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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‘The New Normal’ – Kane Roberts Steps Out of the Dark with Latest Cinematic Heavy Metal Solo Album

Kane Roberts — Photo by Mike Goedecke

For Kane Roberts, writing and recording “The New Normal,” his first new solo album in seven years, felt like taking a step in the dark.

“It was one of those situations where I’ve been off the grid for quite a while. I hadn’t been in the public jet stream of rock and roll and recording and playing live. I played it for my friend Kip Winger, and he said, ‘I can run this by Frontiers to see if they’re interested,’ and Serafino and Mario agreed to it,” Roberts said.

“It was like walking into a completely dark room because I hadn’t been in the studio and doing this exact type of thing, writing, guitar, making a record and singing so that I had to do stuff that was up to the proper standard.”

Out today on Frontiers Music, “The New Normal” more than surpasses the heavy metal standard with a bold cinematic, atmospheric sound filled with electrifying guitar solos, majestic drum beats and mesmerizing bass lines. In a sense, it’s akin to hearing Roberts’ personal soundtrack as his life plays out before listeners’ eyes.

Roberts, an iconic heavy metal singer and guitarist who’s worked with Alice Cooper, KISS, Guns N’ Roses, Rod Stewart and a host of other renowned artists, spent three years writing and recording 10 tracks for “The New Normal” with producer Alex Track. He opted to record “The New Normal” at Track’s studio and bust out of his comfort zone after releasing “Unsung Radio” in 2012.

“I ended up recording at his place from about 9 a.m. to four or five in the morning, five nights a week. It was a matter of discovery, I wasn’t sure how it would go, I knew that I wouldn’t quit until I got it done properly,” said Roberts, who’s also famous for his ‘80s machine-gun guitar and body-builder image.

“As time went on, the writing was really good, we started recording, and it sounded all great and everything. I would reinspect a vocal, and I would go, ‘I’m singing better now, so I should do some different choices with my guitar playing,’ even though I never stopped, it started to get more focused, and we started developing the cinematic approach to this whole project.”

Roberts built his robust cinematic sound with the help of several powerhouse heavy metal artists and musicians, including Alice Cooper, Kip Winger, Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Paul Taylor, Ken Mary, Nita Strauss, Babymetal’s Aoyama Hidecki, Shinedown’s Brent Smith and Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale.

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