Music in Motion: The Carolyn Striho Group brings Detroit energy to AADL June 1
Carolyn Striho takes a fearless approach to life both onstage and off.
The singer-songwriter has had a storied career in various Southeast Michigan creative scenes: She’s been a member of early Detroit punk quartet The Cubes; a frontperson for the longtime rock ‘n’ roll collective Detroit Energy Asylum; a DJ for WDET 101.9-FM’s “Radios in Motion” punk, new wave, and underground music show; a touring musician with Patti Smith and an onstage performer with Don Was; and a solo artist and poet.
“I do know it’s showed me that you must keep going and work on your craft,” said Striho, whose latest release includes a 2019 collection of poems and lyrics called Detroit (Maiden Energy). “Your music, your art, and your work are what make you unique, yourself, and original.
“But I think with new music coming out with my former band Detroit Energy Asylum and the new Hit Girls: Women in Punk book, and other books I’ve been in, my music past is being documented more and more.”
Striho brings that musical past and present to life for a June 1 show at the Downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library with her bandmates, which include her husband/guitarist Scott Dailey, bassist Christopher Spooner, and drummer Lauren Johnson.
“And as much as I loved being on stage for so many years, the energy-first stage thing has changed, but I never know what I might end up doing onstage,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m grateful for my big past, and that I now love recording, too.”
In advance of her upcoming show, we recently spoke to Striho about what inspires her creatively, her Detroit (Maiden Energy) collection and potential plans for another volume, a new single with Erin Zindle, her show setlist, and new material with Dailey.
Q: What’s been inspiring you lately as an artist, songwriter, and musician?
A: I listen to a lot of music and read so much. I heard an upcoming release from Dolly Parton called “World on Fire.” I just heard Metric, Stevie Wonder, and Speedy West; and Ricky Kej sent me [Divine Tides,] his CD with Police drummer Stewart Copeland—they won a Grammy; it’s beautiful.
I heard a show on composer Bernard Herrmann, who did the music for Psycho, Vertigo, Fahrenheit 451, and so much more. I also heard the full Sandinista! album again by The Clash not long ago, Michigan artists The War and Treaty, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Buffy Sainte-Marie, who are all really inspiring.
Q: It’s been nearly four years since you released Detroit (Maiden Energy), your “street princess” collection of poetry and lyrics. What’s it been like sharing those intimate words and thoughts with different audiences during that time?
A: The book keeps getting new fans and momentum. It came out a few months before COVID, and I had booked quite a bit that got canceled in 2020. Then I did the audiobook for the poems. Right now, I have three book event shows in June. It was a bit jarring to know people would read some of the intimate thoughts because poetry is like a diary; it’s genuine.
Q: Do you have any plans to compile and release another volume of Detroit (Maiden Energy)? How will it compare to the first volume?
A: Yes, I have plans to do another volume of Detroit (Maiden Energy), but it may include more of my story with the poetry. I have stacks of poetry unreleased and new poetry, lyrics, and part of a memoir.
Q: You’re releasing a new single “The Bridge” with Erin Zindle on June 3 and sharing the song during a Jive Colossus show at Rancho Tranquilico in Dexter. The track shares an inspiring story of finding the courage to leave the past behind and start anew. What initially brought this track about for you and Erin? How does it serve as an encouraging anthem for people looking for a fresh start?
A: “The Bridge” was written pretty quickly as we both brought our words and music into the open together. It flowed from one line to the next. It has a wistfulness to it and a heartache that “the ocean will forgive,” and it moves you “to where your new life lives” with tremendous melody lines. Erin is such a strong writer, and we used poetry together to create “The Bridge” and encourage each other to encourage ourselves.
Q: What was it like to collaborate with Erin Zindle on “The Bridge?” How did she help shape the track’s folky, stripped-down sound? How does “The Bridge” help set the tone for other new material you’ve been working on?
A: “The Bridge” is just Erin and me at Big Sky Recording with Geoff Michael. I met Erin when she added violin to a recording I did in Ann Arbor. I liked Erin immediately and knew she was going to do great things. I asked her to add some violin on some of my albums years later, and she always had a gorgeous, sweeping sound on violin.
I was invited to perform at Erin’s holiday show at The Ark and kept in touch during COVID. I’ve always liked The Ragbirds, too. Erin and I got back to the song we had started, completed it, and here it is. I love the way “The Bridge” feels. I have a lot of music that is slower and moving.
Q: What do you have planned for your June 1 set at AADL with The Carolyn Striho Group? What will guitarist Scott Dailey, bassist Christopher Spooner, and drummer Lauren Johnson bring to the show that evening?
A: We will be playing new songs we are releasing as well as some band favorites. I’ll also be doing some poetry, new and old, which is exciting. Scott is a thrilling guitar player, singer, and writer in his own right. He’ll be doing several of his own songs, and the band really feels the songs, so it should be dynamic and unusual, too. I like to improvise as you know.
Q: You’re currently writing and recording new material with Scott Dailey. What’s the plan for that new material? How does it compare to 2016’s Afterthought album?
A: Scott and I have recorded much of the album. We’re doing some editing … and we’re getting closer to mixing. This album is different from Afterthought, yet it retains some of that. I think we moved ahead sonically, too. We are releasing an album, but each song may be released as a single first. And at this writing, we just added another vocal track. I do love recording right now!
Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.
The Carolyn Striho Group performs Thursday, June 1 at 6:30 pm at Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave, Ann Arbor. The event is free.