The Southwest Michigan artist plays an album-release show in St. Joe tonight. Local Spins on WYCE also debuted new tracks by several regional artists, including Sadie Bass and Hannah Rose Graves.
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After uncorking a fresh batch of songs perched “on the rock ’n’ roll side of Americana,” Southwest Michigan’s Matt Lenny knew he wanted to surround himself with longtime friends and some of the best musicians he knows.
So the resulting studio album, “For the Birds” – recorded with Josh Kaufman at Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Recording – turned into “a really magical experience because we were having so much damn fun and everyone was just really listening and doing their best to play for the song instead of for any sort of ego,” he said.
“The way we made the record was, in some ways, the theme of the album: to be bold and follow the spirit. … I decided I was going to go all-in on this album and be as bold and daring as I could be. And then the band was pretty much all of my favorite musicians I’ve ever had the joy of playing with. And then we recorded it live so that we wouldn’t have time to overthink and so we could just steer by what felt magical.”
Matt Lenny and his band, The Breakdown, will unleash live takes on that “magical” music for the first time in Michigan during an album-release show at 7 p.m. Saturday (April 22) at the all-ages Box Factory for the Arts in St. Joseph. (Get details, $12 tickets online here.)
“I think a lot of the energy will still be there because we’re so excited to hear these (songs) take shape and change in a live setting. We’ll also mix in a few covers to keep things interesting,” Lenny said.
“We’ll be joined that night by (Kalamazoo singer-songwriter) Kait Rose who will open the show and hopefull sing a couple tunes with us. She’s a great singer and songwriter and was kind enough to overdub some harmonies on the album.”
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Lenny featured two tracks from the new album and performed a live in-studio rendition of “True Things.” Watch the video here and scroll down for the full radio show podcast.
VIDEO: Matt Lenny, “True Things” (Local Spins Studio)
A native of the East Coast who moved with his family to Oklahoma as a teenager where he first picked up a guitar and later plied his musical trade in Chicago and New York, Lenny now calls Stevensville, Mich., his home. And he’s loving the region’s rich and collaborative music scene.
“I’m amazed and inspired by just how rich the scene is,” he said.
Initially inspired by Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, Lenny later found singer-songwriter beauty in the songs of John Prine and Gillian Welch, as well as Tom Petty, Neil Young, Spoon, David Bowie, Jeff Tweedy, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan.
“We’re definitely heavily influenced by old country and folk music … but my first love was rock ’n’ roll: Led Zeppelin, Stones, etc. So, that creeps in, too,” Lenny said. “The center is the song and I like to think we’re writing songs for grown-ups, which is something I love about country and Americana. But we like to keep some edges and big dynamics in there, too.”
Formed in Chicago in 2012, the core of The Breakdown features Lenny and Dave Mendez on guitar, Erik Vaveris on bass and David Jamison on drums. “For the Birds” includes that core group along with acoustic guitarist Bucky Hayes, keyboardist Bryan Trenis, banjoist Sonny Ratcliff, percussionist/guitarist Anthony Gravino and guest singers Rose and Laura Neuroth.
As a relative newcomer to Michigan, Lenny conceded he’s “still figuring out where to play and building up an audience,” but he has several upcoming solo shows at the Sideyard in Sawyer, starting May 13. He plans a full-band show at the venue in July.
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which spotlights music by Michigan artists at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — also featured tracks by Hannah Rose Graves & Austin Benzing, Sadie Bass, Steve Rivers, Hatchwing Rider (this week’s musician’s pick by Lenny), Abe Savas & The New Standards of Beauty, Sage Castleberry, Casper, Bad Footing and Cody Robert DeWindt. Listen to the show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (4/21/23)
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