I haven’t done a newsletter since the holidays. But I have been posting via Instagram, Facebook & Twitter- and you can follow me via the top right of my site. I've also taken to Pinterest to organize my favorite articles and areas of interest. Which is another way to say that I'm an information hoarder. Or a seriously curious cat. Feel free to add me here and I'll follow you back! Anyhow, please scroll down for a grand roundup of my musical life since the holidays:
This is a photo that Fiona Dickinson took of me before a solo house show that Tom Hymn put together in Grand Rapids. I had a great time trying out new material that I've consistently been writing in between other music work. I also played a set of solo music at Northern Naturals in Traverse City. It was nice to share a bill at one of my favorite Michigan venues and trade back-ups with my friend Gitis Baggs.
I also worked for the Gift Of Music after-school Program again this past season in conjunction with Communities In Schools. I worked with a handful of teachers, some of whom are in the "twang-rock & jelly roll" band The Go Rounds, and my hip-hop, psych-soul band Maraj. Watching The Go Rounds rock a music-style mash-up at the beginning of our classes was a true marvel. Here’s a picture and a video by Cam Tarnas in all it's free wheelin' glory!
This has also been a year of benefits for me. I played for the WMU Peace Center benefit with Bowhunter, the JFON Benefit with Maraj, The ISLAND Institute Benefit with Gitis Baggs, and the Follow The Buffalo benefit that I coordinated with a songwriter-in-the-round theme. I capped off the benefit season by playing fiddle tunes with the Square Dance Kalamazoo board at the twice annual all ages square dance.
My band MARAJ also had a HUGE dose of excitement this past February. Here’s a post that I wrote in the midst of the hoopla: “MARAJ made this NPR Music list of 10 featured entries out of nearly 7,000 bands in the contest. We're so hyped and grateful!!! "On "Gettaway," the eclectic Kalamazoo, Mich. hip-hop collective fuses styles and spits lyrics in a way that awed judge and All Songs Considered co-host Robin Hilton: "The moment it ended I cued it back up to the beginning and watched it all over again. Great flow, incredible charisma. Just a very magnetic, captivating performance. I was also moved by the simple message of hope for better times. It was the first video I gave a perfect score." Here’s the full NPR article.
Check out this "Move On It" single if you’re curious to hear what my Coopdeville self sounds like in Maraj. I'm the one starting out the track with a rapping hook.
The shot above is from a show we played at the new Majestic Theater cafe in Detroit. The shot to the left is from playing at this year's Jammie awards show in Grand Rapids. It's been great to play there several times this past year.
Maraj also opened for Vox Vidorra at Founders in Grand Rapids for their CD release party this spring. They gave one of the most moving performances I've seen in a long time. They had a string section, a full, tight band and a one Molly Shultz who had me utterly entranced with her voice and her embodiment of each song. I highly recommend getting their new album and melting accordingly.
Maraj also played a free show at Bells Brewery this spring. It was particularly magical to vibe off of the springtime, post finals vibe of the crowd. If only we could have a crew of vivacious dance students rocking OUT in the front row at all future shows!
Ken Campbell photographed this sweet scene below from a surprise party thrown in honor of Tony Roth- or T-Rex Roth as he's known in Kalamazoo. I was really glad I could make this party. Tony and Joyce are not only integral to the Kalamazoo music scene, but they're also important friends, mentors, and parental figures for me. I wrote a birthday song for Tony that I played there to the tune of the old-school birthday song that I first heard Frank Youngman play at the Wheatland Music Festival. I gotta admit, I was more nervous to play that song than I've been before many-a-show. But it was totally worth it to see Tony & Joyce cracking up- or to hear them rather... I was looking down in attempts to remember the new song and not break out laughing myself.
You can learn more about Miss Muse here.
And on to the other side of the musical spectrum...
This April, my friend Fiona Dickinson and I played at Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park for an annual event put on by Spectrum Health called "Evening Of Remembrance". We played for 4-500 people who had experienced loss in the last year, and who were connected to the Spectrum Health Hospice Program. It was a real honor to play music for this service, and a treat to soak in a line of harpists playing as people were being seated. This experience also gave me more encouragement to develop and offer a program of hospice music in the future.
Here's a photo from a great contra dance that I played with my string band Bowhunter in Traverse City, and another photo us os playing for the New England Literature Program's 40th anniversary party in Ann Arbor. The guest in the second photo is our folklorist, fiddling friend Emily Hilliard who runs a pie blog called Nothing In The House.
This is a shot taken while singing a tune called "Peg & Awl", which is an old traditional song that we recorded an arrangement of on Micah Ling's new album Kingdom Come. This was during an Earthwork show in Traverse City to make up for one that got snowed out earlier this winter.
In early May, I played a basement show in Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo has a rich DIT scene, which is short for do it together. You can check out the DIT Kalamazoo blog here to get a better idea. Anyhow, I was excited to play with a great bill of women musicians, and even more excited when I realized that the show was in the same house that I lived in for a spell in college.
Another highlight from this spring was recording a song for an untitled Michigan basement tapes project that Matt Jones is taking on. I was initially wondering how Matt was gonna follow up that great Deep Enders record. Knowing Matt, this seems perfect. This project already has people sparking and talking and perking their ears up, and sharpening their craft- and taking risks in a basement with their friends. I can't wait to hear this statewide lo-fi scene mixer compilation amalgamation. It's turned into a mammoth responsibility, but Mr. Jones is a natural behind the Tascam and a modern day Alan Lomax, turns out.
This spring, I’ve been working part time again for SEEDS with the Quest program. “SEEDS is a nonprofit organization with a 15 year tradition of partnership and arts integration in northwest Michigan. The Earthwork Music Collective believes in the intrinsic power of music to raise community and self-awareness. Together, we are planning a journey - a quest - to reconnect K-12 youth to their own sources of creativity, power and voice.” This year’s theme is local food, and a rotating group of musicians will be writing songs with kids in northern Michigan cities until the showcase performance on July 2nd.
And now I have finally, nearly caught up with myself. What a quarter (and some change) it has been... Now I have a little more time on my hands until the last push of SEEDS work, and before the summer season of music festivals, recording projects and work on my own slow-burn of an album. Thanks for reading friends.
I’ve played in many bands and backed many artists, but this "Old Man Winter" single is the first release of my own music! Cam Tarnas created the video by compiling vintage, public domain footage of winter scenes. Many thanks to the Double Phelix crew for backing me up: Graham Parsons, Adam Danis, Tod Kloosterman and Andy Catlin. Thanks to Ben Lau and Corey DeRushia for engineering. And thanks to my own trumpeteer father Brandon Cooper (The Great Brandini) for letting me boss him around in the studio. Here's to releasing more solo music in the coming new year, which you can follow at this new Facebook Artist page: Samantha Cooper
Please consider purchasing this tune via Bandcamp, and sharing the video!
Samantha Cooper Bandcamp Site
2014 WRAP UP SHOWS
December 13 Matt Jones & The Reconstruction at Johnnys Speakeasy, Ann Arbor, MI at 7 pm
December 17 Matt Jones & The Reconstruction at Beezy's Cafe, Ypsilanti, MI
December 19 Maraj at Billys Lounge, Grand Rapids, MI at 9 pm
December 20 Maraj at The James Russell House, Grand Rapids, MI at 8:30 pm
December 21 Matt Jones & The Reconstruction, private party
December 27 Hearth & Hymn at Webster Church, Dexter, MI at 6:30 pm
December 29 Hearth & Hymn & Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, Kalamazoo, MI, 7:00 pm
(Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for address)
December 31 Bowhunter at the Central United Methodist Church, Lansing, MI (sans Cooper, + McBride!)
December 31 NYE with Maraj, The Go Rounds and The Kansas Bible Company at Bell's Brewery at 8 pm
*Stay tuned for the release of my first solo single "The Days They Wane" later this December*
January 1 Maraj at MIttenfest, The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI at 10:15 pm
January 4 Matt Jones & The Reconstruction at Mittenfest, The Blind Pig, Ann Arbor, MI
January 8 The Earthwork Collective Tour at the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo, MI
January 9 The Earthwork Collective Tour at the Inside/Out Art Gallery in Traverse City, MI
January 10 The Earthwork Collective Tour at Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, MI
January 11 The Earthwork Collective Tour at the Ark in Ann Arbor, MI
January 19 Bowhunter at Square Dance Kalamazoo at Bells Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI
February 13 Maraj at The Jammies Awards, Grand Rapids, MI
February 20 Maraj opens for Flint Eastwood at The Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids, MI
March 14 Bowhunter Contra Dance at the Bayside Travelers Dance, Traverse City, MI
This sweet poster above was made by Nick Vander Vliet of the band Who Hit John?
This was taken by Caitlin Anne during Fiona Dickinson's string laden, boy-choir backed tune at the Lamplight Music Festival. Lamplight is a one of a kind, annual house show festival in early November.
This is a photo from the Matt Jones CD release at the Ark. Doug Coombe has lots of lovely photos from the evening here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/funkytreetown/
Check out this live video of Matt Jones & The Reconstruction playing "Into The Valley Tom Fool" in the barn at this year's Earthwork Harvest Gathering.
Check out this Vimeo video of the Bowhunter string band backing up Micah Ling for the release of her album "Kingdom Come" at the Earthwork Harvest Gathering.
Now is the time of year where I’m gearing up for the Earthwork Harvest Festival, one of my favorite gatherings. I’ll be busy soaking in the festival and playing with the following sets: Maraj, Bowhunter, Matt Jones, Micah Ling, Sam Cooper solo, Fiona Dickinson, and an Earthwork women’s set. I hope to see some of you there.
Upcoming Confirmed Shows:
September 18: Maraj plays a “Night Market” in Kalamazoo, MI
September 19, 20, 21: The Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Lake City, MI
September 24: Matt Jones First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo, MI
October 3: Matt Jones CD Release, The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
October 10: Maraj at K College, Kalamazoo, MI
October 24: Contra/Square dance at the Gibbs House, Kalamazoo, MI
October 31: Maraj Halloween show, South Bend, IN
November 1: Ten Pound Fiddle, Bowhunter, Lansing, MI
November 8, 9: Maraj, Lamplight Festival, Grand Rapids, MI
December 13: Webster Church Concert Series in Chelsea, MI
January 8-11: Earthwork Music Collective Tour
I’ve been recording and playing a number of shows around west Michigan with Maraj, a new soul/hip-hop project I’m a member of. We’re excited for another run of shows with our first full length record Voyager, which released today! You can stream and/or purchase the new full length album at the Maraj Bandcamp, and also check out the five song EP we released this past spring. Here’s an article about the new album:
The Making Of Maraj's Voyager
Andy Catlin, DIT Kalamazoo
The new, debut Bowhunter album was released on August 11 at Square Dance Kalamazoo's monthly dance at Bells Brewery! The band consists of Laurel Premo (of Red Tail Ring) on fiddle and banjo, Michael Beauchamp (of Red Tail Ring) on guitar, Sam Herman (of MANY of old time bands) on banjo, and Sam Cooper on fiddle. The album features traditional and original fiddle tunes that we play at dances as well as a few ballads with sweet harmony singing. The full version of the album (available in physical disc & on digital download from Earthwork Music) includes jokes and other commentary between a few tunes. The iTunes digital version is stripped down - simply the tunes with nothing else. We invite you to choose your own adventure. The two Sam’s from the Bowhunter string band were interviewed on WMUK in Kalamazoo for the release of our album, "The Right Hands Round." You can check out the interview here:
Bowhunters Album Captures The Fun In Square Dance Culture
by Rebbecca Thiele, WMUK
Since I've updated last, I wrapped up working for the summer session of the Gift Of Music Program in Kalamazoo, which I really enjoyed. There will be a music video debuting sometime this fall showcasing a song we wrote with the students. I'm not able to post any pictures of the students yet, but here's some of the teachers I got to work with: Jeff Savina and Kam Potts (Motorcitykam).
This summer, I’ve been doing a little less supporting musician/studio musician work, and a little more work on my own music, demo's and recordings. I’ve also been investing more into band recordings & performances such as Maraj, Bowhunter and Hearth & Hymn. So, I was lucky to find part time work with Hether Frayer (aka the Fresh Food Fairy) making and selling her kale chips in Kalamazoo. Fresh food is always in abundance at her home, and it's really inspiring to be around. Here she is in all her glory!
I was able to make it to the Farm Block Festival in the Keeweenaw Peninsula this yearl that Graham Parsons hosts at his family farm. This was one of my favorite moments below. You can’t beat having a bunch of friends from different cities come together at festivals. Here’s a preview for my newest verse to my "Witchin’ In The Kitchin" tune that I sing & play on fiddle, which these guys helped write when we were hanging around the open air kitchen:
This is a shot from when Fiona Dickinson, Elisabeth Pixley-Fink and myself opened for A Brother and A Sister Band at their at Satellite Records album release in Kalamazoo. Our friends Joel and Ira helped us get a real pro band photo as well.
The three of us played a lot of music together as a trio this August. A Double Phelix crew of us got an upcoming EP recorded for Elisabeth at the Double Phelix studio. I also wrangled Fio & Elisabeth for a couple of studio sessions before Elisabeth left to teach in Portland for the school year. We got 4 of my live tracks recorded and video’d, along with three future Hearth & Hymn tracks. The first session was partially video’d by Michael Erlewine, and held at Troubadour Studios in Lansing, MI, which is owned by my friend Corey DeRushia. The second session was held in the sanctuary at the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo, MI thanks to the kindness of Nathan Dannison and the FCC community. I was also lucky to have some DIT Sessions folks video those songs too. I’m not sure when we’ll release them yet, but I’ll send word when they are.
Playing at Hollerfest with Elisabeth was a great way to wind down the summer. My favorite moment was seeing this father holding his sleeping daughter, and then laying her down gently so he could dance with his partner. His daughter woke up shortly thereafter with a bewildered look about her. But, it was totally worth it, as you can tell. I also really loved helping to teach the "kids songs" workshop by this treehouse with Elisabeth. We learned that they like the riddle song, but they REALLY got enthusiastic when it was time for them to share all their favorite riddles.
I got to welcome in the fall by playing at the Wheatland Music Festival this year, which was a real honor. Going here was one of the many experiences that ignited my passion for traditional music. Throughout the weekend, I was most inspired by seeing Pokey LaFarge and band. They played a set of music for the swing dance, which they don't usually do, and their energy was through the roof!
My other favorite moment was doing a morning yoga class in the dance pavilion. When it came time for the quiet, still Shavasana portion of the class, we could hear Bruce Bauman warming up on his fiddle backstage since he was about to play a family dance. ;)
I'm grateful to be working with the Dan Schmitt Gift of Music and Education Fund in Kalamazoo this summer with some of my favorite music mates like Fiona Dickinson and Graham Parsons, and some sweet kids.
It's good to think of how many folks have, and will continue to play that gentle old, sweet little Pat Carroll - Cat Peril guitar.
This is one of my favorite places to make music in all the land. This little cherub (Fiona) will also be joining me on harp and cello.
June 19, 2014
May Erlewine CD Release Concert
Opening Set by Samantha Cooper
First Congregational Church (FCC)
345 West Michigan Ave,
Online Tickets: $12 + 1 dollar service fee
General Admission: $13
MORE INFO →
Facebook Event →
I’m still charged up from the annual Earthwork Family Weekend, a gathering full of all-ages arts & ecology activities on the Earthwork Farm in Lake City, MI. Their farm is a sanctuary for both humans and non-humans alike. If you haven’t been there yet, check out the Earthwork Harvest Gathering in September and experience the farm during this three day festival running from September 19-21.
Anyhow, I’m writing to announce a show happening this Thursday, June 19 in Kalamazoo at the First Congregational Church. I’m honored to open for one of my favorite musicians and all around Renaissance women: May Erlewine. This show marks the kick-off of May's CD release tour! Please check the poster for more dates.
May and her husband Seth Bernard are co-founders of the Earthwork Music Collective. They are advocates of service-oriented artistry who have helped bolster a scene of mitten-based artisans, arts & culture on top of releasing a total of 18 solo/duo albums. Unfortunately, this past year and a half brought them many losses. However, their attitude has given us courage to live well despite the inevitability of loss. Watching them creatively honor their friends has positively affected my own grief process, and encouraged me to use my own expression as a tool.
I'm looking forward to opening her set with a few songs on the Cat Peril guitar, my fiddle, and the gorgeous FCC church piano. I will be accompanied on a few songs by Fiona Dickinson and May. I'm also excited to share a song that I dreamt about May & Seth's baby girl Iris.
Here is an excellent Mlive article about May’s new album:
May Erlewine's new album 'Where We Are' examines grief, loss and rebirth
June 19: the First Congregational Church - Kalamazoo
June 20: the Ark - Ann Arbor
June 21: the Wealthy Theatre - Grand Rapids
June 22: the Inside Out Gallery - Traverse City
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