“It really does come from my past albums and dealing with all the controversy and disagreement in the world. What has gotten me through these last few years has been love and the relationships with my wife, my family and my friends. In a way, while it seems like a departure, it’s really part of the same story,” Alter said.
“How many times have you spent your whole day watching whatever news channel you watch? I did a lot of that, and what got me away from that and allowed me to deal with things emotionally and intellectually was turning back to the people I could count on in my life.”
ThroughoutLove and All That Comes With It, Alter revisits past and present relationships alongside reflective lyrics and atmospheric folk-jazz-rock instrumentation. Each track encourages listeners to take an emotional and spiritual look at the love in their lives.
“Some of the songs on the album were written a while ago, but a lot of them were rewritten where I repurposed lyrics and things like that. There were songs I wasn’t happy with, but I liked certain concepts in them,” Alter said.
“The first song really written for this album was ‘Love and All That Comes With It.’ It has the line, ‘With love you can deal with it,’ and it’s a continuation of my previous statements.”
To expand on those statements, we recently chatted with Alter about writing and recording tracks for his recent release.
The metro Detroit rock-soul trio of Josh Clemens (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Schneider (vocals, bass) and Bobby Jankowski (drums) share heartfelt truths of the past and find the way forward on their latest album.
“Falling Back Again is when you’re trapped in a cycle, and you’re falling back into the same old patterns,” Clemens said.
“In a relationship, it can be like, ‘We’re fine; we’re doing really good,’ but then it’s like, ‘We’re back to square one,’ and finally it’s like, ‘Are you leaving? No, I’m staying.’”
That cyclical nature of Falling Back Again elicits eight personal tales of love, self-acceptance and heartbreak against a backdrop of soulful instrumentation and Motown-rich sensibilities. Each track accepts one circumstance and prepares for the challenges of the next.
“It’s just this vicious cycle, and it never stops. When you’re Falling Back Again, you’re falling back to the beginning of the cycle, which has a ‘with or without you’ vibe,” Clemens said
Tom Alter deeply examines art and life from different perspectives.
The Fraser indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist candidly depicts the thoughts, feelings and challenges of society’s creative voices on his latest insightful album, Poetry and Protest.
“I realized that so much of what I was writing about were things based on what I had read or had come from memories that had stayed with me for a long time and made me want to write about them. That’s the poetry side of it,” said Alter, who produced, mixed and mastered his own album.
“And the protest side blends in with that because a lot of the poetry is coming out and speaking to important matters. The last song I wrote for this was (the title track), and that was after thinking about this collection of songs. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody who has a very different experience from me.”
Alter’sPoetry and Protest provides an enlightening narrative filled with bold tales about humanity, sacrifice, loss and compassion. It seamlessly ventures from the vast emptiness of space to the sparsely populated shores of Hudson Bay to the tightly packed streets of Hamtramck.
“The Poetry and Protest idea came from me being out on a walk and thinking about this collection of songs that I was putting together and realizing where the influences for them came from,” said Alter about his sixth album.
“There’s a song, ‘Four Blue Horses,’ that is directly from a Mary Oliver poem, and it comes from Franz Marc’s Blue Horses. She wrote a poem about that series of paintings, and she got so personally involved in the paintings. I just thought, ‘I want to write about this; it was as simple as that.’”
Brimming with atmospheric soundscapes and curative tales, After Blue provides a calming, aerial pathway to new possibilities.
The metro Detroit indie folk duo of Katie Williamson (vocals, piano) and Tom Alter (vocals, guitar) instantly soothes and invigorates weary, lost souls on their enchanting new album, Far Above and Far Away.
“I think the first song, ‘Armada,’ was written prior to the pandemic, and I read an article in the paper about the town and what they did to build the garden. And Katie and I finished that one off together in her old house. I think that song kinda set the stage for the rest,” said Alter, who formed After Blue with Williamson in 2016.
Throughout their latest release, After Blue gracefully discards the painful feelings of the past and surges toward the radiant promise of the future. Each mesmerizing track allows listeners to rediscover their sense of spirituality and inner peace within an azure-filled dreamscape.
“I think ‘Charlotte’ was the next one that was written … but it is about persistence. There’s a line in there where it says, ‘I promise that bruises heal,’ and that’s the core of that song,” Alter said.
The Fraser folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist will return to his family’s old stomping grounds to perform Friday night at the Polish Village Café.
“It feels pretty nostalgic to be playing in Hamtramck since my mother was raised there. She graduated from St. Florian High School. My grandparents lived in Hamtramck until they reached their 80s, and I have memories of visiting there when I was a child,” Alter said.
“Some of those memories are captured in my song, ‘Hamtramck.’ I grew up in suburban East Detroit, which was a very different environment. When visiting Hamtramck, my siblings and I were exposed to a very different culture, even with my grandparents speaking another language through much of our visit.”
Alter quickly revisits his childhood on 2018’s “Hamtramck” as sentimental acoustic strums, sunny electric guitars and ruminative bass repaint loving scenes from the past. He reflects, “Visit from suburbia/Dropped into this urban dream/It’s a new diversity/In the streets with rising steam/I feel this city claiming me.”
“I think that experience gave me an appreciation for the many cultures that make up our nation. I released the song, ‘Hamtramck,’ on Bandcamp a few years ago. Since then, I have played it as an acoustic piece, and I plan to release a new version similar to my live performance on a new album I’m working on now,” said Alter, who also performs as part of the soul-jazz-rock duo After Blue with Katie Williamson.
“It’s been just about a year since John Lewis passed. I think the impact of the equal justice protests of 2020 still resonate today, but unfortunately at a somewhat lower volume. I want to continue to put a light on John Lewis’ life and that cause in my own way,” he said.
Outfitted with a Fender Telecaster and a worn pick-axe, Nick Juno unearths a treasure trove of Detroit musical gems twice a month.
The Motor City folk singer-songwriter carefully excavates and shares priceless song lyrics from local artists through the newly discovered The Detroit Song Mine, which launched today via Facebook.
“For the last several months, we’ve had online access to such wonderful and varied music on all different levels. Oftentimes when hearing people play their songs, I think, ‘That was great live! What did they say?’ And I thought it would be great to see the lyrics to some of these because as a writer I’m always reading the lyrics,” he said.
“It’s all about ‘the song,’ and then I was thinking about how in the ‘60s Greenwich Village had the ‘Broadside,’ which became ‘Sing Out!’ magazine. I thought it would be great to have something like that on a very small, basic level here. I didn’t want to have a contest, review or critique; I just wanted to have the bare bones skeleton lyrics of people’s songs.”
“The first batch of writers in issue No. 1 were chosen randomly from the first handful of people who sent in songs. When I first envisioned doing this, I thought with hat in hand maybe a few people might want to do this monthly, but I got a terrific response. Now, I will be doing this twice a month to keep things moving,” Juno said.
Juno also sought inspiration for The Detroit Song Mine from the city’s historic salt deposits, which date back 400 million years and were left behind by the retreat of an ancient inland ocean. In a sense, he captures that timeless tradition and aesthetically transfers it to publishing song lyrics. Each online issue of The Detroit Song Mine invites artists to discuss and share each other’s songs.
“The idea of mining for rock salt or digging your way for songs out of thin air rang familiar, and I hope people would pick up on that. As writers, it’s often useful to play for other people and get feedback about what they think, what they heard or how things worked out,” Juno said.
“None of that’s happening right now with the ongoing shutdown, so I thought it might be good for people to have an outlet to put their songs out there good, bad or otherwise just for others to see them.”
With the next issue launching Aug. 14, Juno will announce and publish another six or seven songs from a different group of singer-songwriters. He’s interested in highlighting creative lyrics from a multitude of genres, including folk, rock and hip-hop.
“I want this to be like putting up show flyers on a kiosk or wall where you slap up your song with wheat paste and walk away. The people sending in songs are varied and different, so whatever we get I’m happy to put up. Ideally, I’d like to see this in printed form available for people to have in their hands, but I just wanted to get it started,” he said.
“Being online is a good thing because I’ve had people way outside of the Detroit area interested. My hope is that when we finally start up again playing live music readers might say at a show, ‘Oh, I know this song! I’ve seen these lyrics.”