This Sunday, May 21, ArtRat Gallery is excited to host Americana Sundays: An Afternoon with Kyle Rasche (Chain of Lakes) and Dan Bracken. This edition of ArtRat’s monthly concert series runs 3-5pm at 46 Division Ave. S in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. (Admission $20; tickets available from Eventbrite.)
This month’s Americana Sunday pairs Michigan singer-songwriters Kyle Rasche and Daniel Bracken. Ahead of Sunday’s show, ArtRat asked Kyle (aka Chain of Lakes) about a recent burst of creativity that spans everything from kids’ stuff to musical theatre.
"Kyle Rasche is a father, husband and songwriter. Since everyone mispronounces his name “Rash” (it actually rhymes with “Kashi,” the cereal), he has released his seven albums under the moniker Chain of Lakes. Kyle writes what he knows: family, friendship, and the beauty and strife that comes with an unflinching compulsion to sing about his feelings. His gift is translating those feelings in full, delivering delicate, thoughtful songs that span the spectrum from heart-wrenching to hilarious, often in the same song."
Your accomplishments over the past year include a collection of children's songs (The Real Humdingers) as well as two original LPs. What catalyzed this burst of productivity?
I definitely used the pandemic shutdown to focus on writing, and never really stopped. I try to work at it every day and catch a few waves of inspiration. My producer/engineer — Josh Kaufman @ Local Legend Recording in Grand Rapids — was also a big part of getting me into the studio to work on releasing more songs.
You're also writing two musicals. Can you talk more about them? Is this a new medium for you?
It is! Musical theatre is my favorite way to hear a story. … I’ve always loved it, growing up on various cast recordings. I got to dip my toes into that world last year, contributing seven songs to a musical called ChevyTown.
This past October, I met Annie Bacon at a Folk Alliance conference, and we just dove into fleshing out one of my ideas for a Michigan folk musical set on a crib lighthouse on Lake Michigan. It kind of exploded our hearts, and we ended up with 32 songs and a full libretto in just over four months. It’s called The Keeper, and I’m very excited about it. We’ve performed it a few times in workshop format, and we’re planning a fundraising tour for this winter.
What influences inspired you to start playing and writing?
My dad’s tapes (Fogelberg, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce).
I always loved music and had a knack for piano and guitar — and from the get-go, I never really cared about learning covers. I always just wanted to make up something new.
What's it like working solo vs. collaborating with other musicians? How does your creative process differ, and does collaboration push your songwriting in different directions from working on your own?
I love both. Writing with other songwriters has been very liberating. It helps keep ego in check, and it’s a great way to make myself write when I’m in a rut. The Humdingers project has been great for that … and I’ve enjoyed writing with some Nashville songwriters, too.
Talk about Dan Bracken: What can the audience expect when the two of you share a stage?
Danny Bracken is one of my favorite people. He’s an observer … a listener … a contemplative soul with a generous heart and a great sense of humor. That’s exactly what you can expect from his songs. Soul songs in the open-tuning folk tradition, with some really funny songs peppered in. I love playing shows with Dan.
What do you like about playing in Grand Rapids?
I think what makes GR special is the artists … There are so many talented songwriters that I love so much. There’s something happening in this Michigan scene that feels incredibly special.
RESERVE YOUR TICKETS NOW FOR THESE AMERICANA SUNDAYS!
June 11: Hearth & Hymn. Celebrate Pride Month with Hearth & Hymn! Hearth & Hymn is a close-harmony, minimalist folk project produced by songwriters, song collectors and multi-instrumentalists Samantha Cooper and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink. Beloved artists in the Michigan folk scene, their masterful harmonies and seamless vocal blend capture a room. Raiding family songbooks and sharing old tunes, Hearth & Hymn reimagines songs that move them through a queer, feminist lens. (Admission $20; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
July 9: Jes Kramer. A stack of battery-powered keyboards disguised as a woman, woven together by big emotions and standing upright with the help of the nostalgic sounds from childhood. Having played shows for over half of her life, Kramer invites you to share the comfort of this space with her at every show, including you into the process as she builds songs layer by layer in front of the audience. (Admission $15; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
August 20: The Wild Honey Collective. The Wild Honey Collective formed in the summer of 2020 to perform original songs and traditional American folk music. Singers and songwriters Tommy McCord, Danielle Gyger, Timmy Rodriguez and Dan O’Brien — joined shortly thereafter by pedal steel guitarist Adam Aymor — launched the project in rural Michigan as a back-porch acoustic gathering purely for the love of music in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wild Honey Collective is ever-evolving and encompasses sounds of traditional string band music, rowdy country rock, psychedelia, classic pop and more to preserve and nurture the lineage of Cosmic American Music. (Admission $20; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
Sept. 17: Nic Gareiss. One of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch,” Nic Gareiss (he/they) is swiftly becoming recognized for his singular voice in the realm of dance, music, and the traditional arts. A child of the folk revival, Gareiss grew up being dragged to folk festivals in the Midwest. At these events Nic learned Appalachian, Irish, English, and Canadian percussive dance surrounded by fiddlers, banjo-players, balladeers, and folksingers. This mix of movement, instrumental melodies, and traditional songs from rural places has become the heart of Nic's creative work. Informed by 25 years of ethnographic study and performance, Gareiss’ work draws from many percussive dance practices to weave together a technique facilitating his love of improvisation; clog, flatfoot and step dance vocabulary; and musical collaboration. (Admission $20; tickets available on Eventbrite.)
Oct. 15: Tiyi Schippers. Join author and storyteller Spooky Ms. Tiyi for an evening/afternoon of true ghost stories based on her own encounters with the otherworld sure to rattle your senses and chill you to the bone.Tiyi is an educator, storyteller, author and poet. She grew up in the middle of the 20th century, the third child in a family of 10 kids. Hers was the fourth generation to live in a Victorian home on the northwest side of Chicago. They did not dwell there alone however. The house claimed an array of ghosts and spirits consisting of both her ancestors, as well as those who lived there before her ancestors acquired the home at the end of the 19th century. (Admission $20; tickets available on Eventbrite.)