among Michigan’s own “tree town,” lives a unique species of string music. Rooted
in acoustic Americana, Southern jazz, folk and Dixie gypsy, a foursome by the
name of The Appleseed Collective grows in Ann Arbor.
The Appleseed Collective is made up of Brandon Smith (violin, mandolin, fiddle),
Andrew Brown (guitar, vocals), Vince Russo (washboard, drums, vocals), and Eric
O’ Daly (bass). All rooted in Great Lakes pride, this group is a band-divided.
Part of its members hail from Ann Arbor while one bleeds green, from Lansing.
While it could prove for some rivalry, the band jokes there’s no football
rivalry on account of they were too busy playing music to be “exposed” to
Jokes are abundant within The Appleseed Collective, but its not to say they
aren’t serious musicians.
Dabbling with all genres, the band’s personalities help create rich, diverse,
unique blends of music, ranging from rock, jazz, Americana, folk and classical
Eric spoke about the band’s influences.
“We’re influenced by most American music that comes to the United States … the
whole gamut of stuff,” he said. “We’re not like a traditional band, we’re
working with the sound; a unique angle to it.”
“I would just say one word- uniquer,” Brandon joked.
“One of our band strengths is that we kind of throw a party that the old folkies
and the young hippies both like, and a lot of people in between,” Andrew said.
While the band does bring a nontraditional twist to old-timey music, it’s an
angle that often changes from night to night. Their live shows vary greatly,
given the band’s willingness to allow mixing things up unannounced.
“We don’t have an amazing smoke and light show,” Eric said. “We try to rely on
the musicianship. We all play our instruments; there’s a lot of improvisation, a
lot of communication musically between people; a lot of room for newer,
surprising things to happen between us.”
Their live shows recently made it to their latest five-song EP, “Tour Tapes,” a
sort of documentation of life while on the road. The band spoke about their
newest musical release, calling it the band’s “new mission statement.”
“It was all recorded live,” Eric said, “there are no overdubs, all the tracks
that are on it are exactly how they were performed live in those places, in
The band spent a couple of weeks on the road off of the East Coast, with their
friend and shot a mini-documentary. The tour tapes can be found on YouTube.
“It will be a song that’s on the album, us performing it live and then usually
some sort of little clip of our lives,” Brandon said.
While the band’s name would give clues that the group welcomes collaboration,
there is one thing that doesn’t happen collectively.
of us write, but we don’t write collectively,” Eric said, “We arrange the music
collectively. Andrew, Brandon and myself will have a song basically written and
we’ll bring it to the band and workshop it. We kind of figure out how we want to
play it, or we kick around different arrangement ideas. There’s three distinct
songwriters with pretty different styles that gives us a wider range of things
With those distinct songwriters, personalities, senses of humor and musical
backgrounds, its no wonder no Appleseed Collective concert sounds the same as
the next one. They all grew up loving music, learned to play and studied with
different teachers, and played with many different bands over the years.
“I come from a musical family,” Andrew said, “My dad was a Motown session
While the band is made up of full-time musicians, it’s a role they said is not
common these days, though they’re happy to fill it.
“We’re not in the golden age of music anymore, where it’s a huge industry,” Eric
said. “Now it’s a little bit harder again, when someone has an iPod that has all
of the greatest musicians in it from the last 40 years on it- that they can just
put on at their party … it’s a lot different from the seventies where they
didn’t have that, and if they wanted to have a dope party, they would pay a live
band to come and play.”
“So now, you have to put on a better show than a DJ,” Andrew said.
The Appleseed Collective has found itself in fruitful relationships with other
Michigan musicians, including friendship with The Accidentals, and fans of
Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, The Go-Rounds, Steppin’ In It, Ben Ralston and
gave loyal shout-outs to Motown mainstays Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
band spoke about the supportive Michigan music scene.
“There are so many talented musicians from this area,” Eric said. “I don’t know
how much has to do with the Motown kind of era, and the fact that Detroit has
been a hot bed of music of all kinds- especially jazz, blues and R&B. Also,
there’s a really strong folk music community. We’re part of a group of musicians
called Earthwork music- it’s a collective of musicians and farmers and stuff,
just people who are interested in building the community and being involved with
life itself, not just the arts. It’s really cool, and really supportive.”
The band recently played an intimate show at Lansing’s newest live music venue,
The Robin Theatre in REO Town. The guys spoke about the unique theater in
comparison to other places they’ve played across the country.
“Unless you’re a kind of hard rock band, like electric, there’s not that many
places to play that are kind of listening rooms,” Eric said of the Lansing area.
“Just having a small theater which is a crowd of people who are all there to see
the music, nobody’s here to drink and eat, it allows us to use all of our
abilities to the fullest extent.”
“If you’re in a loud bar, you can’t get really quiet and intense and draw people
in like that, because you have to compete … where in a small theater, you can
really explore dynamic range and reach people on an intimate level, which is
nice,” he said.
You can get even more intimate with the band as they are on tour this month all
across the nation- with stops in Brookyln, and Hamtramck, Michigan as well as
NY, VT ME, NH, NJ and MA.
On June 4, The Appleseed Collective will be at Pumpstock Music Festival in East