Little Victories: Jim Cherewick Finds Cathartic Moments in Everyday Life on "Good News" Album


Jim Cherewick eats a bag of potato chips while standing in front of a colorful brick wall.

Jim Cherewick shares honest and insightful tales on Good News. Photo by Bryan Lackner of Lucky Penny Media.

Jim Cherewick admits he recently went through a breakup.

But it’s not the kind of breakup that immediately comes to mind.

“A lot of it is about leaving that terrible retail [job],” said Cherewick, who previously worked at a big-box store. “It was such a burden—it was sad and it was scary. Getting out of that was so important and needed.”

Cherewick addresses that professional split on “Frosting on Fire,” the melancholic opener from the Ypsilanti singer-songwriter/visual artist’s latest indie-country-folk album Good News.

Backed by somber acoustic guitar and keys, he sings, “Questions stick to my bones / Like how much longer do we get another try here? / Making every single day a treasure cause I’m awake / And I won’t complain, no I won’t complain / I work at one of those stores.”

“As much as I didn’t want to write about it, I did because I wrote it during [the pandemic],” Cherewick said. “The job sucked, and it was soul-crushing. It was so bad, and then they would cut hours, and then they’d be hiring new people.”

Despite that soul-crushing experience, Cherewick finds fleeting moments of catharsis and gratitude on Good News. The album’s eight tracks reflect on the harsh realities of everyday life and yearn for an escape from drudgery, disappointment, and uncertainty.

“At first, it feels like there’s nothing in this that’s about me. For a while, I would just be writing [songs] before I even started living life,” said Cherewick, who started penning tracks for Good News in 2018.

“Then in my 40s, I thought, ‘Oh, all of these are about me,’ but it’s not like straight-up, ‘Oh, it’s about me.’ It’s [more] like, ‘This is me, and that’s why it makes me feel good. I feel like I’m digesting it, and it’s not just clogging up my heart.’”

Cherewick further unclogs his heart by sharing honest and insightful lyrics against a backdrop of folky instrumentation and electronic textures on his first “real” album—as he likes to call it.

“It’s my first real studio-recorded album, and I always keep saying that and clarifying it,” he said. “Just because it’s not on cardboard with a picture of a woman inspecting a Golden Retriever [like on the cover of his 2008 debut release, These Are Ducks] doesn’t mean it’s not my first album.”

Regardless of how Cherewick characterizes the album, it includes little victories sprinkled throughout its songs, especially on “Blue Lake.” The wistful ballad longs for a day trip to a favorite body of fresh water and the potential relief it brings.

Immersed in hopeful acoustic guitar, trumpet, and percussion, he sings, “And when we get there, you bet I’m jumping in / This year’s been a rough one and you deserve a win / Can I go to Blue Lake in the morning sun? / Can I go to Blue Lake in the morning sun? / I feel so much better when I’m hanging with someone.”

“Parts of the song are sung from the point [of view] of someone in an abusive relationship. I don’t even know what kind of relationship it is … it could be familial,” said Cherewick, who named the track after a favorite paint color instead of an actual lake.

“The vagueness of it is nice because I like not knowing the faces … but just the idea of early in the morning when nobody is driving, and you can go to Blue Lake and feel free. It’s a sense of saying, ‘I know we’re both going through hard stuff, but let’s have this time to both be free just for this day, and then we’ll go back to the rigmarole afterward.’”

Coincidentally, Cherewick returns to his professional rigmarole on “Death Wagon,” an infectious anthem about working retail during the pandemic.

Surrounded by frantic electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and drums, he sings, “Join me in this dance, I don’t know the moves / I try to do my best while I’m stepping on your shoes / I heart death wagon.”

“I had a dream—and it was because COVID was going on—and I said, ‘So, we’re the only store that’s open right now?’” Cherewick said. “This is when people were dying from it and … in the dream, I had a bumper sticker that said ‘I heart death wagon’ on it. I was also thinking of Oregon Trail.”

Finally, Cherewick sends positive vibes to people struggling in “Bad Noose,” which features contemplative acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and bass. He sings, “We need to roll from our beds every day / Fry up some onions, mushrooms, and eggs / Sing to ourselves while we lather our hands / The time to express all our hopes and our pains.”

“It was like, ‘Man, I feel bad for me, but … I just want people to feel good about themselves,’” Cherewick said. “You just want everyone to be OK and not be at the end of their rope or ‘bad noose.’ I was at the end of my work rope.”

Despite that challenge, Cherewick persevered and started recording the eight tracks for Good News in 2021. He worked with co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Rishi Daftuar at Daftuar’s Ypsilanti home studio to shape the songs.

“It was in January, right after New Year’s Eve, and it was like, ‘Boom! Boots on the ground.’ We would record twice a month or almost every other weekend,” said Cherewick, who’s influenced by R.E.M., Silver Jews, and Kyle Field’s Little Wings.

“Rishi read my mind. He’s a smart dude, and he knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing this for a while now. He’s a gentle soul, and he understood my humor. He got inside my brain and pulled these songs out. It was so cool, and he made the dream a reality.”

In addition to Daftuar, several other collaborators helped Cherewick make Good News a reality, including False Figures bandmates Joel Parkkila (drums) and Jason Lymangrover (bass), Tom Green (pedal steel), Zach Nichols (trumpet), Craig Johnson (drums), and Erin Davis (bass).

“They just made it sound like a real album … and it felt nice just having my friends play on it,” he said. “Once I had Tom Green doing pedal steel, it just had this Magnolia Electric Co. vibe to it, and ‘Painting Henry’ is very Songs: Ohia-like with that kind of style … It’s got that cowboy sadness.”

Once Good News came together sonically in 2022, Cherewick opted to digest the songs first before finally releasing them in February.

“I kept saying, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna release it,’ and then I thought, ‘Maybe I cannot release it? Just because I don’t know if I like these songs anymore,’” he said.

“Then, I finally said, ‘I gotta release it,’ and one night, I just wrote on a piece of paper, ‘Put it out.’ There’s a time to do things and there’s a time to think about doing things. I just had to do it, and I’m glad I did because I can start thinking about the next thing.”

For Cherewick, Good News not only features an abundance of musical talent but artistic talent as well. A longtime visual artist, he painted the vibrant watercolor of the three red donkeys on the album’s cover.

“A fellow artist out in Detroit, Lucy Cahill, was doing drawing prompts during COVID, and the drawing prompt that she put out was a donkey,” said Cherewick, who started drawing alongside his older brother, Andy Cherewick, while growing up in Brighton.

“I thought, ‘I hate my job, so this beast of burden is gonna have three heads, like the mama, the papa, and the establishment.’ It was like a Cerebus of sorts of a burden … and I thought, ‘I’m going to make this really colorful.’”

To help promote the album’s release, Cherewick is playing several live shows, including a March 30 house concert as part of The Three Fires Concert Series with Little Spoon River in the Irish Hills. He’s also performing May 10 at The Blind Pig with Cracked & HookedCowgirl, and Of House.

“Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of loop pedal, which is great, but at the same time, I’ve been kind of slacking on playing acoustic,” Cherewick said. “I rely a lot on looping and effects, but I [need to] start getting my old chops back from my Crazy Wisdom tea days when all I had was my guitar and an audience that cared to listen.”

Looking ahead, Cherewick plans to write new material with Congress and perform more with his bandmates in Detroit. He’s even working on new solo music.

“Hopefully, we’re gonna start recording some demos again,” Cherewick said. “It’s so fun to play with those guys again because they’re good musicians, and I get to [mess] around and scream and dance with a megaphone. There’s more music to come [from me] … I just gotta figure out how to save up money again.”

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of

Jim Cherewick performs May 10 at The Blind Pig, 208 S. First St. in Ann Arbor, with Cracked & Hooked, Cowgirl, and Of Music. For tickets, visit The Blind Pig's website.