Ripple Effect – Eric Ripper Finds Growth and Love on New ‘Wavelength’ Album

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Eric Ripper features exploratory lyrics, radiant acoustic guitars and ambient soundscapes on his new album. Artwork – Dean Ripper

Filled with emotion and adventure, Eric Ripper rides the wave of new possibilities.

The Ferndale, Michigan acoustic pop-rock singer-songwriter boldly journeys through the peaks and valleys of growth, love and aspiration on his latest revelatory album, Wavelength.

“I traveled out to Utah to start this project, worked on it while I was out there and continued it after coming back. I’ve seen many beautiful things and spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts,” Ripper said.

“Those thoughts come together when you finally sit down with a guitar in hand. I’ve learned that I need time to write and need to explore myself if I am to continue writing and producing music.”

With self-discovery top of mind, Ripper soars alongside Wavelength’s exploratory lyrics, radiant acoustic guitars and ambient soundscapes. The album’s nine contemplative tracks instantly invite listeners to accompany Ripper on his introspective, cathartic odyssey.

“Traveling is a big part of my inspiration as well as having good and bad life experiences. All elements toward this album have been therapeutic: writing, producing, recording and releasing – all of it,” he said.

“I feel as if I’m sharing a big side of me with others on this release, and I just hope people can hear the work and dedication put into it. Everyone is growing as a person … they all have their own direction. I’m riding this wavelength, and I hope others can hear their purpose and find themselves.”

Continue reading “Ripple Effect – Eric Ripper Finds Growth and Love on New ‘Wavelength’ Album”

Travel Guide – Eric Ripper’s Life Adventures Elicit Dreamy, Ambient Pop-Rock Music

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Eric Ripper seeks musical inspiration from his ongoing travels. Photo – Kris Herrmann

Eric Ripper naturally follows his sense of adventure.

The Northville acoustic singer-songwriter drives cross-country, visits campsites and boards cruise ships to seek inspiration for his growing catalog of dreamy, ambient pop-rock music.

“This past summer I went to Utah, and I wanted the whole experience of just driving across the country. I knew it would be inspirational for me, and then I worked at a resort just entertaining people and playing covers and originals five days a week,” Ripper said.

“I wrote a few new songs while I was out there, and that’s kind of what I wanted … to be out there experiencing life.”

Ripper thoughtfully depicts his travels, experiences and reflections across three recent releases, including an atmospheric covers album, an outdoorsy instrumental project and a transformational anthology.

“For Classic Covers, I kept noticing how I was staying in the classic rock genre, and I decided to stick with it and kept the songs in that era. I also wanted to experiment with the sounds that I created and discovered with Lost in a Perfect Camping Trip. I wasn’t ready to write new original stuff yet,” he said.

“I like the instrumental album because I’m self-conscious about my voice like all singers are. I wanted to have some fun and not focus on writing lyrics. I was just gonna jam out and play with a different sound. And Story Notes is definitely a coming-of-age album … it’s different topics and different parts of my life.”

Continue reading “Travel Guide – Eric Ripper’s Life Adventures Elicit Dreamy, Ambient Pop-Rock Music”

Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’

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Becky Crosby’s “Can We Pretend?” addresses her frustration and forlornness during the pandemic. Artwork – Joey Affatato

For Becky Crosby, quarantine life provides the ultimate escape from reality.

The Purchase, New York pop-rock singer-songwriter openly shares her personal struggles with pandemic lockdown and emotional isolation on her latest jazz-funk ballad, “Can We Pretend?

“I wrote it in quarantine right after we got evacuated from school … when I think everyone was feeling especially lonely and confused at what was going on in the world,” said Crosby, who’s a jazz senior at State University of New York (SUNY) in Purchase. “I had a crush on a friend of mine at the time, and I think the feelings about quarantine just heightened everything about it.”

A lush “Can We Pretend?” ensemble of thumping drums, tingly cymbals, pensive bass, gleaming electric guitar, delicate piano, melancholic trumpet and earnest baritone sax echo Crosby’s growing frustration and forlornness.

She thoughtfully sings, “How did this happen to me?/I was oh so happy living life lonely/But when you come near/I smile ear to ear/Cause you made me different/Than the girl who used to share my mirror.”

“I wrote ‘Can We Pretend?’ as a way to not only work out my feelings, but to get out some of the anger that I had about my life changing so much overnight,” Crosby said. “I do think that it’s always a good idea to go with your gut. So if your gut says to tell them you like them, then do it. Life is short!”

Crosby brought “Can We Pretend?” to life with several collaborators, including Simon Ribas (drums), Sameer Shankar (bass), Ethan Johnson (guitar), Harry Graser (piano), Noah Mattison (trumpet) and Lee Altsher-Wood (baritone sax).

“This song automatically just had a funky feel to it. Being a jazz major, I am surrounded by horn players, and I was so happy to be able to feature them on this track,” she said. “Sameer Shankar shaped this horn arrangement, and Lee Altsher-Wood and Noah Mattison did a great job bringing it to life.”

Continue reading “Imagine That – Becky Crosby Trades Reality for Fantasy on ‘Can We Pretend?’”

Identity Crisis – Gaucho Major Uncovers Past Selves on New ‘Blue Ribbon’ Single

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Gaucho Major’s “Blue Ribbon” challenges people to reveal their true identities.

Gaucho Major keenly uncovers the duplicitous side of human nature.

The Los Angeles pop-rock duo of Max Espinosa (vocals, guitar) and Mike Pappas (songwriting, production) shines a jazzy, truthful light on “Blue Ribbon,” an eye-opening, witty new single that instantly challenges people to reveal their true identities.

“It’s basically a song about the American lie in privilege. There’s a lot that goes into that, and there’s a lyric in there, ‘Be happy that you’ve left where you’ve come from.’ While growing up in LA, I saw people come here from all walks of life,” said Espinosa.

“I noticed a difference with someone coming from Detroit, St. Louis or Cleveland; they just wanna erase where they came from. They’re happy to shed it. But when I go to New York, people are like, ‘I’m from Pittsburgh, or I’m from Ann Arbor,’ and they’re just proud about it. They’re past lives aren’t thrown away.”

Throughout “Blue Ribbon,” Gaucho Major elegantly retrieves those discarded past selves as thoughtful piano, soulful sax, mystical electric guitars, sauntering bass and cozy drums unearth the importance of living authentically.

Espinosa playfully sings, “Be happy to leave where you came from/There’s everything here under the sun/The crowd back there/They ain’t got much to go on/Careful where you step, son/We just did the lawn/It’s good to be on the board/Even if you’re a pawn.”

“The verses are very much like a parody and a caricature’s story. When I get to the chorus, I actually sing and do my normal voice. It’s a wink, a smile and a nod to what people expect in life, especially with the rise in social media, and people filtering out 90 percent of their real life to give you a 10 percent glimpse of the good times,” Espinosa said.

Espinosa and Pappas started delving into “Blue Ribbon’s” refreshing theme of uncovering inauthentic selves last summer. The duo received a songwriting prompt for the track from the KDC Guild’s Kristopher Malone, who will include “Blue Ribbon” on his upcoming multimedia concept album, Welcome to the Cise Pavilion.

“We basically brainstormed this certain segment of the story, and it was this long scene of what an ideal life would look like. It’s the notion of a trophy family and how you’re supposed to live in America, and I thought it was perfect for me to write about it. That was enough for me to get going on creating the soundscape and everything for the song,” said Espinosa, who’s influenced by Steely Dan.

To solidify the track’s first-rate, jazz-inspired sound, Gaucho Major invited a talented roster of musicians, including Kevin Hannah (drums), Kateri Lirio (piano) and Kapil Raman (sax), to collaborate remotely for “Blue Ribbon” over a six-month period.

“We started in July with the skeleton build to get the bones of the track, and that’s just the thematic elements of the song and not even the lyrics or anything. When it came to recording the parts, we did a rough demo in August to send out to our drummer,” Espinosa said.

“We picked Kevin because he’s got amazing gospel chops; he’s got groove. When we got the drums back, we decided to build everything on top of it. We ended up getting those back in late September and recorded everything else in October. And then we sent it off to get mixed in November.”

Continue reading “Identity Crisis – Gaucho Major Uncovers Past Selves on New ‘Blue Ribbon’ Single”

Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’

Melanie Pierce entombs her past on “Your Grave.”

With an eye on the present, Melanie Pierce wants to leave the past dead and buried.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter beautifully entombs former relationships, painful experiences and destructive thoughts into a secret crypt on “Your Grave,” a heartfelt, courageous anthem about moving forward.

“It was several situations that were not ideal and that happened at the same time. When the song was originally written, I had a lot of rage because it felt like so much was going wrong,” said Pierce, who released the track Oct. 30 via all streaming platforms.

“My mindset when I was younger was more angsty and negatively focused, and I was in a band at the time, and they were breaking up and a relationship was failing. It felt like too much at the time, and this song was born out of it.” 

Throughout “Your Grave,” murky, alternating synths ping-pong between yesterday and today while pulsating drums, calm bass and intermittent piano ultimately lower Pierce’s past six feet underground.

She bravely sings, “Turn left because I ran out of rights/Done pretending to be so nice/So formal like we’re supposed to/Keepin’ tabs on people livin’ my dream/I’m livin’ with the ghost you left for me/Remember when you said this was just a dream/And that’s all it will ever be/I’ve been pickin’ up the pieces slowly.”

“It’s taking the next step and acknowledging things aren’t going your way and have ended. I’m literally speaking through the lyrics that I’m throwing this in a grave, moving on and seeing the other side of the bad situation and stepping into a positive, new beginning,” Pierce said.

“I think everybody has the ability to change in all aspects of life, and I feel like I’ve shifted toward a much healthier perspective. Being able to cope with change also comes with time as you grow and learn more about yourself and the world around you. I was put on this planet to make music, write songs and perform. I’ve really stepped into the artist that I’ve always wanted to become and learned how to navigate this musical journey.”

Continue reading “Tale from the Crypt – Melanie Pierce Buries Painful Past on ‘Your Grave’”

Glimmer of Hope – Rags and Riches Shares Newfound Strength on ‘Tension of the Season’ Single

Rags and Riches’ Tanner Whitt and Peyton Whitt inspire listeners to overcome the “Tension of the Season.” Photo – Christian Campbell

Backed by resilience and gratitude, Rags and Riches beautifully infuses hope into the darkest of times.

The Lexington, Kentucky EDM pop-rock duo of brothers Tanner Whitt (vocals, guitar) and Peyton Whitt (drums) shares a newfound sense of personal strength on their powerful, uplifting latest single, “Tension of the Season,” now available on all streaming platforms. It’s the fifth track they’ve dropped this year in a series of refreshing, spirited singles designed to inspire and rejuvenate a growing fan base.

“‘Tension of the Season’ was actually inspired when our grandfather experienced a nearly fatal stroke. With COVID-19 striking, no one could be with him in the hospital during this period. There were so many unknowns in our life. That’s when we knew it was time to write,” Tanner Whitt said.

The glistening, illuminative track blends echoey, wailing synths, shiny piano, upbeat acoustic strums, soft and steady drums, bouncy bass and reflective electric guitars as Tanner Whitt hopefully sings, “Oh, what a time to be alive/A mad world, another sleepless night/Hold your breath/When the tide pulls you under/Never give up, never give up/No never.”

“The words, ‘Tomorrow’s a brand new day, any second is bound to change,’ was more relevant than ever. Originally, the doctor’s prognosis wasn’t the news we wanted to hear. But day by day, he beat the odds stacked against him. Family before everything and everyone else,” said Tanner Whitt.

“There is nothing more vital and important in your life than family. We have been continuously working and perfecting everything we’re doing as a band, but also as human beings. Our love for people and human interaction has grown tremendously.”

Tension of the Season” also features a fitting, socially-distanced video denoting the isolation, hopelessness and depravity people, businesses and communities face during the ongoing pandemic. Filmed in Elkhart, Indiana by director Christian Campbell, Rags and Riches strolls through empty high school football fields, vacant shopping malls and hidden parking lots while keeping a positive outlook.

“We started writing ‘Tension of the Season’ back in April when the stroke happened. We hope that everyone who hears this song will feel hopeful for the future, but also be inspired. Things can and will be rough at times, but tomorrow is the start of something brand new,” said Tanner Whitt, who worked with Peyton Whitt and Campbell to shoot the video.

“Christian is someone we’ve known for a few years now, and we knew he was the right person for this song. He actually took the full reigns and control of the concept and direction for this song. Right when he heard it, he knew where to go with it, and we loved the simplicity of it all.”

Continue reading “Glimmer of Hope – Rags and Riches Shares Newfound Strength on ‘Tension of the Season’ Single”

A Prelude to Fall – The Stratton Playlist August 2020 Edition Shares Crisp Sounds

The crisp sights, scents and sounds of autumn linger in the late August air. The days are still long, but the nights slowly steal precious sunlight a few minutes at a time.

This month’s edition of The Stratton Playlist captures those final summer moments and simultaneously serves as a welcome, refreshing sonic prelude to fall.

Soulful pop, groovy psych rock, thoughtful piano ballads, fiery dance, reflective post-rock, introspective folk, fresh hip-hop and timeless country soar across 35 hypnotic, multifarious tracks.

Featured artists include Angela Predhomme, Asphalt Flowers, Brian Perrone, Madelyn Grant, Monte Pride, Al’Exist, Tauri, Jakob Leventhal, TREASVRE and more.

Interested in becoming part of The Stratton Playlist on Spotify? Send your submissions to strattonsetlist@yahoo.com. All artists and genres are welcome.

Internal Monologue – JanaeSound Battles Self-Doubt on ‘Feared’

JanaeSound personifies and conquers her worries on “Feared.” Photo – Michael Henson

JanaeSound triumphantly overcomes internal self-doubt and anxiety.

The Portland, Maine pop-rock singer-songwriter holds intense conversations with her inner saboteur in “Feared,” an upbeat, take-charge anthem about personifying and conquering your fears.

“I wrote this tune because I really struggled with fear at the beginning of my career. I would experience extreme paralyzing anxiety whenever I did something new and just before each breakdown. I was fighting panic attacks before some of my biggest gigs and opportunities, which is not sustainable or healthy,” said Janay Woodruff, aka JanaeSound.

“I began to acknowledge my fears, thanking them for trying to keep me safe, and then I try to release them. This is something I continue to practice. With COVID-19, everything I worked so hard for seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye. It was fear I couldn’t talk myself out of, and it just seemed like the right time to release the track.”

Throughout her latest single, “Feared,” JanaeSound crushes lingering worries as she soulfully sings, “I know you wanna keep me safe/I know you want me in my place/Even if this dream’s just a wild chase/I’m runnin’ out of time/I gotta face my fears.” A strong sonic army filled with bouncy bass, zippy synths and pounding drums help JanaeSound emerge victoriously from her emotional battle.

“In the track, I have a conversation with my fear. She’s doing the whole ‘let’s panic about a million things that could go wrong’ thing. I really do have that voice, ha-ha! She tries to talk me out of some of my best ideas. If I listened to her, life would be so boring,” said Woodruff, who released the track in June.

“I like to think of her as someone who means really well and wants the best for me. I let her know that growth (which I want) and being comfortable and safe (what she wants) aren’t compatible, and that I’m running out of time to reach my goals.”

JanaeSound will squash any remaining struggles in an upcoming video for “Feared,” which will drop this fall. The video will remind listeners about banding together to fight recurring fears, worries and anxieties.

“I want anyone who listens to know that you are not alone if you are experiencing anxiety or fear, especially given current events. Take care of yourselves first. Then smash those goals one step at a time. Even the tiniest step forward is progress. If all we did today was exist and feel kind of OK, that’s progress, too! I believe in you!” Woodruff said.

Continue reading “Internal Monologue – JanaeSound Battles Self-Doubt on ‘Feared’”

July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments

Melanie Pierce reflects inward on her latest single, “Illusions.” Artwork – Jenya Po

Melanie Pierce magically travels to the other side of the mirror.

The Ann Arbor pop-rock singer-songwriter ventures beyond the looking glass and reflects on misunderstood life moments in “Illusions,” a spellbinding glimpse into vivid realizations and intense ruminations.

“I was in this relationship for a long time and had felt misunderstood on so many levels throughout that period of time. And not just by that person, but also by my family because they were not super on-board with music. I also lost some friends in a short amount of time due to music and that relationship,” Pierce said.

“I was really reflecting on that time, and I remember exactly what I was doing when that song came out of me. The first line that actually came out was, ‘Painted words on paper-thin walls,’ and I was watching this TV show, and I paused it and went to the piano. That song was written in like 40 minutes, and it was written very easily and clearly, like I knew in me what I wanted to say and what I wanted to get out.”

Featured as part of this month’s “The Stratton Playlist,” “Illusions” blends somber synths, sorrowful piano, shimming electric guitars, soaring electronic drums and throaty bass into a hypnotic, sonic head-trip.

Akin to Vanessa Carlton, Pierce’s soulful vocals implode her romantic mirage as she ponders, “I thought I’d figured it out/Wide-eyed, I mapped it out/But you say I’m too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I try to pull back/Quiet the noise inside my head/But you say it’s too difficult/Honey I know, honey I know/I’ll never let this go.”

Pierce recorded “Illusions” earlier this year with producer Jake Rye at Adrian’s Social Recording Company. He helped Pierce crystallize the track’s vision and added majestic arrangements to quickly transform it in the studio.

“We would go back and forth like, ‘What do you hear for this part?’ and he had a good direction of where the production was headed. He came up with an awesome, meaty bassline, and I can’t really say enough positive things about him,” said Pierce, who learned about Rye through his collaborations with Michigander.

Continue reading “July ‘Stratton Playlist’ Spotlight – Melanie Pierce Uncovers ‘Illusions’ of Misunderstood Life Moments”

California Dreamin’ – Rags and Riches Injects Limitless Optimism into New ‘Summer Nights’ Single

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Rags and Riches instantly revives a dormant California dream.

The Lexington, Kentucky EDM pop-rock duo of brothers Tanner Whitt (vocals, guitar) and Peyton Whitt (drums) injects limitless optimism and youthful exuberance into their new peppy, glistening Los Angeles-centric single, “Summer Nights,” which drops today via all streaming platforms.

“We needed to find the ‘right’ song in our catalog to release. From the lyrics to the beat, ‘Summer Nights’ was written to be a carefree summer song and bring some excitement in difficult times. This song fits right into a ‘summer playlist’ just for the lyrics alone, but the music felt like it could be listened to wherever you are,” Tanner Whitt said.

Rags and Riches rhythmically revs their upbeat EDM engines as clicking percussion, thumping bass, reverby synths, vivid electric guitars and pulsating drums accelerate into a warm July night. Tanner Whitt enthusiastically sings, “We could take a ride in my car/Or we can take a walk on the boulevard/I’m up for whatever, if you’re up for whatever/So tell me, do you wanna go?/So tell me, are you ready?”

“The LA inspiration was from one of our previous tours when we visited LA and took ‘a walk down the boulevard.’ Peyton was very inspired, and between the movies he had seen about LA along with the actual experience, he wanted to create something special,” Tanner Whitt said.

“Peyton actually started writing ‘Summer Nights’ alone for fun. He showed it to me and a friend, and we loved it and said, ‘It needed to be a Rags and Riches song.’ The song was actually written in a matter of an hour or two, but we didn’t actually record it until about two months ago.”

Two months ago, Rags and Riches dropped another electrifying, Stranger Things-esque synthwave single, “Don’t Look Down,” which slithers through eerie, lingering synths and haunting, slow percussion to weave an impending sense of sonic doom around lost souls. Tanner Whitt cautions, “I’m the leader/I’m the fool/Finger on the trigger/Can’t trust me for a minute/It’s doubtful you’ll catch me/I’m hiding from my demons/I’ve got no choice.”

“‘Don’t Look Down’ was another song that had been written months and months ago, but sat in the catalog to find the right time to be released. The song came from the idea of being in a mentally dark place and struggling with living. Suicide and mental illness are such real things, and we take that very seriously. We wanted that song to speak directly to people in a bad place mentally – to stay alive and keep hope,” Tanner Whitt said.

Rags and Riches also released a hypnotic, chilling lyric video for “Don’t Look Down,” which features a gold, pointy snake that quietly circles unassuming prey and prepares to suffocate any remaining positivity. Viewers nervously sit on their edge of their seats as they await the snake’s final strike.

“The snake was inspired by Medusa, who you couldn’t ‘look at.’ We felt the imagery fit perfect with the dark lyrics and the overall concept of the song. We may go back at some point and do an actual music video for ‘Don’t Look Down,’ but at this point there are no plans to do so,” Tanner Whitt said.

The Whitt brothers have steadily released a growing roster of powerhouse EDM-inspired singles since 2019. It all started with their dynamic electro-rock debut, “Speed of Sound,” and an uplifting power-pop debut EP, Arrival.

Over the next year, they dropped the inspirational “Not a Stranger,” the hyperactive “Light It Up,” the turbo-charged “Edge of Time,” and the apocalyptic “Blood Runs Cold.” They’ve also filmed and shared compelling cinematic-like videos for each track except “Summer Nights,” which will have a companion video at a later date.

While warm, memorable “Summer Nights” will linger in our minds, the Whitt brothers will continue casting their electro-rock magic later into 2020. It’s a welcoming spell during a disruptive time of change, upheaval and uncertainty.

“We do have more singles planned throughout the remainder of this year along with an EP. As of now, the next single is set for late August, early September,” Tanner Whitt said.