Soulful Sovereign – Kendrick Hardaway Celebrates Chivalry on ‘The Slave King’ Single

Kendrick Hardaway has released his latest soulful single, “The Slave King,” with guitarist Nick Behnan.

Kendrick Hardaway knows how to give the royal treatment.

The Detroit R&B singer-songwriter pays majestic homage to his “queen” on “The Slave King,” a slow, groove-filled romantic ode released just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Hardaway’s soulful three-minute single dropped Tuesday and features his smooth vocals wrapped in high-tone electric guitars from Nick Behnan – “Eyes burnin’ like fire and a voice that sits in my soul/Sweet as cucumber sugar water with a stare that’s so damn cold/Sweet queen of desire, won’t you call my name/And I’ll come runnin’ to you over and over again.”

Who wouldn’t come running to Hardaway with poetic lyrics like that?

“That song really is kind of a combination of me just wanting to write a tune and actually being about my girl right now. I came across this little lick I was playing around with, and I started writing to it, but nothing was really coming together, and I was getting frustrated,” Hardaway said.

“My girl came down, she sat on the couch, and she actually had a little attitude with me or whatever, and she was giving me this real hard stare, and that’s the line where ‘a stare that’s so damn cold’ came from. Once that line came out, then the rest of it just flowed.”

He also sought creative inspiration for “The Slave King” from Behnan, a Detroit songwriter, guitarist and producer and Hardaway’s former bandmate in The Infatuations. A Motor City mainstay and now a guitarist with The Lows, Behnan collaborates regularly with Hardaway on his solo projects.

“That song was 90 percent finished by the time Nick got to it. I was about to master the song, and I felt like it was missing something, but I knew it was in the way of guitar,” said Hardaway, who’s currently shooting a video for his latest single. “I can tinker around on the guitar, but I’m no Nick Behnan, so I shot it to Nick, and he didn’t waste any time and got it right back to me, and it was full of wonderful things, and we got ‘The Slave King.’”

In December, Hardaway collaborated with Behnan and rapper Saint Diggidy on Behnan’s rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B-fused track, “Right at Home,” which solders pounding drums and roaring guitars with stuck-in-your-head verses and flavorful rhymes. The track started as a stripped-down demo on SoundCloud, but quickly evolved once Hardaway and Saint Diggidy added their own verses.

“He was trying a different little angle when he shot it to me to see what I would think about it, and I put a verse on it, and I said, ‘I got a rapper who I think would set this thing off,’ and we just put it together to see how it would sound,” Hardaway said. “We just collectively decided, ‘Hey, we need to put this out because it’s really hot.’ One thing I said about that track after we made it was, ‘It sounds like it’s going to bring some people or some genres together.’”

Continue reading “Soulful Sovereign – Kendrick Hardaway Celebrates Chivalry on ‘The Slave King’ Single”

The Interpreter – Bettye LaVette Shares Career Favorites, Dylan Cuts at 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Bettye LaVette will perform Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Photo by Mark Seliger

Bettye LaVette brings a magical soulfulness to her 60-year career, including Bob Dylan’s legendary songbook.

The iconic soul songstress and Michigan native beautifully interprets an era of treasures ranging from ‘60s R&B to British rock to deep Dylan cuts. Her latest release, “Things Have Changed (2018),” unearths Dylan’s extensive catalog from 1979 to 1989 as well as other cherished favorites.

“Well, there isn’t a ‘like’ to it, it’s just the way I hear the songs, and that’s the way I sing it. But as I said, I’m really not that much of a music enthusiast, so there are not a great many songs that sat around that I wanted to sing for a long time,” said LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and grew up in Detroit as Betty Jo Haskins.

“It’s the songs that appeal to me most, that’s why the Bob Dylan album worked so well for me because the lyrics have to be absolutely solid and be there. I’m almost 75 years old, and I can’t look my audience in the face, and people who are sitting close, I look at them even more intently, so I can’t have a whole bunch of gibberish coming out. It has to say something because I’m holding a conversation with them.”

LaVette will hold an engaging conversation with Ann Arbor audiences Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which also will include Nathaniel Rateliff, Mandolin Orange and Cold Tone Harvest. In her first-ever Folk Festival appearance, LaVette will share her career highlights and interpretations with a nearly sold-out crowd of 3,500 at Hill Auditorium.

“Most of those (Dylan) songs, I think there were 10 or 12 tunes on that album, I only knew four of them before I sung them. It’s interesting having almost a clean slate because I didn’t grow up listening. Many of these things didn’t make it to black radio, but ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ did and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ I certainly know who he is,” she said.

Continue reading “The Interpreter – Bettye LaVette Shares Career Favorites, Dylan Cuts at 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival”

Right at Home – Nick Behnan Releases New Rock, Hip-Hop Single to Celebrate Motor City

Nick Behnan combines rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B on his latest solo single, “Right at Home.”

As an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and producer, Nick Behnan magically fuses the infectious sounds of the Motor City.

He solders raw urban elements of rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B together on his latest single, “Right at Home,” which dropped today via all streaming platforms.

The three-minute track blends pounding drums and roaring guitars with stuck-in-your-head verses and flavorful rhymes from soul vocalist Kendrick Hardaway and rapper Saint Diggidy – “The bass drum kickin’ and the guitar screamin’/I feel right at home/Nobody talkin’ about what’s the meanin’.”

“The song is inspired by those times when you feel right at home,” said Behnan, who opted to remain in Detroit for his music career. “You’re with the right group of people, you eat the right meal, you listen to the right album, you’ve got the right bottle of whiskey, and everybody feels comfortable in their own skin.”

Behnan invited Hardaway and Saint Diggidy to add a strong hip-hop, funk and R&B feel to the rock-based track, which initially started as a stripped-down demo on SoundCloud. Hardaway and Saint Diggidy added their own verses to elevate and enrich the multi-genre track.

“I wanted to bring more of an old-school feel like Rick Rubin did for the Beastie Boys and bring more of that Run-DMC-approach to their voice,” Behnan said. “It mixes the urban funk sounds with rock because those are both embedded in my ear. I like music that has both of those vibes in there.”

Continue reading “Right at Home – Nick Behnan Releases New Rock, Hip-Hop Single to Celebrate Motor City”

Shining Through – Trey Simon Drops Hopeful New Single ‘When the Lights Turn On’

Trey Simon has released his latest single, “When the Lights Turn On,” today via all streaming platforms.

Trey Simon knows how to deliver the ultimate ray of hope in the darkest hour.

The soulful Rochester singer-songwriter sheds sonic messages of optimism and growth on his passionate new single, “When the Lights Turn On,” which dropped earlier today.

The brilliant single opens with emotionally intense guitars while pounding drums echo a nervous heartbeat and reflect an initial hesitation about a new road ahead. It’s reminiscent of mid-80s pop-rock with Phil Collins-inspired lyrics and Michael McDonald-esque vocals.

“For me, it’s a reflection song. It’s realizing that I have so much to give, and I have so much to love for somebody. Overall, it’s about waking up and realizing you’re not where you want to be yet,” Simon said. “I think that song was birthed out of places like, ‘Dang, I just want to be better than what I am right now, and I want to be better for that person I meet down the road.’”

The single also eloquently showcases “the dirt” Simon personally experiences as an artist and individual overcoming internal challenges while heading down a new spiritual path. For listeners, it’s fighting chance to escape their fears and use Simon’s new single as an emotional shield against uncertainty.

“I think the greatest thing about being an artist is really putting it on display because it’s a healing process for you, but in the same time, you can really help people in giving them the courage to go after the things they have going on, too,” Simon said.

Simon started crafting his latest single on stage a few years ago and later transformed it into a recordable version, thanks to a friend’s encouragement. He teamed up with Rochester producer and musician Josh Colyer to record “When the Lights Turn On” at Kensington Church’s studio in Troy.

“It was a changeup from the music I’ve recorded in the past, and it’s a little bit more of a rock direction since my stuff has been a little bit more of an R&B, sultry vibe. I was really ready to showcase more of myself musically, too,” he said.

“I’ve got so much that inspires me, and I feel like there are different parts of me. I’ve only been showcasing one side of what I really do, and I’m ready to give a clearer vision of who I am as an artist and who I am as a person.”

Simon will drop a new video for his latest single Oct. 9 and allow the track to speak for itself visually. Filmed by a Chicago-based director, the video features Simon sitting on a stool in a large room giving a powerful performance of his latest single.

“We ended up getting a whole crew to come out, and we got all the lighting and everything,” Simon said. “It was my first big budget video with five crew members, and we used a film studio to cut it all in Troy. We were able to finish the whole thing in a day.”

Continue reading “Shining Through – Trey Simon Drops Hopeful New Single ‘When the Lights Turn On’”

In the Groove – Siena Liggins to Share Danceable Pop at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Saturday

Siena Liggins will perform Saturday afternoon at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival. Photo courtesy of Assemble Sound

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

For Siena Liggins, a well-crafted pop song starts with a relatable subject and includes a catchy hook that’s intertwined with a simple melody.

“I just have always been obsessed with really simple melodies that get stuck in your head, and you end up accidentally singing it,” she said. “It’s the stuff that people usually love to hate.”

Coincidentally, Detroiters will show Liggins the love this weekend instead when she performs at the Mo Pop Festival. The Motor City pop-R&B-dance singer-songwriter will perform a much anticipated 2:15 p.m. Saturday set on the River Stage.

Liggins will join 27 other emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the boutique and niche festival, which returns for its seventh year.

Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with opening performances from Michigan-based artists to expose attendees to some of the area’s rising local acts. Liggins and The Messenger Birds will perform Saturday while The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will take the stage on Sunday.

During her set, Liggins will perform her latest single, “Laws of Attraction,” a 3.5-minute high-energy pop track with a tick-tock vibe about a reactionary relationship.

It’s the perfect summer track for a throwdown on the dance floor, or in this case, a park. As an added bonus, Flint electronic-pop-R&B singer-songwriter Tunde Olaniran penned the track’s memorable post-chorus.

Continue reading “In the Groove – Siena Liggins to Share Danceable Pop at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Saturday”

Bullish Pop – Tauri Grabs Musical Experimentation by the Horns on ‘Time 2 Kill’

Los Angeles’ Tauri delivers an experimental fusion of indie pop and R&B on her latest single, “Time 2 Kill.”

With deep synths, quirky lyrics and funky basslines, Tauri hits an indie pop bullseye on her latest single, “Time 2 Kill.”

The 3.5-minute single eloquently weaves accessible elements of indie pop and R&B with avant-garde electronic rock to forge a growing experimental sound emanating from the West Coast.

It’s akin to combining the mainstream appeal of Lorde with the progressive, industrial sounds of Muse and Nine Inch Nails. Throughout “Time to 2 Kill,” Tauri creates a forward-thinking track devoid of pretense.

“We weren’t afraid to get really weird with this one, and a lot of people are responding really well to it,” said Nicole Orlowski, aka Tauri, who co-wrote the track with Alex Monasterio and Liz Gavillet. “This only encourages us to be super weird.”

Weirdness does run rampant on “Time 2 Kill,” but in a refreshingly lyrical way. The track opens with catchy lyrics – “Pen names/Switch blades/Turn real fast/But you’re driving in the slow lane” – and even references an “Easy Bake Oven.”

“It was kind of nightmare to put together actually because we were trying to put it out a lot faster than it ended up happening. We all sat down and spitballed it, and it came from this loose concept of a love story about a trust fund kid,” Monasterio said. “The idea behind the ‘Easy Bake Oven’ lyric relates to somebody trying to get something without actually doing the proper grownup work for it.”

“Time 2 Kill” also features vocals inspired by Bikini Kill and a heavy industrial synth section, which cleverly anchors the two indie pop sections on both sides.

“For such a period of time, we thought the song wasn’t going to function based on how our previous singles had done,” Monasterio said. “They have their moments definitely, but they’re much more contained. They have their tangents, but they don’t necessarily say ‘fuck it’ quite as much.”

Continue reading “Bullish Pop – Tauri Grabs Musical Experimentation by the Horns on ‘Time 2 Kill’”

Float On – Honey Monsoon Release Atmospheric New Single ‘Cloud’ from Forthcoming ‘Opal Soul’ Album

Honey Monsoon has released a new single, “Cloud,” from their forthcoming album, “Opal Soul,” due out March 22.

With a vibrant new single and lineup, Honey Monsoon is floating in a new musical stratosphere.

Earlier this week, the metro Detroit jazz-fusion quintet dropped their latest single, “Cloud,” a five-and-a-half-minute peaceful sonic journey filled with funky guitars, bright synths, gentle cymbal crashes and slow grooves.

“It’s a dynamic love song about being in an amazing state, realizing that you’re there, being present and preserving that,” said Ana Gomulka, Honey Monsoon’s vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. “It’s a complex song where I put myself in a character role and follow a floaty, vibey path that’s immediate and accessible.”

That uplifting musical path soars to the sky-high auditory intersection of jazz, disco, rock, funk, soul and R&B – think Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, George Benson, Sade and Toro y Moi combining their signature styles into an atmospheric sound.

Honey Monsoon will release a new video soon for “Cloud” that features footage from some of their local favorite spots in Detroit, including the Fisher Building and the Renaissance Center. Additional footage was shot at a local church in Ypsilanti.

Cloud single artwork

“Cloud” is the first single from Honey Monsoon’s forthcoming album, “Opal Soul,” a follow-up to their 2017 jazzy, soulful debut, “Rose Gold,” due out March 22. It also features a fresh lineup with new members Sam Naples (guitar, vocals) and Binho “Alex” Manenti (bass, keys) along with Taylor Greenshields (drums), Leo Willer (paintbrushes) and Gomulka.

“We’ve been in the studio collaborating with so many incredible people in the area on horns, keys, strings and vibraphone,” said Gomulka, who started writing songs for “Opal Soul” in September. “We’ve been in the trenches putting together this eclectic production for ‘Opal Soul.’”

Produced, engineered and mixed by Greenshields and Naples at Fundamental Sound Co., “Opal Soul” will feature eight tracks and include former member Andrea Holther-Cruz on two to three songs written with the previous band’s lineup.

“Opal Soul” also will feature a more diverse sound that draws influences from pop, rock, Latin, funk, Afrobeat and world music. For “Rose Gold,” Honey Monsoon intertwined jazzy, soulful sonic textures against a rock-infused backdrop with bright vocals and saxophone solos.

“‘Opal Soul’ is based on a concept of reflection, and I was inspired by that while writing for this album,” Gomulka said. “It highlights the reflection and soulfulness that we put into the creative process.”

Honey Monsoon will celebrate the album’s release with a special show March 22 at The Loving Touch in Ferndale with Kesswa, White Bee and Sara Marie Barron.

“We’re excited to share our new organic sound, feel out the space and celebrate the moment with everyone,” Naples said.

Show Details:

Honey Monsoon “Opal Soul” Release Party with special guests Kesswa, White Bee and Sara Marie Barron

Friday, March 22

The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale

Doors: 7 p.m.

Tickets: $10