Jan. 11 2012 12:00 AM

Steppin' In It members step into a side project


After years of playing roots rock each Monday at the Green Door, Steppin’ In It has become known for not only its Americana, but also top-notch playing skills.

The band members expertly throw down on some trombone, trumpet, Cajun accordion, dobro, slide guitar, Cajun fiddle and clawhammer banjo, along with other more traditional instruments.

A new side project, the Starlight Six, which features members of Steppin’ In It, focuses less on technical skills and more on stripped-down songwriting. Steppin’ In It members Dominic John Suchyta and Joshua Davis formed the band with fellow veteran Michigan-based musicians Seth Bernard, May Erlewine, Rachael Davis and Mike Shimmin. 

The Starlight Six releases its debut 7-inch single Friday at Ten Pound Fiddle.

“Steppin´ In It is a lot more genre-based and rooted in traditional American music,” Davis said. “The Starlight Six uses a lot of those traditional styles in some ways, but it’s a lot more about songs. It’s not necessarily about players.”

With a strong focus on melodies, Davis said the Starlight Six’s vocal harmonizing is a nod to ‘60s pop bands.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a band where there are tons of singers,” Davis said. “If you look at the band The Mamas and The Papas, all these groups where there’s awesome vocal arrangements, that’s what this band has, and it’s really powerful. Everyone’s singing. It’s just like this wall of vocal sound.”

Aside from Steppin’ In It and forming the Starlight Six, both Davis and Suchyta have been keeping busy with a handful of other musical endeavors. 

When he’s not jamming with Jeff Daniels, Suchyta also records with Grammy-winning Jack White (of White Stripes fame) on a number of projects for Third Man Records, which is White’s label. 

The two musicians are old friends who grew up together in Detroit. Suchyta has played alongside White on many albums, including country legend Wanda Jackson’s latest album, a Secret Sisters single and a Hank Williams Sr. tribute album, which was spearheaded by Bob Dylan.

He also plays bass on an upcoming Third Man single by pop legend Tom Jones; it hits record stores March 5. 

“I’ve known Jack for 25 years,” Suchyta said. “What’s funny to me is that things really haven’t changed that much. He had a reel-to-reel in his bedroom when we were teenagers. He used to call me over and I’d play on stuff and it’s kind of the exact same thing now.” 

“He definitely has a vision,” he added. “It’s definitely nice to work with someone who knows exactly what they want. He also kind of feeds on spontaneity, I think he just loves working quickly and working spontaneously.” 

Meanwhile, Davis recently completed a solo album, “Magnolia Belles.” He is also raising funds for travel expenses to get him to Palestine, where he plans to donate his time and musical skills to “Project Palestine,” a program that organizes five marathons to raise money for programs that support olive farmers and their families. Davis is raising funds via a Kickstarter donation campaign that will help pay for airfare, lodging and living expenses during the trip. 

So what’s next for Starlight Six?

“We’re going to keep it as a special project,” Davis said. “We’ve all got our own stuff going on and those are our main focuses. But I think it’s going to stay this thing that’s brought out once in a while, shows with a lot of intention. I’ve always been in working bands and played all the time, so this is refreshing for me. Each show is really special.”

The Starlight Six

Ten Pound Fiddle

Hannah Community Center

819 Abbot Road, East Lansing

8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13;

doors at 7:30 p.m.

$15, $12 Fiddle members, $5 students