April 15 2015 12:00 AM

At only 35, Samuel Seth Bernard — who goes by Seth — has become something of a father-figure within the Michigan folk music scene. A prolific singer/songwriter and guitarist himself, Bernard founded Earthwork Music to support other Michigan fo

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At only 35, Samuel Seth Bernard — who goes by Seth — has become something of a father-figure within the Michigan folk music scene. A prolific singer/songwriter and guitarist himself, Bernard founded Earthwork Music to support other Michigan folk artists. Built on a loose collective of like-minded artists, Earthwork Music provides distribution, promotional help and professional guidance to musicians. It’s roster includes such Michigan folk heavy-hitters as Joshua Davis, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys and Red Tail Ring.

Last year, Bernard became a literal father when his wife and longtime musical partner, May Erlewine Bernard, gave birth to Iris Betsy Bernard. Seth Bernard found time in his busy touring schedule to talk via email about adjusting to life as a father, what’s next musically and about his upcoming show with East Lansing’s Gifts or Creatures.

How has your musical life changed since having a daughter? What do you have to do or think about differently?

It´s a holistic change, so what we do and think about has shifted in just about every way, in various degrees. Fortunately Iris loves music and shares many of our tastes. We get to rediscover the classics through her! We find ourselves writing lots of short tunes with lots of verses for her. I find myself to be more vigilant on the road, developing a suspicion of cars with spoilers. Her nap and bedtime take precedence. I find myself playing the ukulele and recorder way more than I used to. Iris loves jazz. She´s a deep cat.

What is next for you and May? More touring? Back to the studio?

I´m working on a new project at La Luna (Recording and Sound in Kalamazoo) with Ian Gorman, May´s got a new touring band for her upcoming shows, we´re playing a bunch of festivals and club dates this summer and organizing our own Earthwork Family Weekend and Earthwork Harvest Gathering. I´m currently directing an afterschool music project at six schools in our area, writing and learning songs about farming and food. We just rewrote "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as "Smells Like Home Cooking" at Kalkaska High School. Those kids tell me it´s classic rock. Iris is on the cusp of learning how to walk and entering her first Beach Boys phase.

What do you enjoy about working with Gifts or Creatures? What has it been like to watch Brandon´s growth as a songwriter?

We love Gifts or Creatures! Brandon and Bethany are such good people, making Lansing proud. It is wonderful and encouraging to be around such kind and caring human beings, so dedicated to community and making the world a better place. And their music is so fantastic! It´s a completely unique, signature world — an expanding autonomous realm of its own. Brandon´s on a really special roll as a songwriter right now, and he keeps going further in, deeper down. It´s a joy to hear it unfold and to participate in the process. Bethany plays and sings so beautifully, bringing her warmth and grace to the show with such solid consistency. Those two are a real treasure.

How is Earthwork Music an important network for you? How does it help build up the local music scene?

We are all very grateful to live in a state that has a high standard of support and appreciation for musicians. The musical community is tight and strong. We look out for each other, we want each other to be happy and be heard. We love to collaborate. A scene built on mutual support and cooperation over competition produces better music and more fun for everyone. Earthwork Music is a group of friends who practice this philosophy and share music with communities across the state. We get to be a part of something bigger than ourselves here in Michigan and it makes us all stronger. Michigan music itself is a movement. But we also know that music is a key ingredient for any movement, and the work to create and maintain resilient social-ecological systems is going to need a lot of music. It´s going to take a whole lot more farmers and a whole lot more ordinary, flawed people doing work for the common good, and it´s going to take a whole lot of songs to get us through this century.

Seth & May with Gifts or Creatures

7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17 FREE The Peoples Church of East Lansing 200 W. Grand River Ave., East Lansing earthworkmusic.com

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