ANDRU BEMIS | Rail Riding Troubadour | www.andrubemis.com
“Andru Bemis, Michigan’s premier neo folk artist … is a modern day train hopping, banjo slinging troubadour who has made a name for himself in small venues across the US. His charismatic live show garners (accurate) comparisons to Arlo and Woody.” (ThisIsHappening)
Since 2001, Andru Bemis has wandered the ends, edges, and in-betweens of North America more times than he can count. A musician misplaced in time, Bemis travels almost exclusively by public transportation, foot, and thumb. Wearing his Sunday best, he carries his battered instruments - guitar, fiddle, banjo, and occasional banjolele - on his back. Call him a “folk” musician if you wish; wherever he goes, Bemis plays music for folks - simple as that. His unmistakable voice, lightning-fast banjo and expressive finger-picked guitar styles, quirky humor, engaging stage presence, and exquisitely crafted tunes of travel, love, and longing have earned Bemis a dedicated following throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and beyond.
The Birmingham Weekly (AL) calls Andru Bemis a “modern-folk, Midwestern miracle of music …. with a voice that is pretty and ravaged, sounding as though 50 Appalachian winters have run him ragged.” His performances are spiritual, enlightening, and entertaining for audiences all ages. Bemis is a “traditionalist with a fresh approach and a modern troubadour with deep respect for the roots of his craft. He is a gifted vocalist and instrumentalist. His music speaks to our present condition in language of a gentler past” (Wepecket Island Records).
In the summer of 2013, actor/musician John C. Reilly invited Bemis to open for, and perform with, the sold-out Midwest tour of John Reilly & Friends, featuring Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond, Decemberists), Tom Brosseau, Willie Watson (Old Crow Medicine Show), Dan Bern, and Sebastian Steinberg (Fiona Apple, Beth Orton, Soul Coughing). Bemis has also performed or toured with Charlie Louvin, Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, Rachel Ries, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Tony Furtado, Over the Rhine, Sam Shepard, Two Man Gentlemen Band, and many others.
Songs from Bemis’ self-produced albums are played regularly on radio stations throughout the country, and have been featured in a number of independent films. Rail to Reel, recorded for Wepecket Island Records, was called the “Best Folk Album of 2006” by KVDS-FM (Davis, CA), for bringing new life and unique instrumentation to a collection of lesser known traditional songs learned and adapted through his travels. Bemis also contributes frequently to other artists’ recordings, including a 2011 collaboration, Say Yes to Yourself!, with fellow Michigan musician Elisabeth Pixley-Fink. The duo celebrated the album’s release with a 22-state train and bus tour, performing nightly for two months, from Minneapolis to Mexico City.
In 2007, after spending several months per year using passenger trains as his exclusive transportation between performances, Bemis spearheaded a national letter-writing campaign to encourage Amtrak to offer specially-priced seasonal or monthly rail passes for touring performers. Though the campaign resulted in hundreds of personal letters to Amtrak, it was ultimately unsuccessful.
Soon after, Bemis took a four-year hiatus from touring to start Foundry Hall, a performance venue and community space in his hometown of South Haven, Michigan. He learned to tune pianos (there are four at Foundry Hall), and now travels the rails and roads with a tuning kit tucked alongside his instruments, bringing joy to countless audiences and neglected pianos across the continent.
Andru Bemis’ plans for 2014 include releasing a series of two-song singles - his first new studio recordings in seven years - performing several extended North American tours, tuning many pianos, and creating a collaborative transit map (trains, buses, and ferries) for other travelers interested in exploring the continent sans automobile.
“Straddling the boundary between punk rock and mountain music, Bemis is known for taking traditional songs most people have never heard and adapting them in ways that are both inventive and memorable.” The Isthmus (Madison, WI)
“... a traditionalist with a fresh approach and a modern troubadour with deep respect for the roots of his craft. He is a gifted vocalist and instrumentalist. His music speaks to our present condition in language of a gentler past.” Wepecket Island Records
“... [Rail to Reel is] the best Folk album of 2006 ...” KDVX-FM (Davis, CA)
“Michigan's premier neo folk artist ... is a modern day train hopping, banjo slinging troubadour who has made a name for himself in small venues across the US. His charismatic live show garners (accurate) comparisons to Arlo and Woody.” thisishappening
“... road-ramblin' folk songs clatter with quickly plucked banjo and agreeable, gritty lyrics about railroads, crawdads, and the like ...” A.V. Madison (WI)
“... modern-folk, Midwestern miracle of music ... [his voice is] pretty and ravaged, sounding as though 50 Appalachian winters have run him ragged ...” Birmingham Weekly (AL)
“This young man sings like a 30s cowboy, a 60s hippie, someone's kid brother. His music whispers in your ear with an intimacy that is addictive.” Mennofolk
“... Bemis’ ability to draw everyone together through informal sing-a-longs and quirky instruments ranging from a banjo that had “HEADING EAST” scrawled on it to a “banjo-ukulele” and a kazoo that had a guitar case all its own.” The Knox Student (Galesburg, IL)
“... the ability to play such a beautiful song is a rare gift, and a power of which I can only dream.” Garrison Keillor (after a performance in Egg Harbor, WI)
“... Describe his music as folk or bluegrass- Bemis calls it po'folk. Arlo, Van Ronk, early Dylan weave in and out of his original material- but to pinpoint him is impossible. His songs are deceptively simple with an earthy, intimate feel.” Phantom Tollbooth
“Tradition-based contemporary folk ... evoking Jimmie Rogers, Woodie Guthrie and the growth of American culture as it spread across the Plains and Prairies and wound its way back to the cities.” Wepecket Island Records
“... Andru representa una especie en extincion: la del artista inspirado en la vida de los trovadores medievales y la sensualidad romantica que vaga por el mundo cantando historias sobre el arraigo a la tierra, la busqueda de un mundo sagrado y la insondable tragedia del amor imposible.” Reforma “Triste en un tren” (Mexico City, DF)
“... Bemis expresses sadness and joy with each chord. He tells stories in a unique, bittersweet way that sticks in your mind like long goodbyes at the train station.” Tipp-C (Lafayette, IN)
“... one of the most unique and beautiful voices you will ever hear.” Jason Webley
“... one of the most remarkable combinations of old-time analog lifestyle and modern digital awareness ... His music is really beguiling- simple melodies and intricate lyrics ... a startling original.” Moonlight Music Cafe (Birmingham, AL)
“... modern folk singer who sounds like he should be on some dusty old 78 record ... He has a beautiful voice that breaks one way to a cry and another way to a yell. He really captures the high lonesome sound.” last.fm
“... i listened to a history of music in that voice of yours as it cried picked soothed weedled whispered and doubled backover and into itself singing songs so exquisite raw and tooled that it almost pained me to hear em.” Carl Schinasi
“... It may be the sincerity of his voice or the way he strings his words together in such fine fashion, either way, [Rail to Reel] was one of the finest traditional folk albums in years to make it’s way to my ears.” Folk It Up (Chicago, IL)
AL: Moonlight Music Cafe - CA: 21 Grand, Amnesia, Club Car, Delta of Venus, Hotel Utah, Sophia’s - CT: Outer Space, Taco Hut - DC: Washington Community Fellowship - GA: Eddie’s Attic - ID: The Attic - IA: Cafe Paradiso, Codfish Hollow Barnstormers, KUNI-FM - IL: Cornerstone Fest, Chicago Independent Songwriters’ Fest, Cousin Andy’s, FitzGerald’s, Hideout, Iron Post, Just Goods, Knox College, La Casa Colectiva, Lake County Folk Club, Lake Forest College, Lombard Mennonite Church, Martyrs’, Maurer Hall @ Old Town School of Folk Music, Strawberry Fields, Uncommon Ground Clark, Uncommon Ground Devon, Wesley House (NIU), Wheaton College, Yellow Moon - IN: Electric Brew, Evansville Public Library, Fiddler’s Hearth, Folky Fish Fest, FOX44, Goshen Theater, LVD’s Concert Hall, Melody Inn, Radio Radio, Village Fest, WVPE-FM - KS: Abode, Half Grass Bluegrass Fest, Kirby’s Beer Store - KY: Madisonville Community College, Molly Malone’s, Southgate House - LA: Fair Grinds, Howling Wolf Den, Neutral Grounds - MA: Skellig, Steve’s Backstage Pass, Taunton Folk Fest - MD: Brewer’s Alley, Calvert Library, WestSide Cafe - ME: Acoustic Coffee, Blue, Local Sprouts - MI: Ark, Bangor Public Library, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Buttermilk Jamboree, Calvin College, Detroit Folk Fest, Earthwork Harvest Gathering, Fenn Valley Winery, Founder’s, Foundry Hall, Historical Association of South Haven, Holler Fest, Hope Reformed Church, Johnny’s Speakeasy, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo Peace Center (WMU), Kerrytown Concerts, Lake Michigan College, Magic Hat, Mennofolk Festival, Michigan Maritime Museum, NorEast’r Fest, Old Dog Tavern, PJ’s Lager House, Quaker House, Saugatuck Brewing Co., South Haven Memorial Library, Southwest Michigan Harvest Fest, Strutt, Tip Top Deluxe, TrumbullPlex, Woodruff’s - MN: 331 Club, 411 Club, Acadia Cafe, Assembly Theatre at the Woman’s Club, Bedlam Theatre, Cabooze, Fine Line, Fitger’s, House of Mercy, Turf Club - MO: Get Lost Bookshop - MT: Great Northern Brewing Co. - NC: Guilford College, Penland Art School - NE: Caffeine Dreams - NH: Grafton Community Church, The Mill, Millbrook Community Fellowship - NJ: Cafe Improv, Small World Coffee - NM: Bean Cafe of Mesilla, Blackbird Buvette, Blue Dragon, Blue House, Zinc - NY: Ace of Clubs, Cafe Orwell, Dixon Place, Fredonia Opera House, Jalopy Theatre, Pete’s Candy Store, Vaudeville Park, Secret City, Tierra Coffee Roasters - OH: Bluffton Town Hall, Gypsy Beans, Little Brothers, Mennofolk Festival, Ottawa Tavern, Pomerene Art Center, Rumba Cafe, Ritz Theatre, Talkies, Woodlands Tavern - OK: College Bar - ON: Mitzi’s Sister, Mono Cliffs Inn, Moonshine Cafe, University of Waterloo - OR: Axe & Fiddle, Lewis & Clark College, Mississippi Pizza, Red & Black Cafe, Sam Bond’s Garage - PA: Calliope House, Club Cafe, Germantown Mennonite Church, Modern Formations, Philadelphia Folksong Society, Quiet Storm - RI: Invisible City - SC: Artists’ Coop - TN: French Quarter, WDVX-FM Blue Plate Special - TX: Bouldin Creek, Flipnotics, Ruta Maya - VA: Artful Dodger, Atomic Burrito, Eastern Mennonite University, Jammin’ Java, Little Grille, Mennofolk Festival, Red Rocks Cafe, Starr Hill, Wolf Trap - VT: Radio Bean - WA: Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress, Cafe Racer, Can Can, Conor Byrne, Empyrean Coffee, Evergreen College, Foundry, Green Frog Acoustic Cafe, Lake Union Center for Wooden Boats, Lake Union Wooden Boats Fest, Last Word Books, Paradox Theater, Seattle Town Hall, The Shop, Subdued Stringband Jamboree, Uncle Uli’s, Victrola, Zippy’s Java Lounge - WI: Black Cat Coffeehouse, High Noon Saloon, Miller Caves, Penninsula Art School, Project Lodge, Wild Hog in the Woods - MEXICO CITY: Atlantico, San Diablo, Zinco Jazz Club
Artis the Spoonman, Dan Bern, Seth Bernard, Black Jake & the Carnies, Breathe Owl Breathe, Tom Brosseau, Jonathan Byrd, Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy, Andy Cohen, John Cohen, Corn Fed Girls, Joshua Davis, Sherman Lee Dillon, Chris Dorman, The Dust Busters, Mark Dvorak, Curtis Eller, May Erlewine, Joe Filisko, The Freight Hoppers, Tony Furtado, God’s Favorite Beefcake, Goldmine Pickers, Sarah Lee Guthrie, Henhouse Prowlers, Hope For Agoldensummer, The Hot Seats, Jack Klatt, Charlie Louvin, David Massengill, Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots, Eric Noden, Over the Rhine, Amanda Palmer, Peculiar Pretzelmen, Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, Jim Post, Red Sea Pedestrians, John C. Reilly, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Harvey Ried, Rachel Ries, Danny Schmidt, Sourmash Hug Band, The Spikedrivers, Tracy Schwarz, Sam Shepard, Becky Stark, The Steel Wheels, Sebastian Steinberg, Ted Swartz, Ian Thomas, The TIllers, The Thornbills, Two Man Gentlemen Band, Willie Watson, Jason Webley, Whistle Pigs, Luke Winslow-King