The Grand Rapids-based singer-songwriter who’s part of a statewide concert series has a unique approach, spotlighted today at Local Spins, along with new tracks by other Michigan artists.
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Suffice to say, Billy Blanchard has been around.
Growing up in Florida, the old-time folk artist and fingerstyle guitarist has spent time in Austin, Texas, Portland, Ore., Baltimore, Md., and Brown County, Ind., among other places.
But Blanchard became smitten with Michigan’s natural beauty when he and his wife decided to leave Austin, “start a new chapter” and seek out a new place to live in 2023.
“We really liked the energy and the nature side of things,” he said of moving to Grand Rapids. “I’ve been really impressed with the variety of talent and creativity that’s going on here, but it’s community-size (with) this kind of scaffolding that’s in place. … It’s a warm, rich environment.”
That environment not only suits his “old-time, homemade” folk music, but has inspired his nature-oriented HomeField Recordings — podcasts and songs recorded on site amid Michigan’s great outdoors, state parks and camping nooks, from the shores of Lake Michigan at Ludington to picturesque Petoskey.
“The simplest goal of the project is to help me bring my creative and daily practices to a healthy flow. The field recording was a piece of my wife and I exploring all the different towns, state parks and campgrounds in Michigan all summer and fall,” he said.
“HomeField Recordings pulls from a lot of my varied experiences and gives me a solid vehicle for expression and communication that will hopefully translate to me traveling more and sharing music in new places.”
Blanchard also will share his music with Michigan audiences this month as part of the “Singers in the Round” tour that has four singer-songwriters performing in three different cities.
PART OF THE ‘SINGERS IN THE ROUND’ MICHIGAN TOUR
Broken Blanket — in cooperation with Sounds of the Zoo, Crooked Tree Creative and Verona Music — is organizing the showcases that will feature Blanchard, Grand Rapids-based tunesmiths Erin Monroe (originally from Chicago) and Clem Turner (originally from Petoskey), and Ann Arbor Americana artist Judy Banker.
The foursome will share songs at The Clover Room in Kalamazoo on Feb. 10 (hosted by Sounds of the Zoo’s Jennifer Hudson-Prenkert), Aretha’s Jazz Café in Detroit on Feb. 13 (hosted by Matt Kysia and Jorg Kerasiotis) and The Stray in Grand Rapids on Feb. 16 (hosted by Crooked Tree Creative’s Elle Lively). Get tickets and details by clicking on the venue links above. The Detroit show also will be live-streamed by SonicCoast.com, along with YouTube and other platforms.
The tour is aimed at bridging “the musical talents from different regions of Michigan” and fostering “increased collaboration among artists,” while also building “a robust network that supports and promotes local talent.” Singers in the Round sessions have taken place in Detroit the past six years.
“I expect an intimate night; the venues seem like solid listening rooms,” said Blanchard, who cites the likes of Michael Hurley, Songs:Ohio, Mississippi John Hurt, Kevin Morby and Devendra Banhart among his influences. “I’m a homebody and work a lot of nights, so participating in something like this helps me push myself into the mix.
“It’s nice to get a run of a couple shows in a row with people. Each night can have its own flavor and character but can kind of build on its own. I do kind of miss hearing other people’s songs and that direct sharing.”
For this week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE, Blanchard also shared a couple of his newest songs, recorded on location in Ludington and Petoskey, complete with moving water accompaniment. Scroll down to listen to the songs and the full radio show below.
Blanchard, 40, who describes HomeField Recordings as “a patchwork of songs and sounds from nature and my surroundings,” heads back to Indiana for a Feb. 29 show, then plans to set up a run of shows while traveling to Austin in April. Meanwhile, the first installation of HomeField Recordings debuted earlier this month with the final Season 1 episode planned for Feb. 4. Listen here.
“I’m planning on camping and recording along the way this spring and having a Season 2 (of HomeField) out sometime in the summer,” he said, emphasizing his mission to “draw energy” from different places outside the usual bar and brewery scene. “Plus, developing plans for ‘Trail Radio,’ sort of a pirate radio meets secret set in the woods.”
In addition to spotlighting the music of Blanchard, the Feb. 2 edition of Local Spins on WYCE — which trains its attention on Michigan-made music at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE (88.1 FM) and online at wyce.org — also featured tracks by Singers in the Round performers Judy Banker, Erin Monroe and Clem Turner along with songs from Cordero, All Over the Shop, Radio Vision, Trakzero, Laddermatch, Sage Castleberry and Billy Strings. Listen to the show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (2/2/24)
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