The Royal Oak indie-rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist calmly exhales former selves and bygone relationships in her latest heart-melting single, “Winter Ghost.”
“The writing of this song was a cool experience for me. Last winter, I tried writing a song a day for a while to challenge myself,” DeRousse said. “This song came from that. It was snowing outside, and I got the first line in my head … ‘It snowed today.’”
Throughout “Winter Ghost,” DeRousse thaws frozen memories and warms icy self-doubt as ethereal synths, pensive electric guitar and sanguine acoustic guitar prompt a spiritual awakening.
She sings, “I saw the sun today/It’s mid-July, and now I’m feeling the weight of you wash away/White was the world in my heartbreak/And pale as snow was my skin while the ghost of you remained/Saw the color come back into my face.”
“And then I thought, ‘Why would someone not like the snow?’” DeRousse said. “Then, as it all came together, I was like, ‘This is definitely an experience that I’ve had in my life, but the details are different,’ and yet the theme is still the same.”
DeRousse seamlessly carries “Winter Ghost’s” transformational theme forward while Traverse City producer John Piatek conjures an otherworldly soundscape.
“When I go up and record, and by the time I make it home, John has sent me something. I remember he had sent me the rough track of it … and I listened to it, and I was just floored,” she said.
“The vocals that he adds on that track are my favorite part of the whole song. It felt like, ‘Wow, this is how it was supposed to always be,’ but I could have never gotten it there myself.”
Caleb Peters knows how to beautifully translate catchy indie pop into stripped-down acoustic tunes.
The Livonia singer-songwriter will make his first live appearance at the Farmington Civic Theater Feb. 21 to open for Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys as part of the “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. Special guest Rochelle Clark also will open the show.
“I think I’m doing four of my own songs, one of which is out called ‘Hellbent,’ and ‘Catch You,’ which is a song I haven’t released yet, and another one that’s not released, which is called ‘When You Were Mine,’ and one that is released called ‘Jane Doe,’” said Peters, who will perform solo with just an acoustic guitar. “I’ve been watching videos of people performing there just to get an idea of what it’s like.”
At age 16, Peters has amassed an impressive collection of shimmering indie pop music with five singles and a five-track EP, “Exaggerated Experiences, Part One,” in 2019 alone. He comes from a creative family with both parents as musicians and a father who’s a trained opera singer and vocal coach.
While growing up, Peters played piano and started singing in eighth grade to impress girls. Now a Stevenson High School junior, he writes and records regularly in his home studio with older brother Christian, who’s a music technology sophomore at Wayne State University.
“We basically renovated our basement with the intention of having a studio down there as soon as I started getting into writing music. We basically just made a little booth in the closet with a bunch of blankets, and that’s our setup,” Peters said.
Peters recently recorded and released his latest single, “Parties,” a groovy synth-filled cautionary tale about growing up too soon – “You can’t wait for college, but that shit ain’t about knowledge/It’s just a way out, this small town feels too crowded/You hate the masses, no one has your back/You drink yourself to madness/What do you want, what do you want?”
“It’s kind of like thinking that everything is OK in the moment when you’re doing a bunch of things off the cuff. It’s like saying it seems fine now, but it might not work out, and you might lose people in the process. It’s like a happy-sounding song, but it’s like a warning from a friend,” said Peters, who’s inspired by singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin.
Peters also released the emotional track, “Hellbent,” which features vibrant acoustic guitar and sparse piano interspersed with dreamy vocals – “Sitting in the basement, wondering where the time went/Thinking about the time spent, I’m old enough to face it/But not enough to forget cuz you know I’m hellbent.”
“It’s more personal about me and stuff that I’ve gone through,” Peters said. “Hellbent is more about feeling betrayed by someone.”
Three other striking tracks, “Six Speed,” “Jane Doe” and “John Doe” nicely showcase Peters’ continued growth as an emerging singer-songwriter and producer. He’s continuing to experiment with different songwriting styles and production techniques to hone his sound for additional single releases as well as another EP or a full-length album.
“Originally, I had a whole album planned out and everything, but I’ve made so many more songs that I’m happy with that I’m kind of figuring out a different track list,” Peters said. “I’m still probably going to have those songs on the album because that was the idea with those singles – ‘Parties,’ ‘Hellbent’ and ‘Six Speed.’ They probably still will. I think I’m going to release one more single and then a project.”
A tantalizing blend of acoustic Americana roots will waft throughout the Farmington Civic Theater on Feb. 21.
That blend will include singer-songwriter Rochelle Clark sharing a delectable opening set for Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys as part of the theater’s “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. Special guest Caleb Peters also will open the show.
“Well, it’s not very often that you get to sing in a movie theater, and that in of itself, makes it unique. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time that I went there, but I love the whole setup that they have,” said Clark, who last performed at the theater in November 2018. “You feel like you’re walking into a performance space, and the audience is really in tune with what’s going on.”
During her opening set, Clark will share raw, poignant tracks from her debut EP, “In Time,” which dropped in January. The EP beautifully chronicles Clark’s creative journey from half of the Americana roots duo The Potter’s Field to a flourishing solo artist.
“I wanted to have a progression of songs that are covers, songs that I helped co-write, and songs that I wrote by myself, and pay homage to where I’ve been coming from and where I’m hoping to go. It started as a creative challenge for myself because I was feeling like I was in a rut creatively,” Clark said.
“Music is really important to me, and I was disappointed in myself that I wasn’t pushing myself more. I started playing out solo shows more, which was scary at first. That was about two years ago, and that steamrolled this whole thing.”
For Craig “Bones” Maki, Detroit’s musical legacy extends beyond Motown, the MC5 and Eminem.
It includes a bygone era filled with early country music – imagine barn dances, radio shows and jukeboxes blaring emerging country, western, bluegrass and rockabilly stars right here in the Motor City.
As early as the 1930s, a growing series of country radio stations, nightclubs and record labels emerged to supporting Detroit’s thriving scene. Over the next four decades, several local country music stars, including the York Brothers, Chief Redbird, Swanee Caldwell and Eddie Jackson, proved Detroit could rival Nashville.
“I wound up finding out that there were a number of records made in Detroit during that era, and I was really interested in that because I had no idea that something like that had happened,” said Maki, who co-wrote “Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies” with Keith Cady in 2013. “I’m very curious about local history, so I wound up tracking down a few fellows.”
In 1990, Maki unearthed a goldmine of Detroit country music while spinning 1950s rockabilly records at WCBN-FM, a freeform Ann Arbor radio station at the University of Michigan. He took over as host of the specialty “Rockabilly Show” and played timeless tracks by past Detroit country artists. Maki continued that tradition when he later moved to “Honey Radio” (560 AM) in Oak Park.
“I started doing interviews for it just because I was so curious to learn more about the music, and a lot of the guys who were in the studio and in the ‘50s making it were still around and performing here and there,” said Maki, also a metro Detroit country singer-songwriter and guitarist.
Maki will celebrate that overlooked era of Detroit country music with the Blue Water Boys Feb. 21 as part of the Farmington Civic Theater’s “LIVE!” 2020 winter concert series. Special guests Rochelle Clark and Caleb Peters will open the show.
During their set, Maki and the Blue Water Boys will spotlight classics from Detroit country music legends as well as originals from Maki’s other vintage-inspired projects, including Big Barn Combo and the Sun Dodgers from the early 2000s. For the current band, it’s like opening a country music time capsule for today’s audiences to hear yesterday’s sonic treasures.
“We’re gonna do some tunes from the Big Barn Combo album, we’re gonna do a couple of tunes from the Sun Dodgers material, and we’re gonna do some songs that we think deserve more attention that were recorded by the guys we reported on in the book,” Maki said.
Two years ago, Jeff Scott experienced a musical epiphany in the Big Easy.
The Royal Oak singer-songwriter strolled through Jackson Square and retraced his steps from a previous New Orleans visit two decades earlier.
That trip down memory lane transported Scott back to performing with The Big Picture, a Detroit-based pop sextet. At the time, Scott and his bandmates opened for The Neville Brothers at the iconic New Orleans Jazz Fest.
“I was sensing at the time that I could never recapture the way that I felt when I was younger and in that position with that band. It started to rain exactly as it had the first time we showed up there, and I was standing in exactly the same place,” Scott said.
“I thought for the purposes of this album I was retreading and going back to where I had originally been musically and most successful professionally. That was a good way to start it. I’m attempting to reclaim something, maybe I’m not going to hit it, but the pursuit of it is deeply fulfilling and emotional.”
Scott shares his splendid journey of sonic self-discovery on “Nola,” the opening track of his third album, “Nola to New York,” which dropped in 2018.
Along with longtime bandmates Tony Jaworowski (piano, keys), Duane Allen Harlick (electric guitar, background vocals), Dave Hendrickson (electric and upright bass) and Dan McCann (drums, percussion), Scott will perform an eclectic mix of pop, folk, soul and jazz favorites from “Nola to New York” as well as his previous releases.
“I hope that they will be moved musically. That’s always my intent. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful music with a big ‘B.’ It can be up-tempo, it can be down-tempo, it can be a ballad, it can be a lot of different things,” Scott said. “That’s always the end goal for me. A lot of people come to the shows because they appreciate the lyrics, which I spend a lot of time on.”
Formerly known as “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater, the newly renamed “LIVE!” 2020 concert series also will feature Bones Maki and the Blue Water Boys with Rochelle Clark (Feb. 21), Olivia Millerschin with Adam Liebman (March 20) and the Nashtown Songwriters Round (April 23).
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 Jewett 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.”
During the show, each singer-songwriter will take a turn performing their own material, tell stories behind their music, delve into their personal creative process and introduce a new track. “There will be some interesting and funny stories probably, and I think everyone in this lineup likes crowd engagement,” Jewett said. “We’re not looking for the hushed symphony audience.”
This is the third time Jewett has teamed up with Petty and Corbin to host a “Songwriters Round” in metro Detroit since May 2017. In the past, they’ve hosted similar events at 20 Front Street in Lake Orion and Trinity House Theatre in Livonia with Chelsea folk singer-songwriter Annie Capps.
Instead, Clark, Ypsilanti singer-songwriter, will join the trio for Friday’s show to share her burgeoning Americana roots music with the crowd.
“We found that we have a pretty good chemistry, and we are able to follow whatever kind of flow the group has got going. I don’t think anyone is coming with a specific setlist of songs they’re absolutely going to play, maybe a longer list they can pick from, but that’s what I like about songwriter rounds,” Jewett said. “They’re dynamic, you can either follow someone’s lead and go deeper into a topic, or if you feel like the audience has had enough of that, then you can do a quick change-up and play something for contrast.”
Friday Night Live Songwriters Round with Mark Jewett, Amy Petty, Sam Corbin and Rochelle Clark