Rabbi Jason Miller
Rusted Root front man Michael Glabicki brings his new band to Metro Detroit.
The JCC Ethan & Gretchen Davidson Music Festival returns for its second year at the Berman Center for Performing Arts.
The festival, held May 24-27, offers an innovative approach to arts and music festivals, showcasing three artists for three nights of extraordinary music. Project Trio will perform May 24 (at Go Comedy! Improv Theatre in Ferndale) and Grammy-winning Marc Cohn, well-known for his hit “Walking in Memphis,” will perform on May 26. Rusted Root’s Michael Glabicki will bring his solo project, Uprooted, to the festival on May 27.
Glabicki is the founder and lead singer of the multiplatinum band Rusted Root, which formed almost 30 years ago in Pittsburgh, and has collaborated with the likes of Santana, the Allman Brothers Band and Led Zeppelin. The band is known for its fusion of acoustic, rock and world music, and Glabicki promises to continue playing Rusted Root’s entire catalog of music on tour with re-inspired versions, as well as bringing new and exciting music under the new name of Uprooted, his new touring band.
Glabicki talked to the JN’s Contributing Writer Rabbi Jason Miller (a longtime Rusted Root fan) about the tour, his musical influences, spirituality, depression — and what to expect when Uprooted comes to the Davidson Music Festival.
Rabbi Jason Miller: Tell me a little bit about Uprooted and the inspiration behind it.
Michael Glabicki: Uprooted came about because I was doing a lot of writing and getting into different writing techniques. I’ve really come up with a lot of different sounds, grooves and ways of laying out the different lyrics and vocals of the songs. It’s a really explosive and prolific time for me to be putting this all together. I just kind of felt like it was taking a trajectory that was off the Rusted Root path.
RJM: What can we expect when you bring Uprooted to the Davidson Musical Festival?
MG: Some of the artists were in the Rusted Root touring band so I’ve worked with them in different ways. We’re a very intuitive band. There’s a lot of chemistry when I’m in the room with them so it just very easily flows. What I’m trying to do is create a safe environment where whatever happens happens, meaning that we can come in one day and play something completely different than what we did the previous day. It really comes down to just living in the moment where whatever we feel like that day is what is going to inspire the arrangement of the songs. So, when we get on stage, we’re just going to be who we are and it’s going to be a big surprise to us.
RJM: Liz Berlin [member of Rusted Root] is Jewish and her father, Cantor Rick Berlin, was at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s cantorial school. Do you personally have any connection to Judaism?
MG: My sister converted to Judaism about five years ago. She married a Jewish guy, so I’ve been to some of the ceremonies. I love it and I think it’s a great community kind of feel. I was at their daughter’s bat mitzvah and it was beautiful.
RJM: Your music incorporates so many diverse styles. Who are your influences?
MG: Probably the earliest one would be Cat Stevens. When I was 6 years old, I’d listen to the 8-track of The Greatest Hits of Cat Stevens that my parents had. I’d just sit down under the dining room table and just experience his songwriting. I think the acoustic aspect of what he was doing probably touched me at an early age. That’s what drove me to play Rusted Root music on an acoustic guitar at first. In my first year of college I dropped out because I had depression, but songwriting helped me to feel a whole lot better. That’s when I decided to become a songwriter.
RJM: Talk to me about your love of instruments. I know you play the penny whistle and some other unusual instruments.
MG: When I was figuring out the vision for the band, I spent a good two years figuring out what I wanted the landscape of the music to be. I was on electric guitar at the time and that was my world. I was thinking, “What am I missing here … what would fill out the music? How could I bring the colors in that were needed?” When I heard John Buynak, who had a lot of really cute instruments that were spontaneous and full of laughter, I think that’s when it clicked. When I heard him play the penny whistles and the flutes, I was like, “OK, that’s it.”
The JCC Ethan & Gretchen Davidson Music Festival will be held May 24-27 at the Berman Center for Performing Arts (unless otherwise noted). A marketplace at the festival on May 26-27 will include visual artists, artisans and food vendors, including food trucks. Theberman.org.