Downie’s CD-release show on Friday at Wealthy Theatre will celebrate iconic female songwriters as well as original material from her third album. (Podcast, video)
Singer Downie Streahl feels the music she writes in every fiber of her being, but really needs an audience to complete the equation.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
“There’s something for me about music and connecting emotionally with people. And I do that best when I’m singing,” says the Grand Haven singer-songwriter known simply as Downie. “Music is something really that’s very intimate and universal and it’s something that all people love.”
The singer and pianist with a jazz-pop flair also insists on surrounding herself with top-drawer West Michigan musicians, something that audiences are sure to recognize at her CD-release show Friday at Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre.
Joining her on stage will be Brena pianist Craig Avery, who co-produced her new “I Would Lose Myself In You” album, as well as drummer Kevin DePree of SoundIsRed and bassist Ryan Wallace of Brad Fritcher + trois.
“I would put any of the musicians in Michigan up against anybody in the West,” insists Downie, who spent a couple of years in Los Angeles before returning to West Michigan about a year ago and who collaborated with a host of impressive players to craft songs for the new album.
“Sometimes if you write everything yourself, it starts to sound a lot alike. So, it’s really great to bring collaborators in with you because then they can do something that you wouldn’t have thought of. But it’s that missing piece that would make something really special.”
On Wednesday for Local Spins Live on News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW), Avery joined Downie to talk about that “really special” new recording and perform the pop-hued song, “Come and Go.” Listen to the entire show podcast here, with a video of their in-studio performance below.
SINGING FROM CHILDHOOD AND MAKING A SPLASH IN JAPAN
Packed into those 10 tracks on the new album is a lifetime of musical experiences, with Downie joking she came out of the womb “probably on a high C” and kept right on singing through grade school and high school in Arizona, eventually attending and getting vocal training at Brigham Young University.
“I started singing classically and added pop and jazz to my repertoire, then started songwriting about 10 years ago,” she says.
Downie also spent about four years playing jam-packed Tokyo jazz clubs while her ex-husband did “his corporate gig” in Japan, which helped hone her performance skills.
“I was able to work with amazing jazz musicians there,” she says. “A lot of ex-patriots go there to do music as well because they love jazz so much and all live music there.”
Although she’s often categorized as a jazz artist, Downie cites the legendary Nancy Wilson, who considered herself a vocalist first and foremost, one who couldn’t necessarily be pigeonholed into a specific genre. Consequently, Downie’s music covers a broad range of styles from jazz to pop to folk to blues.
STEPPING UP WITH SOME OF WEST MICHIGAN’S BEST PLAYERS
Over the years, she’s released a six-track EP on Rhombus Records and an independent full-length album, “A Different Kind of You,” earning radio airplay on stations across the country.
She’s also worked with a bevy of well-known Michigan musicians, including drummer Derico Watson (who tours with Victor Wooten), bassist Joe Ayoub (who’s played or recorded with Enrique Iglesias, Shakira and others) and pianist Darius Pimpleton.
She spent about 1-1/2 years working on the new album, which was co-produced by her “right-hand man” Avery. It was recorded and mastered by Andrew Mitchell at Audio Bay Recording Studio outside Rockford.
West Michigan musicians appearing on the project include Avery and Pimpleton, drummers Watson, Scott Pellegrom and Jeff Moehle, bassists Ayoub, Louis Rudner and Pat Handlin, saxophonist Bob Nixon, trumpet player Keaton Akins and guitarist Ryan Limbeck.
“As an artist, it’s always a challenge to keep moving forward,” Downie says of writing songs and assembling an ambitious recording project. “You have to work with people who are better than you because it really makes you step up.”
For his part, Avery calls Downie “a pleasure to work with. She’s one of the nicest, most compassionate, loving people that I know.”
AN EVENING WITH DOWNIE AND A BEVY OF MUCH-BELOVED SONGS
Titled “I’ll Remember: An Evening With Downie,” Friday’s Wealthy Theatre show is touted as “a musical journey” that will feature classic songs by renowned female singers who’ve influenced Downie – Carole King, Judy Garland, Carly Simon, Madonna, Karen Carpenter, Christine McVie, Joni Mitchell, Celine Dion, Adele and Amy Winehouse – as well as her original music.
Downie hopes to use Friday’s show to fashion a marketing push that will allow her to tour the new album across the country later this year.
“We’re going to be rocking on stage,” she says. “We’re talking about all this great music from iconic singer-songwriters and singing some of their great recognizable tunes and pulling in some of my original music with that.”
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show and $5 for students.
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC