Moving Forward: pia the band Re-evaluates Life Plans and Priorities on "Getting Better" EP

MUSIC INTERVIEW

pia the band lays on a bed wearing an orange sweatshirt and light blue jeans.

Pia-Allison Roa examines personal growth and self-expectations on Getting Better. Photo by Zach Nahshel.

Pia-Allison Roa makes an honest self-assessment on her Getting Better EP.

The Detroit singer-songwriter who performs as pia the band recognizes the importance of re-evaluating life plans and priorities and making changes along the way. 

“These are the four songs that I felt were most ready to be out,” said Roa about her debut EP. “Once we recorded all four and then put it all together, it popped out to me that these are all about overcoming things.” 

As part of that process, pia the band examines past situations and relationships through contemplative lyrics and ethereal indie-rock, dream-pop, and shoegaze-folk instrumentation. 

“It felt good to get all those out … but then it was even more special looking back at what the songs meant, what they could mean now, and how they can be interpreted by other people,” said Roa, who’s also a clinical pharmacist specialist at Wayne Health.

To learn more, I spoke with Roa about Getting Better ahead of her May 28 show at Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti.

Friday Five: Piotr Michalowski & Damon Smith, Candor, TJ Zindle, Optimystic, Mr. Demented/GrimeOne/MC Kadence,

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features free jazz by Piotr Michalowski and Damon Smith, emo-ish power-pop by Candor, grungy pop by TJ Zindle, drum 'n' bass by Optimystic, and hip-hop by Mr. Demented and GrimeOne featuring MC Kadence.

Friday Five: Mazinga, Cedar Bend, Regenerate! Orchestra, Human Skull, kaito ian

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This edition features punk 'n' roll by Mazinga and Human Skull, large-ensemble indie rock by Cedar Band, droning modern classical by Regenerate! Orchestra, and electronica by kaito ian.

Michigan Heritage: Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe celebrates 50 Years in music with show at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Kitty Donohoe wears a denim shirt and clasps her hands together.

Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe. Photo courtesy of Kitty Donohoe.

Kitty Donohoe is celebrating 50 years of writing and performing a timeless mix of original and traditional folk music, including Celtic, Maritime, Canadian, and other sounds from the British Isles.

“It’s almost crept up on me—50 years down the line from my beginning," said the Ann Arbor multi-instrumentalist. "It’s actually been 52 years, but I’m ignoring those two fruitless COVID years. I’ve performed in so many wonderful spots around the country.”

In the ‘80s, Donohoe ventured east to Cambridge, Massachusetts to perform at Club Passim and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. But one of her most memorable live shows occurred in Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2008.

“I sang ‘There Are No Words’ at the Pentagon for the dedication of their 9/11 Memorial,” said Donohoe, who penned the track on the day of the attacks.

“That was almost surreal to be surrounded by then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and others from the cabinet and to be looking out at a sea of regular people who were personally impacted by 9/11. That was a profound experience—I doubt I could top that.”

Another special night will be Donohoe’s May 19 show at The Ark, which will spotlight her professional milestone with a special performance featuring several friends and the acceptance of the 2024 Michigan Heritage Award. The honor recognizes her 30-plus years of entertaining audiences with her original songs about Michigan.

To learn more, I spoke to Donohoe about her music career ahead of her show at The Ark.

Friday Five: Ian Stirton, Bekka Madeleine, Geranium Red, John Beltran, Kirsten Carey & Aaron Edgcomb

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features pop by Ian Stirton, goth-tinged balladry by Bekka Madeleine, emo excellence by Geranium Red, downtempo grooves via John Beltran, and avant-garde duets by Kirsten Carey & Aaron Edgcomb.

Feral Songs: Kat Steih switches gears for a new rock record, "I Am Not My Self"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A black-and-white head shot of Kat Steih.

Kat Steih features honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation on I Am Not My Self. Photo by Hilary Nichols.

Kat Steih takes a bold look beneath the surface on I Am Not My Self.

That deep examination reveals the challenges people often face with presenting one persona externally while wrestling with another self internally.

“Each person has an outer persona and an inner world. Even if my persona is funny and easygoing, what’s really holding the strings is what’s on the inside,” said Steih about her new album out May 17. 

“The puppet master can be in pain while still conducting a pretty, whimsical dance—something nice or fun to amuse herself or to self-soothe. I use music to acknowledge things that I feel. Some may call it bold, and it empowers everybody.”

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter especially shares that courageous and empowering message on the title track, which features fearless electric guitar, bass, and drums. 

Steih sings, “I am the candle, and you are the flame / Fingertip to fingertip, your voice animates me / Tremors I detect in the seismic quake / The look on your face rearranges me.”

The title track also reflects the honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation that flows throughout I Am Not My Self’s six tracks.

Friday Five: kayaks collective, Henri Bardot, John Bunkley, Akinsa + Ikiryō, X-Altera

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features ambient by kayaks collective, piano miniatures by Henri Bardot, soulful ska by John Bunkley, tribal techno by Akinsa + Ikiryō, and drum 'n' bass by X-Altera.

Pure Michigan: Sophia Orensteen Pays Homage to U-M and Offers Coming-of-Age Tales on “AmericanGirl” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Sophia Orensteen wears a black strapless dress and sings into a microphone.

Sophia Orensteen examines past relationships on AmericanGirl. Photo courtesy of Sophia Orensteen.

Sophia Orensteen’s heart belongs in Ann Arbor.

While the pop-rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hails from New York City, she’s ecstatic about attending the University of Michigan this fall as a freshman to study music.

So much in fact that Orensteen has written a song called “Michigan,” which pays homage to the school and serves as the aspirational opener from her debut album, AmericanGirl.

“This song turned into a way that I could express my love for Michigan even though I had never been there [before] or had never seen it,” she said. 

“I got in contact with the University of Michigan about using my song for their social media. I also sent in the song with my application, and I didn’t even tell my parents I was applying. And then I got in, and they said, ‘What?’”

Despite that surprise, Orensteen learned of her acceptance to U-M in February and has started planning for the fall. 

She shares that sentiment in “Michigan” alongside hopeful acoustic guitar and electric guitar while singing: “I’ve never been to Michigan, but I’ve heard it’s nice / You’re going away, going to college, gonna start a new life / You’ll remember me / When you see my name in lights / And you’ll say, ‘Wow, she was right.’”

“I’ve always loved the University of Michigan, and I wrote this in one of my supplemental essays when I applied there,” said Orensteen, who will graduate from New York City’s Professional Children’s School in June.

“I never told my parents or anybody that I loved the University of Michigan, but I’ve always followed the school and their football team. I never thought I’d go there or get into the school.”

Friday Five: Andy Milne, Animal Coup, Queso Tone, Anthony Roperti, Mazinga

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features jazz from Andy Milne, hip-hop/pop by Queso Tone and Anthony Roperti, moody indie by Animal Coup, and psychedelic rock by Mazinga.

Detroit’s Mike Ward Brings His Inspirational Folk Songs to AADL April 28

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Mike Ward wears a denim shirt and holds an acoustic guitar in his living room.

Detroit folk singer-songwriter Mike Ward. Photo by Danny Ward.

The state of the world weighs heavily on Mike Ward’s mind.

That concern prompted the Detroit singer-songwriter to pen a new folk song called “Why Not,” which sends an encouraging message to help others.

“When I have played it, people get how the song starts out small, gets broader as it goes on, and ends at a point where it’s up to us on a personal level,” said Ward, who’s also a University of Michigan alumnus. 

“One of the things I have to work hard at is trying not to be too preachy, especially when I’m writing about things on a political level. It’s one of the areas where I try to find a balance.”

Backed by hopeful acoustic guitar and cello, he sings, “Why not do some good today with the time that we’ve got / Start with something simple / A lesson learned or to be taught / Plant a seed or lend a hand / A little helps a lot.”

“I’ve also been looking at not only how that affects the world in general, but also how it’s affecting people’s relationships,” Ward said. “It goes as broad as the country, but as narrow as some relationships and the struggles that people are having.”

Why Not” is one of several songs Ward will be performing with Sara Gibson (cello) and Annie Bacon (vocals) at an April 28 show at the Downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Ahead of the show, I spoke with Ward about his current state, his career transition from advertising to music, past albums, his latest songwriting efforts, his setlist for the AADL show, and plans for new material.