The Grand Rapids singer-songwriter showcased music from her new album for Local Spins on WYCE, which also debuted tracks by Heather Bartman, The Heavy Pine, Horizon Theory, Redbelly and more.
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As a professional photographer for more than a decade, Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Loren Johnson has seen the connection between the images of musicians she captures and the music that she creates.
“It’s forming a connection with these artists, trusting me with their image,” Johnson surmised.
Trust also played a big role in the recording of Johnson’s new studio album, a 12-track collection featuring an all-star cast of West Michigan musicians the indie-folk tunesmith brought together for what she calls an “organic” project.
“I feel like I’ve learned to plan what needs to be planned, and let go of what needs to be let go of,” Johnson said of the musical journey that began when she released her first EP, “Sleepsick,” as a 19-year-old in 2016.
So when she brought in the talented musicians to assist her on “How to Change,” she simply “set the scene” and trusted them to do the rest.
“Play what you hear and let’s work from there,” Johnson said, in recalling the studio sessions that took place at Joe Hettinga’s Grand Rapids studio and Michael Dause’s TreeTone Studios. “It’s letting people do what they do best.
“I wanted to give the album my all, but make sure that when I invited other musicians in that they had space to do what they did best without obstruction and with very few limits.”
The resulting collection resonates with lush representations of Johnson’s pensive lyrics about coming to terms with change.
LETTING THINGS FLOW ORGANICALLY
“It’s almost like we planned accordingly enough to just let things flow when it was time to flow, and I think you really hear that on this album,” Johnson said of working with musical partner Ben McNeil.
“With any new frontier in music or art, it’s all about learning the rules before knowing how to break them, and when I started recording original music, there was a huge learning curve. While making ‘How to Change,’ I finally felt comfortable experimenting and I think you can really hear that.”
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Johnson debuted two tracks from that new album – “The Days You Missed” and “Paper + Straw.” Scroll down to listen to the songs and full radio show podcast.
As for the album’s theme, the singer-songwriter noted that the pandemic “shook everything up” and forced people to make changes they didn’t necessarily want to make.
“With this album, you get the sense that the protagonist really comes to terms with what they have to change and what they have to do,” she explained.
AN ALBUM-RELEASE SHOW WITH ALL-STAR BAND ON SATURDAY
Johnson will call on some of her trusted musical associates to perform her first-ever full-band show, celebrating release of the new album at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Midtown in Grand Rapids. Tickets, $25, are available online at themidtowngr.com.
With Hettinga on keyboards, Dause on percussion, McNeil on drums, Justin Avdek on bass, Davey Jones (Frontier Ruckus ) on banjo, Saxsquatch on saxophone and Hannah Laine, Emilee Petersmark and Kate Pillsbury on vocals, the band plans to play the entirety of the new album.
“It’s going to be a very special show,” Johnson said. “These people are wonderful.”
Although Johnson also will perform May 17 at Grand Rapids’ SpeakEZ Lounge, opening for Kate Hinote Trio, and at Memorial Day weekend’s Buses by the Beach Bus Benefit at West Olive’s Camp Blodgett, she plans to take time to let the album sink in for fans and listeners before forging ahead with more extensive touring.
Johnson also is focusing attention on her photography business and her new Sunfire Studios in Grand Rapids. “I’m just starting to get into what’s possible there,” she noted.
In addition to showcasing Johnson’s music, this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE – which centers on local and regional music for an hour at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org – also featured new music by Vernon Potts, Radio Vision, The JR Band, Moss Manor (this week’s musician’s pick by Johnson), Horizon Theory, Gosey Hill, Redbelly, Heather Bartman Band, Brian Muratori and The Heavy Pine. Listen to the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (4/7/23)
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