Growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s in Charlotte, Michigan, Sean Anthony Sullivan drew musical inspiration from analog sources — namely, his parents’ records.
“I grew up in an age where you didn’t have access to the entire world of music,” he said. “You basically had what your parents had, and to me, that was ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll.”
Sullivan’s father was the band director for Charlotte’s public high school. Sullivan used to rock out to Hal Leonard promo records before finding the band Chicago and hearing Bob Seger blasted over the sound system at the local roller-skating rink.
When Sullivan graduated from high school in 2004, mid-Michigan was a different place. Many of his peers’ parents worked for General Motors, and he remembers watching the Lansing Car Assembly plant being demolished, wondering what the future of his hometown would look like.
He was determined to pursue a career in the video game industry, so after high school, he packed up his car and drove across the country to Eugene, Oregon.
Out of that experience came a song called “Here and Gone,” a rock ballad about growing up “with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder,” Sullivan said.
“It’s that unrequited youth of feeling like you need to go on this grand adventure, but in the end, coming back to realizing that what really matters is the relationships and the way you connect with people.”
Originally released in 2009, Sullivan’s work in the video game industry led to a surprising renewal of interest in the single.
“I was building platforms for video games and working with teams that were putting their games on those platforms,” he said. “One of the teams heard the record and checked it out, and they were in a position to build content for the “Rock Band” network. They approached us about putting some of the music on the game.”
One of the coolest things about selling his song to “Rock Band,” he said, was seeing other people play it with the game’s instruments. He’s seen gamers posting videos of his song, and he loves watching them enjoy the music.
Sullivan married and started a family during the 15 years he was living out West, but he always kept his eyes on Michigan. Like many who’ve left the state, he gained a new appreciation for Michigan’s blue-collar work ethic. Although surrounded by Oregon’s mountains and scenic vistas, he felt like he was missing out on everything happening in Greater Lansing.
Sullivan kept his job in the Pacific Northwest, but he relocated back to the Lansing area with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic. His parents live in the area, but he said he wanted to move back mostly because he wanted to participate in the life of the community. This meant reconnecting with his oldest friend and lifelong bandmate, Casey DeMott, a bassist from Charlotte.
DeMott has been playing music his whole life, and he credits this passion to watching his uncle Paul Cipcic, who was a member of the Michigan rock ‘n’ roll band Stone Hedge.
When we spoke on the phone, DeMott immediately went on a deep dive into different types of bass guitars: Les Paul, Warwick and his favorite, the Epiphone Jack Casady with low-impedance pickups. It was all a little over my head, but it’s safe to say his love of music came from watching his uncle’s every move. Although he’s had some formal training, DeMott plays by ear and learned how to find “near-perfect” pitch from his uncle.
“I haven’t read a piece of music in 20 years,” DeMott said.
He said Sullivan, on the other hand, is more of a technically minded, classically trained musician.
“He could literally write a score,” DeMott said.
Sullivan’s home studio is outfitted with both a control room and a live room, so he can create music however and whenever inspiration strikes — when he has time between work and his family.
“Sometimes it’s 11 p.m., sometimes it’s the middle of the night,” Sullivan said.
With the duo now back in the same area, they decided to re-release “Here and Gone” nearly 15 years after its original recording. They added recent Michigan State University graduate Lucas Lindsay to the lineup as their drummer and retooled the arrangement of the original track. Notably, the three bandmates played together on this recording instead of laying down their tracks separately. DeMott said this creates a warmer sound — not as sterile as some recording environments — and allows the musicians to take cues from each other and “move as a unit.”
“It’s like a re-debut of everything,” DeMott said.
The single will be available on streaming platforms Friday (Aug. 18), but Sullivan and DeMott also value traditional media like local radio, and stations in Detroit and Saginaw have already picked up the track. We’ve come a long way from single-purchase downloads on iTunes or mailing copies of a tape to a radio station.
As technology has changed, Sullivan said he’s embraced the opportunity for ubiquity.
“It’s not about the economics for me. I create something, and I want to have it accessible and available to share. That’s a silver lining of how things have gone with the music industry,” he said.
About the new song and his life journey so far, Sullivan said, “I’ve found myself back here in Lansing. I’m back home with the support of my family. Life is good. The way I like to say it is, people in Michigan are really humble about how awesome it is here.”
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