Kalamazoo-based singer-songwriter Darcy Wilkin is a longtime member of Americana band The Corn Fed Girls.
She released her debut solo album, Bristol, in January 2020 and is excited to be performing live after a pandemic hiatus.
This Sunday, Nov. 27, Darcy inaugurates Americana Sundays, ArtRat Gallery’s monthly afternoon concert series at 46 Division Ave. S in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. (Admission $15; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
Ahead of her visit, she took time out to talk to us about the relevance of West Michigan roots music as well as her own musical roots.
What experiences with music led you to compose and perform it yourself? What were your formative influences, and when did you start writing and playing?
I grew up with music all around. Everyone in my immediate family plays music, and my childhood weekends were spent at festivals and coffee houses (specifically, one called Canterbury Coffee House in Kalamazoo).
As a kid, my house was one where musicians would stay when they were in town sometimes, and when they did, my folks would have music parties. People would come over after the show, and there'd be jam sessions at the house. It was great.
One of the bands was The Red Clay Ramblers. Those guys were a huge influence on me. Still are. The music of John Prine is another big one.
There are many songwriters whose music I love. He's my guy, though. I always come back around to him.
My biggest influence, by far, is my dad. He's been playing forever. He had a band called The Sweetcorn String Band for decades. And he and I play together pretty regularly. He's a great songwriter, too.
I started writing when I joined The Corn Fed Girls. Before that, I knew guitar chords and would sing other people's stuff, very shyly, but I didn't start writing until I was in a band.
You've played with the Corn Fed Girls for 25 years — how was the experience of going into the studio solo to record Bristol in 2020?
I recorded the album pre-pandemic, in 2019. It had been almost 10 years since I had done much recording. The biggest difference was my own confidence level. That, and having Joe Newberry on board producing, really made it a great experience. The Corn Fed Girls are currently working on our third album, and I'm excited to get back into the studio.
The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic changed musicians' plans around the world. How did you adapt? Was your Grassroots radio show a venue to stay connected with the musical community?
I adapted by playing shows most Sundays from home on Facebook.
I am so glad that I did that, as it kept me motivated to practice on a regular basis. And people seemed to like it and look forward to it. It was a way to stay connected. I sure hope the radio show was helpful for people.
I do a calendar of music events, and it switched over to me telling people where they could find streaming concerts.
West Michigan is a thriving center for roots music. What makes it a special place for Americana?
It really is thriving, isn't it? I'm not exactly sure why, but I sure love it. There is an audience here that really seems to appreciate original music. People tend to be supportive and encouraging.
Is Americana Sundays your first Grand Rapids gig since the pandemic? What are your live performance plans otherwise — and what do you like about performing in downtown GR?
It is not, actually. I played at Tip Top Deluxe at the end of January, opening up for The Corn Potato String Band, which was swell. I like performing in GR because I get to meet new people at the shows.
I haven't had as much experience in GR as I'd like, so I'm really excited about the ArtRat Americana Sundays series. I would like as many new folks as possible to hear my stuff.