To help kick off Black History Month, Local Spins today profiles veteran singer Serita Crowley of Serita’s Black Rose, a mainstay on area stages with compelling new original music in the works.
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With boisterous vocal runs over a bluegrass acoustic guitar, songs such as “Fiyia” will take listeners right back to the ‘70s.
Serita’s Black Rose can’t help but create authentic, empowering music with meaningful lyricism that gives purpose to everyone in the room.
“I just like to make music that actually … says something, not focused on looks,” said Grand Rapids singer Serita Crowley.
“I want to be a positive role model to the children, but still make music that the older generations want to hear. Music worth repeating, you know?”
Growing up in Ravenna, Crowley joined her church choir at just four years old. With her mother singing gospel and her father performing the blues alongside artists such as Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed, Crowley clearly was born to sing.
Ranging from Grateful Dead cover bands to Prince tributes to the Bluewater Kings Band, Crowley has performed in a range of formats and experienced a little bit of everything.
She’s not afraid to use her talents in other fields. Her fiery chops have been used in voiceovers, commercials and multiple musicals, including “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair.”
While Crowley – who also plays harmonica – is well-versed in performing a wide range of covers in dynamic fashion, a fresh batch of original, blues-centered material has long been in the works with a new recording on the horizon.
Crowley usually shares the stage with Jon Hayes, guitarist and Crowley’s partner of almost 20 years, presenting Serita’s Black Rose as a duo. For larger venues, Serita’s Black Rose expands to a full band with bassist Robert Pace and drummer Mark Weymouth. Overall, Serita’s Black Rose plays roughly 80 gigs a year, even through the recent pandemic.
Last summer, Serita’s Black Rose opened for Grammy-nominated classic rock band Kansas at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, several years after getting a chance to open for another legend on that same stage: Motown icon Smokey Robinson.
BIG BLUES PROJECTS ON THE HARMONIOUS HORIZON
As a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to musical genres – funk, soul, gospel, rock, folk – the music that Serita’s Black Rose has released in the past rolled out as genre-merging affairs. Now, Crowley aims to reach a specific audience and focus on a single style: the blues.
“Blues music is a genre that we can focus on. It’s an accessible market for us to do really well in. I mean, blues is at the root of everything,” Crowley said.
Added Hayes: “Many times a band is only as good as its singer, so why not do what we’re good at? Why not try to raise Serita up in that genre?”
Looking forward, Crowley has no shortage of new music in store; Hayes said the duo has “had a lot of things in the works with hundreds of song ideas.”
With much of it on hold due to the pandemic and other issues, Crowley said they’re waiting to release anything until it’s completely finished in one cohesive collection.
“We’ve really been refocusing our energy on writing blues songs as a duo for this new project. I don’t even want to call it a new project because it’s been in the works for the past few years,” Crowley said.
In the meantime, Serita’s Black Rose has dozens of local shows scheduled with tour dates extending into late October.
The duo plays Fetch Brewing Co. in Whitehall at 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 5), with shows at Montague’s Book Nook & Java Shop on Feb. 11, Grand Haven’s Grand Armory Brewing on Feb. 12 and Walker’s Muskegon on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. The next Grand Rapids show takes place at GR Noir on Feb. 25.
Suffice to say, they’ve got a lot cooking – and as a former chef, Crowley often compares her singing to her culinary flair.
“I’ll add to a recipe the same way I’ll add to a song. I’ll spice up a dish just like I spice up my music,” she noted.
It’s one way Crowley strives to make sure her fans keep coming back for seconds.
VIDEO: Serita’s Black Rose at Listening Room
Video by Robert Novak
PHOTO GALLERY: Serita’s Black Rose, Patty PerShayla at Listening Room
Photos by Anthony Norkus