Transition Period – Dan Hazlett Crafts Life-Changing Stories on ‘Turning Stone’ Album

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Dan Hazlett shares compelling characters and narratives on his latest album, “Turning Stone.” Photo – Robin Scully

As a gifted storyteller, Dan Hazlett eloquently crafts life-changing tales.

The Waterford folk-jazz singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares insightful stories steeped in transition and growth on his latest anecdotal album, Turning Stone.

“Every person in every song is a character, even if you’re the person, because you’re not that person anymore. Even if you were when you wrote it, you’re someone else now. Every song, in its own way, is a tiny piece of musical theater. That’s now my approach. This is a world … this is a little novel or a little painting all unto itself,” Hazlett said.

“At some point, you just have to let the characters speak for themselves, and they will say surprising things. And that is really fun, and you end up with material you would never have written if you focused on ‘What would I say?’ It’s more interesting to learn ‘What would this person say?’”

With Turning Stone, Hazlett examines life through the lens of an inquisitive mathematician, a courageous child, a lost soul, a lonely housewife and other people facing life-changing circumstances. The album’s tracks convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of intriguing characters who tackle their own challenges within a jazzy, acoustic-pop landscape.

“This project turned out to be the one that’s fully produced, like a band and sort of poppy and just a different kind of record. The songs ended up being in there because musically they kind of wanted to be together. It was more like, ‘How do these songs sound together?’” he said.

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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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Perfectly Imperfect – Rin Tarsy Celebrates Life’s Contradictions on ‘Paradox’

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Rin Tarsy embarks on an emotional and spiritual quest of self-discovery on “Paradox.” Photo – Justin Snavely

For Rin Tarsy, life is filled with beautiful contradictions and imperfections.

The Grand Rapids folk singer-songwriter and guitarist embraces authenticity, yet re-examines her purpose on the aptly titled album, Paradox.

“For a while, people would ask, ‘What’s the theme of Paradox?’ And for a while, I didn’t know. Finally, it dawned on me one time when I was listening through all the tracks – it’s about self-trust and self-discovery,” said Tarsy, who grew up in Portland and started singing in church.

“I hope all these songs make sense together, and I really like them, but I wasn’t sure if they did. It’s comforting and scary at the same time. Are these thoughts ever gonna go away? Am I always gonna be questioning everything? Maybe I will.”

Tarsy’s lingering questions slowly spark an emotional and spiritual quest of self-discovery on Paradox that spans several years. Each poetic track celebrates intuition and explores emotion.

“The first songs I wrote for this album – ‘Stay,’ ‘Dear Heart’ and ‘Suitcase’ – were in the summer of 2016 after I got back from Africa. It was the first time I had examined who I was when I took away all of the pursuits that I had and the things I had wanted to go after,” said Tarsy, who visited Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia.

“At the time, I had asked myself, ‘Who am I if those things don’t go exactly the way I want? Or if my idealisms of what they could be don’t match up with the reality of what they actually are?’”

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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.”

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

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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Start Anew – Anthony Lai Weathers Life’s Obstacles on ‘Take Me with You’

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Anthony Lai threads uplifting themes of resilience and renewal on “Take Me with You.” Photo – Reyshaun Payne

For Anthony Lai, it’s never too late for a fresh start.

The Dearborn vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist boldly weathers life’s painful losses, changes and challenges on his latest hopeful, folk-inspired album, Take Me with You.

“Every song is a very real experience, and some are more specific than others, but they’re all very honest. As I was choosing what songs I’ve written, I kept gravitating toward the honest ones and the ones that gave an emotional response,” Lai said.

“The album just started to take shape, and it ended up having this theme. I originally set out for it to be less themed and more of just a collection of tunes, but it looked like I had a common thread after all.”

In fact, Lai beautifully threads uplifting themes of resilience and renewal throughout eight introspective tracks into his genre-defying tapestry of Take Me with You.

Each thread weaves different tonal colors and instrumental palettes to represent a cohesive sound tinged with hints of pop, rock, bluegrass, classical, choral and folk.

“It feels like this album is finally me saying I understand who I am as a Beatles fan and as someone who has also studied classical music and is a choral director. You can hear all avenues of my life in this album,” Lai said.

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Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos elegantly bring grit and glam to their stylish new video for Candy Coated Cannonball’sPut You on Hold” single.

The Detroit rock trio of Jeremy Porter (guitar, vocals), Gabriel Doman (drums, vocals) and Bob Moulton (bass, vocals) seamlessly fuse energetic live performance footage with colorful animation to illustrate “Put You on Hold’s” storyline about a girl becoming captivated with city life.

“I wanted to go for a bit of a throwback to the Aerosmith videos with Alicia Silverstone – sort of a very loose plot about a party girl that maybe worked with the song, but didn’t necessarily follow the song’s lyrics to a tee,” said Porter, who worked with director-photographer David Kellogg on the video.

“There are nods to the lyrics here and there, and in general, like the song, it’s about a crazy night out for a not-so-crazy girl, but the concept and its tie-in to the lyrics aren’t overthought. We glammed the look of the band up a bit for shits ‘n giggles to do something different, get out of our comfort zone and have some fun.”

Porter and The Tucos demonstrate that glamorous fun while dressing head-to-toe in white or black and adorning sunglasses and scarves, thanks to stylist Alessandra Lipman. They proudly sport those hip stage fashions in a darkened gym located at the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC).

“PARC is an old high school here in Plymouth that’s been converted into an art space with studios that local artists can rent and stuff like that. I wanted something big like a high school gym, and it just seemed perfect,” said Porter, who’s partnering with Ghettoblaster Magazine to premiere the video today.

“I also like to keep my money in my community when possible and support the arts when I can. David and I met the manager there, and she showed us around, and we agreed it was our spot. The gym has the feel of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video a bit, which I liked.”

In tandem with the band’s live performance footage, the “Put You on Hold” video includes compelling animated characters and background scenery by Jones William. It explores the main character’s social outings with friends as well as her dating life and city adventures.

“(Jones) answered a Craigslist ad and was honestly one of the very few worth following up with. We never talked, just through email, a language barrier was an issue, and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get. In the end, he delivered, and I was pleased with the work he did,” Porter said.

The band’s “Put You on Hold” video ultimately came together with Kellogg, who brought a “youthful, enthusiastic energy” to the camera.

“I met David through Instagram when we were recording. His work caught my eye, and he ended up doing all of the photography, including the cover, for the record. And even though he’s younger, he still gets the ‘70s/‘80s references we were throwing out – he’s well-traveled, so to speak,” Porter said.

“He didn’t have much to do with the concept or animation part, but he was very involved in scouting and choosing the location and everything that went into the performance part – lighting, setup, direction and all that. He and I also edited it together.”

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Pep Talk – Alison Albrecht Silences Self-Doubt, Second-Guesses on ‘I Say’ Single

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Alison Albrecht shares her personal transformation on “I Say.” Album artwork – Andrew Albrecht

Alison Albrecht elegantly transforms past lessons into future growth.

The Ann Arbor pop-soul-folk singer-songwriter deeply reveals her personal metamorphosis on “I Say,” an authentic, fearless anthem about taking charge of one’s life.

“It encapsulates exactly how this last year has gone for me. It’s just been a huge transformation in realizing if you can let go of the ‘supposed tos’ and the ‘shoulds’ and just live more boldly with conviction and confidence life opens up so much more,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht carries her courageous mindset forward as beating electronic drums, delicate cymbals, mellow bass, contemplative piano and tranquil synths provide internal strength. She soulfully sings, “Silence the voices/Chin up/Look into the mirror/Lock eyes with the face/And finally the fog begins to clear/Biting my nails down/But alone/Nowhere to hide/I breathe the same air/With a fresh new pair of eyes.”

“I’ve been diving into passion projects rather than thinking, ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should do that.’ I’m finally having the confidence of living in every moment and being present. This time, I say I’m not going to listen to those outside voices like I had been for a long time,” said Albrecht, who’s inspired by Sara Bareilles.

Albrecht teamed up with younger brother Andrew Albrecht to co-write and produce “I Say” in their home studio. Andrew provided the thoughtful piano instrumental while Albrecht penned the personal lyrics during a brief, torrential downpour.

“Two seconds later, the clouds suddenly parted and the sun beautifully shined. I was like, ‘That is such a metaphor for the song, and I need this right now.’ I tried to harness that sort of energy, and we wrote the song real quickly. It’s definitely one of my favorites,” she said.

The Albrechts sent the finished track to Jim Kissling at Ferndale’s Tempermill Studio for mastering. Once the single was released in March, the siblings started developing a concept for the upcoming “I Say” video, which will drop later this summer.

“We’re so lucky to live in an era where we can do things ourselves. I’m all about authenticity and trying to know exactly who I am and who we are. I think capturing video and audio in spaces where we feel comfortable gives the audience great insight into who we are,” Albrecht said.

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The Darkness and The Light – Mike Ward Balances Past, Future on Contemplative New Album

Mike Ward uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on “The Darkness and The Light.” Photo – Mark Stevens of Blue H2O

Mike Ward eloquently strikes a balance between the past and the future.

The Detroit Americana singer-songwriter thoughtfully uncovers the delicate midpoint between two opposing forces in time and emotion on his reflective third album, The Darkness and The Light.

“I think it has a lot to do with my age; I got started in this late. I think it comes from a lot of experience and examination of that. I come from a really big family; we’ve had some losses and struggles over the last 10 years. These songs were all written well before the pandemic, but they tee up the emotions that people have,” Ward said.

“Since my dad passed and my mom died almost 10 years before that, I’ve been on that path of examining life as it is, life as it was and life after I go. I archived about 10,000 slides and photographs from my dad’s collection because he was an amateur photographer, and you can’t do that without diving into the faces, the eyes, the smiles and the tears. All those stories ruminate around, and I think for me as a writer I’ve realized that’s the way things have to happen for me.”

Ward’s initial ruminations unfold into 10 insightful tales about wisdom, gratitude, reality and altruism throughout The Darkness and The Light. As a majestic successor to 2018’s We Wonder, each Darkness and Light track sashays from shadows of struggle to flashes of hope as listeners travel from one experience to the next.

“I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything, and I’m not trying to be Pollyanna. Even when I sing ‘Our Turn to Shine,’ it’s done in a way that suggests taking it upon yourself. When one of us shines, we can all shine, and bringing a little light to the world is a good thing even as messed up as it is. That’s what I hope people will get from it. I’ve been told by a number of people who’ve listened to it that it’s calming and gives them a sense of relaxation,” Ward said.

Continue reading “The Darkness and The Light – Mike Ward Balances Past, Future on Contemplative New Album”