Songs of Comfort – Mike Ward Releases New Quarantine-Inspired ‘30 Songs in 30 Days’ Project

These days, Mike Ward takes life month by month.

The Detroit Americana folk singer-songwriter marks the passage of time in month-long increments, especially while hunkering down in quarantine.

Last month, Ward tested his creative prowess by writing and recording 31 new acoustic-based tracks at home as part of 30 Songs in 30 Days songwriting challenge with New York City folk rock singer-songwriter Paul Weinfield.

“When Paul set out the challenge, he put it in a post and said, ‘OK, who’s up for this? You have to write at least a verse and a chorus, and you have to record it and post it.’ At the time, I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m up for that.’ The very first one was the most daunting, and it was like, ‘Well, where do I start?’” said Ward, who released his last album, We Wonder, in 2018.

“I keep a lot of notes on my phone that I use to record audio notes and melodies, and I also keep a lot of typed notes of starts of songs. I’ve kept them compiled for years, and this gave me a reason to go back to a lot of those notes. I also began exploring feelings of what’s happening, and the very first thing that was recorded was ‘The New Normal.’”

For Ward, “The New Normal” serves as a prevailing folk anthem for staying optimistic during increasing times of uncertainty and unpredictability. The 4.5-minute poignant track features thoughtful, churning acoustic strums as Ward reflectively sings, “Got my love, got my faith/Only hope it’s enough to get us through these days/No human contract, touch of a hand/Six feet of distance across the land/Open skies and open hearts/As we close our doors, do our part.”

The New Normal” also opened Ward’s creative floodgates and pushed him deeper into the songwriting trenches. A refreshing series of lyrics, melodies and chords flowed from Ward each day.

“The one thing I was cognizant of, but I didn’t go back day to day and say, ‘Oh, did I use those chords in that song? Does this song sound too much like this one?’” said Ward, who submitted an acoustic video of “The New Normal” for this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest.

“I honestly didn’t do that much because I felt like otherwise I wouldn’t finish, and if there was something I liked about one particular song, I could always go back and rework it if I needed to. At the same time, I tried to do some different things from a playing standpoint.”

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Band of Brothers – Big Time Grain Company Solidifies Bourquin Siblings’ Shared Love of Country Music

Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin of Big Time Grain Company

With carefree lyrics, driving instrumentation and cruising melodies, Big Time Grain Company provides the ultimate cross-country joy ride.

The Kansas City country-rock quintet zooms along life’s two-lane highway with a caravan of uplifting Americana singles and EPs that travel far and wide. Behind the wheel are Big Time Grain Company frontmen and brothers Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin who accelerate on their latest free-spirited single, “I’ll Take You with Me.”

This three-minute country adventure revs with traveling drums, resonant electric guitar and bouncy banjo as Bret Bourquin euphorically sings, “We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van/Don’t need a suitcase, don’t need a backup plan/Oh won’t need my MapQuest to straighten out these wheels/You can pick the direction/We’ll put this town on our heels.”

“We’ve got a lot of songs that fit that same category that are in the hopper that have not been released yet. The subplot to that is opposites attract to make a relationship exciting. The line in there, ‘We’ll leave my big bus, take your Volkswagen van,’ my wife wanted a Volkswagen van for years,” said Chad Bourquin, Big Time Grain Company’s guitarist and co-lead vocalist.

“She doesn’t have one yet, but they’re coming out with a new one. We’re thinking they should adopt this song for their commercial and provide us all Volkswagen vans. It’s those differences that really make a relationship work, and in spite of those differences, I’m going to take you with me wherever I go.”

After embarking on a fun road trip, Big Time Grain Company briefly returns home for a family visit on “Sunday Morning,” which blends uplifting electric guitar, steady drums, jamming bass and vibrant acoustic guitar into this weekend domestic track.

Bret Bourquin and Chad Bourquin eloquently reflect on the joys and comforts of coming home, “40 days I’m on the road and playing songs/Making friends that’s cool/I wouldn’t trade it for a day gig/I wouldn’t turn back if I thought I could/But your picture crosses my mind a time or two/This beer I’m drinking don’t erase the truth/That the only place my heart rests is right here with you.”

“We’ve been really fortunate to have designed this to be the way we want it to be. In other words, we’re not gone for long bouts of time because we’re completely independent. We go out for a few days and then we come home because we like being home,” said Chad Bourquin, who has three children.

“We like being with our families, but we also love playing and love traveling. It’s a big shift every time you crawl off that bus and get back home, especially with Bret because his kids are so young now. It’s an even bigger shift for him.”

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