Featured Artist of the Month
February 2023 - Serita's Black Rose
Serita's Black Rose
About Serita's Black Rose
Like a badly needed day of full-on sunshine, our featured artist this month is just what we need to battle back against the excessively gray winter we are having. Feeling those mid-winter blahs? Missing a Spring in your step? Want to get some pain-free, no-subscription-needed, and guaranteed side effect free healing from all of this cold, wet nonsense? The cure for what ails you is a heaping high-as-you-can-handle decibel helping of “What I Got” by Serita’s Black Rose. The beat is bouncing, the funky bass line should make you get out of your chair. If the hot harmonica licks, funky guitar, and syncopated organ chords don’t do the trick, then Serita Crowley’s commanding vocals will be sure to effect a cure and have you dancing in the snow.
Serita Crowley has been singing her heart out since she had her start at about four years old in church. She and her husband/musical collaborator Jon Hays teamed up about twenty years ago after meeting at Monster Burrito in Eastown. (For you young readers, it is now Chez Olga, in the building right next door to Billy’s Lounge.) They have been making “sweet music together” ever since. When asked when she realized that singing was what she wanted to do with her life, Serita offered up a great story.
“I completely froze singing Whitney Houston’s version of “The Greatest Love Of All” for a High School program called Showcase. The little hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention and I was just standing there peering out at hundreds of faces staring back at me,” she recalled. “They put the spotlight on my sister standing in the front row and she said just focus on her as she directed me. I did and I felt a calm and soothing confident sensation come over me, and I just started singing from my soul. I got a standing ovation, and I made the front page of the Muskegon Chronicle the next day and won a scholarship too.”
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist who ended up settling on guitar after learning the recorder, piano, French horn, tenor sax, and even being a member of his High School marching band as a percussionist. What a great skill set to compliment Serita’s vocals. Fun fact about Jon, while he plays guitar left-handed, everything else he does is right-handed.
You will not find Serita, or Jon, freezing up in front of a crowd these days. Both of them reported that their favorite part of being professional musicians is performing live.
Serita explained, “I love to reach people with my lyrics that they can relate to, appreciate, and feel good about...from older adults and teenagers to small children. It’s a magic that is in you that you can share that’s unique to you that only you can do and do well. Everyone’s got their thing, and this is mine.”
When they perform as a duo or with their full band, Serita’s Black Rose love to augment their original music with feel good music from the 1960‘s and ‘70s. Last year they played over 100 gigs all over Michigan as well as traveling further to play in venues in New Orleans, Memphis, and even Puerto Rico. They bring the same energy to every show, whether it is the two of them playing an intimate venue or the whole band playing to a bigger house or at a music festival. They have a steady following in Northern Michigan in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and Mackinac Island. When it came time to name a favorite show or venue, once again the two were in agreement. They love playing the outdoor stage at Meijer Garden and the best show for them was when they opened for Motown Legend Smokey Robinson there. Serita mentioned that her runner up show was opening for the rock band “Kansas”. This makes total sense, because Serita’s Black Rose are comfortable adjusting their funk, blues, jazz, and rock repertoire to fit the crowd and/or the occasion.
One has to wonder how Jon manages to fit 100 live gigs into his schedule. The man has one and a half full time jobs in addition to being a musician. (Say it with me, “WHAT?") He has worked in facilities management at Kendall School of Art and Design for over 20 years. That is his full-time gig. He works part-time at the Grand Rapids airport where he collects weather data for the FAA and shares said data with NOAA. Remember that when you look at the weather report for Grand Rapids on your phone. Silly me, I totally forgot to ask Jon what type of coffee he drinks to make all of that work.
Our conversation took a very interesting turn at this point. We started to discuss the business aspect of music and how it has changed over the last couple of decades. Many of us take advantage of streaming services to get our musical fixes. At first glance, you might think a musician or band racking up thousands of downloads or streams is making bank. Sadly, the one making bank is not the creator of the music. My best information is that 100,000 streams on Spotify will net a musician about $400. Several sources indicated them paying about .04 cents for 10 streams. Rather than spend more time blasting the huge corporations that control the public consumption of music, I asked Jon how we can all best support the musicians we enjoy.
1. First and foremost - go see them perform. If it is a venue that requires the purchase of a ticket, then buy your tickets early. Many shows get canceled because people wait until the last minute to buy tickets. If the show is free, like the Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series on the Riverwalk in Lowell every summer, then help the event out by indicating your intention to attend and inviting friends and family to attend as well.
2. When you get to the show, if you like what you hear and see, then buy some merchandise from the band. Even if it is a sticker or coffee cup. Put that sticker somewhere it will catch attention and start a conversation. Buy and wear a t-shirt. Take home a CD or vinyl recording or give it to someone who is not familiar with the band.
3. Like and comment on social media. Put your pictures from the show up on your favorite platform. Post a short video of a song. Musicians have to wear a lot of hats including management, booking, and promotion. Give them a hand on the promotion end. One of my favorite bands came to my attention from a friend sending me a link to a performance by them and the assurance that I would love it. 4. Serita and Jon both chimed in about showing the band some love. If there is a tip jar, toss some money in there. Take a moment during a break or after the show to let them know how their music affected you.
“One fan drove her motorcycle from Detroit to Frankenmuth just to hear us play live,” Serita recalled. “When she told me that, I cried. I will bake that lady a cake, or cookies.”
Speaking of showing love and food, here is a hot tip for you. In addition to being a talented singer, Serita is a painter and has made her living as a chef. You can follow her on Facebook and get some recipes in the bargain. Just search for “What’s Cooking With Serita”. She shares some of her favorite recipes and you can do the same.
Speaking of hot tips: let me close with a hot musical tip for you. Serita’s Black Rose will be doing what they do with the full band on Thursday July 27th at 7 pm as part of the Sizzlin’ Summer Concert Series. Serita and Jon will be joined by drummer Mark Weymouth and bass player Robert Pace. It is a free show, so I am counting on you to show some love to the band when you get there.
Photography by Tim Warren
Description: Jon in dark glasses and Serita with tambourine
Photography by Tom Motley
Description: Serita wearing blue scarf
Description: Serita in red scarf and leather jacket
Description: Black and white photo of Serita
Photography by Matt Gubancsik
Description: Serita in purple blouse with flowers
Vibes | Serita's Black Rose Vol. I