By Jeffery L. Carey Jr.
On a cold January evening at Flint’s Soggy Bottom Bar, the Katie Stanley Band released its new extended play (EP) album titled Lake Superior to a very warm audience. The band, comprised of singer/songwriter Katie Stanley; bassist Tammy Pendleton; and drummer Michelle McAuley, released the new EP Jan. 18 with the release show on Jan 19. The show also featured opening artists Dylan Grantham of Young Ritual and Cory Mark Glover.
Stanley, 31, was born in Fenton, but has local ties, “I’m an only child,” she said. “I have lived in Flint in the past and grew up playing shows in the area.”
By day, she’s a fair housing attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Michigan and serves on several nonprofit boards in the City, including Factory Two Makerspace, the Flint Local 432 Performing Arts Venue, and the Flint Community Housing Resource Board. She also serves on several local committees, one of them being Girls Rock Flint, an organization whose mission is to empower marginalized youth in Flint to believe in themselves by providing a supportive environment that fosters self-expression, confidence, and community building through music education and performance.
Stanley’s drummer, Michelle McAuley, is a banking compliance officer and the bassist, Tammy Pendleton, is a pharmacist. Both live in Flint. The band members write all their own music. Occasionally they cover a song, but the songs on their three EP’s are all original.
“In Flint, my fondest memories were formed at the Flint Local 432 where I grew up playing,” Stanley said. “Some of my fondest musical memories include my grandmother playing ragtime, my dad singing James Taylor songs, and my mom and I practicing together before school.”
Stanley brings a rich background in music to her role as front person for the band. “I’ve tried most string instruments and briefly took drum lessons,” she said. “Now, I mostly play and write on guitar and piano. I also often play banjo, baritone ukulele, harmonica, and mandolin.”
Stanley’s family is also highly musical–her dad is a guitar teacher, and her mom is a piano teacher. Stanley’s maternal grandmother sold and played pianos. “It was always something that was in the family,” Stanley said. “Since I was born I’ve been exposed to music. I can’t imagine and wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“My parents still teach guitar and piano lessons to this day,” Stanley said. “My grandmother was an incredible piano player and also owned a local piano store in Flint.”
Her paternal grandfather’s cousin, Ralph Stanley, was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and has been dubbed the patriarch of bluegrass. He was a banjo player, singer, and songwriter whose work influenced the earliest bluegrass style.
“The first songs I ever learned were classical piano, since I couldn’t hold a guitar until some years later. I had my first piano recital at threeyears old,” Stanley said. “My earliest and fondest memories with my family all involve music.”
Lake Superior is Katie Stanley’s third EP with the previous releases being, When in Roam and Canary in the Coal Mine. Asked how they came up with the name of their band, Stanley said, “Well, we couldn’t think of one, so it just stayed ‘Katie Stanley’and we added ‘Band’at the end. Very creative, ha!”
The folk and country sound of the Katie Stanley Band combines influences from many sources, including Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats, Gregory Alan Isokov, Etta James, Carol King, and Motown or blues artists.
“One of my dogs is actually named Sam after Sam Cooke who is one of my favorite singers,” Stanley said. “The other is named Bader after Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”
Opening at the Soggy Bottom release show was Dylan Grantham, 23, of Young Ritual. Born and raised in Flint, Grantham stated, “I would consider myself Indie/Alternative/Americana and some influences would be Father John Misty, Randy Newman, Chris Warren, and The National.”
“I’ve been playing music since I was just a little kid,” Grantham said. “I was born here, and I’ve stayed here and I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Katie for probably a decade now, so we’ve played together a few times.”
Grantham said he first met Katie at his cousin’s open house years ago. “She played a set there, and I was immediately taken by her voice,” he recalled.
Glover. 37, has been playing music for about18 years, but admits the past 10 or so years have been pretty casual and more of a hobby. “I was born in Flint and spent most of my 20s working and hanging out in the town,” Glover said, “but now I live in Ferndale outside of Detroit.”
“I play with Katie a few times a year,” Glover stated. “I definitely think our music informs each other. I think if you sat us all down and had a group-chat we would have similar threads of influences. I love Katie’s soulful singing and take on the genre and Dylan has a performance aesthetic and lyrics that are amazing.”
Outside of the Soggy Bottom Bar. Katie Stanley has toured through the southern states, up the East Coast, through a bit of Canada and back. “I toured with some friends just after I graduated high school,” Stanley said. “We all crammed into a tiny Saturn, including all of our bags, instruments, and a cello that whoever rode in the back had to keep across their laps. It overheated more than once and we didn’t plan anywhere to sleep for the entire tour. Luckily, we always had some where to crash.”
Asked how she balances her music with other parts of her life Stanley said, “I try to go through the seasons of life without too many judgments, as long as I feel like I’m doing the best that I can. There was a time while I was studying for the bar exam that I couldn’t play much, it was one of the most difficult periods of my life, for a variety of reasons. Once I passed, we were able to play more again, I was writing a lot, and we even recorded a new album.”
This sense of resilience is also a major influence in Katie Stanley’s new EP, Lake Superior. “Several years ago, I swam through the caves of Lake Superior,” Stanley said, “and I’m not a very good swimmer. I remember being struck by the raw power of the waves, of the larger world of which I was a part, and the timelessness of the love that I felt for the person I was with.
“Often, life’s most defining moments have caused me to feel fear for my own powerlessness, but at the same time, gratitude for the opportunity I have to be present. To some extent, I think where I am now in releasing this album, I feel similar, struck by my own smallness, by the overpowering wave of challenges these past few years has brought, but also grateful I am present with love in my heart.”
Stanley, who is gay, along with her sister band mates, said her parents did not accept her coming out at first but now embrace her decision, and they have become very close again. She just came out of a long relationship, some of which propelled the songs of the latest EP.
“It’s all a give and take…and we only have so much energy to give,” she said, “so I try to be intentional about what to pursue and to honor [my] own wellness also.
“Being in public service is something I’ve always valued and wanted, despite its challenges,” Stanley added. “I don’t know that I could ever just do one thing…working towards balance across my interests has taught me so much about grit, resilience, and what really matters to me. In my limited experience, finding connection, being of service to others, music, and the humility and awe of spending time in nature have been the most valuable to me. But, music provides a balance and creativity to my life that I don’t get in other areas. It really is all about balance, and I’m grateful for all of it.”
Banner photo of Soggy Bottom on a winter night by Darlene Carey.
EVM Staff writer Jeffery L. Carey, Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.