A Good Sign quickly anesthetizes strong emotions from a past relationship.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan electro-pop singer-songwriter welcomes instant romantic indifference on her latest atmospheric single, “Numb.”
“‘Numb’ is that feeling of when you’re in a relationship with someone who has manipulated your feelings a lot,” said Kierstin Jackson, aka A Good Sign.
“You have these heart-wrenching feelings over and over, and then you’re just at a point where you’re numb to it. You no longer have control over your emotions.”
Throughout “Numb,” A Good Sign regains that self-control as exuberant synth, wistful bass and intrepid electronic percussion provide a jolt of confidence.
She sings, “High off of your touch / Or shattered by your silence / I used to stay fucked up / On your spiritual violence / But now I’m breaking up with / The ropes that I got tied with.”
“It’s a freeing feeling in a way because that person doesn’t have control over you anymore,” Jackson said. “That was a relationship recently I experienced where there a lot of ups and downs. My heart was fully in it, and then it ate away at things until there was nothing there.”
For The Prickly Pair, a pandemic-induced film immersion provided an instant gateway to 1950s-era New Orleans.
The Nashville, Tennessee alt-country duo of Mason Summit (vocals, guitars, keys) and Irene Greene (vocals) landed in the throes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and penned their latest Southern Gothic single, “The Long Parade,” as an ode to Tennessee Williams.
“We actually wrote that song for a Tennessee Williams tribute my mom was putting on as part of her literary series, Library Girl,” said Summit about the 1951 film based on Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
“We often get inspired by dialogue or visuals in movies, and we were taking notes while watching the film adaptation of ‘Streetcar.’”
Throughout “The Long Parade,” The Prickly Pair become entangled in the heartbreak and betrayal of Blanche, Stanley, Stella and Mitch. Twangy lap steel, nonchalant acoustic guitar, strolling bass, somber keys, steady drums and glistening cymbals plead for serenity and closure.
Summit and Greene sing, “Pearls before swine/Pull the wool over my eyes/‘Cause I can’t tell the truth/From my own lies.”
“It’s more of an attempt to capture the overall vibe, but I think people see themselves in these characters,” Summit said. “I hope people can relate to the song in a similar way. I personally find the chorus very cathartic to play.”
For Otto, a series of virtual songwriting sessions provided unexpected creativity and camaraderie.
The Detroit indie-pop quintet of Chesney Walters (vocals), Jonny Walker (guitar), Nate Dornfried (keys), Ryan Freitas (bass) and Austin Howard (drums) instantly gelled while penning new tracks over Zoom for their infectious debut EP, Still Picture You.
“In 2019, I was ready to call it quits with music, and then two weeks later, I just changed my mind. Austin and I decided to start doing our own project, and we started writing with no end-game in mind. And I knew Nate from where we grew up, and I ran into him and asked if he wanted to be a part of it,” said Walker, who previously played with Howard in another project.
“The three of us wrote together for a year and a half and auditioned 10 different singers, but couldn’t find anyone we were happy with. I was ready to call it quits (again) because we just couldn’t find anyone, and then Chesney just came out of nowhere. Austin and I also have known Ryan for a while. He ended up playing bass with us for one show, and now he’s here.”
With the right lineup intact, Otto started compiling a new batch of earnest tracks in 2020. Walters met regularly with Walker to write and refine the ‘80s-inspired, synth-pop songs that would become Still Picture You.
“I was living with my family at the time in the suburbs, and I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere except to Jonny’s house to write music,” Walters said. “We would just write and write for months while there was nothing else to do.”
During their writing sessions, Walters and Walker collaborated remotely with other Otto members until the pandemic subsided. It would be another six months before the entire band would meet in person.
“I hadn’t met them for months once we started, and we would all rotate at Jonny’s house and be there at different times,” Walters said. “But the first time we were all together in the same place was when we went to Nashville in March 2021 to record.”
Linen Ray slowly breathes a long-awaited sigh of relief.
The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) releases deeply buried tensions and inner struggles on their latest cathartic album, On the Mend.
“We’re in a full-circle moment now … there’s been some closure and healing in different areas. We’ve never written anything more meaningful to us that’s so close to our hearts,” said Rebekah Craft, who relocated to Music City from Ypsilanti with her husband and children in 2018.
“When we were moving to Nashville, there were so many unknowns, but we knew we had to do it. And, now looking back, we can see that this move has been really good for our family. We got to step away from some of those situations to really look at it and see the whole picture now.”
Inside that new On the Mendpicture, Linen Ray finds comfort and rejuvenation after weathering personal stress and pandemic challenges. Each therapeutic track reveals a majestic, internal transformation fueled by hope, love and gratitude.
“We can see more clearly now because we’re all human, and we all make our choices,” said Rebekah Craft. “Now … we have way more grace, compassion and understanding than we had before when we were living through those moments in Michigan.”
The Nashville, Tennessee indie pop singer-songwriter slowly exhales painful emotions and experiences from the past on her latest curative single, “Growing.”
“This song is about taking a moment to reflect on and accept the journey that I traveled to get to where I am today. This song also serves as an apology to those I was forced to leave behind, or anyone I may have hurt while I was hurting,” said Cosby, who hails from Grand Rapids.
“I’ve had to forgive myself for a lot of things and let go of resentments that kept me tied to my past. ‘Growing’ is my reminder to not look back, but to press on with the full understanding that I can do hard things. It gives me a sense of empowerment and hope for the future.”
Filled with cathartic piano and hopeful bass, “Growing” beautifully immerses listeners in newfound relief and closure. As the third release in Cosby’s “Songstress” series, it’s the ideal anthem for moving forward and rediscovering your sense of self.
Cosby sings, “Gotta cry every once in a while/Write it down, sing a song, walk a mile/In my worn out shoes, from the years I spent with you.”
“‘Growing’ is actually my oldest ‘baby’ in the series. I started writing this song probably in late 2019/early 2020 before COVID and before I moved. I think it started as a hope of what the future could feel like. Kind of a ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ scenario,” said Cosby, who relocated to Nashville in July 2020.
“It sat with me, always playing in the back of my mind, but never really felt authentic and ‘true’ until I moved. Clarity is a powerful thing. Once my healing journey and my feelings kind of ‘caught up’ to the song, I was able to finish writing it, and it feels like one of my most prized possessions now.”
To realize her “Growing” vision, Cosby collaborated remotely with Los Angeles producer (and Grand Haven native) Kevin DePree and recorded the piano at Nashville’s East Iris Studios. Playing on a beautiful Bosendorfer Grand provided Cosby with additional inspiration for the track.
“It’s been such a positive and fulfilling experience working with (Kevin). I think this is my most vulnerable series of music to date, so working with someone I really trust as both a producer and a person was really important to me,” Cosby said.
“(Recording on the Bosendorfer Grand) was pretty much an out-of-body experience. It really boosted my confidence in my piano skills and felt like a gift I was granting myself. I felt really proud of myself.”
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.”
Fueled by tenacity and compassion, Jon Pattie boldly rebuilds his sense of self.
The Nashville, Tennessee indie pop singer-songwriter tackles mental health struggles and adopts a renewed mindset on his latest uplifting single, “Pieces (IVeY Remix).”
“‘Pieces’ was one of the first songs I wrote when I began my career as a solo musician. Around the same time, I was struggling with depression and writing this song was a way for me to work through what I was feeling from another standpoint,” Pattie said.
“I originally released it on a demo EP and liked it so much I chose to re-release it with Andy Freeman’s and Brad Lindsay’s production behind it. When I hear it now, I feel happy and successful that I was able to relate such a dark point in my life to others in a concise and melodic way.”
Originally a cinematic pop anthem on his Reflections, Vol. II EP, Pattie transformed “Pieces” into a supercharged remix with Denver DJ-producer Jordan “IVeY” Iverson. Tender, spirited synths, fearless electric guitars, confident bass and steadfast drums cleanse the mind and rejuvenate the spirit.
Pattie sings, “She lies lonely on her side/Shedding tears through window eyes/Let me in, I’ll break apart/So we can restart.”
“It’s not only an opportunity for those struggling with depression to remember there are people who care about and support them, but also an opportunity for their friends and family to know they’re not alone,” he said. “Working through depression is difficult, but so is helping someone with depression. It helps to know we aren’t the only ones out there.”
“Like ‘Dream On,’ I wanted to remix ‘Pieces’ because it’s a very important song to me, and I felt it could use another voice. IVeY was incredible to work with. After a brief discussion of the vision I had in mind, he ran with it.”
Part of that “Pieces (IVeY Remix)” vision includes a gripping guitar solo from Pattie intertwined with IVeY’s sleek production.
“(IVeY) had the idea of adding a guitar solo to the track, which I loved that I got to solo again. Really, the entire production was IVeY’s work. I enjoy giving producers full creative liberty to let them be themselves when working with a track of mine,” said Pattie, who’s known IVeY since high school.
“The solo adds a complex, yet simple beauty to this song. It’s a very slow build with a major payoff at the end with the guitar solo. The fact that it seemingly comes out of nowhere is almost metaphorical to the confusion that depression can cause, yet the resolution goes to show it will end.”
Pattie also visually stimulates fans with a kaleidoscopic lyric video for “Pieces (IVeY Remix).” Directed by Rasel, it features brilliant neon hues morphing into people and geometric patterns along with the track.
“His use of brightly colored visuals created a stark contrast from the slow buildup of the remix. I thought it’d bring a different energy to the track, and it was a very easy process to work through,” Pattie said.
Filled with abundant love, family and music, Linen Ray remains rock solid.
The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) strongly withstands the mounting challenges of weather, the pandemic and personal stress on their latest bluesy, gospel-tinged single, “Love Ain’t Easy.”
“There are so many tests, and a lot of people and marriages broke up during that time. Being in a relationship is hard work,” said Rebekah Craft, an Ypsilanti native who’s been married to Gabriel Craft for 18 years.
Along with his wife, Gabriel Craft nodded in agreement. “I think the biggest challenge we faced during that whole time with the tornado and the pandemic was how suddenly things had to change. You would start to acclimate to the change, and then there was a change again.”
Back in March 2020, the Crafts encountered a deadly tornado that devastated part of Nashville just 10 days before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation.
Reeling from those life-changing experiences, they quickly adapted to lockdown life at home, which included virtual school, remote work and Linen Ray home studio recording sessions.
“We went through all of that, and then things started to change. We were able to leave a little bit, and the kids were back in school, but then after two weeks, somebody got COVID, and then the kids were back at home,” said Gabriel Craft, who grew up in Spring Arbor.
Despite the constant changes and lingering uncertainties, the Crafts relied on the strength of their marriage and family to focus on the future. Last fall, they penned their soulful solidarity anthem, “Love Ain’t Easy,” as a fervent tribute to lifelong love and commitment.
As the year (thankfully) comes to a close, we reflect on the strength, grit and willpower that slowly got us through. Together, we relied on new soothing, hopeful tracks that provided a welcome escape from the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation, political rifts, grief and loss.
Uplifting, rewarding bits of indie folk, country-pop, folk rock, psych rock, shiny lo-fi soul, reggae, dreamy pop, chill hip-hop and experimental art rock demonstrate the courageous creative and emotional spirit we all share heading into 2021.
The Nashville country-pop singer-songwriter candidly reflects on outgrowing her hometown, cherishing childhood memories and finding a renewed sense of purpose on “Maybe This Isn’t Home,” a poignant, cinematic ode to new beginnings, now available on all streaming platforms.
“I went home for a long weekend for a wedding, and one of my best friends was getting married. I remember staying in my parents’ home, and I was in my shared bedroom with my sister. Everything had changed, and I was like, ‘I feel like a stranger,’ and I felt like I was a guest visiting. Nothing felt like it was mine anymore; I had to live out of my suitcase in my own bedroom,” said Shock about that memorable trip home in August 2019.
“I love my family, and I love that town, but I was missing Nashville. I felt like I was missing out on things that were happening in Nashville. I had made new friends and had new experiences here in a new environment where I now call home. I’ve created a space here that feels a lot more like home.”
Throughout “Maybe This Isn’t Home,” Shock elegantly strolls down memory lane as submerged alternating synths, shiny twirling electric guitars, intermittent electronic drums, glistening keys and calm bass recall vivid loving memories of growing up outside Washington, D.C.
She nostalgically sings, “There’s this painting in the closet that my sister did/In the bedroom that we shared since we were kids/Down the street I still remember where I had my first kiss/Holding hands under the pillows in my basement/And I walked to school until I learned how to drive/I was cheering on a team under those Friday night lights/I swear those times were golden and I can’t forget/But it’s time for me to move on and start again.”
“For me, it’s creating new memories here. When I’m singing ‘Maybe This Isn’t Home,’ all my memories have to do with that town I grew up in. Two or three of my brothers played on the football team, and I always went to the football games to support them,” Shock said.
“Those are the memories that are so my hometown; whereas here in Nashville I’ve never been to a high school football game. It’s like creating a different memory completely and having those special moments that make you feel like home. It didn’t start to feel like Nashville was home until I was here for almost two years.”
Shock started working on her latest track a year ago with Nashville producers James Robertson and Jay Tooke. Together, they spent several months recording “Maybe This Isn’t Home” and finalized it before the start of spring quarantine.
“It was really cool to work with them in the studio while they were trying to think of the best way to produce it. Normally, I just write my songs with me and my guitar, so it’s cool to hear a full track. They did a good job at making it feel nostalgic, and it doesn’t have a slow super sad song kind of vibe. You can bop your head to it,” she said.