The Michigan singer-songwriter taps an all-star band for the inventive recording and for Sunday’s album-release show at Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre. It’s his response to “a defining time for humanity.”
Album-release shows for Seth Bernard’s “Eggtones for Peace” take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ann Arbor’s The Ark ($20) and 7 p.m. Sunday at Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre ($13 advance) with Breathe Owl Breathe opening the Grand Rapids show. Sample the new album below.
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 that he’ll officially release Sunday at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids 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 his wife, May Erlewine, and musicians such as 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 – will release the new album during performances Saturday at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Sunday at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids and July 7 at Earthwork Farm outside Lake City.
The shows add to a hectic summer of performances and festival appearances for Bernard and Erlewine, who releases her new EP, “Lean into the Wind,” in July.
“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 teaches 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.”
The Earthwork Music collective believes in the intrinsic and historical power of music to raise both community and self-awareness and serves to facilitate and encourage original music in the state of Michigan and beyond.