I went to the 6th Annual Above the Bridge Songwriters Weekend (6/20-6/23) not knowing exactly what to expect. Presented by the Erickson Center for the Arts, in the town of Curtis, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it was my first songwriter’s retreat of any kind. Festivities took place mostly at the historic Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn, with a Saturday night concert at the Erickson Center. “Above the Bridge” is a reference to the northern-most of Michigan’s two peninsulas, connected by the magnificent Mackinac Bridge. I’d heard raves about ATB from friends who had attended in previous years, so when this year’s event was announced some months ago, I decided that it was time to see for myself. Participants range from beginning songwriters (there were some who wrote their first songs ever this past weekend) to those with professional credentials and CDs under their belts.
I went to ATB confident of my skills in performing and writing, looking more to just hang out with a bunch of songwriters and musicians than anything else. I can’t say I didn’t “learn” anything, however, because I certainly did, on a number of levels. I did opt to present three songs for critiques from staff members and participants, in small, five person groups. I presented one new song, and two that I wrote about 35 years ago. I’m very excited about the new song; it breaks new structural ground for me, and addresses two of my favorite pastimes, playing harmonica (or “blowin’ a little horn”) and drinking Michigan-made India Pale Ales. The two older ones were written in classic country and country-rock ballad styles respectively, and while I was generally happy with them, I had a few minor issues with each that I was looking for feedback on. All three were very well received, with only minor cosmetic changes suggested for the youngster. The positive reinforcement was most appreciated, and all three are strong candidates for the next CD.
Last weekend turned out to be every bit as great as I hoped and expected it might be. After three nights of gigging in mid-Michigan and the Traverse Bay-Leelanau region, I’m still trying to process it all, it went by so quickly!
On Thursday, I booked up to a little lake just north of Mount Pleasant to hang with my dear friends Charlie Walmsley and Melinda Prout, before heading into town to open for the debut Charlie’s new folk-rock band, “Crazy Chester” at Rubbles (seen in Robert Allan Barclay’s photo on the right, with yours truly). Fans of The Band and Dylan will undoubtedly understand the name Crazy Chester. It set the tone for the next two evenings, as the crowd noise was considerable, but the attendees were VERY appreciative. The one thing I learned from this is that it’s probably time to finally buy pickups for these acoustic 12-strings of mine. My operatives tell me that Fishman is the way to go, so I’ll investigate further. The Dark Horse Crooked Tree IPA proved to be a fine libation to whet this harmonicat’s whistle. Crazy Chester sounded great, and the crowd was totally with them. I see a fine future for these boys, and I hope we can gig together again sometime soon!
I’m really excited to be performing in northern Michigan wine country during the weekend of June 14-15. Great things are happening with food, wine AND music in the Grand Traverse-Leelanau region, and it’s always a special treat to return and plug into the scene again.
On Friday, the 14th, I’ll be playing at Left Foot Charley Winery (on the patio, weather permitting), from 6-8:30 PM. I’ve been a big fan of LFC since before the doors of the winery/tasting room were even opened, so this will be great fun. Owner/winemaker Bryan Ulbrich has threatened to pull out his mandolin and bass and join me, so who knows what kind of musical mischief we might throw down?! Fabulous Michigan wine and cider and homegrown Michigan music make a great pairing.
On Saturday, the 15th, I’ll be playing at The Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern in Leland (on the patio, weather permitting), from 9 PM until midnight or later. The Bluebird has been owned and operated by the Telgard family since 1927, and Skip Telgard and I became friends through virtual wine-related correspondences more than 10 years ago, going back to the early days of my Gang of Pour adventures. Great food, great wine and beer and a beautiful location make The Bluebird a very special destination spot in northern Michigan, and I’m really looking forward to playing and singing there!
Finally, while considering my trip up north, I asked my buddy Charlie Walmsley if I could pay him a visit on Thursday, the 13th, in order to break up the drive, and he had a better idea, saying, “Why don’t you open for my new folk-rock band, Crazy Chester, that night. We’re playing at Rubbles Bar, in Mt. Pleasant.” Brilliant idea, Charlie!!!
Welcome to the soft-launch of georgeheritier.com, my website/blog for all my music-related activities. It was designed and built by Kim Adams, my darling wife and companion, and I’m very pleased and excited to take this next step in growing this music thing of mine! I call it a soft-launch, not because there will be some big, splashy announcement sometime in the future, but, rather, because there won’t. This is it. I didn’t do a CD Release Party when “In My Element” came out, either. I’m quite content with proceeding quietly and organically, and that’s the tune I’ll be playing for the foreseeable future.
One of the obvious objectives of this blog is to announce upcoming performances, and, in that regard, I’ll be participating in this coming Sunday’s (May 19) “Songwriters in the Round,” taking place at the Midland Brewing Co., located at 5011 N. Saginaw, in Midland, Michigan, from 3-5 PM. A lot of very fine singer-songwriters have performed in this series, and it’s such an honor to have the opportunity to sing some of my own songs there. I’ll be sharing the stage with two fine songwriters, Carrie Treder and Pete Kehoe, so if you’re in the neighborhood, stop in, have a brew and take a listen. I can personally vouch for the Brothers IPA, which is eminently satisfying for a hophead such as myself!
So happy yo be returning to my home town of Bay City, MI on April 11 to perform at Bemos.