Of course we are all familiar with Detroit “Rock City,” but in recent years it has become clear that Detroit isn’t the only place in Michigan with a musical reputation. With cities like Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and artists like Small Houses, Chris Bathgate, and Frontier Ruckus, an extremely talented indie-folk scene has begun to emerge taking the nation by storm. Recently, I featured Small Houses’ well-crafted album, North, which I highly recommend. Small Houses is the sole project of Flint, Michigan native Jeremy Quentin, whose talent exudes on North. And, although Jeremy’s talent is prominent, he wisely employs the skills of other Michigan musicians to enhance the album. Just last week, I was granted a Q&A opportunity with Jeremy where I asked him about Small Houses, Michigan, and North.
CFM: When and how did you become interested in music?
SH: I found some Neil Young and Paul Simon records on vinyl when I was a kid that immediately captured me. Pretty soon after I had visions of myself playing the guitar and singing.
CFM: What’s the origin of the name Small Houses?
SH: “Small Houses Blue” was the name of a song I had written about the homes of Lansing, MI. I think a lot of my tunes are written about that particular area or ones just like it.
CFM: Michigan is a state burgeoning with music, why do you think this is? How has living in Michigan and its artistic atmosphere affected your music and your personal taste in music?
SH: I’ve seen a sort of domino effect in the state of Michigan. It only took one band to release a great album and that influenced all of us to do the same. It’s either that or there is something odd in the water making us overly sentimental.
CFM: What kind of music are you drawn to? Are there any particular local artists/bands we should be listening to?
SH: I’m into the likely suspects. Richard Buckner, Springsteen, Waits, etc. Locally, I think Samantha Crain, Frontier Ruckus, Hezekiah Jones, and Gifts or Creatures are the some of the most outstanding artists that might not be recognized by everyone, but without a doubt, these people really match up to the greats.
CFM: Do you think you have you grown since releasing Our Dusking Sound? If so, how has that growth affected your new album North?
SH: I definitely think there is a lot of growth in both the songwriting and the approach to working in the studio. In my opinion, I think that North takes more modest instrumentation while allowing a bigger sound through a more strategic approach to the full band dynamic. On top of that, I think I’ve had some of the most talented artists at my disposal (Phil D’Agostino, Kevin Killen, David Jones, Andy Catlin, etc.). For that, I’m very grateful.
CFM: Describe North. What inspired the album?
SH: North came to me when I was living on the east coast and dreaming of home. When you really long for a place that you’ve once been, you tend to exaggerate how great it was. This nostalgia often took me to some
interesting places in my writing.
CFM: Is there one song that is more personal or one you’re more proud of than the others? Why?
SH: I find more meaning in “Country Flowers” every time I sing it. I think I was being honest with myself, and that’s what I like most about writing.
CFM: What does the future hold for Small Houses?
SH: Once this tour is over, I’m producing an album for a young group called Del Brutto at Double Phelix Studios in Kalamazoo, MI. Small Houses will be recording a split 7 inch with one other songwriter and a backing band (the names of which I’m not ready to tell). In January, I plan to hit the road again for tour and land in Tennessee for a few months of writing and preparing for another album.