Jonathan Edwards recorded, produced, and performed the 13 songs on Wild Ghosts almost entirely by himself, playing everything from bass and drums to synthesizers and Wurlitzer organ.
But he could have just as easily performed the beautiful songs on Wild Ghost solely with his guitar, the instrument at the heart of the album, with Edwards displaying excellent fingerstyle playing throughout the record.
"Wild Ghosts is definitely more of a singer-songwriter album than anything I have done in the past and is something I have wanted to do for a long time," said Edwards, who studied music at Indiana University and Eastern Michigan. “Most of the songs on Wild Ghosts can be distilled down to more traditional folk tune-type influences, although there are still some more elaborate and dense arrangements with songs like ‘Paper Birds’ and ‘Mask of Bees.' Simplification is an art I am still learning."
I talked with Edwards about his musical upbringing, his influences, his writing process, Wild Ghosts, and more.
My Generation: Social Meteor Shares Everyday Struggles of Gen Z and Millennials on Self-Titled Debut Album
“All the songs are a reflection of what our lives have been like and the struggles that we go through on a day-to-day basis living in 2023 and the past few years,” said vocalist-keyboardist Jordan Compton about the Ypsilanti indie-rock band’s new self-titled album.
“It’s honest because we didn’t intend to make some grand scheme, and we didn’t know what the theme of this album was gonna be when we picked the songs to go with it. It formed over time and reflects what it’s like to live in modern America as a younger person.”
Those reflections not only come from Compton, but also from his three Social Meteor bandmates: Paul Robison (drums, vocals), Brad Birkle (guitar, vocals), and Patrick Frawley (bass, vocals). Together, they explore relationships, losses, and lessons alongside complex emotions.
“They’re like journal entries, and it’s more of a personal approach. When we are trying to write songs, everyone writes them a little differently,” said Robison, who co-formed the group in 2019 and co-derived the band’s name from a wordplay on the term “social media.”
“The nice part about us is that we can all write songs … and something I’ve taken from them is: ‘Don’t try to pretend and be like somebody else. You can take information in from other people, but don’t fake it; try to make it real.’”
Sing Us a Song: The piano men and women of "Duelers" star in a new Michigan-produced film with deep local connections
Duelers Piano Bar is the home of five young musicians who trade keyboard licks and share solace, shots, and sounds on a nightly basis. But the venue that offers them a routine and respite from problems is about to be sold by a money-hungry owner, which will turn their lives upside down.
This is the plot of Duelers, a new movie made by a group of multi-talented Michigan creatives. Writer/composer/co-star Drew De Four, producer / cinematographer Danny Mooney, and their cast of real-life performers straddle the line between a concert film and backstage drama. The film was shot at the now-closed J.D.'s Key Club piano bar in Pontiac, Michigan, taking 12 days over two weeks.
Like his co-stars, De Four is a real dueling pianist, and his talents have taken him around the globe. During shooting, he lived with the actors who play Tyler (Tom McGovern), Jane (Elisa Carlson), Skip (Danny Korzelius), and Bethany (Shelby Winfrey), the multi-talented musicians who share the stage nightly with Drew (De Four) at the fictional Duelers Piano Bar.
De Four, 40, has been playing in piano bars since he was 19. He was a student at Eastern Michigan University when he saw an ad for Pub 13, a dueling pianos bar in Ypsilanti.
"I took five years of piano lessons from ages 7 to 12," De Four says. "From 12 to 18, I taught myself piano, guitar, bass, mandolin—a little bit of drums. When I was 19 I went to Eastern for a year to study piano, and my professor told me I should not be studying classical piano because when I came back from the piano bars asking, 'How do I do stride piano?' He said, 'You could teach me. You seem to know exactly what you want to do. We're studying Rachmaninoff and Liszt: That's not what you're meant for.'"
During his time at The Associated Press in Detroit, Jeff Karoub wrote obituaries about Motown legends, baseball coaches, and other people of note.
Those obituaries recounted life accomplishments and caused the Dearborn singer-songwriter to ponder how he’d best summarize his own life.
“At the AP, we called that ‘between the commas’—the high points of someone’s life. You know, the stuff you might be remembered for—good and bad,” said Karoub, who now works as a senior public relations representative at the University of Michigan.
“Imagine that you’re reading your obituary: What would you like it to say? What’s in there? Pack it in; you don’t have a chance afterward. You only have a chance now to start putting in the good stuff.”
Karoub advocates bringing that “good stuff” to light on the title track from his latest folk-rock album, Between the Commas. Serene electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, keys, and drums echo that sentiment as he sings, “What I offer is just one small thing / Imagine your obituary / Think of what you’d like to say / Something more than ordinary.”
“It’s not that I’m necessarily demanding that you all come gather around and listen to my wisdom; it was as much wisdom to myself,” Karoub said.
“The ideas were coming to me before my mom died [in late 2021]; she wasn’t the inspiration, but she was a catalyst. That makes it more pressing when you lose one of your parents or someone very close to you.”
Ram Jams: Evan Haywood's latest solo album is one of many new projects for this busy Ann Arbor creative
Evan Haywood's 2023 solo album, Elderberry Wine, is an engaging showcase for his craft as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. But that’s just the start of this Ann Arborite's growing creative ambitions, which have been on public display since Haywood joined the hip-hop group Tree City in 2006 when he was at Huron High School.
Elderberry Wine is a pleasure. Opening track “Peggy’s Farm” is good-time acoustic roots rock. Other tracks maintain a largely acoustic sound with a mellow, almost 1970s vibe. “Strands of Love” offers an engaging a cappella interlude, while the title track is an instrumental featuring a string section—one of the few instances on the record where Haywood didn’t play the instruments himself.
Beyond writing and performing, Haywood also operates a recording studio, Black Ram Treehouse, and his own record label, Black Ram Sound. He wants to branch out into clothing and merchandising as well. That sounds like a lot, which is partly why he recently left his “day job” in order to work on his creative pursuits as a full-time venture.
Haywood recently answered a few questions about his recent and upcoming projects.
The Chelsea singer-songwriter / producer unearths past fears and forges a new path for the future on her debut EP.
“You get this recipe of thoughts, feelings, and sounds, and you don’t know the impact of it. We do what we have to survive, and it’s a luxury to reflect sometimes,” Tea said.
“We piece together the life we have to get where we have to. The moments that we can reclaim pieces of ourselves … I think there is healing that can come from that. I hope that we all in our own way can do that to the best of our ability.”
Tea suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) dysautonomia, which often begins after a major surgery, trauma, or a viral illness. It causes symptoms when you transition from lying down to standing up, such as a fast heart rate, dizziness, and fatigue, and creating Songs for Discarded Souls was one way she dealt with the symptoms.
Throughout the EP, Tea finds healing through five intimate tracks steeped in experimental soundscapes. Ethereal elements of ambient music, trip-hop, and indietronica seamlessly fuse with her lush vocals.
Big Picture: Ann Arbor songwriter Mark Zhu displays Confidence and Growth on recent Collaborative and Solo Releases
The pop singer-songwriter worked with hip-hop / EDM producer Felix Lahann to showcase growth and determination on this empowering hip-hop anthem.
“By openly sharing our personal experiences, we gain a sense of catharsis and self-acceptance,” said Zhu, who graduated from Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School in June.
“It reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles and that vulnerability can be a powerful tool for personal growth. Writing this track allowed us to express our vulnerabilities and showcase the strength that comes from embracing them.
“We wanted to create a song that could serve as a source of empowerment and encouragement for listeners, so the idea of ‘painting the world red’ represents how our music, ideas, and confidence is contagious enough to influence others.”
Golden Years: Purple Rose Theatre's "Jukebox for the Algonquin" focuses on seniors living and loving
Billed as “a serious comedy about sex, drugs, and rocking chairs,” Paul Stroili’s Jukebox for the Algonquin transpires at Placid Pines, a senior living community in the Adirondack region of New York, circa 2003.
This Purple Rose Theatre Company world premiere, which runs July 7-September 2, features characters who hail from the boroughs of New York City. They now find themselves removed from their usual surroundings and the people they loved, but they are ready to accept new challenges—even to create them.
Audiences may recognize playwright Stroili from his first-rate performances on the Rose stage—God of Carnage, Welcome to Paradise, and Watson in David MacGregor’s Sherlock Holmes series—or from TV appearances on Empire, Chicago P.D., Undercover Bridesmaid, and more.
Stroili says his venture into playwriting was “born of adversity.” He was booking roles in Los Angeles only sporadically and decided to write something for himself. Straight Up With a Twist enjoyed more than 1,000 performances nationwide and culminated in a twice-extended Off-Broadway run.
“Do I even know one woman who hasn’t been subjected to male violence? Do you? Why doesn’t that admission stop us in our tracks?” asks EMU professor Christine Hume in her new essay collection, Everything I Never Wanted to Know.
Hume in turn does just that—she stops in her tracks to examine the violence and the imperfect structures meant to address it. She takes a critical lens to the ways that women’s bodies have been controlled through expressing productive outrage and through creating a mapping of this issue in our community. Her persistent questioning illuminates the injustices by compelling the reader to consider a response.
Take the National Sex Offender Registry: “Not a single man who has harassed or assaulted me or anyone I know is on that official list. How many men is that? How many men not on the registry does it take to make that registry itself an offense? How many men are we talking?” Hume accentuates the failings of a system that is supposed to contribute to safety. She goes on to scrutinize the laws that prevent offenders from living near a school or passing out Halloween candy, the design of the water tower in Ypsilanti, and a sexual assault case at Eastern Michigan University.
The essay “Icy Girls, Frigid Bitches, Frozen Dolls” looks at the implications of the once-popular Frozen Charlotte dolls in conjunction with a health issue that the author endures. Dolls in general are of interest, as Hume wonders, “What draws me to the doll is the vague but persistent sense of having lost my true and best self. A feeling of having once been more free, disciplined, attentive, athletic, daring, intelligent, and attractive.” The doll becomes a reflection of oneself:
Just like "Heaven": Kingfisher's confident and inventive widescreen debut LP balances intimate vocals and expansive instrumentation
For the past few years, Kingfisher has balanced college life with band life. But after the University of Michigan’s spring graduation, some members will head off to other Midwestern areas while others will stick around to complete their degrees.
The band might be closing a chapter but Kingfisher’s story will continue to unfold.
“The plan is to keep going,” said Sam DuBose (vocals, lyrics, guitar). “Things will definitely change. I mean, right now we’re all like three blocks from each other. But we had the conversation a while ago about what we were going to do, and all of us want to continue. We all love this group so much.”
Unlike most college bands though, Kingfisher isn’t fond of covers.
“We’ve actually never played a cover song at a show,” said Tyler Thenstedt (bass, vocals). “It’s been original music since the get-go. I would say that’s what people sort of know us for. A lot of Ann Arbor bands are incredible, but what sets us apart is that it has always been original music.”