Sunday, 01 November 2015 11:31

KALAMAZOO MADE: Megan Dooley Keeps it Local

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Megan Dooley Megan Dooley PHOTO: Fran Dwight

Megan Dooley Made In Kalamazoo Album Release
wsg Delilah DeWylde, BoneJo, Hannah Rose and the GravesTones
Bell’s Eccentric Café, Kalamazoo
Nov. 12; 8 p.m. doors; 9 p.m. show
FREE; Ages 21+
bellsbeer.com; (269) 382-2332

Born in the parking lot of Borgess Hospital 29 years ago, singer-songwriter Megan Dooley has tried to embody the city of Kalamazoo in everything she does.

Especially her music.

That’s why titling her new album, Made In Kalamazoo, just made perfect sense.

“Literally everything about the project, except the actual pressing and manufacturing, was made in Kalamazoo,” Dooley said of the album. “Everything from the actual recording process, to the contributing musicians, the businesses sponsoring me, the photography and even the design of the project itself were all based and created in Kalamazoo. …Even the guitar I recorded with was a ’70s-made Kalamazoo Gibson.”

With the old Gibson “Made In Kalamazoo” logo tattooed on her left shoulder, Dooley has strong pride in the music community that has gotten her to where she is now.

The host of a weekly open-mic night at Louie’s Trophy House, as well as a regular at Old Dog Tavern, The Union, Bell’s Eccentric Café and just about any other place in Kalamazoo that has live music, Dooley has emerged as something of an ambassador to the city’s vibrant and inclusive music scene.

“I’ve spent my entire happy career here with a lot of support from the city and its members over the years,” Dooley said. “I love Kalamazoo and I try to be an active person in the community because I really care about the music scene here, and I hope to contribute to the wide-range of talent that this area has to offer. I’m so proud of where I’m from and this album that I want everyone to know where it all came from.”

Funded by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, through their Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative (KADI) grant, Dooley recorded Made In Kalamazoo at La Luna Recording and Sound with Kalamazoo mainstay Ian Gorman this past summer.

She collaborated with numerous area musicians on the set, including Grand Rapids’ Delilah DeWylde, who Dooley calls a “mentor and very good friend.” The pair have played together quite a bit recently, even sharing the “stage” while performing during a class at The Funky Buddha Hot Yoga Studio in Holland.

Made In Kalamazoo is also Dooley’s first release under just her own name and she couldn’t be happier about that.

“I feel so confident about this project that I would just like to pretend that I’ve never released anything before this,” Dooley said of her previous LPs with past project Dooley Noted. “Technically, I’ve released three albums, but all of them more than eight years ago, and I’ve kept them quiet for a reason. I’m a live musician, what can I say?!”

Live, Dooley has distinguished herself by developing her style over the better part of the past 20 years. Growing up, she’s gone from what she describes as an “angry rock/blues open mic’er” to a much more versatile performer, known for her rich vocals, beautiful banjolele and contagious, melodic whistling.

“I play a lot of different styles of music from many different time periods,” she said, listing American roots, old soul, folk, torch, swing and even old country, as genres all close to her heart.

“So at this point I can keep Johnny hipster happy while giving grandma a big smile from that good old Ink Spots cover I play. It’s really important to keep people guessing as a solo female performer. Folks look at you and expect a certain thing. Call it stereotyping or whatever, but 10 minutes into my set, that notion usually gets thrown out the window — and I just live for that shit.”

Made In Kalamazoo also comes after the disbandment of her previous project, Moxieville, following her breakup with former Moxieville bassist Andrew Whiting this past May.

“Unfortunately, Andrew became less and less interested or involved in the project,” she said. “It was a really, really hard situation to bounce back from. On top of going through a terrible breakup, moving and playing tons of shows alone for the first time in years, I had to push back my recording timeline, find replacement players, rehearse like crazy and rearrange all of the music in a very short period of time.”

Scrambling for those two months, Dooley rewrote music, replaced arrangements and reorganized everything to make this her solo debut.

“It all sounds pretty stressful and it was, but it was a true blessing after everything was said and done,” she said. “In the end, I had complete creative control over everything. I could work with all of the people I’ve been dying to work with my whole career and I could release something that I was really proud of…It’s been a long, weird journey, but I feel like I’ve finally found my voice. Playing these styles of music and recording this album has been like coming home for me.”

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