The Michigan singer-songwriter and Earthwork Music collective founder has had a whirlwind year after releasing his response to “a defining time for humanity.” He plays Grand Rapids Wednesday.
THE ARTIST: Seth Bernard
THE MUSIC: Indie-folk, boundary-pushing rootsy rock
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 8 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 19) at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids with Dan Rickabus; Nov. 4 at Wealthy Theatre as part of the Prine Time tribute tour with Rickabus, Max Lockwood, Michael Beauchamp and Mark Lavengood (with shows also taking place Nov. 3 at The City Opera House in Traverse City, Nov. 6 at Salt of the Earth in Fennville, and Dec. 9 at The Franke Center in Marshall.)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This feature story about Seth Bernard and his “Eggtones” project first ran at Local Spins in June, prior to a hectic summer of festival appearances, numerous collaborations and a difficult announcement by Seth Bernard and May Erlewine to dissolve their marriage. He’s currently playing a set of unique duo shows with drummer/ukulele player Dan Rickabus, including Wednesday night’s Local Spins Wednesday appearance at Grand Rapids’ SpeakEZ Lounge. In many ways, Bernard’s “Eggtones for Peace” — amid a divisive presidential election campaign — has never seemed more relevant. Sample the new album below.
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As Seth Bernard puts it, his ambitious new album is both “of this time and it is nostalgic, hearkening to early American roots music and the early 8-bit sounds of this digital era.”
More significantly, it’s also billed as “art for the times when we need it most” – the product of years of writing, performing, community organizing, activism and fatherhood.
For the Traverse City-area singer-songwriter and founder of Michigan’s Earthwork Music collective, the “Eggtones for Peace” album is the manifestation of “a three-year group effort” and just the first volley in a series that’s his musical response to “a defining time for humanity.”
“Times are getting heavy. I needed to … find the courage to respond to these times. I created a large body of work,” the veteran singer and guitarist said. “I decided to release it in a new kind of way and to have some fun sharing the music in what is a fascinating time for releasing music.”
The first album, “Eggtones for Peace,” is a rollicking, rootsy and experimental 13-track affair recorded at La Luna Recording in Kalamazoo with longtime pal, collaborator and producer Ian Gorman. Bernard said the last song on the album is arranged to “flow directly into the first song” on the next recording in the series, “Eggtones for Fun.” (Listen to two tracks from the new album below.)
“I’m interested in what kind of inspiration and ideas come of its release,” ernard said of songs that tout community, cooperation and harmony. “Eggtones are trying to be the best they can be in this societal construct of reality in the 21st century, a defining time for humanity throughout all of history. My own little life and challenges are imbedded. I hold up a pinky to say, ‘Small is beautiful, stand up for the little ones, the underdog.’ ”
To accomplish his goal for the first volume in the series, Bernard utilized an intriguing array of instruments and techniques in the recording studio: Casio keyboards, vintage Acetone Rhythm Ace and Maestro Rhythm King drum machines, glockenspiel, layered and sampled vocals, and spoken word passages. Special guests on the album include May Erlewine, Michael Beauchamp, Daniel Kahn, Graham Parsons, Steve Leaf and others.
‘GROOVY, FUN, RICHER AND MORE LUSH’ IN APPROACH
He also leaned on Dan Rickabus, drummer for folk-rock’s The Crane Wives, as a co-producer, multi-instrumentalist and “momentum builder” during the lengthy recording process.
“This album is simultaneously Seth’s most groovy and fun record as well as his deepest and most poignant record,” Rickabus said. “It’s definitely the most sonically exploratory. The sound is richer and more lush than past records, but it definitely feels like a natural evolution.”
There are four albums slated for release as part of the Eggtones series “with lots of outtakes and alternate versions in store along the way,” Bernard said.
Bernard and his all-star band – Rickabus, Tyler Duncan, Levi Taylor, Max Lockwood and Julian Allen – released the new album during a series of summer performances across the state.
“We’re juggling a lot of projects and remain focused on parenting. I can already tell that the highlights will involve our 2-year-old daughter, Iris, experiencing music, water, nature, community and life. I love the festival season, so many great festivals and a very positive, nurturing festival culture,” said Bernard, who also taught a two-week singer-songwriter class at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
“Mentoring youth and empowering them to create has become some of the most fulfilling work that I do.”
LISTEN: “Eggtones for Peace,” Seth Bernard & Friends
LISTEN: “Rumi,” Seth Bernard featuring Coleman Barks
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