By Kevin Alan Lamb
“Music is felt, not heard.”
Hearing is a sensual ability given to many of us at birth, but the choice to listen comes as a result of a desired experiential output—we discover the ideas and truths we seek in the world. The choice of who, where, and what we attentively listen to is a filter we apply to our perception of experience, and ultimately its influence on the way we see, think, and feel.
I’ve never understood music in its technical terms because it’s never been my goal to; I understand music through my ability to interpret the way it makes myself and others feel, heal, and hopefully grow. While your relationship with music is unique, I believe a general love of music is in direct correlation with its ability to elicit intense emotion utilized as a catalyst for navigating struggle, processing joy, and seeing to its endurance.
Live music is a two-way street founded upon the reciprocal relationship between musician and muse, artist and audience. Live music forges a bond built upon kinetic energy. It is a bond that requires a mutual commitment and willingness to move and be moved. Roosevelt Diggs is founded upon the raw power which drives this exchange, balanced by engaging moments of poignant tenderness and insights into life’s hard lessons.
Blessings within hard lesson are most frequently the humans who help us through them. It is fascinating to play with the soul of a man or woman by listening to their music. Over the years I have crossed paths with the members of Grand Rapids based Roosevelt Diggs, most recently at Beaver Island Music Festival where I learned about their new album, “Better Days”. I don’t know about you but I turned off the news a long time ago, and from what I gather that was an exceptionally reasonable choice. Bad news doesn’t need more disciples. Selective perception isn’t the same as selective hearing.
It is entirely your choice who you spend your time with, and what content you let into your perception. Music offers an avenue for hope, platform for growth, and context for communities to discuss sustainability. We often discuss magic in terms of fantasy, but if you want to experience real magic, understand that live music is forged by the fires of the heart, birthed with the intensity of a stampede, and arranged on the delicacy of a dream that depends on each of you to take form. The measure of a great idea or work of art is its ability to connect, resonate, and live within the soul of another.
For this reason, it is not only the heart, but blood that unites the core of Roosevelt Diggs. Brothers Levi and Logan Duddles have spent a lifetime creating and writing music together. They actively create, shape, and serve one another’s dream blending Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Blues, Rockabilly and Rock and Roll into a melting pot of true Americana. With over a decade playing together, their third album “Better Days” displays an evident growth from their 2014 release, “Songs From The Shed”, harnessing the energy and flow from their live shows. They take the stage each night ready to have the time of their lives, erasing the notion that their time would be better spent doing anything else. It’s Game 7— everyone wins and everyone is given the opportunity to feel something spectacular, together.
How is creating and releasing a new album similar to having a child?
I see creating an album more similar to raising a child than having a child. As a parent, you do the best to raise your kids to represent what you want in this world. And ultimately, you want your kids to grow up to be good people. As they grow older, your influence decreases and all you can do is hope that you’ve raised them in a manner that they become good people as adults. In a similar fashion, when making an album, you do everything you can from the writing, the arranging, and the recording process to frame the piece art into what you want to project. At a certain point, you release it into the world and they transition from your songs to the listener’s songs. The listener then makes it their own. If you’re lucky they connect with it in some shape or form. Often times the listener will connect with it for different reasons than we personally connected to it. That’s the beauty of the whole process.
Entering 2019 with a new album, share with fans some of your goals this year, and how this new music will help you get there?
I think our goal of 2019 is to really focus in on our live show and really embrace all the joy and energy that comes from playing in front of an audience. We spent a majority of our time in 2018 with a writing and recording mindset. We have always put the main focus of our music in the live setting. The studio setting is fun and rewarding, but live music is where the magic is. With a new album to get out to the fans, we have a ton of new material that is fresh and that we are really excited about. We have a fire inside to get this new music out to people the best way we can, which is live. We’ve all watched really great bands that can sometimes come off a bit flat to see live. When we play live, we are having the time of our lives and we wear that on our sleeve. Live music is truly a two way street between the musician and the audience. As any band has, we have our “bucket list” goals. Goals of playing at this place or that place are great, but mostly out of our control. We prefer to focus on what we can control.
How do you measure the success of an album?
To us, the success is measured by connecting with the listener. We’ve been lucky that music we’ve created has had the ability to impact people in some shape or form. When a piece of art that you create impacts someone, then it’s good art. Having people connect with the music is the most important piece.
Pick one of your favorite songs from the new album, and walk us through it from songwriting, recording, challenges, inspiration, and the desired effect you see it having on listeners.
Brookside is a song that sticks out because there was a point where we weren’t sure it would make the album. Levi wrote this song and presented it to us in a very stripped down form. He had a few verses, a pre-chorus and a chorus. We all fell in love with the song. The melody would just stick in your brain and the lyrics were really cool and beautiful. But for about 2 and half years or so, we couldn’t seem to take it to the next level. It held up well in that stripped down form and we just couldn’t do it justice when we all played it. We approached it from several different musical angles and would ultimately shelf it again and again for a few months at a time. We kept going back to it because it was such a strong song at its root. As we got closer to recording time, we forced ourselves to do something with it. I think the ultimate pressure to finish it, just gave us the inspiration to push it over the hump. Ultimately, we went into the studio with the structure and weren’t totally sure what the end result would be like. We laid down the basic song structure and we’re able to add in some basic additional instrumentation like the fiddle, the mandolin and banjo and the song just came alive. The song is very lyrically based and the instrumentation just backs up the story line. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.
What do you enjoy most about our Michigan music scene?
We feel very fortunate to be a small part of this huge Michigan music scene. There are a ton of great bands and artists in Michigan that we truly love and respect. The greatest piece of it is that it’s not a competitive scene. Musicians respect and support each other and are truly rooting for one another. That is not the case in most all scenes. The bands themselves make up one piece, but there is such a strong community of people who really care about the local music scene. Positive momentum makes it all work.
Better Days signifies hope upon the horizon. What are some methods or practices you internalize to stay positive, and focused on your path, while the world insists its competing agenda?
A positive attitude and outlook is the single most important characteristic or trait to possess. As a band, we feel very strongly on this and it ultimately led us to name the album Better Days for that reason. The song Better Days is about that exact topic. We all have times in life that are tough or challenging and makes you want give up. It’s important for us as a band of true friends to pick each other up in the tough times. In a similar way, we as a community and society need to look out for one another, look for the positive in people and situations and be kind to one another. We have been a band for over 10 years and every setlist we’ve ever made has a +E (positive energy)at the top of the song list. It’s that positive energy that keeps us moving forward.
What makes this upcoming show at Otus Supply unique or special for y’all?
This is our album release show for the East side of the state. We are a Grand Rapids area band and up to this point we’ve only played in the East side a handful of times. Better Days is an album we are really proud of and excited about. We are thrilled to share and connect with the East side of this great state. We played at Otus Supply in the spring of 2017 and it was an amazing experience, we knew it was the place for us to do our East side release.
For someone who isn’t familiar with your music, which three songs should they start with?
We have a pretty varied style from song to song, so to watch a show is the best way to capture all the styles and energy that encompasses our music. But as for 3 intro songs, I’d say “Everything As It Was”, “I Only Have Myself To Blame”, and “Life of Sin”. Those 3 songs show a snapshot of a pretty song, a more country song, and something with a little more rock-n-roll influence.
As a musician, do you take responsibility protecting our environment and natural resources?
As individuals, we all feel strongly on protecting the environment and being mindful on what that means for our children and for generations to come. We feel that should be the case whether you are a musician, a mechanic, a bank teller, or whatever. As a band, we try not to use the stage and microphone as a platform for our personal opinions and political thoughts. We individually have passionate social and political views but we generally try to stick to the music and invoke thought through positivity and the avenue of music and lyrics.
If you could tour with any modern band, who would you choose?
There are a lot of bands we’d love to tour with. I think touring with the Devil Makes Three would be pretty damn great. Musically it would fit well as both bands play their own style of high energy acoustic music. What do you say DM3?
On Better Days, can you give me an example of a song that best demonstrates your growth as a band and the direction you’re heading?
Roosevelt Diggs is hard to sum up into any particular song. We go down a lot of different paths musically. The album as a whole shows huge growth in our songwriting. Four musicians who are playing for the good of the song. We’ve gotten better at slowing down and listening to what the song needs and working together to achieve that goal. To narrow it down to one song, Better Days comes to mind as it is a heavier song than anything we’ve recorded in the past. It doesn’t necessarily change our trajectory to be a heavier band, but maybe shows another layer to our songwriting that we’ve never shown.
Are you ready for “Better Days”? There is magic within you too, and you don’t need to make music to unlock it, but I recommend letting live music help you discover it. Join us Saturday, February 16 at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply for Roosevelt Diggs live release of “Better Days”. Share this interview on Facebook and tag Roosevelt Diggs for your chance to win a pair of tickets