Song of the Lakes
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Song of the Lakes

Traverse City, Michigan, United States | INDIE

Traverse City, Michigan, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Poets Say Reviews"

"thank you very much for the CD it is brilliant! And the cover is really good! Really enjoy it!!" Claude Derib, author, "Yakari"

"I first got exposed to Song of the Lakes while directing and shooting a documentary film on the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay in Lake Huron called "Tragedies In The Mist." I used some of the groups' music in that film as it fit the subject matter perfectly. If you like Irish music and sea chants you got to love this group-they do a knock out job. Their new album "Poets Say" put their talent over the top. If you have any Irish blood in you-you have to have this CD-it speaks to your roots. Put it on-turn the volume up-close your eyes and you will feel the history and the ancestors filling your soul! Their music is like the blast of spray that hits you in the face when you stand on the bow of sailing ship as she beats through the waves-it wakes you up, lets lyou know you are alive and that things are pretty damn good!" John D. Brooks, Director "Tragedies In The Mist" and cinematographer of the film "Titanic"

"The title cut "Poets Say" seems like a bit of a departure from what you would typically expect from Song of the Lakes. Poets instrumentation has your trademark style but has a country music feel. In this era of Jimmy Buffet-style hits coming out of Nashville, "Poets Say" has that kick off your shoes and enjoy feel!"
Jack O'Malley, radio producer WTCM

"Brought back some great memories. My wife and I particularly like to listen to the bullwhip during those special, intimate moments. in any event, song of the Lakes still sounds great. Congratulations. And Montreaux! What an honor! And what I heard of the Poets Say CD sounded great!" Mac MacDonald, longtime Lakehead

"I've been listening to the new CD and am very impressed with the range of musical styles and the originality of so many of the songs. Favorites so far are Poets Say, featuring a lovely flute descant "trippling" and some cool lyrics, wrapped around a melody that one wants to sing along with, over and over. Amberetta is a joy. Montreux could only be described as silky and sensual, moist....and somewhere in Europe. Castle Kelly/Coleraine lilts along ever so Celtically until it erupts into the passionate urgency that brings to mind ancient rituals of sacrifice on smoky, dark ledges on dank nights somewhere in the Isles. Bossman Joe, of course, bites down hard and makes one cheer for the truth-telling that liberates.....while somehow hinting at revenge. Yeah, whips are good. Song of the Lakes has reached new heights with Poets Say. Bravo!"
Bruce Douglass, PhD

"Poets Say" captures something very important about the human spirit. It impresses on me why good songs and fine singing are such an intregral part of the fabric of life." Michael E. Kerr, MD and author of "Family Evaluation"

"Song of the Lakes popularity has come from the group's ability to capture the melting pot sounds of the area's early Nordic and Celtic settlers while infusing it with modern day Great Lakes living. The band's music defines the Northern Michigan lifestyle at its best, reflecting on the past, preserving the future and savoring the moment. "Poets Say" captures this and more. It is an album made by friends for friends." Rick Coates, Northern Express

“great guitar work and arrangements.” Keith Levene, Producer/Songwriter and founding member of The Clash and Public Image Ltd.

- various

"Live at Interlochen" airs on Helena Public TV"

Song of the Lakes' 25th anniversary concert along with the documentary "Journey to Joy" which features the story of Song of the Lakes and bandmembers preparing for their anniversary concert (by Real People Media) aired on Helena Civic TV in Helena, MT several times in December 2009. -

"Song of the Lakes Celebrates 25 Years"

Song of the Lakes celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band last week at Interlochen’s Corson Auditorium. The two-and-a-half hour performance for a near capacity crowd of over 800 was one of those magical moments that will be remembered for years to come. For those in attendance, the evening was one big family reunion. - Rick Coates, Northern Express


- Live at Interlochen the
Concert Movie (DVD)
- Poets Say
- Horndance
- Live Bait
- Walkin' the Plank
- Pearl of America

A number of songs can also be sampled and downloaded
at,, and



The band might be best described via these excerpts from a pre-show interview, by Ann Stanton, on the eve of their sold-out 25th Anniversary Concert at Interlochen Arts Academy, Michigan.

“We are messengers of joy – and the goal of this concert is to capture the joy and experiences of our 25 years together,” said Mike Sullivan, who sings, plays guitar, and writes many of the band’s songs.

“This concert will reflect the journey that we’ve been on and capture the best of each era of our musical experiences. And it will offer some ideas of the band’s new direction.”

The band’s loyal followers have already snapped up 450 tickets, despite the fact that there’s been no publicity.

“It’s taken us 25 years to become more than just a rumor – I think we’ve heard of you guys,” joked Rick Jones, percussionist of the band.

The toughest part of the show, Sullivan said, has been choosing which songs to play. To date, the band has written and performed 60 original songs and instrumental pieces. To help winnow it down to 20 songs for the concert, the band sent out a mass email asking fans to suggest their favorites. Unfortunately, it made the job even harder, Sullivan said. “They came up with songs we hadn’t even thought of,” he said.

The concert is a landmark event for the band, which has hired Brauer Productions to film the concert for a DVD.

A highpoint of the concert will be the performance of “Montreux” which Sullivan wrote after the band played at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1998. Guests vocalists include Diane and Noemie Derib, who grew up in Montreux.

“One of my crowning glories is when teenagers and grandparents tell me that they can all agree – when they’re driving up here to their cabin – on what CD to play in the car. The kids like us, the grandparents like us, the parents like us. And I think that’s just cool,” Jones said.


In the beginning, the band was best known for its Irish songs and sea shanties, which the band happily performed just “for the love of it,” Sullivan said.

After a couple of years, the band landed its first regular paying gig at Connelly’s, an Irish pub where Kahootz stands today. They used the money to buy their first sound system.

“We cut our teeth at Connelly’s and it could get kind of wild there at times. We once had a bunch of guys from the Coast Guard dancing on the table to our sea shanties,” Sullivan said. “But we were getting paid!”

The band’s music was largely influenced by the Great Lakes region, as well as by the individual band members’ native roots. Sullivan, for example, grew up hearing Irish songs in the pubs around his Detroit home. He wrote most of the ribald Celtic tunes that defy you to remain in your seat.

“Part of the feel to our music is the 6/8 rhythm. It’s hypnotic. In our early years, we’d play a song and if our kids would start spontaneously dancing, we’d know the song would work. If they weren’t responding, we knew it was going to be a long night,” he said.

Ingemar Johansson, born and raised in his native Sweden, brings a Nordic influence to the band. He’s also a songwriter, singer, and plays a multitude of instruments (his latest is the Swedish nyckelharpa – a fiddle with keys).

Johansson moved to the states at 25 and married Lisa Johansson, a flautist, whom he first met in Kent, Ohio, during a studio recording. Johansson said he felt as if he “came home” the first time he saw the lakes and hilly woods of northwest Michigan. It inspired the song “Pearl of America,” which is now a staple of the band.

Lisa Johansson is the only member of the group who has made music a day job; she is founder of the Northwind Suzuki Flute Studios. Because Mike Sullivan and Ingemar don’t write music specifically for the flute, she has had to improvise on their original songs. Indeed, she has truly honed her skill, artfully weaving in and out of the melodic line.

“And some of the solos, I purposely don’t remember because I want to keep that freshness,” she said.

Finally, Rick Jones, the band’s percussionist, gives the band its backwoods, earthy flavor. A Tennessee native and sculptor of mythical creatures, he still retains the “hippie” attitude of the band’s early years and makes many of his instruments.

“We’ve all contributed different things to the band,” said Ingemar Johansson. “I’m Earth, Lisa is air, Rick is water, and Michael is the fire guy. That’s why we have worked so well together. Certainly, the band is better than the sum of the parts.”

“We’ve had fun with that concept,” added Lisa. “It’s somewhat astrological, but it holds true in a lot of ways, even instrumentally. I have an airy quality with the flute, but there’s also a mental quality. Ingemar is Earth, he really stabilizes all of us. Rick is just pure passion and it comes out in his drumming. Mike is fire, he naturally steps out in front and leads, and some of his songs like ‘Stand up’ are fiery;