The Grand Rapids singer-songwriter unveils “Outrider” at The Pyramid Scheme tonight with Seth Bernard, Dan Rickabus and “some really great friends.” (Story, video, podcast)
Not many indie-folk musicians get a chance to use a debut solo album as a senior honors thesis in poetry.
For Grand Rapids singer, guitarist and bassist Max Lockwood, his fetching “Outrider” album being released today as part of a performance at The Pyramid Scheme not only helped him earn a University of Michigan degree in creative writing and literature but sparked compelling collaborations with some of his musical heroes.
Recorded in winter 2013 at Big Rapids’ Heart Center Studio, the album features contributions from Michigan folk icons Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, The Crane Wives drummer Dan Rickabus, former Fauxgrass banjo player Joey Schultz, bassist Brennan Andes, multi-instrumentalist Peter Felsman and others.
Best known as the bassist for the Grand Rapids folk-rock band Big Dudee Roo, Lockwood knew just the right cadre of inspiring musicians he needed to tap for the eclectic blend of poetic, introspective songs he’d written.
“I had a batch of songs that didn’t quite fit the atmospheric grunge folk-rock vibe of Big Dudee Roo and I wanted to do something a little different,” he explains. “I was able to get a bunch of really great friends and musical heroes of mine together to try and do something with these songs.
RECORDED IN THE DEAD OF WINTER IN AN ASTROLOGICAL LIBRARY
“I really didn’t know what to do with these songs exactly and what kind of vibe I wanted for them, so I just said, ‘Hey, I’ve got all these songs. Let’s get together in the studio and see what happens and put all our minds together, and some really beautiful things came out of it.”
The rootsy collection recorded in the dead of winter surrounded by shelves of books in a place touted as North America’s largest astrological library certainly oozes a literate, mystical, calming and engaging milieu.
“It was a healing time for all of us and just an important time for us all to be together,” Rickabus recalls. “Each tune has a completely different feel and a different vibe. It’s really genre-bending album. But it also has a very common-thread feel … running through it all the time.”
Inspired, in part, by Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate who also submitted a recording as part of his senior honors thesis in U-M professor Ken Mikolowski’s poetry class, Lockwood even includes spoken-word poems as part of the album.
As Rickabus puts it, Lockwood’s music has “an equal balance of deep, deep heart feelings and warmth and soul, but also a lot of mind-bending elements, a lot of things that are thought-provoking. I love that balance.”
On Wednesday, Lockwood and Rickabus delivered a spare but captivating acoustic rendition of one of those songs, “See The Way,” in the studios of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) as part of Local Spins Live, with Lockwood on acoustic guitar and Rickabus on a dumbek. Listen to the podcast of the show here, with a video below of their performance of the song, which was inspired by “the Buddhist idea about how the wind informs your thoughts.”
A PEARL JAM FAN INSPIRED BY MICHIGAN FOLK ICONS
For Lockwood, the journey toward indie-folk actually began as a Wayland middle-schooler enamored of pop-punk and playing in an eighth-grade band called The Wealthy Homeless, before becoming a die-hard Pearl Jam fan in high school with a “steady diet” of Neil Young and My Morning Jacket.
But he also cites the influences of numerous Michigan folk- and Americana-based acts such as Bathgate, Breathe Owl Breathe and Bernard and Erlewine, a couple he first saw perform live about four years ago.
Now, he’s a member of the Earthwork Music Collective that Bernard and Erlewine founded, and he often collaborates and performs with a host of different collective artists, including Bernard.
Working on his solo material, he says, has not only allowed to work with other musicians, but given him more freedom to experiment with lyrics and music that come from “a more personal place.”
But the band, Big Dudee Roo, remains a major focus for Lockwood. The group is working on a new album, “Heavy Dudee,” which is set for release in the near future. “We are alive and well and still pushing,” he insists.
Lockwood officially releases the new solo album tonight, accompanied by an ensemble of familiar musicians: Rickabus, Bernard, Schultz, Felsman, Joe VanAcker, Sarah Barker and Alex Hamel.
Doors at The Pyramid Scheme open at 8 p.m., with Grand Rapids alt-country outfit The Carboys opening the show, followed by Lockwood. The Seth Bernard Trio, featuring Bernard, Rickabus and Lockwood, will finish out the evening.
Tickets are $8 at the door. Details online at pyramidschemebar.com. And the first person to email firstname.lastname@example.org with MAX in the message field wins a pair of tickets to the show.
For more about Lockwood, visit his Facebook page.
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music LLC