“Seth’s playing just feels like he’s channeling ancients—it’s beyond technique.”
Seth Bernard’s journey—from potent young Interlochen Center for the Arts idealist to iconic troubadour of the Great Lakes region—has been rooted in the woods and water, soil and soul of Michigan. Born on Earthwork Farm in Lake City on April Fools Day 1980, Bernard has been playing the trickster-bard ever since.
Seth came to an understanding early that music, poetry and art, along with activism, farming and earth science, all intertwine into one great work. Probably because of the crowded farm dinner table, where books of poetry, tapes of jazz, blues, rock n’ roll and traditional music, guests of all kinds, and even the occasional raptor being rehabbed all shared space. Some folks call this “folklife,” and in Seth’s music it’s as likely to show up through a Casio SK-1 or a Gretsch electric as much as a fiddle or high harmony.
“Michigan proved to be the most richly varied region for folk music that I had ever visited,” said Alan Lomax. Listening to these old voices and resisting the siren song of Nashville, Austin, or NYC, Seth decided to root his work and his music in rural Michigan. That choice has led to a uniquely Michigan musical anatomy, which ties ongoing inventiveness (most clearly on display with the Eggtones quadrilogy, released from 2016 to 2018) to a commitment to a great live show, whether on NPR or at SXSW or sharing a stage with the likes of John Prine, Patty Griffin, Daniel Johnston and Greg Brown. Most importantly, it ties Seth and his music to a life of work on behalf of the youth, equity, water and community throughout the Great Lakes.
Even as COVID limited live performance, Seth used the time to produce two quarantine albums, 2020’s lo-fi home recording Let Love Light the Way and 2021’s My Heart is My Home, calling in performances from friends like Theo Katzman (Vulfpeck) and Dave Bruzza (Greensky Bluegrass). These two solo albums bring the total to twelve in a career that now spans two decades.
Like a true old-school folkie, he writes and plays the songs because they mean something, and that something they mean drives a life beyond just playing songs.