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December 2016 - Tell Yo Mama

Tell Yo Mama They're Funkin' Up the Capital City

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

When a few friends began late-night jamming with their drums, guitar and bass on a summer evening in Lansing, there wasn’t much of a plan besides enjoying the music. After continual creative hangouts, Tell Yo MamaRaymond Crane, Mike Loomis and Adrian Bryant soon realized the potential for a band. Enter Lucas Holliday, Jacque Baldori and Eric Kloeckner, and you have the rhythm and blues funk rock band Tell Yo Mama.

After the band came together in August of 2014, the mission was simple: embrace the positive feelings and often therapeutic effects of the music. After coining themselves with a quirky name, the real fun began for the group. The band, made up of Jacque Baldori (vocals, percussion), Lucas Holliday (vocals), Eric Kloeckner (keys, blues harp, percussion, recording, sound engineering, production), MIchael Loomis (guitar), Raymond Crane (drums, percussion, vocals, recording, sound engineering, production, manager), Marty Mclean (saxophone, keys, percussion, vocals), Adrian Bryant (bass), recalls their early days.

“We played a lot of cover-song-based shows and mixed in original material as we wrote it,” they said. “We were pretty busy playing just about every club in Lansing and several surrounding towns. We traveled as far as Saugatuck and Traverse City in that first year or so. We played 58 shows the first year.”

Tell Yo Mama’s first demo was self-produced by band member Raymond Crane the following summer and the group continued to gain loyal local fans from their time spent on the stage. In fall of 2015, Marty Mclean joined the band, and the group released an updated demo and re-evaluated their sonic footprint. The lineup hasn’t changed since then, but the band’s trajectory has certainly been on the up-and-up lately.

Tell Yo Mama (TYM) vocalist Lucas Holliday has seen his own share of insta-stardom via a Facebook video of him singing while working as a cashier at Dollar General. The video features Holliday ringing up customers, singing Maxwell’s 1996 hit “Ascension,” has been seen over 600,000 times, and the number continues to grow daily. The viral video even landed him a webcam appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the chance to sing with Maxwell during his Detroit stop at the Palace of Auburn Hills within the same month.

Not only is Lucas gaining national attention for his voice, the band is also embracing the newfound fans and attention.

“It has been great for the band. He has his own star power from that video and we are all in his corner; but naturally, it has helped to propel our band to new heights as well. We are working on new material at Tell Yo Mamaa feverish pace to try and keep the fire lit. This has necessitated us to step up our game through social media, booking, and management and close family legal counsel. It always helps to have good help from honest and trustworthy people,” the band said.

Even before the recent social media frenzy, the band had a following with its Michigan music fans, especially after landing second place at the Q106 Hometown Throwdown. The annual event, held at The Loft in Lansing, often features heavy rock and metal bands, but the funky rhythm and blues band certainly held their own in the stiff competition.

“We brought a lot of energy and at times we can be pretty rock-oriented,” they said. “Some of us have a long history with metal and heavy music. If you lose something like that, you can’t be a pissy pants and whine or make excuses. The winners, Past Tense deserved that number one spot! They had an army there and played very well. That large of a following happens when a band works hard and plays even better.”

Things are looking even better these days, as Facebook fans of the band continue to grow and live shows continue to be booked.

“As James Brown said, '90% business and 10% show,' it really takes a lot of time and hard work. Each band member performs managerial tasks at times, and helps out in the self-described less-than-fun-side of the band duties. Jacque Baldori is also very instrumental in the operation of the less-than-fun side of band duties," TYM said.

After releasing their first full length album on Nov.12, the band has entered into its third phase. And you can bet phase three includes even more funky jams, more bluesy beats, more soulful soundscapes and more opportunities to evolve.

Just as opportunities evolve, so does the band’s songwriting process.

“It’s really about evolution,” TYM said. “A person will have an idea that is quickly tossed around, changed and molded into something new. Many times Mike or Ray will have an idea and it is sent on a crazy juxtaposition over a funky bass line from Adrian or a mean sax lick by Marty. Then lyrics are added and the music is made to reinforce that vocal message. The process has changed over time and different methods have been employed to prevent things from getting stale. Lately we have been changing that and writing music for the words more.”

No matter if the music or lyrics come first, the band remains true to the heart of music, in a sometimes commercialized, oversaturated industry. The seven-piece outfit continues to keep creating music for the love of it, and knows that without the heart and soul of longtime blues and soul singers loves like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and James Brown, Luther Vandross and more, the band probably wouldn’t be around.

“Blues is the foundation of most popular music,” TYM said. “Some styles might sound different now but it probably came from the blues. We all have a respect for this genre and songs of ours like “Louder than sin” show off that love and respect. The Green Door is one of our favorite places in town. It is far from the strict blues bar it once was but that is good for groups like Tell Yo Mama.”

Factor in current influences like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Adele, and Snarky Puppy which continue to shape and inspire the diverse members of TYM, encouraging “celebratory dance and improvisational camaraderie amongst band mates.”

Tell Yo Mama’s latest material, their first full-length album didn’t come without some hiccups. Two computers crashed and five different ones were utilized to transfer files during the recording process. Tell Yo MamaDeadlines left the band with only a month for the post-production, done by band members Eric Kloeckner and Raymond Crane.

“We sent in the final cuts only a week or so before our release show on Nov. 12, 2016. Many of the tunes we re-wrote and added to. From the time we started to completion, some songs had transformed drastically. It truly was an arduous process, but rewarding all the same,” TYM said.

Now the group is left to work on even more new tunes and play catch-up to the attention of its band member Lucas’ video. They’re busy organizing social media pages, website updates and increasing content. Also on the agenda is to release single songs on a monthly basis, with possible future tour dates are in the works.

Armed with tremendous talent and high hopes of turning this into a profession, TYM is well on their way to their dreams of national stages and stadiums and rubbing elbows with idols. They’re out there doing their part, so now it’s your turn to spread the news about this funky rhythm and blues band: it’s time to tell your friends, your sister, your brother, and you betcha – tell yo mama.


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