Even if you’re not from the Midwest, it might remind you of home. The lakes, the plains, and the woods welcome visitors with a palpable warmth proudly shared by the locals. The area maintains its reputation as the “Heartland” for a reason — it holds the beating heart of America.
Michigander emanates this spirit, delivering uplifting anthems lifted even higher by six-string fireworks, empowering lyrics, and understated arena ambition. Garnering 3 million-plus streams and the acclaim of NPR, Paste, NME, Metro Times and more by 2019, the sonic alter ego of Michigan native, singer, producer, and guitarist Jason Singer bottles the feeling of the region on the 2019 EP, Where Do We Go From Here [C3 Records].
“I’ve always loved the Midwest,” he exclaims. “I don’t ever see myself leaving. Everybody gravitates towards the coasts, but I love it here. It’s homey. We have seasons. Everything is close together. My motto is, ‘It’s not about where you are, but who you’re with.’ Well, everyone I love is here. I’d rather be with people I care about back here than be alone in the best place in the world. The music speaks to all of that.”
Of course, the story starts in Michigan — Midland, to be exact. Adopted at three-weeks-old, Jason gravitated towards music at a young age. He found an old classical guitar in the closet and taught himself how to play with a chord chart “from a guy at church.” In between piano lessons, he listened to everyone from James Taylor, The White Stripes, and Rush to Britpop a la Oasis, Coldplay, and Arctic Monkeys. Opting to forego college, he snuck off to play cover sets for 400 bucks a pop at night in bars and coffee shops alone.
Relocating to Kalamazoo, he brought Michigander to life during 2014. The independent single “Nineties” took off, claiming real estate on Spotify playlists such as Indie All Stars, Viral Hits, and Indie 2017 and cracking 1 million streams on the platform. Between releasing the 2018 Midland EP, the group shared the stage with the likes of Ra Ra Ra Riot, Tokyo Police Club, Twin Peaks, and JR JR in addition to gracing the stages of festivals with alt-j, Solange, Foster The People, and Run The Jewels, to name a few.
Signed to C3 Records, he recorded Where Do We Go From Here and expanded the sound in 2019. Jason wrote everything in his bedroom over the course of six months and followed a thematic thread inspired by his recent move back to Kalamazoo from Midland. Co-producing alongside Jake Rye, he emphasized the prominence of solos — in every song — making what he aptly describes as, “big pop songs disguised with guitars.”
“There’s a thread through it all, which is something I always wanted,” he affirms. “It’s a little bit more honest too. I spent more time on individual instrumentation. I had the time to do so, since this is the first project where music was my main job. Everything is more dialed in. I was very adamant about the guitars too.”
Michigander introduced the EP with “Circles” where echoing feedback envelopes Jason’s gruff delivery as he asks, “Where do we go from here?” Meanwhile, the single “Poplar” throttles forward on a wave of lush keys and sweeping riffs before a heavenly and hypnotic lead that swells into a powerful coda as he urges, “So hold me and never let me go.”
“The song is about losing the focus of why I’m doing this,” he admits. “It’s my job, but I also want to affect audiences in a positive way. I’m rediscovering why I do it and the purpose. It’s named after a neighborhood in Philadelphia where we played a show I hated. There’s a lot going on in there.”
The EP culminates on the intimate “94.” Named after a highway that bisects Kalamazoo, acoustic guitar bleeds into pedal steel from Bon Iver collaborator Ben Lester. Stark lyrical confessions of road weariness instantly strike a chord as his voice carries the line, “The world’s on fire, and I’m next in line.”
He adds, “When you’re touring all the time, you’re gone a lot, which makes it hard to maintain relationships and friendships. I’m sorry for wasting everybody’s time and mine. Life happens at home; it doesn’t pause when you’re gone.”
Ultimately, you’ll feel at home listening to Michigander — just like you would driving through the Midwest.
“When people hear this, I want them to realize it’s okay to take their time, figure things out, and change their minds as they need to,” he leaves off. “As I’m getting older, I realize how important it is just to take a moment to breathe. I hope I can give everyone that.”