Fresh Sounds – WSU Students Launch Old Main Records Label to Support Emerging Artists

The WSU student-run label and organization will host a multimedia launch event Jan. 17 in Detroit.

A new homegrown record label will cultivate fresh sounds in the Motor City.

Known as Old Main Records, the Wayne State University (WSU) student-run label and organization will help local, regional and national artists record, release and perform original music.

“The idea of actually doing a record label at Wayne State as a student organization had been around for a while since I was a freshman taking the classes. People would say, ‘Oh, it would be great if it happened,’ but nobody actually really did it,” said Brendan Derey, Old Main Records president and a music business senior.

“Another friend and I actually did start it together. Over the summer, we got a small group of people in the room talking about our ideas, and then it snowballed from there.”

Today, Old Main Records has 20 student members, including three other leads besides Derey – Patrick Norton, creative director; Christopher Simpson, social media and marketing director; and David Jackowicz, recording and distribution director.

Named after and housed in the iconic 19th century WSU academic building at Cass and Warren avenues, Old Main Records also partners with two WSU Department of Music lecturers Jeremy Peters and Michael Shellabarger.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with the label is create a hub. One of the benefits of being a Wayne State student organization is that there are a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds, whether that’s art, film, business, music tech or music business,” Derey said. “There are just a ton of people around who are willing to do this kind of grassroots organization.”

Patrick Norton and his Dirt Room bandmates are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label. Photo by Matt Hamilton

With a team in place, Old Main Records is currently setting up the independent label’s infrastructure, accepting and reviewing artist submissions, applying for grants and creating internal processes. It also will provide students with opportunities in event promotion, marketing, recording and distribution and launch a crowdfunding campaign soon.

“They want to turn this into a class or an outlet for music business majors to use. It helps everybody out because part of the goal of the record label is to give resources out to artists,” said Norton, a music technology senior and director of do-it-yourself (DIY) Detroit music-art space Nice Place. “We’re really looking to help build the local community and give promotional and marketing support to artists.”

To demonstrate that support, Norton’s band Dirt Room, a Detroit experimental indie rock quintet, is serving as a pilot artist for Old Main Records. Along with Norton, Dirt Room bandmates Samuel Sprague, Simon Sprague, Cam Frank and Matt Hagger are helping students work through the process of signing an artist to the label.

Dirt Room is also featured on a “Nice Plays: Local Detroit Underground” Spotify playlist, which includes dozens of emerging Motor City artists across a multitude of genres. All artists added to the playlist have submitted their music for consideration to Old Main Records.

As Old Main Records finalizes its first round of artists to sign, it will host a multimedia launch event in partnership with Nice Place and feature live music and visual art Jan. 17 at St. Andrew’s Church in Detroit. Dirt Room, The Stools, Mac Saturn and Craig Garwood will perform at the label’s event.

“We’re taking twice as much time to do every small step now with the label, so in the future, these will be easy processes, and everybody will know what to do going forward,” Derey said. “We’re hoping for January and February to start recording projects with those groups, and then have our first releases as well coming down this year.”

Finally, Old Main Records will partner with WSU to preserve and digitize an extensive catalog of audio archives that date back to the ‘30s. It will be a multi-year project to convert audio recordings on cassette, vinyl and wire to digital formats for future preservation.

For details about Old Main Records, visit the label’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Interested artists also can submit their music for consideration to oldmainrecordssubmissions@gmail.com. General label inquiries can be sent to oldmainrecords@gmail.com.

Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album

Mark Jewett is working on a follow-up album to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Photo by Tom Sorensen

One late August night Mark Jewett stumbled upon an enigmatic vision while heading home from a show in Port Huron.

That vision illuminated the night sky while its reflection danced on the water and beckoned Jewett to stop and observe.

“As I drove south out of Port Huron on Military Street, which runs close and parallel to the St. Clair River, I looked out my side window, and I could see the Canadian shoreline, south of Sarnia,” Jewett said. “I saw a spectacle that lit up like something from a sci-fi movie. All I could think was, ‘What was that?’ I was stunned.”

Jewett turned his car around, drove up to the river’s shoreline and saw the “industrial monstrosity” known as “Chemical Valley,” which is home to more than 60 refineries and chemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

“The vibe I got standing alone on a dark river bank in very peaceful quiet was very calming,” said Jewett, a Plymouth-based Americana singer-songwriter. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, in spite of this hideous pollution-spewing industrial megaplex in very close proximity to a population of people, everything will be all right.’”

Jewett captured that peaceful, nocturnal moment in his latest single, “Saint Clair’s Promise,” a twangy, torchy ode to beauty, mystery, faith and hope that’s available  via Bandcamp. Billy Harrington (drums, percussion), Michael Harrington (pedal steel, electric guitar), Ken Pesick (bass) and Dale Grisa (piano) accompany Hewett on the track.

The track features a driving bassline and a mellow slide guitar beautifully intertwined with Jewett’s Johnny Cash-inspired vocals while Amy Petty provides soothing harmonies – “It might have been the water/It might have been the light/It might have been a silent voice calling out to me that night.”

Saint Clair’s Promise” is one of two new tracks that will be featured on Jewett’s untitled third album, which will drop in spring 2020 and serve as the follow-up to 2016’s “Tending the Fire.” Produced by Billy Harrington, Jewett’s new album will sonically immerse listeners in personal tales about different moods, feelings and experiences.

“When Billy heard my demos, he said he could imagine taking these tunes down a sonic road similar to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ ‘Raising Sand,’” Jewett said. “Ironically, I see my sound growing by getting simpler. With exceptions, I feel like music that I write for a conscious purpose needs room to breathe.”

Continue reading “Double Up – Mark Jewett Releases ‘Saint Clair’s Promise/The Lucky One’ from Forthcoming Third Album”

Math Rock – Nate Erickson Drops New 310AM Solo Track ‘Expectations of a Failed Equation’

Former After Hours Radio member Nate Erickson has launched a new indie rock solo project called 310AM.

A new 310AM track poetically proves not all problems have a right answer.

Written and recorded by Ypsilanti indie rock vocalist/guitarist Nate Erickson, “Expectations of a Failed Equation” explores the twists and turns personal relationships take when they’ve reached a breaking point. At times, the best solution may include moving forward without questioning why certain life chapters end.

“It’s one I held onto for a while and reworked bits and pieces for a couple of months before it ever got put into record format,” said Erickson, former lead vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock trio After Hours Radio. “I wasn’t really consciously thinking about where I wanted to take it lyrically. I think it ended up being the experiences of what my house situation and the band situation were like at the time.”

In August, Erickson and his After Hours Radio bandmates Greg Hughes and Mark Dunne ended their five-year run as one of Ypsilanti’s most notable do-it-yourself (DIY) bands. Together, they released two EPs, performed regularly throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio and ran their own Ypsilanti-based DIY venue, The Late Station, to showcase emerging artists across a multitude of genres.

Earlier this year, After Hours Radio celebrated their five-year anniversary and briefly reunited with original lead singer Calum Galt for a special one-off performance. Together, Erickson and his bandmates decide to pursue their own solo projects instead of forging ahead.

“I think at the time we were still trying to make things work the best we could,” said Erickson, who co-founded After Hours Radio with Hughes at the University of Michigan in 2014. “This track is kind of like a what-if scenario, that’s how I wrote it, and things kind of went where they did.”

Expectations of a Failed Equation single artwork

Released today, Erickson’s 310AM debut track, “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” opens with slow progressive guitar chords channeling disappointment and wonder – “You can hear everything that I think/Even though I blocked you out of this place we live in/They say actions make stronger statements that complement apologies/Or all those good intentions you claim.”

“I went through a couple of different iterations once I started adding other instruments to it because either way I felt like the parts I was writing were either too dark or way too bright, and none of it felt right,” said Erickson, who’s inspired by pop-punk emo bands Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. “I had to go through a couple of iterations until I felt like everything meshed.”

Halfway through the track, Erickson’s guitar erupts into a firestorm mixed with thunderous bass and drums to mirror the building frustration – “Never said I’m right/And I’m not sure what more to say here/I’m not sure where to be/What to say/Or how to play this to avoid giving life the futures I fear.”

“Everything on there is me, and when I was working on this, it was meant to be like a side project from After Hours Radio,” said Erickson, who played all the instruments on the track and mixed it himself. “I didn’t take it to a nice studio or anything. It was just seeing what would happen if I just let myself run with the ideas I had in my head.”

After the release of “Expectations of a Failed Equation,” Erickson plans to drop two other new tracks in the next three to six months and continues to mix and engineer projects for local indie bands Stop Watch, Any Island, Forest Warren and Tryancareagain.

“I would like to start playing out again. For 310AM, the solo project stuff, I don’t want to do it unless I get the right group of people together to make it work like the recording,” Erickson said. “If I can get that to happen, then I would love to, but I’m not necessarily pushing for it. I’m waiting for the right fit.”

Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album

Bill Edwards released his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” in October. Photo by Chasing Light Photos

These days, Bill Edwards views love as the soundtrack of his life.

The Ann Arbor country singer-songwriter eloquently chronicles his evolving thoughts about love on his latest album, “Sounds Like Love,” which dropped in October on Regaltone Records.

“A year ago I decided I wanted to do an album of love songs. It seems like the times we’re going through right now we can use as much love as we can get,” Edwards said. “They’re not all songs that say ‘I love you.’ Some are about the complications and the darker side of some love relationships. I think they’re at least loosely related to the concept of love.”

Sounds Like Love” features 13 stellar tracks highlighting the ups and downs of love from different perspectives and moments in time – new love, lost love, lifelong love, past love and unrequited love. On each track, Edwards gently moves listeners from one soundbite of love to the next along a fascinating emotional path that includes paint, hurricanes and boxcars.

“I write about a song a week, and it’s just my creative outlet. I had accumulated quite a number of songs to choose from, and I just picked those 13 for the record,” he said. “I’ve long wanted to do an album all by myself in my own home studio, and I’ve accumulated an embarrassing amount of recording gear.”

Continue reading “Sounds Like Love – Bill Edwards Chronicles Relationships Gained, Lost on Latest Album”

Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music

Erin Zindle is releasing new music under the new band moniker, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds. Photo by Joe Gall

Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds are ready to soar above the clouds.

The Ann Arbor infectious global groove group has taken flight with a new band moniker and migrated toward new music wrapped in breathtaking melodies, vocal harmonies and improvisational elements.

Previously known as The Ragbirds, the quartet of Erin Zindle (vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo), TJ Zindle (electric/acoustic guitar, vocals), Shannon Wade (bass, vocals) and Loren Kranz (drums, vocals) is now Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

“The name change sends a very clear message that this is different from what we’ve done before. This is different enough that we feel like it needs a new name,” said Zindle, who formed the band in 2005. “Also, there’s the sense of me stepping up and really taking ownership of the role that I have played in the band this whole time. My bandmates are just so amazing. I’m so proud of my band right now, and they’re the best guys I could possibly ask to work with.”

Throughout the band’s 14-year history, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds have maintained a passionate grassroots fan base by continually reinventing themselves with an evolving sound while remaining rooted in the high-energy sphere of world-based folk rock. Today, they’ve shifted their sound to include more melodic components along with uplifting vocals, edgy guitars and groovy rhythms.

“We have less going on in the percussive world, and in the rhythm section, it’s a little less busy. And it’s interesting how that happened at the same time as I was having this natural shift toward developing my voice and stepping forward as a singer and writing songs with stronger melodies as I improve as a songwriter,” Zindle said. “I’m just getting much more honed in my craft so that I can write songs that are more vocal forward and focus on the melodic elements.”

Continue reading “Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music”

Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday

Emilie Rivard will bring her intimate acoustic indie folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday night. Photo by Kent Koller

Emilie Rivard will forge a deep musical connection with Tree Town Friday night.

The Royal Oak indie folk singer-songwriter will share her highly personal, reflective songs with an intimate Ann Arbor crowd at Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom.

“This one’s just going to be on my own. I want to give myself some time and space to focus on my own work,” said Rivard, who will perform two 45-minute acoustic sets. “I am working on some new songs that I will be performing, and I will be doing some covers. It will mostly be original music, but the covers will be my interpretation of the songs.”

Throughout her mesmerizing sets, Rivard will showcase raw emotional vocals with a heartfelt wall of acoustic sound. Her relatable sonic tales of love, travel and growth will resonate with crowds of all ages and musical interests.

“There’s the spiritual element of letting go and letting music flow through you. The best music that I’ve created is what just comes out of me,” Rivard said. “I’m not trying to manipulate it, I’m not trying to do anything – it just comes. I’m committed to it, and I’m going to keep on going because there’s so much to learn from it.”

Rivard spent the last three and half years honing her guitar chops after studying with Detroit singer-songwriter Joel Palmer. She later added guitar to her repertoire after playing drums, piano, banjo and autoharp while growing up in Royal Oak with several musical siblings. That instrumental prowess also led to a deep musical appreciation for Simon & Garfunkel, Gillian Welch, Lauren Hill and Scott Joplin.

“I discovered when I was younger the soundtrack for the movie, ‘Amelie,’ by Yann Tiersen,” she said. “It’s instrumental stuff that’s kind of playful and whimsical, so I think that played a part in the kind of music that I play.”

Continue reading “Magic Touch – Emilie Rivard Brings Enchanting Indie Folk to Crazy Wisdom Friday”

The Plugin – Dirty Thirty Producers, Beatmakers Showcase Their Creativity Tonight at Ypsilanti’s 734 Brewing Company

Tonight’s Plugin will showcase local producer-beatmakers and sets from other artists at 734 Brewing Company.

A fresh array of beats and rhythms will electrify Ypsilanti’s 734 Brewing Company tonight.

Known as The Plugin, the producer-beatmaker showcase and competition will spotlight “The Dirty Thirty,” a 30-minute sample chopping contest with catchy creations from emerging hip-hop artists.

During the contest, artists will have a half-hour to make beats from a previously chosen sample they can download. After the 30-minute time limit is up, they will showcase their beats and be rated on a point system for their mix, creativity and arrangement by a panel of three judges. The winning artist with the most points will receive money or another prize from Plugin event sponsors.

“After we do the competition, then we allow the winner to do a beat set, and they can play some of their instrumentals,” said Rod Wallace, a metro Detroit hip-hop producer and beatmaker who oversees The Plugin. “We also may have people there who are seeking things to do with sync licensing, and then they get a chance to hear from the artists. It’s always been a great party.”

The former high school administrator and teacher launched The Plugin in May after running a student music education program. He teamed up with Grove Studios, an Ypsilanti-based rehearsal and recording space, Double Negative People, a Detroit record label, and Mic Moseley to host and sponsor the monthly event.

“As I had the opportunity to come back to Eastern to direct a program here, I also began working on my PhD, and I was focusing around how music technology can be used to teach kids transferrable skills,” said Wallace, who’s also a lead engineer for Grove Studios and a second-year doctoral student at Eastern Michigan University. “What I found in doing some early research was producers are very adept are teaching themselves how to use software. They’re very adept at teaching themselves skills using YouTube and using video.”

Rod Wallace oversees monthly Plugin events.

Wallace also noticed how music technology education connects directly to STEM-based curricula and teaches student producers and beatmakers transferrable skills. The goal is to provide laptop musicians with a productive, creative and educational outlet for developing and sharing their own music.

“Another thing that came up in the research is the fact that there isn’t a lot of collaboration. People are kind of like mad scientists, they stay to themselves and do what they do,” Wallace said. “They might work with an artist, and they might not work with an artist. I wanted to create a venue where not only could they work together and show off their skills, but it was also an environment that catered itself toward networking and connecting with artists.”

Those connections start with other producers and beatmakers who perform at The Plugin each month. Tonight’s event will feature sets from Brooklyn Beatz (aka Josh Johnson), Josh Hype, Tru Klassick (aka Taylor Michael) and DJ Buff as well as classic hip-hop trivia and a 50-50 raffle to benefit local nonprofits.

“We’ve spent our time trying to gather more sponsorships and trying to make some more connections with producers who can really come through and show people what to do as well,” Wallace said. “It’s always a really fun time, and I just look forward to continuing to do it.”

Show details:

The Plugin – “The Dirty Thirty” featuring local producers and beatmakers and sets from Brooklyn Beatz, Josh Hype, Tru Klassick and DJ Buff

7 p.m. tonight

734 Brewing Company, 15 E. Cross St. in Ypsilanti

$10 entry fee for producers and beatmakers

Donations welcome from attendees