The Traverse City-based Justin “Stovepipe” Stover is relocating to Grand Rapids in 2016, and getting ready to release a new studio album. Catch him live at Grand Rapids’ SpeakEZ Lounge on Wednesday night.
THE ARTIST: Stovepipe Stover
WHAT HE PLAYS: One-man band folk and punk with a hint of country
WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: 8 p.m. Wednesday with Kyle Rasche at SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids
It took practicing six hours a day for a full month just to get the hang of playing his “one-man band contraption.”
Now, armed with a guitar, bells, whistles, harmonica and that unique musical gear, Traverse City’s Stovepipe Stover deftly uncorks a rich and diverse musical stir all on his own.
“It’s a mix of Tom Waits-ian folk and punk, with some very subtle country influences here and there,” suggests Stover, whose distinctive music leans heavily on a device called the Farmer BackBeat.
“I play this drum with my two feet, and connect the snare drum to my guitar neck via a string. I also add a bit of piano, banjo and whatever weird stuff works.”
Weird, maybe, but Stover (aka, Justin Stover) has made a career out of his one-man band – or one-beard band – approach the past two years.
He just completed recording a new solo project at Matt Ten Clay’s Amber Lit Audio in Grand Rapids, with the first of three volumes of that album set for release in January. He also wrote and released a song a day for donors who’ve contributed online to his “365 Songs for 365 People” Kickstarter project, an admittedly challenging endeavor.
This week, he stopped by the studios of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) for Local Spins Live, performing a song from his new album on the air. Check out the video below (plus a video of him playing his one-man band device), with the full podcast of the radio show here.
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with Stovepipe Stover
A native of Maine, Stover lived in Grand Rapids for 14 years before he and his fiancé bought “a little cabin in the hills of Traverse City” in 2013. He plans to move back to Grand Rapids in late January — a city he says “feels like home.”
Stover proudly notes that one-man bands have a “very rich history” across the globe dating back to the Middle Ages.
“It was an integral part of Vaudevillian performance in America,” he says. “It is starting to come back, slowly but surely.”
Those curious about Stover’s unusual one-man show can watch him perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at SpeakEZ Lounge in downtown Grand Rapids as part of the Local Spins Wednesdays series.
As part of his mission to promote one-man bands, Stover also has assisted Traverse City-based Farmer Foot Drums, which creates “portable foot-played drum kits” and accessories. It’s owned by Pete “Farmer” Kaynor, who relocated to Traverse City from Seattle, Wash., a couple of years ago.
A number of renowned artists have played the instruments, including Les Claypool of Primus, Christian Wargo of Fleet Foxes, G. Love, J.J. Grey and Laura Love.
FINDING INSPIRATION IN THE BEATLES, REPLACEMENTS, NIRVANA AND TOM WAITS
Stover’s fondness for genre- and instrument-mixing is partly the result of growing up in Maine amid a rich, eclectic musical environment, listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Loving Spoonful as a kid, followed by the punk of The Replacements, Husker Du and The Lemonheads, the grunge of Nirvana, and eventually singer-songwriters such as Tom Waits, Jolie Holland, Josh Ritter and Warren Zevon.
“As far as instruments, I learned to play a lot of them because my dad was a music teacher. He was always bringing different instruments home,” he recalls.
But he concedes that mastering his one-man band contraption “took a lot of practice. I spent about three months practicing daily, often up to eight hours a day.”
Since then, however, he’s “played out constantly – lots of Michigan shows, but I have also toured from Michigan to Maine and have very gratefully developed a loyal, growing following in these travels.”
He’s worked in the past as a landscaper during the summer months to supplement his income, and he’s also taught songwriting, played “street corners” and is working to write music for businesses, film and television. And through “Stovepipe Music,” he’ll write songs for anyone who asks: “They come up with the topic, I write the song.”
While he’s committed to his one-man project, he’s performed occasionally as a duet with musical pals from Grand Rapids such as Mat Churchill, Nathan Kalish, Benjamin Riley and Kyle Rasche of Chain of Lakes, who will join him this week for his SpeakEZ Lounge show on Wednesday night.
“I do like having complete creative control, and let’s be honest, I want to make some money at this and it was always hard to do so when I played with bands,” says Stover, who’s released a handful of recordings over the years.
He’s also pleased with the welcoming nature of West Michigan’s folk scene because his acoustic approach has “a natural connection to folk music.”
As for his upcoming new album, “Love in the Time of Satanic Panic,” it’s “very much” a one-man band project with “more of the punk influence” shining through.
“It’s a bunch of love songs, stories featuring grotesque characters and situations,” he says. “You know, there’s a song about a satanist with a broken heart, a proper British woman whose husband leaves her to live in a cave with hippies, vagrants who get frisky in a graveyard. Weird, spooky stuff, but with a heart.”
VIDEO: Stovepipe Stover on Local Spins Live
VIDEO: Stovepipe Stover, “Half-Assed Revolution”
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC