Alpena native Stef Chura just got off of a West Coast tour, stopped at SXSW and played a show as part of the Capital City Film Festival in Lansing, Michigan. Now, she’s preparing for a solo set at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 22.
The 28-year-old Detroit indie rocker spoke about what it was like making her debut full-length album, “Messes,” the start of her career in Ypsilanti, and why she loves calling the mitten state her home.
Stef began making music in Eastside college towns including Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor a few years ago. She enjoyed the collaborative DIY music scenes the areas held. Once she decided to dive head first into the music industry as a career, “Messes” was born. But the process wasn’t overnight.
Music was always cathartic for Stef, and she turned to writing and playing songs to help her cope with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Her short-term plan was to make a record, and now she’s enjoying the music career she’s built for herself.
“Messes is kind of, whether I planned this or not, is kind of about emotional messes,” Stef said. “Although I wasn’t going for a specific theme … the whole theme kind of seemed like emotional messes or something. A lot of the songs aren’t really clear story lines — the lyrics are a little bit more pieced together, like collage-d.”
Half of the tracks on “Messes” have been practiced, played and fine-tuned years ago in front of earlier audiences in Ypsilanti’s music venues and bars. “Half the songs are older, but since I’ve never made a record before, I felt like they had to be cataloged,” she said. “I recorded them with Fred Thomas who’s also from Michigan, from Saturday Looks Good to Me. It took way too long, I think we just kept thinking it was going to wrap up and it just never did. It took nine months, spread out over tracking and mixing. It was excruciating thinking about it,” she said of the record that had been in the works since 2015.
While she enjoys rocking it out with the band: Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good To Me) on bass, and Ryan Clancy (Jamaican Queens and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) on drums, Stef will be playing a more intimate solo set this weekend at the Pyramid Scheme.
Growing up in Northern Michigan, in the sparsely-populated city of Alpena, the singer was always intrigued by the Detroit scene.
“I was really curious about Detroit as a kid, but I didn’t think I could live here or something,” she said. “I’ve traveled a bunch, and it still doesn’t really make sense to be living anywhere else,” Stef said. “If my goal is to be making music and travel, I don’t really need to be in another city to do that.”
Plus she’s a huge fan of many restaurants in the mitten state: Astro Coffee in Detroit, a vegetarian place-GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale, for some super cheap Indian dishes at Aladdin Sweets & Cafe in Hamtramck, and off to Pea Pod Inn for some Chinese food in Ann Arbor.
After touring for the last two months, and embarking on a West Coast tour and stopping at SXSW, this Michigander has advice especially for the Midwest region musicians.
“There’s not a lot of representation here — there’s really almost no national label representation,” she said, “but I think you should not be afraid and just take the plunge. It’s a big commitment, it involves saving money, but there is a payoff. If you can do it, you should do it … you might as well just take two years and see what happens with your music and actually tour.”
You can catch Stef Chura at the Mo Pop-presented event with Heaters, Michigander and Humons at the Mo Pop-presented event at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids on Saturday, April 22. Doors open at 7 p.m.