Three female songwriters play the same stage Saturday for the first time. They tell their stories for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted music by Grace Theisen, Hominian, Moon Orchids & more.
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Packing a concert lineup with all-female artists hasn’t always been easy or common or even welcome.
Just ask singer-songwriters Kari Lynch of the Kari Lynch Band or Kate Pillsbury of The Crane Wives, now veterans of the region’s music scene who’ve battled through adversity, toured the country and worked tirelessly to champion their songs in spite of a “boys’ club” climate that often pervaded the music industry.
Pillsbury noted that female musicians often experience a succession of “micro-aggressions” from those in the music business who dismiss their talents, something that can limit performance opportunities or hamper their growth.
But times are changing, especially with the explosion of talented female singer-songwriters and musicians emerging across Michigan’s music scene in recent years.
“It’s been really cool to see all these up-and-coming women and just more women putting themselves out there and doing it,” said Lynch, who not only fronts her Nashville-based country/Americana band but also releases alt-rock/pop songs as a solo artist.
“The landscape is so different now than it was even 10 years ago. I remember being like the only girl in a lineup when I was doing the hard country band stuff.”
With that in mind, Lynch has assembled the first-ever female singer-songwriter showcase at The Stray in Grand Rapids this weekend. The 7 p.m. Saturday show will feature opening sets by keyboardist Olivia Vargas of the Grand Rapids soul-pop band August and Pillsbury, followed by the Kari Lynch Band. Tickets are $13 and available online here.
Lynch called it an assemblage of “stylistically different” performers who “come from different worlds a little bit.”
“The majority of my set is new music and I’m looking forward to sharing these songs with this band arrangement,” Lynch said.
AN INTIMATE, UNPRECEDENTED SHOWCASE BY ARTISTS WITH A BUSY 2023
Lynch said she strived to make Saturday’s event “a showcase of sorts. All three of us are songwriters and it was important that we got to make the focus of this night about the music and intimacy of sharing our songs and stories. I love playing the high-energy, bigger stages, but I’m songwriter and storyteller, so I equally love being able to peel back the layers a little bit and invite everyone in a little closer with venues like The Stray.”
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE spotlighted tracks by all three artists: “Gut Feeling” by Lynch, “Taking Turns” by The Crane Wives (a Pillsbury song recorded live at Listening Room/Midtown in early 2020) and “Place to Land” by August (a Vargas-penned single released late last year). Watch August’s video for “Place to Land” here; scroll down to listen to all three tracks, the full radio show and video of a live version of “Taking Turns” by Pillsbury.
VIDEO: August, “Place to Land” (River City Studios)
Pillsbury said while she’s been creating solo material for years, “it’s only more recently that I’ve desired to lean into my solo work and fully express my individual voice. I’ve never been a very conventional songwriter and I’m finding myself covering a lot of ground thematically in these songs.”
She hopes to play solo shows one a month or so – including a Jan. 26 appearance at South Haven’s Black River Tavern and opening for Brie Stoner at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids on April 19 as part of the Local Spins Wednesdays series.
Folk-rock’s The Crane Wives, meanwhile, plan to gear up for touring this summer while also preparing to uncork some “very amazing” new music.
Vargas said she intends to play “almost all brand new songs” at Saturday’s show.
“I have been writing like mad for the past couple of months and I’m so excited to start the year off by playing them in such an intimate setting for the first time,” she told Local Spins, adding that her “very big goals” for the year include recording a solo EP or album as well as a new project with August which plays Park Theatre in Holland on Feb. 12 with Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.
Lynch – who plays Black Crystal Café in Ann Arbor on Friday night – has “a lot of creative projects on tap for 2023” after she returns to Nashville, where she relocated from West Michigan several years ago. She plans to record and record her next album, with “a good amount of travel” and touring planned for the spring and summer.
‘It’s important to me to always share my direction and new projects with the folks here who have been supporting my music and coming out to my shows for almost 15 years now,” she said of her West Michigan fans.
“It blows my mind how their enthusiasm and energy for my music only seems to grow over the years; it’s awesome and I feel very thankful. The West Michigan music scene in general has a special place in my heart.”
To that end, Saturday’s show at The Stray shapes up as “a special place” to spotlight three songwriters who’ve never shared the same stage on the same night before.
“I’m so excited to perform with Olivia and Kari,” Pillsbury said. “While we don’t have plans to perform any songs together, I know the energy we each bring to the stage will impact each other’s performances, and I think it will be a special night.”
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which focuses on local and regional artists at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — also featured new music by Grace Theisen, Moon Orchids, Gianna Stansell, Earth Radio, Heat Above, Phillip-Michael Scales, Inaudible Darling and Hominian. Listen to the show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (1/20/23)
VIDEO: Kate Pillsbury, “Taking Turns” (Live at Mendel Center)
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