In an epic creative journey that began right here at Ann Arbor’s folk music venue The Ark four years ago, singer-songwriter duo Jim and Sam decided to push their musical limits and attempt the unthinkable: perform one show every day for the entirety of 2017.
The duo, who got married just three months before tackling their one-show-per-day challenge, felt frustrated while struggling to gain an audience in today’s hyper-digital music industry. They were “trying to crack…the code of the internet” in which musicians resort to “modern ways to connect with people,” as Jim said in a phone interview with The Michigan Daily. Feeling disillusioned by an increasingly commercialistic music industry and eager to break out of their creative rut, the musical pair had to channel the very authentic nature that typifies their folksy, acoustic sound and rely on the goodness of people in order to actualize their daring idea.
Jim and Sam’s story is one of serendipity — starting their 365-day tour at The Ark was completely coincidental but ultimately offered them a benevolent beginning to their risky journey.
“(The Ark) being a volunteer-run venue, there’s a heart there that was just really special,” Jim said. “Everybody is warm and supportive.”
As they took off on a year of constant performances, they soon realized that the warmth and genuine kindness they first experienced at The Ark extended beyond the limits of Ann Arbor. When describing the ways in which they cut corners and explored creative avenues in order to actually perform one show every day, Sam remembered that much of their success came about because of “ … (the goodness of) all the different people who (came out of the woodwork) and said ‘yes’ to us.”
The duo found immense support from numerous individuals across North America who stepped up to book venues, find audiences and do just about anything they could to elevate the pair and create a reality from their ambitious idea.
While on their year-long tour, Jim and Sam were challenged to connect to each audience in vulnerable ways and lean into the musical spontaneity that Jim recalled as “ … trying to get to know a room full of people, asking them how they’re doing, and then finding a song of ours that fits the situation.”
Unlike the meticulously choreographed and hyper-glamorized musical performances characteristic of today’s popular artists, Jim and Sam relied on their authentic energy and sincere passion for connecting with others in their musical pursuits. They offered a year’s worth of audiences the same kind of organically heart-felt entertainment that thrives in venues like The Ark.
Three years later, the duo will return to The Ark as part of the venue’s “Artist Spotlight” series, which originated as “Take A Chance Tuesday” when it first started in the 1990s, as The Ark marketing director Barb Authier wrote in an email interview with The Daily. Authier indicated that the primary objective behind the series is to provide an “opportunity for the community to come to a show without any cost-prohibition” and “for artists to start building an audience” in an area where they might not have a fanbase yet.
The band’s Ark performance will serve as part of a short Midwest run of their tour, consisting of five shows across the region, which will include both performances and live screenings of their documentary “After So Many Days.” The film tells the story of their “ … 365-day tour down unexplored roads, and onto unexpected stages,” and is currently exclusively available at film festivals and live screenings.
Jim and Sam’s journey is one built on community, heart and taking risks to connect with others; it echoes the very values The Ark strives to promote through their “Take a Chance Tuesday” and now “Artist Spotlight” series. Under no financial limitations, Ann Arbor community members are able to experience Jim and Sam perform once again at the venue where their career-changing project coincidentally originated years ago. Those lucky enough to feel the venue’s “very special energy,” as Jim described it, will understand Jim and Sam’s core message that the power of community can propel an artist’s vision far greater than any number of dollar signs or amount of corporate clout can.
Jim and Sam’s performance will take place at The Ark on Feb. 25; admission is completely free of charge and non-perishables will be accepted for Food Gatherers.