Earthwork Music is a collective of independent musicians who focus their efforts on environmental advocacy, social justice, creative empowerment and community building.
Named after Earthwork Farm, the collective's place of origin in Missaukee County, Earthwork has become a Michigan treasure, having developed a collaborative musical platform, a legion of alliances and an epic soundtrack for community resilience in the Great Lakes region and beyond.
Born from the American roots tradition and united in place and purpose, Earthwork Music has created a new model as a collective of independent artists using music as a tool to raise awareness, to mentor the youth, to build community and celebrate local culture, to uplift individuals and communities in times of need, and to encourage courageous engagement in the good work that needs to be done, both locally and globally. We have created a versatile organization that serves the community to which it's members all proudly belong. A cultural presence that grew from the ground up and belongs to the people. An organization that releases albums, supports small farmers and facilitates music programs for kids. An alliance of songsters that has cultivated long term working relationships with a wide range of groups and individuals engaged in social justice and environmental work, and most of all, between musicians, across genre and age, across the region.
Earthwork Music has actively fostered a musical culture of cooperation, collaboration and mutual admiration, aimed at honoring the elders and serving the young people. And we all have a whole lot of fun playing music together.
Who is going to do this when the older generation is done?
In the past few years, the question has been answered by a younger generation of roots/folk musicians, who, in the spirit of friendship, artistic creativity and love of their state, have helped turned the traditional expression into a growing community spanning almost every corner of Michigan.
Earthwork music is more than a record label. What it is, in sum, is hard to describe, hard even to see out to the fractal edges of where Earthwork's work ends and all the other things I love begin. But I know where to start, and to start is to say that the Michigan music scene is f#@$ing amazing. Foundationally, the whole thing rests on affection. Musicians respect each other, play together in endless iteration, look out for each other, and build each other up. And they wail. And holler. And groove, and shred, and blow. And amalgamate genres with such vigor that the roots of great American music coil up through the knotholes in the floorboards and envelop the whole state like kudzu.
And for me, here's where it gets interesting. My own work is in prototyping new ways for communities to thrive, integrating art and ecology and agriculture to make strong the bonds between people and the land, and to swap out the tired trends of corporate consumer culture for one that restores and enlivens. Heady, heavy stuff, with lots of small bits struggling to swarm together-and here's the thing-there's not an iota of it that's not somehow tied into the work of Earthwork Music.
The basics: a killer fiddle combo that plays our local square dances; the contingent of players that sits in on dozens of benefits a year, my own and many others. The songs, written to honor and eulogize our friends and heroes, to scaffold our missions, to amplify our words, instruct us, inspire us and strengthen our resolve, and celebrate, all coming from deep in our collective heart.
And further afield: Harvest Gathering, a three day festival with 90+ acts gathering on Seth Bernard's family farm every year, and which is generally the most human, positive, collectively joyful experience I've seen happen with any kind of regularity (and not just for the hacky sack crowd, either). Or, the On Stage 4 Kids program, where ever-morphing trios (many led by our own Joshua Davis) play schools all over the state, not only giving kids a taste of some seriously good live music, but talking about the history and traditions of Michigan music and what it means to make a living and a life as a songwriter.
And even beyond that (into the beyonda), because the human-ness of each member is so front and center, and so their music is tied into their own lives, their kin, their communities, and their work. Each musician is a minute fractal bit extending the Earthwork movement millimeters further into the crevices of Michigan folklife (that is, the life of us folks) and tying disparate good things together. Oh, and they make some damn fine records too.
Professionally speaking, SEEDS considers members of the Earthwork Music Collective to be critical education partners. Whether we are using catchy tunes to encourage healthy eating or engaging youth in creative expression, working with members of the Earthwork Collective is fun and the outcomes are of high quality.
We engage members of the Earthwork Music Collective as specialist instructors because we get solid musicianship from artists sincerely interested in youth development. Through this partnership, we've seen wallflowers bloom and heard healing from youth who have been shattered.
Students who work with Earthwork gain inspiration to tackle life. And it's not just kids, I've been healed and inspired countless times myself, listening to May sing about Dust, seeing the Collective live in concert and by volunteering at the annual Harvest Gathering. What further commendation can I offer? Well, Seth and May and Josh and Fawcett helped orchestrate my wedding ceremony. My respect goes that deep.
The Earthwork Music collective believes in the intrinsic and historical power of music to raise both community and self-awareness and serves to facilitate and encourage original music in the state of Michigan and beyond.