Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me I want you to know I believe in your song. from “Drift Away”, lyrics by Mentor Williams
I think Michigan keeps you sane and on an even keel through the ups and the downs. In Michigan I do fireworks, shovel snow and live life. Jeff Daniels
Michigan is two radically different places — the North and the South which makes for good drama and contrast. Jim Harrison
A week ago, my husband Cam and I sprawled out on our living room couches, Cam on one and me on the other, with a candle lit on the coffee table between us, and Cam’s i-Phone next to the candle. And, for over an hour, his i-phone played music for us, not just any music, but the songs that we have come to know and love from our nearly three-month stint of watching the NBC primetime show, The Voice. As we relaxed into our couches, we listened to contestant Sawyer Fredericks, the sixteen-year-old boy from an upper New York state farm, sing Simple Man and Imagine and May Erlewine’s song Shine On in his clear heartbreakingly honest voice, and we also listened to May’s dear friend and fellow indie folk singer Joshua Davis, our hometown Michigan contestant, sing, in a wonderfully raspy and equally heartbreakingly honest voice, his selections from the show. Arms of a Woman, America, Budapest, I Won’t Back Down, Fields of Gold, so many Josh favorites — we love them all. And then we selected Drift Away, a song from Cam and my high school years that the two contestants sang together, and it was a beautiful melding of two different voices, a truly collaborative and generous performance by these sweet guys. This was a Friday night treat, this drifting with the music, allowing the current to take us back to the joyride that The Voice had been for us — and for so many others, too, throughout the whole state of Michigan.
And as we get up from our couches and move on with our living, because we are moving on, drifting into the next thing and the next — Cam and I, and all the other fans of the show and the producers and the coaches and the performers as well — I feel the need to give thanks. So here it is, my words of appreciation to the producers for creating a reality show on primetime television that is nurturing and instructive for its contestants, and entertaining and inspiring and uplifting to all of us who are watching it. And I also thank the coaches, the four regulars in their red swivel chairs, and the guest coaches each week, all megastar performers, who consistently remained positive in their comments and constructive in their critiques and truly seemed to have the best interest of the performers in their hearts. And I thank the show’s incredible band for providing a quality backdrop for the performer/contestants to give it their all, week after week. And I thank the performers themselves, the whole 2015 batch of them, those that made it to the “Lives” and those that left the show earlier, for the courage to put themselves out there, each time knowing it could be their last Voice performance, and going for it, with heart and soul under the blaring lights of our critique. And then there’s Josh. It is Josh, that singer/songwriter, guitar-playing indie guy from Michigan who I want to thank most of all. It is Josh who got me hooked on a show that had not even been on my radar before.
Josh’s dad and stepmom are Cam and my dear friends. And I have been a fan of Josh’s music since his college years when his band Steppin’ In It would play at local venues in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I remember one concert in a field next to his dad and stepmom’s home on the banks of the Yellow Dog River. This was years ago, when his daughter, who we now know as the beaming grade-school-girl standing next to her mother and front-packed baby brother in The Voice’s audience, was a toddler. On that warm August evening under a wide expanse of stars, I was drawn in by this story-telling songwriter/singer with the raspy voice and the star appeal. And, all these years later, I found myself drawn in again by that voice and Josh’s charismatic presence. Early on in The Voice journey, his stepmom told a group of her friends that Josh had said he was going to ride the wave of this unexpected opportunity and see where it took him. I feel that I, too, rode The Voice wave, and that wave’s momentum kept building in its intensity. Throughout March and into April and May, Cam and I kept watching, and Josh kept playing his guitar and singing his way to the next round and the next, to the Lives one week, and on to the Top Twenty the next, and then to the Top Twelve, Top Ten, Top Eight, Top Six, Top Five, and into the Final Four. Week after week, we bought i-Tunes, we pressed the Josh button on our phones’ The Voice apps, we learned to tweet, and Josh, with his wide smile and buoyant spirit, kept surfing along. And we kept surfing with him! And what a ride it was! And what gifts there were in this wave’s three-month whoosh into shore!
Of course, there was was the high caliber, entertaining music, and there was the adrenaline rush that I suppose is always part of a surfing adventure such as this one. And this adrenaline rush brought bold color to our lives during the dreary gray early spring of spitting snow and muddy trails in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and for that bright sun intensity, I will always be grateful. But that’s not my biggest gratitude. It was the sense of community that delighted me most. On Monday evenings, when I would check my phone after evening yoga, there would be texts from husband Cam and hairdresser Ann bringing the highlights of what I had missed while supine on my mat, and voicemails, too, several of them each Monday from dear friend Garee. And then, all week long, there were the people at our local branch of the bank, the tellers, the manager, all bursting with The Voice’s updates. And friends at the Co-op. And people who you’d never imagine would be watching primetime TV and people who don’t even own a TV, all on board this NBC wave. And the local television station, too, interviewing Josh himself, and his dad and stepmom at home on Yellow Dog. And somewhere in the middle of it all, the Monday evening pot lucks at the local Masonic Temple sprung up and a whole community centered in one room cheered Josh on.
And this wasn’t just a local thing because Josh isn’t just a local guy. Sure he was born in the Upper Peninsula and he spent summers with his dad and stepmom up on the Yellow Dog. But his Mom lived in Detroit and that is where he also lived for much of his childhood. And he attended and graduated from Michigan State in Lansing, has relatives in Grand Rapids, has toured the whole state for over fifteen years, now lives in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula in Traverse City with his wife and two children. That was the exciting thing. This wave was a statewide tsunami! A high vibe wave of epic proportions! Statewide, the tweets were tweeting. Satewide, the potlucks were popping up. Statewide, we were claiming Josh as our own. And in the process, Josh, an indie folk singer with a wide grin and laughing eyes, on a primetime television reality show that many of us had never watched before, managed to do with ease what the politicians have often failed to do. He brought the state, a huge diverse state with an Upper Peninsula and a Lower Peninsula, together in a rousing wave of excitement. And I, who was born elsewhere in another state and always have made it clear that I live Michigan’s Upper Peninsula which is a world apart from the land beneath the bridge, felt something new rising up in me — a pride, a visceral full-bodied pride in this Great Lakes State. I could feel the wave of excitement spreading out over the whole of the land and over the water in between, and for that I thank Josh and this momentum we all rode for three months this spring.