It’s been nine years since local Lansing singer songwriter Jen Sygit released her last solo album, “So Long Pollyanna.” While the folk roots/Americana artist is not a new name in the Michigan music scene, this is the first time she turned to Kickstarter to raise funds for her upcoming fourth solo studio release. Sygit successfully raised $15,000 in donations to go toward the recording of her new album, “It’s About Time.”
“It felt like a group victory,” Sygit said.
“I definitely am super grateful and feel the fact that it was not achieved by me alone, by far. I couldn’t have done it without my musical community in Michigan for sure.”
Over the last decade, Sygit has been an integral part of plenty of albums, tours, recording sessions, open mic nights, movie soundtracks and more all across the state. She’s opened for Joshua Davis, performed an episode of WKAR’s “Backstage Pass,” recorded an album in NYC with group Stella!, played Sirius XM Satellite Radio show “Kick Out the Jams,” played solo gigs, as a duo with Sam Corbin, and hosted a weekly open mic night since 2004.
Some of those connections include working relationships and decades-long friendships with Steppin’ In It singer and guitarist Joshua Davis. He gained nationwide attention after he finished third place on season 8 of NBC’s “The Voice.” Close friend and musical comrade Dominic John Davis plays bass for Jack White and Buddy Miller.
Davis met Sygit after a show at Mac’s Bar.
His ears perked up once he heard her finger-picking guitar style and vocals. Since then, he has played bass on every one of Sygit’s albums, and now will act as producer of her upcoming Kickstarter-funded album.
“I really am excited to have his influence on this album, more than usual,” Sygit said. “You do have a slight bit of influence as a player, but production wise he’s helping shape which songs get chosen, instrumentation and general overall feel and concept of the album, which is probably going to be a little different from my previous albums.
Previous albums featured a folk feel, including the 2007 release “Leaving Marshall Street,” which received an award nomination at the Detroit Music Awards for best folk album. “So Long Pollyanna” also received numerous “Album of the Year” Awards from Progressive Torch and Twang and John Bommarito of 107one radio in Ann Arbor.
“It will be awhile still before it will come out, because it has to be mixed and mastered,” Sygit said. “There’s potential for it to be shopped-out to a label, but that’s not a guarantee at the moment.”
As for possible themes or elements in the upcoming album, producer Dominic John Davis was also pretty hush-hush about giving away too much.
“She always writes songs that mean something to her, and I always write love songs,” Davis said. “So there you have it.”
He considers himself a ‘big picture kind of person’ when working as the role of producer, so Davis isn’t too concerned with all the little details.
“While tracking a record, I usually spend some time in the control room with the engineer to make sure we’re headed down the right path,” Davis explained. “But I also like to work fast and don’t want to get hung up on too many things. I see producing as problem-solving and if there aren’t any problems then I try not to monkey with it.”
Sygit said having someone to take the reins is nice. “Being able to trust him to do stuff is huge,” she said. “It just takes the weight a little bit off my shoulders. I think this is the first time I’ve legitimately had someone solidly in the producer role and it’s pretty fantastic.”
After Sygit opened for Joshua Davis last summer, she asked the band to back her on a new song co-written by Mike Lynch, and that’s when talk of a new solo record came up.
“That’s really when we started talking about making a record,” Dominic John Davis said. “She’s a great talent and an old friend, and I couldn’t be happier getting to spend some time in my home state making it with her.”
The pair have already been working on finishing up a song together for the album. “I know Jen well and know what kind of music she likes and was trying to tap into that,” Davis said. “Plus she sent me everything she had written so far, and I was trying to fill the gaps. It’s great because we’re old friends and I can send her a verse and a chorus and say love it or leave it.”
In fact, when Sygit was considering launching her first Kickstarter campaign, she did plenty of research and also reached out to fellow musicians and filmmakers who had experience with the fundraising platform. Michael McCallum, Lansing film maker and owner of Rebel Pictures, was one of the people Sygit turned to for advice.
“What I was trying to impart some knowledge to Jen on was that you have to be good at sharing it social media-wise, know people are going to get annoyed with it, and you’ve really just got to forget those folks,” McCallum said. You’ve gotta get the word out on this project because it means everything to you.”
He also warned her it would be a nerve-wracking experience, something Mc- Callum had learned from his previous three Kickstarters.
“This will be one of the most stressful things you do because each day you’re worried and you feel the sound of the second hand turning on the clock,” McCallum added, “because if you don’t meet this goal, you get none of it.”
After realizing her $15,000 goal had been met, she felt relieved, grateful and cried for 10 minutes. Then, it was back to carrying boxes into her new house.
“Honestly, moving in the middle of the Kickstarter was both horrible and awesome. The horrible part was that I was so stressed having to do both at the same time. However, having moving be a sub-focus of my life also helped take my mind off the Kickstarter.”
She’s looking forward to creatively utilizing her new space and hopefully can even write a few new tunes for the project release.
“It takes a lot of work,” McCallum said, “but she’s also really worked hard to build that community of people that are supporters. People look at it and go ‘well I could do that,’ and you can, it’s just going to take a lot of work and you better be ready to do a lot of sacrificing to get where she is.”