Going "Beyond the Beyonda"

06/01/2014 at 12:38pm EST

Reveling in his role as a brand new father, the driving force behind Earthwork Music credits Michigan's "awesome music community" for bolstering his latest recording.

By John Sinkevics

Mid-Michigan singer-songwriters and new parents Seth Bernard and May Erlewine made sure their baby daughter, Iris, was immersed in the music they’ve long been passionate about – even before she was born earlier this year.

"Iris was in the womb for about 100 shows and we listened to Stevie Wonder’s 'Songs in the Key of Life' over and over in her first week, so we are off to a good start as a musical family," says Bernard.

"I find myself singing to my daughter Iris all the time. She is especially comforted by beatboxing and chanting. We’ll see what my next record sounds like. It has changed things, for sure, and I have enjoyed being more of a homebody for these last couple of months."

That situation has changed in recent weeks as Bernard gives up his “homebody” persona to tour behind his brand new album, “Reconciliation & The Musical Beyonda,” an epic 17-track affair recorded over 1-1/2 years with co-producer Ian Gorman at La Luna and Double Phelix Studios in Kalamazoo. He’ll perform at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, with special guests Joshua Davis, Max Lockwood and Gregory Stovetop. Admission is $5.

The wide-ranging project ranges from tender, acoustic folk to electric guitar-driven, full-bore roots rock, with Bernard calling on his Earthwork Music buddies and a who’s who roster of Michigan musicians to deliver what he himself calls “a long, dense, eclectic collection that holds a lot of weight in terms of the life experiences I went through during its creation."

"I hope to build upon my previous work each time I make a record and I believe that we have really served this batch of songs well in terms of orchestration, production and overall vibe," says the Lake City native. "I lost a few of the great inspirations in my life – David Fetzer, Pat Carroll, Bob Russell and my grandma, Jeannette Bernard – to whom this record is dedicated, and I was able to channel my grief and also a lot of the blessings that come with being part of an awesome musical community."

Of course, Bernard and Erlewine have been an integral part of building Michigan’s “awesome musical community” for many years: As principal drivers of the Earthwork Music collective, the pair has cranked out 18 albums (three as a duo), including Bernard’s new album and Erlewine’s "Where We Are," being released June 19, as well as collaborated with countless other artists.

Many of them pitched in on Bernard’s project, including Erlewine, Gorman, Michael Shimmin, Dominic Davis, Rachael Davis, Joshua Davis, Dan Rickabus, Graham Parsons, Peter “Madcat” Ruth and many more – even the Kalamazoo Family Choir.

Despite "sleep deprivation" as a new father, Bernard is promoting the new album by touring behind it and conducting a host of media interviews.

He also has released a video for "Beyond the Beyonda," which was shot in the studio the night he recorded the song. Check out that video below, along with a Local Spins review of the new album at right.
"I’ve always wanted to rent a hot air balloon and put album art and the Earthwork logo on it," he jokes. "I would have to be in it, too. But I didn’t put it in the budget this time around, though my Kickstarter backers were very generous."

Bernard also stresses that he couldn’t have done it without the support of Erlewine, who managed to create her entire new album while pregnant, recording most of it over five days in January.
"We make a good team, backing each other up and sharing the workload," he reasons. “We also are each other’s sounding board for new songs, arrangement ideas and anything else.

"Having our personal creative process to channel out life experience into work that we share with people is such a big part of our lives. We’ve been through a lot in the last couple of years. and we are excited to have a lot of new music to share as a result."

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