M897 Artist Spotlight: January 2014
Empowered Harmonies by Stella!
An all-star Act of Michigan Songstresses
Story by LCC Radio Staff Reporter Karen Hopper
since we started the M897 Artist Spotlight, we’ve been asking ourselves: when
should Stella! be our featured artist? And finally, the month has come where we
can spend our days celebrating this wonderful distaff country act. Core member
Jen Sygit has a birthday this month, and on January 17th, Stella! will be
performing at the Ten Pound Fiddle with Rachel Davis and August 2013 M897
Spotlight Artist May Erlewine.
Stella! includes Serrapere (formerly of Uncle Earl), Sygit (Lincoln County Process, Calamity Jane, and other projects), and Laura Ann Bates (formerly of Hot Toe Mitty, Bates & Foote, and Calamity Jane). Stella! is auditioning fiddle players to replace Diana Ladio, who left in order to focus on The Moxie Strings (another female-centric Michigan act that you can catch on LCC Radio).
Band founder Jo Serrapere is drawn to country harmonies, both musically and metaphorically. She’s a prolific songwriter and while Stella! could make another record right now, it would be full of her songs alone. And that’s not what she wants for Stella!.
“I already have one thing where it’s just my thing,” says Serrapere. She loves “the girl band feeling” of collaborative work and wants each band member to share her voice.
Stella! was born of necessity and good fortune. Serrapere had just finished a solo album and sent it to the music critic, Springsteen biographer, and former Michigander Dave Marsh. He invited her to come to New York to make another record. The problem? She was all out of new material. She approached Tahmineh Gueramy (formerly of Uncle Earl), who was also playing with Jen Sygit. The quartet was rounded out with Katie Grace. Both Gueramy and Grace have since moved out of state, but they are the voices you hear on that 2009 album Sorry, Stella
When you catch a Stella! show nowadays, you’ll here tunes that weren’t on that first album. Serrapere wants the band to be “a songwriter band,” but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear great covers. Sygit hopes to record a cover of “Magnolia Wind.” As for originals, she hopes that a Serrapere tune called “Turn My TV on Again” will make it onto the next album.
Stella! is a Michigan band, but it’s harder to pin a narrower location to the band, with Sygit sporting a 517 area code and Serrapere firmly in the 313—a relevant fact before a show, as they tend to text each other to try to color coordinate their outfits.