Friday Night Stage
Dar Williams – SOLD OUT!
Detroit Author Amy Haimerl opens the night starting at 7:30.
Every new album from Dar Williams represents her thoughts and feelings about both her own life and larger forces in the world. But her ninth studio record, Emerald, marks a particularly dramatic confluence between her experiences and broader contemporary culture—and what it means to be a songwriter at this moment in history.
In the past few years, Williams has been involved in a wide range of different efforts and projects: teaching a course titled “Music Movements in a Capitalist Democracy” at her alma mater, Wesleyan University; working with children at several summer camps; leading songwriting workshops; getting involved with the workings of her village; and writing a book about the ways she’s seen towns becoming more independent and prosperous over her twenty years of touring. In addition, in the face of dramatic transformations in the music industry, she is releasing Emerald on her own after choosing to part ways with Razor & Tie, her label for almost twenty years.
“It’s like the record business is a giant building that collapsed,” says Williams, “but when the building is destroyed, you get to see what remains. And this incredible structure of the music and the friendships that I have is all still there. Seeing that led to a decision to record songs with themes about relationships and connections—I wanted to write songs for my friends and about my friends.”
A scan of Emerald’s credits reveals the strength of her bonds in the music community. Recorded in Nashville; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Beacon, New York; and Weehawken, New Jersey, the album features a remarkable list of guest musicians and co-writers, including guitar virtuoso Richard Thompson, Jim Lauderdale, Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Hooters, and Suzzy and Lucy Wainwright Roche.
Even the song that set the album in motion was the result of a meeting of the minds. As Williams was preparing her Wesleyan course, she played a show at which she shared a bill with Jill Sobule. “I told her about the era I was covering,” says Williams, “and her incredible joy in talking about the ‘70s and the way that we loved music then was the beginning of the song ‘FM Radio.’ When I started to write it, I immediately asked if she wanted to do a co-write. It was a lot of great conversations on the phone, one really fun day in New York City, and one really fun day in the studio.”
Where her last album, 2011’s In the Time of Gods, was an ambitious and evocative series of songs that melded the imagery and narratives of classical mythology with modern issues and themes, most of the inspiration on Emerald was concrete and immediate. She began writing “Mad River” during the Occupy Wall Street actions, based on a real-life example of current economic dysfunction.
“I heard about this guy who had a job at a school, lost the job, and then got it back because it had been outsourced—he was stripped of benefits and getting half the pay for the same job, and he kind of went under,” she says. “It was a recognition that we’re not in balance right now. But I also wanted it to have a feeling of brotherhood around this protagonist, so that’s why I wanted Milk Carton Kids to play on it, because they bring that spirit, that brotherly sense of honor, into their music.”
A cover of Joe Strummer’s rousing “Johnny Appleseed” reflects Williams’ work planting gardens at summer camps, while “Girl of the World” was the result of a trip to Honduras, where a friend of hers is making a documentary about the lives of some local young women.
“I wrote a song for them that was very ballad-y, and that’s on the record, but these girls love Taylor Swift, and I thought, ‘I can’t just do acoustic folk for these teenage girls!,’ “ she says with a laugh. “One great thing about working on my own is that if I want to do my iteration of a Taylor Swift song, then there’s no rule that says I can’t. So I wrote and recorded something in Nashville with Angel Snow, and we all had to figure out where it lived—in folk, in country, in pop—and in the end, we just did what we wanted and it sounds like a Dar song.”
The final song she cut for the album is “New York Is a Harbor,” a reflection on the city that looms largest in America’s imagination. ”There is something special about the feeling of a neighborhood, the feeling of things that are built locally. I think we all understand that moment when the local thing is turned into a commercial version of itself,” she says. “New York is struggling; it’s just so precious that everybody wants it. I’m not blaming one person or another, it’s just too expensive—but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold on to the ideal of the neighborhoods and the people who created them.
“A lot of people have not given up on the positive diversity of incomes, mental wavelengths, and dreams in New York. Also, in light of the things going on in my town at the time, I wanted to reinvigorate the sense that people have power as storytellers and active citizens to keep that diversity alive.”
If friendship and human connection lie at the heart of Emerald, Williams had to put these ideas to a very real test when she decided to crowd-fund the making of the album through Pledge Music. While it was an adjustment getting used to sharing as much as possible from the album’s sessions with her fans and followers, she enjoyed the opportunities for interaction.
“Pledge for me is like swimming in a pool,” she says. “My fans are smarter than I am, I like being around them, so I said, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ When we started thinking about, ‘How do you want to fundraise for the album?,’ it was actually a very fun discussion. I heard that people want to know about the recording process. I had kind of forgotten the wonderful Alice in Wonderland feeling of first coming into the studio twenty years ago, and the Pledge campaign reminded me.”
It’s a cliché that the personal is the political, but for Dar Williams, there really is no separating her life from her worldview. And in the face of a shifting world, she is more aware than ever of the power this approach can create.
“I’m now experiencing the fruits of the alternative culture I was part of in the ‘90s,” she says. “I think I’ve made choices about how I lived my life, outside of the world that was going to fit me among the mainstream norms, and I chose to stay with my friends, to stay with my culture.
“That turns out to have been the sturdiest structure I could have built for myself. And that’s in my songs, it’s in my teaching. I’m a believer in what can happen when we make music together.”
Co-Produced with the Ten Pound Fiddle – www.tenpoundfiddle.org.
Amy Haimerl is the author of “Detroit Hustle: A memoir of love, life and home.” It is the story of moving to the Motor City from Brooklyn to rehab a historic house with no water, heat or electricity. But it’s also a meditation on what makes a home and how you find your place in a new city.
She teaches journalism at Michigan State University and covers entrepreneurship and urban policy for such publications as Fortune and the New York Times. She lives in Detroit with her husband, two pitbulls, and a stray cat, that is the boss of them all.
Saturday Day Stage
The WITA Day Stage runs from 1-5pm on the Saturday of the Festival. Access to the day stage is included in the $5 festival pass – you can’t miss it!
Sometimes Y – 1pm
Sometimes Y is Cindy Lehmkuhle, Stephanie Hasley Sarno, and Lisa Sarno. This is a spicy trio, birthed in the musical alleys of Lansing where singer,songwriter, and guitarist Lehmkuhle began collaborating with some of Michigan’s best working musicians. After Lehmkuhle recorded her first album with The Loaners, she founded a more consistent effort with vocalist, keyboardist, and bass player Hasley Sarno. These two struck a sweet balance of harmony and creativity as canvass for their sharp lyrics, inviting melodies, and pure sass. Drummer Sarno joined to empower the group toward bigger sounds and stages and Sometimes Y has found their own way since. They are a unique band and a pleasure to watch time and time again. This year at WITA, Sometimes Y is joined by Rachel Alexander and Markita Moore.
Sistrum, Lansing Women’s Chorus – 2pm
Sistrum is a WITA day stage standard! They are composed of your friends, your community and the cooks behind the festival Sistrum Cafe!
Sistrum creates music that inspires, empowers, and entertains.
Pink Sunrise Project – 3pm
The Pink Sunrise Project is an indie folk experimental collaboration started by Chara Love, and Rebecca Markham in 2015. Their debut was that August, at the Renegade Theatre Festival.
“I met both Rebecca and Sarah hosting local open-mic in 2012. I asked Rebecca to jam and discovered our voices together were mind blowing. ” I have never had that kind of experience collaborating with anyone before. The experience was so creative and organic.” “The mix of her style and mine together was really fun for me to be a part of,”says Chara Love.
The Pink Sunrise Project played The Renegade Theatre festival in 2016. We asked three new wonderful womyn to join us at that event; Kelly Jo Garland (drums) Sarah Garcia-Linz (cello) and Tiffany Rose Bunge (Bass).
Chara Love is a local a singer songwriter from Lansing. She is happy to be invited back to Women in the Arts! She was first invited to Wita in 2006 with the release of her cd “Core.” Chara has been enjoying playing music wherever the opportunity arises. You can find out more about Chara Love’s upcoming shows at:
Rebecca Markham is an aspiring local artist with a wide array of musical and creative interests and endeavors.
Listed below are some examples and snippets of musical creations. Some collaborative and a few original pieces. Rebecca believes that music can change the world, with one pink sunrise at a time.
Kelly Jo Garland is a local standing musician in the community. She has been the sound-person for Women in the Arts for many years.
Sarah Garcia-Linz has been playing cello on and off since she was 8 years old in a variety of capacities. She also collaborates with her partner’s recycled EnviroMental Art (stop by our booth at WITA)!
Tiffany Rose Bunge believes music is life and has been playing bass for about a year in order to live that mantra.
Michaela Anne – 4pm
A staple of the New Nashville scene of progressive indie-country artists, Michaela Anne is a writer with narrative depth and a timeless voice, who can honky-tonk with the best of them. Rolling Stone recently featured her in AmericanaFest 2016: 20 Best Things We Saw.
Since relocating to Nashville (after several years living and performing in Brooklyn), Michaela Anne has achieved new creative heights on her latest release, Bright Lights and the Fame. The album’s catchy, complex songwriting and twangy poise yielded widespread critical praise from The New York Times, Noisey, Rolling Stone, and Stereogum, to name a few. The album features guest cameos from Rodney Crowell, Cory Chisel, and Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers).
“Michaela Anne is the Answer to Bro Country: “Enter Michaela Anne, who has come out of nowhere as our saving grace, our angel, the person who will help usher us into a new age with her latest album Bright Lights and Fame.” –Noisey (VICE)
“A collection of honky-tonkers and poignant ballads, the record evokes the country-rock sound of the Eagles and the emotional vocals of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.” –Rolling Stone Country
” ‘Luisa’ is an energetic highway rambler about hitchhiking to Sacramento. Bolstered by aggressive honky-tonk guitar, rich pedal steel, and a casually commanding lead vocal, it bodes well for Michaela’s upcoming Bright Lights And The Fame.” -Stereogum
“A ravishing female reincarnation of Hank Williams” –Saving Country Music
Learn more at MICHAELAANNE.com
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry – 11am
SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971. SHE’S BEAUTIFUL takes us from the founding of NOW, with ladies in hats and gloves, to the emergence of more radical factions of women’s liberation; from intellectuals like Kate Millett to the street theatrics of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). Artfully combining dramatizations, performance and archival imagery, the film recounts the stories of women who fought for their own equality, and in the process created a world-wide revolution.
SHE’S BEAUTIFUL does not try to romanticize the early movement, but dramatizes it in its exhilarating, quarrelsome, sometimes heart-wrenching glory. The film does not shy away from the controversies over race, sexual preference and leadership that arose in the women’s movement. SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY captures the spirit of the time — thrilling, scandalous, and often hilarious.
That story still resonates today for women who are facing new challenges around reproductive rights and sexual violence, as the film shows present-day activists creating their generation’s own version of feminism. SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY is a film about activists, made to inspire women and men to work for feminism and human rights.