A Deeper Understanding – Lilly MacPhee Digs Beneath the Surface on ‘Between the Lines’ EP

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Lilly MacPhee uncovers hidden thoughts about time, loss and love on “Between the Lines.” Photo – Jackie Pappas

Lilly MacPhee continually searches for a deeper understanding in life.

The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter explores the true meaning of everyday words and actions on her new contemplative EP, Between the Lines.

“When I named the EP and thought about the overall theme of all the songs, I wanted people to really think about something before they say it. I believe in the notion of ‘say what you mean and mean what you say,’” MacPhee said.

“My whole goal with songwriting, and especially with the lyrics on this EP, is to always be authentic and raw. I also want to write lyrics universal enough to where everyone can interpret their own meaning.”

While reading Between the Lines, MacPhee digs beneath the surface and uncovers hidden thoughts about the passage of time, the loss of a loved one, the value of simple pleasures, and the need for lifelong connection.

Each haunting track also reminds listeners to learn from the past and find a sense of gratitude in the present, even as life’s troubles and uncertainties continue to build.

“Even through all the loss and the grief that I’ve experienced and others have experienced during these crazy times, I’m always trying to find the bright light,” MacPhee said.

“And for me, that’s through songwriting and the idea of trying to find the bright light in the darkness and finding the positivity when it might be hard to see.”

Continue reading “A Deeper Understanding – Lilly MacPhee Digs Beneath the Surface on ‘Between the Lines’ EP”

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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From the Heart – Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips Co-Headline Saturday’s Trinity House Show

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Two Michigan singer-songwriters will inject some heart and soul into metro Detroit Saturday.

Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips will share emotive selections during their co-headlining Feb. 12 show at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre. Both sets will melt away the wintry blues and provide a warm, spring-like welcome.

Ahead of Saturday’s soulful show, The Stratton Setlist chatted with Plomaritas and Phillips about their current inspirations, live sets and musical plans for 2022.

TSS: How has your 2022 been so far? What’s been inspiring you these days as an artist, songwriter and musician?

AP: 2022 has been off to a good start, all things considered. I started it off playing a Caribbean cruise for a week. Since then, I’ve been in the studio a bit and coaching high schoolers for the singing competition, Future Stars, in Ann Arbor. I’ll be the musical director for the show, which happens later in February.

What inspires me generally in songwriting are my wife and three sons. It’s also the struggle of being a professional musician and all of the trappings of fighting through insecurity and enjoying your own and others’ art, and being jealous of their success and reveling in it at the same time as they’re often my friends.

Two things I’ve taken in that have affected me greatly in the past year – The Ken Burns documentary on the history of country music and the “Cocaine & Rhinestones” podcast by Tyler Mahan Coe. Some processing of those will surely spill out onto the stage at Trinity House.

KP: I’ve been experiencing a lot of personal challenges and upheaval, but also so much growth and hope as of late. I’ve been more grateful than ever for the outlet that songwriting is to me. During this season, it’s felt more like a necessity than a choice.

Continue reading “From the Heart – Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips Co-Headline Saturday’s Trinity House Show”

Your Song – Bird Fight Records and JK (Not Kidding) Studios Launch Contest for Indie Artists

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Bird Fight Records’ Taylor Penn, Tom Mihalis and John Katona gather at JK (Not Kidding) Studios in Shelby Township. Photo courtesy of Taylor Penn

A metro Detroit record label and recording studio want to spotlight the next emerging artist.

Starting today, the Bird Fight Records and JK (Not Kidding) Studios team of John Katona, Tom Mihalis, Christian Ohly and Taylor Penn are launching a new contest to produce a single or an EP for one indie artist or band.

Interested artists or bands from any genre can enter the contest through Feb. 28. To be considered, entrants can submit audio demos/recordings that best demonstrate their musicality and artistry.

“Submissions can be any type of audio,” said Katona, producer-engineer for Bird Fight Records and owner of JK (Not Kidding) Studios. “It’s more about the songwriting than it is about production. We’ll take it from wherever it is to a fully produced song.”

The winning artist or band will have their material produced by JK (Not Kidding) Studios and released via Bird Fight Records. They also will receive marketing and video production support as part of the winning package.

“The people in Michigan and Detroit are so talented,” said Penn, graphic designer and social media manager for Bird Fight Records. “There are so many incredible artists around … we don’t want them to go unrecognized.”

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Sky High – After Blue Embraces New Possibilities on ‘Far Above and Far Away’

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Tom Alter and Katie Williamson discard painful feelings of the past and surge toward the radiant promise of the future on “Far Above and Far Away.”

Brimming with atmospheric soundscapes and curative tales, After Blue provides a calming, aerial pathway to new possibilities.

The metro Detroit indie folk duo of Katie Williamson (vocals, piano) and Tom Alter (vocals, guitar) instantly soothes and invigorates weary, lost souls on their enchanting new album, Far Above and Far Away.

“I think the first song, ‘Armada,’ was written prior to the pandemic, and I read an article in the paper about the town and what they did to build the garden. And Katie and I finished that one off together in her old house. I think that song kinda set the stage for the rest,” said Alter, who formed After Blue with Williamson in 2016.

Throughout their latest release, After Blue gracefully discards the painful feelings of the past and surges toward the radiant promise of the future. Each mesmerizing track allows listeners to rediscover their sense of spirituality and inner peace within an azure-filled dreamscape.

“I think ‘Charlotte’ was the next one that was written … but it is about persistence. There’s a line in there where it says, ‘I promise that bruises heal,’ and that’s the core of that song,” Alter said.

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Dig Deep – Lucas Powell Finds Enlightenment and Freedom on Cathartic ‘Michigan’ Album

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Lucas Powell unearths fragile thoughts from the past on “Michigan.” Photo – John Kroll

Lucas Powell deeply digs into buried experiences and emotions of the past.

The metro Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist delicately exhumes old selves and uncovers entombed painful memories on his cerebral, haunting debut album, Michigan, which dropped in August.

“One of my favorite songwriters as a kid was Jon Foreman because I grew up religious and liked Switchfoot. He once said songwriting is like archaeology for him. He just digs inside and finds something. I saw that in an interview a couple of years ago and realized that’s my songwriting process,” Powell said.

“If I can’t write something, then I know that it’s because I need to meditate and get it out of me. Michigan is very embodying of a young, coming-of-age kid trying to get it all out. I could just see me trying to find the right words to say, and I love it for that reason.”

On Michigan, Powell slowly unearths fragile thoughts about spirituality, growth, self-worth and loss throughout his 12-track personal excavation. Filled with vivid religious imagery and layers of swelling cinematic soundscapes, the album thoughtfully chronicles his cathartic journey toward inner enlightenment and existential freedom.

“I’m exploring those themes to use that language as my own narrative. Artists use Christianity or religion as a way to talk about themselves or question it. It’s a mix of sometimes I’m addressing it, and sometimes I’m just using the language that I have,” Powell said.

Continue reading “Dig Deep – Lucas Powell Finds Enlightenment and Freedom on Cathartic ‘Michigan’ Album”

Suburban Stories – Matthew Milia Revisits Metro Detroit Memories on ‘Keego Harbor’

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Matthew Milia’s “Keego Harbor” captures a beautiful legacy of life unchanged in the metro Detroit suburbs. Photo – John Hanson

For Matthew Milia, Keego Harbor represents a nostalgic, metro Detroit road trip from youth to adulthood and back again.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and Frontier Ruckus frontman eloquently drifts through deep childhood recollections, gritty suburban landmarks and dichotomous neighborhood adventures on his well-crafted second solo album.

“This has been a lifelong obsession, especially with the suburban world. It’s inspired by the fact that the suburban experience is not monolithic. It’s all these mingling beautiful dualities and contradictions of the human experience that live in this space,” said Milia, who grew up in Keego Harbor.

“I’m juxtaposing Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills because those places are contiguous, and they couldn’t be more different. That’s a hard thing for people that don’t live in this area to understand. My endless personal quest is to give as much vivid description and detail of these contradictions that I’ve experienced.”

Throughout Keego Harbor, Milia intricately constructs snapshots of mundane Michigan experiences – junk mail, rotten mulch and phone chargers – and static places – party stores, drive-thru lanes and nail salons – across 10 introspective tracks to capture a beautiful legacy of life unchanged.

“I think this record is a bit more about generational inheritance. My parents met in Keego Harbor at a place called the Back Seat Saloon that’s no longer there, and the first placed they lived together was in a little loft above a house. The age I am now is when they were doing all that. It’s a bit of time travel while seeing myself as my parents and all the things that entails,” he said.

While much of Keego Harbor remains in the rear-view mirror of the mind’s eye, another portion welcomes the uncertain future with outstretched arms. It’s a matter of looking toward the past to better understand who you’ve become and where you’re headed, whether that’s in a city or a suburb.

“I’m also thinking on another level about my experience in the music industry. It’s such a weird commerce to toil in, and my life since 2006 has been writing these songs and making these records with my friends and putting them out into the world and seeing where they take me,” Milia said.

“I think that a major trope of this record is the recalibration of one’s dreams and expectations. And knowing that immense beauty and surprise can be hiding there. Once you recalibrate what you think you wanted or were working toward, you might just find something even more rewarding.”

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Sounds of Autumn – Local Artists Perform Weekend Sets at Canterbury Village’s Open Air Markets

The Keynote Sisters perform at Canterbury’s Village Open Air Markets. Photo – Mark Reitenga

Strong flavors of folk, country and rock will fill the autumn air at Lake Orion’s Canterbury Village this weekend.

Those aromatic sounds will come from a talented roster of metro Detroit singer-songwriters performing intimate outdoor acoustic sets at Open Air Markets Saturday and Sunday.

This weekend’s lineup will feature James Wailin, Sean Blackman, Al Carmichael, Tom Butwin, Johnny Rhodes and Jon Rice, said Mark Reitenga, a Royal Oak folk rock singer-songwriter who curates live music for Open Air Markets.

“This is a pure energy boost because many of the musicians have been laying low since March and many of the patrons as well. It’s like two happy colliding forces,” he said.

“The music is the tonal center of the market in that the musicians keep the spirit happy as market goers walk around the vast campus looking for goodies, donuts, cider, clothing and specialty items. The musicians play in the outside dining area to folks on picnic benches and also walking by.”

Outdoor market and live music aficionados can expect masked, socially-distanced crowds at Canterbury Village through Oct. 4. The markets also will showcase the work of local artists, crafters, cooks and jewelers and spotlight a different theme for vendors spaced throughout the village.

“They have been fantastic for the pretty strong socially-distanced crowds and also for the safe-distance and mask-wearing aspect. The musical acts have been superb – with many selling their original CDs and making great tip money from the family-oriented crowd accompanied by dogs,” Reitenga said.

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A Tale of 2 Albums – Kathy Wieland, John Rinn Host Joint Release Show Saturday at Trinity House Theatre

Kathy Wieland will celebrate the release of her album, “Momma Liked to Fish,” with John Rinn Saturday at Trinity House Theatre. Photo by Judy Insley

Kathy Wieland and John Rinn will share heartwarming melodies of life, love and laughter Saturday night at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre.

The metro Detroit folk singer-songwriters will celebrate the release of their latest poignant albums, “Momma Liked to Fish” and “Sweet Summer Moon,” at the intimate 90-seat venue. Wieland and Rinn will take turns performing songs and supporting one another with instrumentals and harmonies throughout their joint set.

“John and I are both members of Songwriters Anonymous, and our CDs came out about the same time. We also know each other from doing open mics, especially at BaseLine Folklore Society. We have not performed together before so this will be an adventure for both of us,” Wieland said.

For Wieland, Saturday night’s on-stage adventure also will include singer-songwriters Sara Melton Keller, Beverly Meyer, Robin Monterosso and Linden Thoburn as special guests on backup harmonies throughout her set.

Together, they’ll combine their soaring vocals on four of Wieland’s tracks from “Momma Liked to Fish” – “A Little Whiskey,” “Prayer the Devil Answered,” “Makin’ Lemonade” and “A Woman Who’s Aged” before an eager singalong crowd.

“Trinity House Theatre is a place I feel really comfortable, and it’s a great place to be a performer or a listener. I attend the monthly Songwriters Anonymous meetings there and have made so many wonderful friends through this venue,” said Wieland, who’s from Ann Arbor.

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