Saturday, May 27, 2017

Local Spins Music News Excerpt: "Country singer Brian Lorente will quit the band, devote more time to family, songwriting"

The uber-popular Michigan country artist will leave his band, The Usual Suspects, this fall after releasing a new album and completing one final tour.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - March 7, 2017

After almost 10 years of touring the Midwest with his Michigan-based country group The Usual Suspects, lead vocalist and guitarist Brian Lorente is calling it quits later this year to spend more time with his family.

After one more CD release and a final set of live dates in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio through September, Lorente plans to leave the band and devote his musical efforts to songwriting. But The Usual Suspects will go on without Lorente, as he said he'll be turning over the microphone to vocalist Kurt Stone.

Lorente started The Usual Suspects and nurtured the band over the past decade through personnel changes. He was at the core as manager, accountant, booking agent, and marketing director, while holding down a full-time job and family life.

"With all of that, there is no time to sit back with my guitar or a pad of paper and create," Lorente said. "I am actually excited for the chance to sit back and become a storyteller again, and to kind of re-find that guy who loves songwriting.

"I have learned it is possible to stay alive in music, and not be on the road all the time. But it is a new field that I still have a lot to learn about: Live streams, videos, and status updates will be the main way to keep in touch with my fan base, but every once in a while, I am sure I will get an itch to the stage again, so I promise not to drop off the face of the earth."

Read more about Lorente and his announcement, only at Local Spins!

Local Spins Concert Preview Excerpt: "New York roots-folk group Driftwood brings punk-rock spirit to new album, Michigan tour stops"

Touring behind its fifth album, "City Lights," Driftwood plays four Michigan shows this week, including a Friday concert at Spring Lake's Seven Steps Up.

By Matt Marn

Violinist Claire Byrne of the New York roots-folk band Driftwood calls it "a new adventure."

Driftwood washes up along the Lake Michigan shore this week, exuding a punk-rock spirit as it tours behind its new CD, "City Lights."

The band plays Black River Tavern in South Haven on Thursday and Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake on Friday, followed by stops in Petoskey and Traverse City.

"You never really know what to expect. You go into each tour as part of a new adventure," Byrne told Local Spins, noting the band plays an average of 100 shows a year. "That way, you are ready for anything, with no specific expectations."

"City Lights," the five-member band's fifth CD, was released in November. Byrne, who joined the Binghamton, N.Y.-based band in 2008, said she thinks it gives her songwriting a chance to shine.

"I think the songs I have on this record reflect a woman going through a great shift in her life, settling down a bit, and reflecting on the many different ways that affects me and my relationships with others," Byrne said in a recent interview, adding that her songwriting style has evolved over the past five or six years.

"What once was more exclusively country, folky tunes, I have begun to branch out more, with Driftwood and the group album in mind. It's exciting to be bringing tunes to a group like Driftwood. You bring your own songs to the others, and they kind of put their own bits of themselves in there, as well.

Now, it's not only my song as an individual songwriter, but it is also my song, as a part of Driftwood. It is fun to see how it evolves into that finished product."

Read more about Driftwood and their new album, only at Local Spins!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Local Spins Album Review Excerpt: "Holland natives flying high in Nashville as Midnight Pilot, put 'heart and soul' into new EP"

With deep roots in West Michigan, Midnight Pilot band members are finding key connections in 'the center of the music universe' as they create some engaging indie-rock/Americana music.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - January 13, 2017

Grant Geertsma and brothers Kyle and Kris Schonewill have been playing music since they were all in middle school in West Michigan.

And over the years - no matter where they were - they still made getting together and making music a priority.

That hasn't changed a bit.

Along with bandmate Dustin Wise, the group now based in Nashville and going by the name Midnight Pilot releases a new EP, "Hold On," today (Jan. 13).

Geertsma and the Schonewill brothers all graduated from Holland Christian High School - Geertsma and Kyle Schonewill in 2007, with Kyle's brother Kris walking across the same stage in 2009. Kyle studied audio engineering at Belmont University in Nashville after high school, and decided to stay put after he graduated there.

For Kris and Geertsma, Nashville seemed a fun new place to try for a while - especially to make their brand of indie-Americana music.

"It is the center of the music universe, so it is a great place to start a musical career," Kyle Schonewill said. "We love it here. All of our connections in music are here, and we have top-notch recording studios directly at our fingertips at all times."

With 'Hold On,' the band aimed for a relaxed, narrative approach. Inspired by artists like Beck and Randy Newman, Schonewill said the singer-songwriter vibe is a bit different for group members. The new EP has more band wallop than their 2014 EP, 'Let Go,' but less rock 'n' roll than their full-length, self-titled 2015 album or their 2016 EP, 'The Good Life.'

"We like to vary up our sounds per EP," he said. "On 'Hold On,' we are probably most proud of the arrangements of everything - especially the strings."

Schonewill said over the years, the group has worked hard to grow its name, mounting a few small tours and playing some memorable shows. But it remains heavily focused on making lots of new music.

"We have just naturally been drawn into making music," he said. "We feel like that is where our strengths lie, and the creation of the record is our favorite part."

Read the rest of the full Midnight Pilot review of their new EP, only at Local Spins!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Local Spins Concert Coverage Excerpt: "'Tonight Will Be Fine': Langhorne Slim proves it with powerful performance at St. Cecilia

The first "Acoustic Cafe Folk Series" concert of the season brought the Americana artist to the refurbished St. Cecilia Music Center stage on Thursday.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - November 18, 2016

Armed only with a guitar, a solitary figure on a stool managed to fill a mostly bare stage in Grand Rapids on Thursday with powerful tales, humor and moving tributes.

A truly invested performer, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim not only delivered stories behind many of the songs, but performed each one with passion at St. Cecilia Music Center on Thursday night for a solo acoustic performance that kicked off the 2016-2017 Acoustic Cafe Folk Series.

Langhorne also was very candid, even humorous, in the rapport he built with his audience, leaving the room laughing on more than a few occasions.

But he also knew how to deliver raw emotion to every seat in the house. Discussing his beloved grandparents on more than one occasion, he played a special song close to his heart toward the end of the show.

The original song was dedicated to the three grandparents he had lost, as well as the grandmother he still holds close back home, a song he calls "Song For Sid," which asks in the chorus: "Where do the great ones go when they're gone?"

The moving tribute had some tears flowing among those seated in the refurbished Royce Auditorium (that Langhorne apparently had asked to keep darkened as much as possible).

Read more on Langhorne Slim's Grand Rapids concert, with photo gallery, only at Local Spins!

Local Spins Concert Preview Excerpt: "Langhorne Slim launches solo tour of 'raw, dirty, soulful' music in Grand Rapids"

With a new blend of rock/folk/pop, Langhorne Slim opens a series Thursday that will now also feature Los Lonely Boys, Pokey LaFarge, Margo Price and Marc Cohn. Read the Langhorne Slim interview, get series details.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - November 15, 2016

Nashville singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim never gave much thought to how he first began in music or what inspired him.

He just always knew he needed to do something, staying active rather than just staying still.

And he certainly is very grateful the opportunity came along.

"This life is full of emotion; I am just glad I had this outlet," he said.

Using his signature folk, rock, and pop blend to impress crowds across the country, including festivals such as Lollapalooza and South by Southwest, it's safe to say this outlet of music and songwriting has served him well so far.

Having recently relocated to Nashville, he just last year released a critically acclaimed album, "The Spirit Moves," with his band, The Law.

This close group of men he calls brothers has been with him through a lot and his drummer, Malachi DeLorenzo, has been with him for more than a decade. He recounts the many times his band managed to cram an unimaginable load of instruments, amps, and gear into his grandmother's Toyota Camry, and hitting the road to their next gig.

"In life, you find your people - your family - and something like that is for sure worth having," he said.

Read more of Langhorne Slim's preview, as well as later coverage of the show, only at Local Spins!

Local Spins Concert Coverage Excerpt: "Jason Isbell exudes 'something more' than just country charm in inspiring Grand Rapids show"

The acclaimed Americana artist touring behind his latest album, "Something More Than Free," left the DeVos Performance Hall crowd mesmerized on Monday

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - October 4, 2016

It's rare when a room of 2,000-plus people falls absolutely silent, hanging on every word from a solitary man strumming an acoustic guitar, bearing his heart with his songwriting.

And it can be just as compelling to see exuberant fans jump and scream for every beat of a high-powered, uptempo rock song, played to perfection by a full band.

The crowd that witnessed Jason Isbell on Monday night at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids got plenty of both in the same show.

Fans sang along as Isbell led his band, The 400 Unit, through many of the Americana-fueled singer-songwriter's most familiar material, including songs from his newest release, "Something More Than Free."

His set followed a powerful, crowd-pleasing start from opening act Josh Ritter, who warmed up fans in style, with the acoustic guitarist accompanied onstage by an electric guitarist, a drummer, and an upright bassist. Oozing country twang, the veteran singer-songwriter's impressive tunes brought the audience to its feet, cheering, before the headliner even took the stage.

While Isbell had the audience laughing more than once with his banter, the Alabama native let his music do much of the talking.

And while many might consider his music as occupying the country end of the musical spectrum, Isbell and The 400 Unit displayed great versatility in their approach. So, a heartfelt acoustic ballad dedicated to his wife that left the crowd deeply moved was followed by a song that had Isbell plugging in his Telecaster to shred a bluesy guitar solo.

And for that, the crowd stayed up and cheered long after the lights came on.

Read more on Isbell's GR concert, as well as photo galleries from the show, only at Local Spins!

Local Spins Artist Spotlight Excerpt: "Grand Haven's Room Full of Elephants mixes styles, works to inspire others with its music"

The band has taken its roots-based rock music to the next level, with members pushing comfort levels to create "a new different sound." The group makes its SpeakEZ Lounge debut Wednesday.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - September 27, 2016

Some members of the Grand Haven band Room Full of Elephants have played together for nearly a decade, while others have joined the group only recently.

Regardless of tenure, they can't wait to see where they are headed next.

What began as a duo grew into something greater over time. Room Full of Elephants vocalist Matt Spofford said he and drummer Chris Sabota used to play gigs together as part of a trio that later disbanded.

Spofford said that for a band's survival, it is important to find members with not only similar styles and schedules, but also the same passion.

"Everyone has a reason they aren't in a band anymore," Spofford said. "These bands grow tough to stay together and to thrive sometimes, We need to really practice, and have our game put together. The audience deserves that."

As time went on, Spofford hosted an open mic night, and a player came out one night that caught his attention. Dustin Mason had been playing guitar for years, with a musical background full of influences from Sublime to Bob Marley to Jack Johnson. Those influences - as well as plenty of hints of jazz and R&B - snuck into his songwriting.

When Mason was welcomed into what would become Room Full of Elephants, it was the first time he had played with a band.

"I showed up and started playing once a week with them," Mason said. "It quickly became pretty organic. I started playing Matt's songs, so I got to develop my rhythm guitar skills as we went."

Spofford said that with a hybrid blend of his original songs, and now Mason's original songs, the group was able to add variety to its style.

"For the longest time, the sets were our songs between the two of us, with the rest of the band supporting and adding in their own styles," Mason said. "We played some pop-up festivals and a few house parties, but something was still missing. We needed a media kit: a demo CD to apply for slots at higher-end gigs and venues."

They locked in a recording session with producer Bleu Van Dyke. Spofford said Van Dyke was not afraid to add his own thoughts, pushing the group and even adding his own licks and performances along the way.

"His ear for elaboration and his harmony stood out to me right from the beginning," Mason said. "I realized that is what we had been missing."

The group soon asked Van Dyke to be its bassist. He quickly learned their original songs to catch up with the band, and it only got better from there.

"Bleu took our group to the next level, 100 percent," Mason said.

Read more on Room Full of Elephants in the complete artist spotlight article, only from Local Spins!

Local Spins Preview Excerpt: "Grand Haven's Ladyfest at the Lakeshore 2016 to spotlight female West Michigan voices"

Saturday's day-long event at Grand Armory Brewing showcases musical talent, poetry and more. Learn more in the Local Spins on WYCE Podcast with Ladyfest performers and new tracks by regional artists.

By Matt Marn

Published by Local Spins - September 23, 2016

It's a day to celebrate and spotlight female voices from West Michigan, from women who lead bands to female singer-songwriters and poets.

The first-ever Ladyfest at the Lakeshore takes place 2-11 p.m. Saturday at Grand Armory Brewing, 17 S. 2nd St. in Grand Haven. The one-day festival will feature musical performances by about a dozen acts, a discussion about women composers and an open-mic showcase.

The lakeshore celebration is a spin-off from the popular Ladyfest GR that celebrated its fifth year in March.

"The event keeps growing, from nine featured acts, both bands and solo singer/songwriters, and even local poetry," said organizer Jessica Fogle, who also performs as Jessica in the Rainbow. "We will feature a variety of music styles in our performances, as well as an 'emerging songwriter' showcase and open mic, where people can come in, put their name down on our sign-in sheet, and share their own talents, as well."

Read the full preview article on Ladyfest at the Lakeshore 2016, only at Local Spins!