Free Micah
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Free Micah

Little Rock, Arkansas, United States | SELF

Little Rock, Arkansas, United States | SELF
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Thriving Ivory returned to Juanita’s Cantina during the hottest summer in recorded history, and on this particularly sultry August night, the air conditioner wasn’t working properly for the full house of musical fans, not literal fans. Although the air temperature was less than ideal, it did not seem to have a diminishing effect on the audience as the night wore on. First up to entertain was the local Little Rock sextet, Free Micah. This popular Arkansan folk rock band has been making waves and building a solid fan base the last few years. One of the key elements of their sound is the unique juxtaposition of the soft and subdued sounds of the cello, keys, and female vocals with the harder, more heightened sounds of the dual electric guitars and the male lead vocals.



Reminiscent of a heavier Coldplay or perhaps a more melodic Modest Mouse, these guys and one girl had a seven-song set list, which started off with “Love Gone Cold,” an ode to a failed relationship, followed by “Get Over You,” a tragically optimistic break-up song and ended their time on the stage with a song entitled “Little Rock,” inspired by, you guessed it, the band’s hometown. Although the lead singer expressed appreciation for Ryan Star, his gratitude obviously didn’t spill over onto Thriving Ivory, which I found to be in poor taste. The talented Free Micah may eventually branch out of Arkansas if they can properly recognize the opportunities given to them. - talive.com


LITTLE ROCK — It's a never-performed tune that inspires the couple to waltz, with the pair completing rhythmic turns that are half youthful vitality, and half love and young lust.

The late-night, crazed energy of the couple's deliberate spinning to the side of the stage is mirrored in the two dozen or so youthful faces crowded on stage at the Revolution Music Room as Free Micah closes its Diving Bell Ball set with "I Dreamt Last Night" - the never-performed song motivating the waltzing couple. The young mass on stage follows the Pied Piper lead of 22-year-old Jay Calhoun - the lead singer, guitarist and chief songwriter of Little Rock group Free Micah - a collection of early 20-somethings whose acoustic-flavored music is a combination of poignant Iron and Wine indie folk, intensely earnest Bright Eyes indie rock and theatrical, unapologetically grandiose Arcade Fire rock 'n' roll. In fact, with his fire-engine red suspenders, Calhoun reminds one of a more wild-haired Win Butler, lead singer of Arcade Fire (and the dramatic rhythms, female harmonies and cello only add to the Arcade Fire comparisons when Free Micah performs live).

While the almost year-old band's debut album, We Sure Do Get Around to Living, is 12 songs of sometimes plaintive, sometimes jaunty piano- and acoustic-guitar powered folk rock peppered with see-sawing cello and the angelic vocals of keyboardist RaeLeigh Narisi harmonizing with Calhoun, live, the six-piece Free Micah - Calhoun and Narisi plus James Watts on guitar, Ben Seay on drums, Eli Ramsey on cello and Ryker James on bass and vocals - crank out more uptempo, highly infectious, boot-stomping, emotional rock 'n' roll.

A song such as "Little Rock" - on record a deliberate fingerpicked acoustic guitar ode to Little Rock - is a fist-pumping anthem of youth, with Calhoun demanding the crowd assembled in front of the stage to "Raise your glasses in the air" and "Wake up!"

"It's definitely grown," said Calhoun of Free Micah's music. "It's a lot more rock to the sound now where earlier it was more coffeehouse. We've been rocking. It's just a natural progression. It's an option now with the addition of drums and bass and keyboards."

Free Micah is only 11 months into its history, although the roots of the band and its songs stretch back to Calhoun playing coffeehouses in his hometown of Texarkana. Since moving to Little Rock two years ago, Calhoun joined local indie rockers Kingsdown as a keyboardist and continues to perform with that band, including a Fayetteville gig the night before Free Micah's CD release party at Rev Room. (Watts is Kingsdown's guitarist.)

The pieces of Free Micah began to align last August, with members slowly falling into line. Narisi, 21, and Seay, 22, attended Little Rock Christian Academy together while Watts, 22, and James, 23, have been friends since age 5, growing up in Cave City. Ramsey, 19, is a friend of Calhoun's from Texarkana. Seay was introduced to Watts at a party and later Calhoun, and originally rehearsed as the band's saxophonist. But during a break from rehearsing, Seay begin drum miming, leading Calhoun to ask Seay if he played drums. With Seay replying in the affirmative he was christened the band's drummer.

"We needed a drummer more than a saxophone player," Seay said. "I was the saxophone player in Free Micah for about 30 minutes."

Seay mentioned he went to high school with a girl who played keyboards, but Narisi didn't know she was auditioning for Free Micah until she was asked to join.

"I just thought I was going to play some music for some people," she said.

Band completed, Free Micah played its first show last September, opening for Ludo at The Village.

"We had a good response so we decided to keep this up," Calhoun said.

Only a couple of months after forming, Free Micah starting with raising the necessary funds to record. Serendipitously, an unnamed benefactor agreed to supply the band with the $5,000 necessary to record We Sure Do Get Around to Living.

The initial drum tracks for We Sure Do Get Around to Living were laid down Jan. 10 with the six-month process of recording - with Little Rock producer Mark Colbert at his Icon Studios in downtown Little Rock, Colbert's house and Lifeword Studios in Conway - finishing in the nick of time.

"I finished my drums [that week of Jan. 10]," Seay said. "I was like, 'Wow,' we'll be done in a month. Six months later we were finishing up the last little things. It was a process from last October to [July 31]. It was 10 months from check to CD."

"Hopefully it won't take that long next time," James added. "Maybe a month."

The 12 tracks deliver tales of unrequited love, broken hearts, falling in love, hometowns - the aforementioned "Little Rock," inspired by Seay's Little Rock tattoo on his forearm - and references to God.

"All of us in the band are Christians, but we are not a Christian band," said Calhoun, noting there are lyrics about two mainstays of rock 'n' roll - drinking and girls - in the band's repertoire. "We don't go out to write praise songs, but you can't help it. Most of the lyrics are conversations I've had with people. Or I might wake up in the middle of the night with a lyric in my head."

Before concentrating on a sophomore album, Free Micah is pushing We Sure Do Get Around to Living - the title is a favorite saying of Watts - playing as many shows as possible and selling copies of the album through MySpace.

"I want to do everything we can with what we got," Calhoun said. "Playing this [album] and perfecting it is going to be fun. I want to run with what we got and write for a new album along the way. I just really like what we have." - Sync Magazine


Discography

"We Sure Do Get Around To Living" (2009)
"Good News Is..." (December, 2010 Release Date)

Photos

Bio

The almost 2 year-old band’s debut album, "We Sure Do Get Around to Living" is 12 songs of sometimes plaintive, sometimes jaunty piano- and electric-guitar powered folk rock peppered with see-sawing cello and the angelic vocals of keyboardist RaeLeigh Narisi harmonizing with Jay Calhoun. In contrast, live the 6 piece band from Little Rock, AR displays a more uptempo, highly infectious, boot-stomping, emotional rock ‘n’ roll.
A song such as “Little Rock” — on record a deliberate fingerpicked acoustic guitar ode to Little Rock — is a fist-pumping anthem of youth, with Calhoun demanding the crowd assembled in front of the stage to “Raise your glasses in the air” and “Wake up!”

“It’s definitely grown,” said Calhoun of Free Micah’s music. “It’s a lot more rock to the sound now where earlier it was more coffeehouse. We’ve been rocking. It’s just a natural progression. It’s an option now with the addition of drums and bass and keyboards.”

The roots of the band and its songs stretch back to Calhoun playing coffeehouses in his hometown of Texarkana.
The 12 tracks on their debut album deliver tales of unrequited love, broken hearts, falling in love, hometowns — the aforementioned “Little Rock,” inspired by Seay’s Little Rock tattoo on his forearm — and references to God.
“I want to do everything we can with what we got,” Calhoun said. “Playing this [album] and perfecting it is going to be fun. I want to run with what we got and write for a new album along the way. I just really like what we have.”
~Sync Magazine