available to play with us again for this upcoming show. This show will be their Blind Pig debut, so it’s extra cool for that reason.”
Another extra “cool” reason to celebrate Pajamas’ Blind Pig return – new material to preview and experience from their forthcoming second studio album as well as some improvised covers.
“I’m really proud of the music that we’ve written for it, and I think it showcases how far we’ve come and where we’re currently at as a band,” said Orr, who previously released Onesie with the band in 2018. “It feels like we are hitting our songwriting stride, and more importantly, finding our own sound and voice. I think with this second full-length album we just know who we are and what we are about musically.”
For Premium Rat, writing and recording a debut EP brings unexpected moments of clarity.
The Ypsilanti indie rock singer-songwriter finds truth and comfort while addressing deeply buried emotions on Cope, a poignant six-track introspection, dropping on Friday.
“Making and releasing Cope has honestly been one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. It’s funny, one of the reasons I named it ‘Cope’ is because the EP itself helped me cope with certain things, so it’s kind of meta in a way,” said Mer Rey, aka Premium Rat.
“Songwriting is absolutely something I use for reflection and processing, and sometimes I’ll write a song and figure out what it’s about after it’s written. It’s like I can access my emotions with a certain clarity when I’m songwriting that I don’t have otherwise.”
Premium Rat extracts her raw Cope vulnerabilities from a myriad of places – drug store parking lots, internal acknowledgements, post-breakup analyses and crystalized memories. Each track is beautifully wrapped in confessional lyrics, melancholic soundscapes and cathartic instrumentation.
“It’s very honest, and we live in a society that does not prioritize emotional honesty. So it’s, of course, nerve-wracking and very vulnerable to release these songs, but I think that’s also why it feels important to me,” Rey said.
“I want my music to make people feel less alone and to give them permission to feel their feelings. If even one person feels comforted or validated by what I’ve written, then I’ve accomplished my goal.”
For Daring Detour, the new year arrives at a long-awaited destination.
The Ann Arbor acoustic Americana duo of Kathi Dvorin (vocals) and DeVeaux Gauger (guitar) marks the return of their intimate live music performances after a pandemic-induced hiatus.
“We decided to put Daring Detour on hold early in the pandemic. Part of that was due to closing venues, and part was our general emotional state with all the upheaval going on at the time,” Gauger said.
“We tried writing virtually and that didn’t work out, so we agreed not to force the creative process and would pick it up when we both felt comfortable.”
With comfort now on their side, Daring Detour will share their emotive originals and covers Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse in Ypsilanti. It will be their second live show since December.
“Playing at the Ypsi Alehouse was a wonderful experience. We had quite a few friends show up despite it being on a weekday evening and lingering COVID concerns,” Gauger said. “All the rehearsal time and mentally being on the same page showed as the music flowed, and we told some stories in between songs.”
During their two-hour set, Daring Detour will perform poignant renditions of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Almost Home” and “I Feel Lucky.” They’ll also share an unnamed Taylor Swift cover.
“We draw cover material from decades of artists, much of it out of our generation. We wanted to expand our repertoire to include some more upbeat songs and have some fun in between the more introspective tunes,” said Gauger, who’s inspired by Harry Chapin, James Taylor and Jim Croce.
“It’s highly possible that Ted Badgerow, Alehouse owner and brewer, will make an appearance. I played there solo the week before Halloween, and Ted joined me for a couple of songs playing flute, harmonica and some backing vocals.”
Filled with vitality and passion, Rebekah Faidia boldly speaks her truth.
The Ann Arbor dream-soul singer-songwriter celebrates integrity and authenticity on her latest empowering single, “Songbird,” which dropped in December.
“It’s about speaking out, being real and doing what’s right. It was inspired by a real-life scenario. I was outside, it was really cold, and I saw one bird on top of a tree, and it was singing,” Faidia said. “It was really gray out, and there was no other bird expect for that one. I thought that was a cool metaphor for speaking truth.”
Throughout “Songbird,” serene tweets, uplifting piano, hopeful synths, calm bass, gentle electric guitars and booming drums encourage sharing your voice and being proactive.
Faidia confidently sings, “The trees are bare and the air is cold/The forest is full of stories untold/Of how they suffer, of how they fought/To not be silenced/To not be bought/She’s not hiding/She’s not hiding/She’ll soon be flying.”
“I like that music can give a message to people of what they need to hear,” she said. “It can be different for each person, and it can speak to them individually.”
Chirp proudly follows their funky musical instincts.
The Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet of Jay Frydenlund (guitar, vocals), Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Gastón Reggio (drums) listens to their collective creative conscience on their fervent new single, “Solo.”
“Vulfpeck and Cory Wong were a massive influence on the approach to this tune and the rest of the upcoming record. The old school, funky vibe they bring to their songwriting and playing has been a big influence on all of us,” Frydenlund said. “I’m not sure this song would have happened without a steady amount of Vulf in my listening diet. Or at least it would have come out through a very different lens.”
By peering through that groovy “Solo” lens, Chirp fans will encounter a group of lively musicians entrenched in jubilant electric guitars, shimmering keys and synths, pulsating bass, confident drums and ticking cymbals.
In tandem, Frydenlund soulfully sings, “And we all know you can shred the 32nds/But I wanna hear something from your soul/So take your time to find the truth inside you/And let it go.”
“Sam’s melodic lead guitar through the song adds a lot of texture and warms up the tune quite a bit, and he also complements Kevin (Gastonguay’s) solo toward the end of the song really nicely. Brian’s self-written bassline is really catchy throughout, to the point of being singable.” Frydenlund said.
“Both of them killed it on the smooth backup vocals. The different feels Gastón moves throughout are seamless, which is easier said than done on a tune like ‘Solo,’ where we’ve got a lot of dramatic change from section to section feel-wise and tempo-wise.”
Denae deeply explores the vivid realities of living in dreamland.
The Detroit indie soul singer-songwriter recounts insightful tales of lucid dreaming on her latest hypnotic single, “Sleep Junkie.”
“For a period of my life, I got into lucid dreaming and traveled in this dream world. I was exploring my sleep life, but it was during a time when my depression was fluctuating,” Denae said. “This was at a low point for me when I was just not having life, and I ended up liking my life better in my sleep and in my dreams.”
Throughout “Sleep Junkie,” Denae becomes immersed in an alternate universe filled with wistful electric guitars, floaty synths, sweeping bass and booming drums. She quickly questions whether her nocturnal adventures are rooted in fantasy or reality.
Denae sings, “Count your fingers/Check to see/Dream or reality?/I left my body at home/Lyin’ between the sheets/Memories distant enough to haunt me/Haunt me.”
“I went through this period where I was working all the time, and anytime I wasn’t working, I was sleeping like 14 hours a day. It created this sense of paranoia when I was awake, and the longer I did it, I was like, ‘Is this a dream?’ I didn’t know sometimes, and I had to snap out of it and get my mental health together,” she said.
“‘Sleep Junkie’ is really a reflection of mental health and that need for escape, but it brings in the sleep element and lucid dreaming because that was my escape at the time. I don’t think many people think it’s based off real events, but it was really was.”
Denae breathed new life into “Sleep Junkie” with Ann Arbor producer Eon Zero. The duo transformed her initial stripped-down version of the track into a soulful, atmospheric rejuvenation.
“Eon did so much, but it was also a collaborative effort where I was picking sounds and instruments. I played the minimal guitar on it, and he played more of the electric guitar on it. It was this cool second generation of collaboration … where we saw the vision together,” said Denae, who’s known Zero since high school.
Denae also brings her “Sleep Junkie” dreams to life in a mystical new video, which eloquently captures her hypnagogic state. Directed and edited by Joe Cavanaugh, it shifts between dreamy shots in a paper-filled attic and a dimly lit swimming pool.
“I had a lot of ideas that surrounded the water and the events in the video. (Joe) found this really cool house in Hamtramck, which was his friend’s house that was gutted. He had this vision in this space, and the set design was us bringing our collaborations together,” she said.
“We also went to a pool of a friend of my parents, and we filmed at night. It got really cold, and it was like 60 degrees in this pool. Joe was shivering, and I was in this dress I couldn’t swim in. We had to have someone swim to the bottom of the pool and bring me up when I would go under for a take because the dress weighed so much.”
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 61356mind’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.”
“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.”