The Serita’s Black Rose duo is the latest set of West Michigan artists to reveal the recordings that have most influenced them over the years. Listen to their picks at Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All musicians and singers can trace their inspiration to key recordings that influenced their careers. Writer Ross Boissoneau today showcases recordings that changed the world for Grand Rapids singer Serita Crowley of Serita’s Black Rose. Scroll down for a Spotify playlist of her picks, a recent favorite and a couple of tracks of her own.
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Defining the style of Serita’s Black Rose might be easier than limiting their inspirations to three recordings (as you’ll see).
The band’s music is an intoxicating stew of funk, rock, blues, neo-soul and Americana. Which is no surprise, as the musical influences of Serita Crowley and her musical and personal partner Jon Hayes run the gamut.
Hayes says they met through a mutual friend, who suggested Hayes talk to a woman he’d just met. “I was meeting up with a buddy in Eastown at (since closed) Monster Burrito next to Billy’s Lounge. This would have been around 2002. He said there was a lady trying to do some stuff with music, putting up posters. You should go talk to her.”
Though he was taking a break from musical endeavors at the time, he nevertheless went in and talked with her. Sure enough, they hit it off.
Fast forward, and they found they were living in the same neighborhood. Soon enough they were living in the same house and making music together, Hayes often sitting in with the Heart of Gold band Crowley was fronting. By 2012 the concept of Serita’s Black Rose had taken root.
“I was working as a (retail) sales clerk and a chef at several restaurants,” says Crowley, who also is a painter. She still heads a Facebook cooking group (“What’s Cooking with Serita”) and the band has since evolved into both a duo and quartet.
The duo plays Grand Armory Brewing in Grand Haven at 6:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 4), JT’s Pizza and Spirits in Grand Rapids at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 and Coopersville Brewing Co. in Coopersville on Nov. 12. View more dates here.
1. The Cure, “Boys Don’t Cry” (1980) – Jon’s choice – I grew up in Muskegon. Music wasn’t really a thing my parents engaged with in the house. The Cure was one of the first things I really started listening to. I popped in one of my older brother’s tapes. My parents had maybe a crate of dry, uninspiring Christian music, but they (older brothers) had music I had access to. It was cool, music I could understand. I thought, ‘Wow, I could do something like this.’ It was something I wanted to be involved with. My dad had an old Epiphone guitar in the closet. He said, “Don’t play it, I might tinker with it.” We knew he wouldn’t. My oldest brother got it out. Both (brothers) were left-handed, so he restrung it to be left-handed. Around 10, I picked it up and learned some chords. That was around the same time I discovered that cool music that wasn’t my parents’ music. Even though I’m right-handed, left-handed seemed to be most comfortable.
Listen: “Boys Don’t Cry”
2. Jimmy Reed, “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” (1956) – Serita’s choice – Oh my God, there’s so many. We grew up in music. Dad played and sang, played harmonica. I would sing around the house, in church. We had this album with this creepy alien playing keyboards on the cover – it was Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters,” so I started listening to Herbie Hancock. My music is a mix of gospel and blues, then funk. James Cleveland’s gospel albums. Dad would play Muddy Waters, Albert King, Sonny Boy Williams. My older siblings discovered I could sing, (then) Jimmy Reed made me want to pick up the harmonica. Mary Davis of the SOS Band is my favorite vocalist. I don’t think anybody sounds like her. But Jimmy Reed … “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby.” The blues …
Listen: “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby”
3. Nirvana, “Nevermind” (1991) – Chosen by both – (Jon) I told Serita it was a significant influence in how I related to the world. She said the same. When it came out, my brother and I went to Muskegon Mall and he bought it. It’s one of those that years later epitomizes the voice of a generation. It kicked your teeth in, spoke to how repressed our upbringing was. It was very impactful.
(Serita) I heard it, saw the cover, the naked baby chasing the dollar bill. The lyrics, heard the songs – I loved it. As I got older, I embraced it more.
Listen: “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Currently Loving: Jim Croce, “Photographs and Memories, His Greatest Hits” (1974) – (Jon) As musicians we listen to a lot of songs. I’ve really been into Jim Croce. I realized so may of his songs are some of the best ever.
(Serita) He’s up there with Stevie Wonder.
(Jon) We do a few of his tunes. He was a genius writer. He was never successful financially (during his lifetime). Later people started realizing how talented he was. He had hits after he passed. The songs are so well written and crafted. I’m taking a dive into “Operator.”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Serita’s Black Rose’s Picks on Spotify
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