Earth Radio: Deep Thoughts, Deep Roots, Deep Space

Doing things differently has defined Grand Rapids future-soul group Earth Radio right from the very beginning.

First formed in 2017, the quartet – now made up of vocalist/pianist Hannah Laine, keyboardist Dutcher Snedeker, bassist/vocalist Justin Avdek and drummer/percussionist David Ward – has defied genres and easy categorization for over half a decade now.

They began as a spontaneous super-group of seasoned session players, solo artists, and long-standing members of the local music scene that Avdek assembled for a recording session in his parents’ basement that became their critically-acclaimed 2018 self-titled debut album.

With a shared appreciation for neo-soul, rock, funk, progressive jazz, and more, the group earned accolades early and often, receiving the “Emerging Artist of the Year” and “Best Jazz Album” Award at WYCE’s annual Jammie Awards in 2018. They took home the “Best Jazz Album” title again in 2019 for their sophomore album Mother’s Breath, and have gotten chart-topping rotation from the local community radio station for their 2020 third album Reanimate as well.

“A lot of jazz heads love what we do, even though we’re not jazz,” Avdek said. “And you get a lot of older guys who love prog rock that love what we do too. But we’re playing soul music, and at times we’re poppy. So we love being able to fit anywhere. But sometimes when you can do that, sometimes it feels like you can’t fit anywhere. But that is a fun journey for us to figure out where we fit in, and where we want to fit in.”

Earth Radio has regularly performed at Michigan music festivals including Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Buttermilk Jamboree, last year’s brand-new Sounds of the Zoo, and dozens of others, where they’re known for getting crowds moving during their groove-laden late night sets.

So when the pandemic hit in 2020 it gave the busy band a chance to reflect as individuals again, as they worked through some lineup changes that included the departure of longtime drummer Madison George, and the full integration of Ward into the band as their new driving rhythmic force.

“David is absolutely guiding the band and the music right now,” Avdek said of Ward’s influence since joining Earth Radio in 2019. “I love playing with everybody who’s been in the band, but it just feels really great right now… I finally feel like we’ve reached our stride and now it seems kind of unstoppable all of a sudden.”

“It just seems that everybody naturally is going in a direction that I already really enjoy, which is like wanting more R&B, hip-hop tones out of the drums,” Ward added. “But it’s definitely still progressive, and it gets rocky and whatnot.”

Speaking with REVUE in between two nights of performances at the planetarium inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum as part of their popular Concerts Under The Stars series, Earth Radio appropriately premiered the release of their latest single, “Space,” as the lead-off track to their upcoming new EP, Mosaic Dreams (out March 18). 

A longtime crowd favorite, “Space” showcases the band’s strong live energy, and their ethos as artists.

“Almost everything we do has to do with reimagining our relationship with the planet and the universe,” Ward said. “From my newer perspective, it just seems like there’s a real Afrofuturist kind of subtext or undertone to a lot of Earth Radio music, which is really cool.”

A cooperative collage coming from the individual strengths of all four members of Earth Radio as songwriters, Mosaic Dreams came together slowly, with the band working on it from the fall of 2021 until December of last year. The EP was recorded at Third Coast Recording Co. in Grand Haven with Kevin Kozel, with additional production from Paul Klimson, who has done sound work with the likes of The Roots and Drake. It was mastered by Ian Gorman at La Luna Recording & Sound in Kalamazoo.

Earth Radio also already has its next EP ready for release later this spring. Written and recorded while the band were at a resort near Lake Champlain Valley in Vermont, the companion EP finds the group working together collaboratively on all the songs for the first time.

Coming in with the concept of, “If the Earth could speak,” the band tapped into nature, and the nature of being, while they worked on the new songs.

“With that concept in mind, we all channeled our own ideas, our thoughts, into what we are playing,” Laine said about the upcoming EP. “And that created this concentric approach to songwriting. It felt very divine to me. It felt like we were in this flow together that I haven’t experienced before. Like with all of our minds, in this one place. It just felt like a channel, like a flow. And I think that’s what really made this album special for me is you can feel that in the music.” 

Earth Radio

Mosaic Dreams EP Release

Wsg. Lipstick Jodi, Lady Ace Boogie

The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

March 18, 7 p.m., $10, All-ages,