With an Americana and alt-country sheen, Lux Land’s distinctive voice graced Local Spins Live this week. The singer will help kick off St. Cecilia’s contemporary folk series on Jan. 10.
With a plaintively addictive voice and a spare, rootsy musical approach, Lux Land seems perfectly cast as a torchbearer for the alt-country/Americana movement.
Yet, she readily concedes she “never really listened” to artists in this realm until she had already started writing and performing her music as a teenager playing coffeehouses for tips.
“I write the way I write. I sing the way I sing,” she says. “It is what it is.”
And it – unfurled on three studio albums, plus a holiday CD collaboration with her husband, The Verve Pipe frontman and singer-songwriter Brian Vander Ark – just happens to make Land one of West Michigan’s most distinctive voices, giving her gorgeously melancholy, acoustically inclined songs an inescapably inviting milieu.
Inspired at a young age by the songwriting of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, Land now embraces and fully appreciates the country-hued Americana strains of Patty Griffin, Julie Miller and Emmylou Harris to which she’s sometimes compared.
On Wednesday, Land dramatically displayed those influences as the spotlighted artist on Local Spins Live, performing the song “No More California Stars” from her 2005 debut album in-studio at News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW).
You can listen to a podcast of the show here, and watch a video of her performance below along with the official music video for Land’s single, “Last Lost Boy,” from her most recent studio album, 2010’s “Sweet Suspension.”
Growing up in northern California and Utah – spanning what’s “really Bohemian in the East Bay Area and Mormons” – Land had the rare opportunity test songs on audiences and “try out all the facets of music production, writing and performing” before she was 18 with help from a supportive family.
And after spending time in the mountains of Idaho, meeting and marrying Vander Ark, and settling in East Grand Rapids several years ago, Land added some business savvy to her repertoire thanks to her husband, all while raising two daughters, Evie, 7, and Willow Mae, 2.
“Brian is an amazing talent and creative mind, but he’s also figured out how to look at it as a day-to-day job,” Land says. “I’ve learned from him how you can support yourself and, really, you have to support yourself to continue to make music.
“It’s great to have that, ‘I just make art, I don’t compromise.’ But if you want to do that for a long time, you’re going to have to sell your art at some point and figure out how to do it that feels right for you.”
Granted, the responsibilities of parenthood have taken precedence – perhaps one reason Land isn’t as familiar to West Michigan audiences as she should be – but Land does perform select shows, including recent holiday house concerts staged with Vander Ark and the Nashville duo, Channing and Quinn.
“In 10 years, I’ll still be a musician,” she insists, noting she’s perfectly happy devoting the lion’s share of her time to being a mother. “It will always be there.”
Audiences will get a rare opportunity to experience Land live as part of the first-ever Local Spins Live contemporary folk series in Royce Auditorium at St. Cecilia Music Center on Jan. 10.
Land will perform solo along with five other Michigan singer-songwriters – Karisa Wilson, Michael Crittenden, Michelle Chenard, Lucas Wilson and Ralston Bowles – in a round-robin format as part of the 7:30 p.m. show designed to give regional Americana, folk and alt-country acts a chance to play a historic venue normally reserved for classical and jazz groups.
Tickets are $15 ($10 for students) and available at St. Cecilia, 24 Ransom Ave. NE, or online through its website. In February and March, Local Spins Live will feature The Crane Wives, Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys, May Erlewine & Seth Bernard and The Fauxgrass Quartet in unplugged-style shows.
Tickets include a post-concert reception with the artists. A cash bar will be available before the concert, during intermission and at the post-concert reception.
As for Land, the singer-songwriter says she’s been writing and developing some new material even while raising her daughters. “I’m lucky to make the music I want to,” she insists.
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1).
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