Four years ago, Jeff Socia decided to reenter the Michigan music scene.
The Traverse City Americana singer-songwriter created a home studio, started playing live shows and honed his songwriting chops. Socia continued to build his momentum until last March when COVID-19 hit and instantly shuttered the live music world.
“I started booking some stuff on my own, and then last year happened. It’s probably a story you’ve heard a lot from other people – the lockdown was the time they were going to record and release something. I decided to go along with that story and take it one step further,” he said.
Nine months later, Socia dropped his thoughtful, melodic full-length debut album, Release, via all streaming platforms. The fervent 10-track project whips listeners down cozy, winding alt country roads filled with life-changing tales of love, growth, gratitude and risk.
“Everyone needs a release a right now, and this one happened to be mine. Hopefully, when someone listens to it, this can be their release. It’s been cool for me to hear from people who listen to my songs from elsewhere,” Socia said.
“I’ve gotten feedback from people in Ireland and other places. What we do here touches other people, and it’s their release. You never know what you’re going to put out there and how it’s going to affect someone. That’s why I called it Release.”
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.
Carolyn Striho beautifully relives her poignant written words in a refreshing fashion.
The Detroit rock singer-songwriter personally narrates a new compelling audiobook version of Detroit (Maiden Energy), her 2019 intimate, eloquent collection of song lyrics and poetry.
Now available via Google Play, iTunes, Apple Books, Nook, Scribd and Audible, Striho’s latest release commemorates the one-year anniversary of Detroit (Maiden Energy)’s print version from Aquarius Press/AUXmedia. It features Striho reciting 28 selections from her expansive 50-piece “street princess” collection in a compact 41-minute audiobook.
“I recorded them with me reading over two days in the summer at the home studio while Scott (Dailey) engineered. I sang a couple of lines on some of the songs. It was very different to hear myself reading the poems. It was not that different from a song, in some respect, when I sing in the studio,” Striho said.
“But I felt more self-conscious as they were ‘naked’ and not being talked to or sang with music behind them. As I love hearing and watching poets read, I know it could turn out really well. We had thought about doing music behind it with some guitar and piano, but it felt really organic and natural to just read.”
Lily Milo delicately reveals the hidden sides of her heart.
The Ann Arbor indie folk singer-songwriter shares an intimate, poetic journey of self-discovery while navigating between life’s light and dark emotions on Stars Go Out.
“This is the first thing that I’ve ever put out. I’ve wanted to work on music for a really long time. A couple of years ago, I just sat down and said, ‘All right, if you’re gonna do it, then you’re gonna make some music,’ and it’s been awesome,” said Milo, who released the project in September.
Throughout her raw, authentic debut EP, Milo beautifully explores uncharted territories of the soul across six poignant, reflective tracks that uncover internal strength and wisdom. Each Stars Go Out song provides an intense, heartfelt outpouring of emotion from past thoughts, experiences and relationships.
“Most of them are personal. ‘Sandcastles’ is about a friend who passed away. The other ones are feelings that I’ve had and worked through, and part of the reason why it seems like a strange moody mix from the heart is because it’s all very much from the heart,” Milo said.
Adam Masterson beautifully ignites a fiery, sonic explosion of emotion and experience.
The New York City roots-rock singer-songwriter solders timeless, electrifying elements of early rock, soul, gospel, folk and country into his latest high-voltage, five-track EP, Delayed Fuse.
“Every song is like a gift so I’m very grateful when I finish a song. I’ve never really thought about what I want other people to take away. How we form a connection with a song is our own unique experience, and I try not to second guess that,” said Masterson, who’s originally from West London.
“But it’s been a pleasure to write the songs, and if there are people out there who will take these tunes to heart, then that will make me very happy.”
Masterson instantly jolts listeners with combustible tales of misfortune, parenthood, isolation, grit and regret against a sizzling, cinematic backdrop of spirited rootsy instrumentation. A fateful partnership with producer James Hallawell kindled a new, multi-genre musical flame for writing and recording Delayed Fuse in London.
“It was great finding James Hallawell because I felt he understood me and where I was coming from. Who you are as an artist is something you can never really explain because it’s something that has to be felt rather than explained. You need to find someone who’s equally as passionate in their love of music that they know instinctively the feeling you’re looking to create,” Masterson said.
“James has also toured the U.S. extensively working in the studio with a real hero of mine, Willie Mitchell, the great Memphis soul producer who produced Al Green and Syl Johnson, two of my all-time favorite vocalists, for his Hi record label. I know why Willie liked working with James because he has great feeling for soul organ, early rock ‘n’ roll, American country and the English hymnal style. All these styles feed into what inspires me as a musician, singer and writer.”
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.”
For Chris DuPont, a fresh start begins with finding higher ground.
The Ypsilanti indie folk singer-songwriter ascends to heavenly heights on his latest hopeful, breathtaking single, “Retrieve,” now available on all streaming platforms.
“It’s a song about trying to make someone feel seen and believed when they’ve shared a really difficult story with you. It’s really meant to be sort of a power anthem, and on a personal level, I’m just so grateful that it’s as exciting to listeners as it is to me,” DuPont said.
“And on a professional level with this being an unprecedented time putting out an album in the middle of a pandemic with no real hope of touring on it, I decided this just needed to be the first thing people hear. Listeners who have been with me for a while will have heard it already, and I wanted this to be the first impression of anyone coming into my music cold.”
To the contrary, listeners will receive a warm welcome while absorbing the emotional authenticity flowing through “Retrieve,” which blends glistening, frenzied acoustic strums and spirited cello into a soaring symphony of sparkling piano, uplifting bass and cozy drums.
DuPont intimately reflects, “There’s a fullness beyond fatigue/No, nothing is clean if you choose to live/I didn’t anticipate the ways I’d be undone/But on the other side of a breakdown/Is a silver lining for you darlin’/When everything that died in you is fertile in your garden.”
“I can’t get away from the theme of death and rebirth and uprooting and re-rooting in my music, and I think one reason I wanted to go with a garden image is because life and recovery are really dirty and messy. And to be a thriving human being doesn’t mean to do everything cleanly, everything perfectly,” said DuPont, who’s included haunting single artwork by The Crane Wives’ Emilee Petersmark.
“This is a very hard concept for me as someone who grew up in a very black and white thinking religious paradigm where there’s this idea of striving to be pure or perfect. I wanted to embrace the dirt with this whole body of work and especially that song.”
For Steve Taylor, creative inspiration inadvertently starts with a full hard drive.
The Lake Orion Americana roots singer-songwriter surprisingly ran out of storage space on his digital audio workstation while polishing tracks this summer for his latest solo album, Beside Myself.
“I’ve had this thing for 10-15 years, and I got an error message that said, ‘Hey, You’re running out of space, and you’ve now exceeded the limit of this hard drive.’ I said, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to start deleting songs off here,’ and I put out a solo album in 2005 that I recorded in a similar fashion called And So On, and I thought, ‘I can delete tracks that have already been mastered and released,’” Taylor said.
“But I had all these other tracks on there, like ‘Do You Remember’ and some of the other ones that wound up on Beside Myself. I was like, ‘Well, I guess I should just finish these off, or I should just add something to these.’ We weren’t able to do anything; I wasn’t playing any shows. We weren’t getting together as a band, and every gig was cancelled. I felt like I needed that outlet just to kind of stay creative.”
As a quarantine-fueled creative project, Beside Myself features 10 poignant, acoustic tracks and B-sides focused on long-term love, delayed goals, deer-car crashes, childhood memories, peaceful lullabies and other classic life experiences. In a sense, it’s a closely cherished sonic scrapbook of Taylor’s musical evolution as an influential singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and frontman of The Steve Taylor Three.
“These songs were forgotten; they were songs that I had written for my wife or my neighbors. ‘Sleep & Dream’ was a lullaby I had written for my kids when they were little, and I used to sing it to them before they went to bed. And none of them had I ever intended to release. Some of them just started as demos so I could give them to people, and we could learn to play them live,” said Taylor, who recorded the project in a home studio located under his basement stairs.
“Some of them were already done, like ‘Do You Remember.’ I had recorded that and given it to my wife for our anniversary, but I hadn’t done anything else with it. I started looking to see how many of these were actually done and how many needed more instrumentation. I started counting them up and found there was a group of 10 that I could use.”
While the world turns to chaos outside, it’s time to search for solace inside.
Throw work, school and virtual commitments aside for some long overdue relaxation. With headphones in hand, adjust the volume and press play to start a new musical journey into uncharted local and regional waters.
The latest edition of The Stratton Playlist serves as a refreshing sonic escape from politics, pandemics and people. Visit country-filled skies, fuzzy lo-fi jams, jazzy hip-hop points, psych rock bangers, vibrant piano pop anthems and other new terrain.
Strong flavors of folk, country and rock will fill the autumn air at Lake Orion’s Canterbury Village this weekend.
Those aromatic sounds will come from a talented roster of metro Detroit singer-songwriters performing intimate outdoor acoustic sets at Open Air Markets Saturday and Sunday.
This weekend’s lineup will feature James Wailin, Sean Blackman, Al Carmichael, Tom Butwin, Johnny Rhodes and Jon Rice, said Mark Reitenga, a Royal Oak folk rock singer-songwriter who curates live music for Open Air Markets.
“This is a pure energy boost because many of the musicians have been laying low since March and many of the patrons as well. It’s like two happy colliding forces,” he said.
“The music is the tonal center of the market in that the musicians keep the spirit happy as market goers walk around the vast campus looking for goodies, donuts, cider, clothing and specialty items. The musicians play in the outside dining area to folks on picnic benches and also walking by.”
Outdoor market and live music aficionados can expect masked, socially-distanced crowds at Canterbury Village through Oct. 4. The markets also will showcase the work of local artists, crafters, cooks and jewelers and spotlight a different theme for vendors spaced throughout the village.
“They have been fantastic for the pretty strong socially-distanced crowds and also for the safe-distance and mask-wearing aspect. The musical acts have been superb – with many selling their original CDs and making great tip money from the family-oriented crowd accompanied by dogs,” Reitenga said.