NBC: Detroit artist completes year-long beat boxing challenge

DETROIT - Detroit artist Stevie Soul set out to complete one major challenge in 2016: Post a beat boxing video every single day.

365 (366 with the leap year) later, Stevie is reflecting on a mission accomplished.

The polished beat boxer has been performing around the world for more than 10 years, and his 2016 challenge took him around the country and back - documenting all of it through the art of beat boxing. 

"I came out a new artist with a new outlook, appreciation, and love for my craft," Stevie wrote in a recap post to his Instagram page. " It was not easy and some days the last thing I wanted to do was to create content but I made a commitment and I pressed record. Every. Single. Day."

Stevie starting beat boxing as a child, using it as away to overcome a serious stuttering problem.

When he would try to speak, funny sounds -- instead of words -- would come out of his mouth.

"It was rough. Kids would make fun of me," Stevie said. "Stuttering is an odd thing; you never see it coming. It just hits. One second you have full control -- the next, you can barely speak."

Stevie was able to take those funny sounds, and turn them into beats and patterns. This ultimately helped him form sentences in an easier way.

The 2016 challenge proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated, but Stevie is happy he was able to make it happen.

"I tried to be innovative and pushed my creative limits, which I look forward to continue doing. It’s a choice daily. Not necessarily an easy one but a choice and promise to carry through with your goals, new or old."

You can check out the videos from the 2016 challenge on Stevie's Instagram page. Stevie was also recently featured in TBD Mag.

BENZINGA: Watch 'Mr. Wonderful' Kevin O'Leary Jam With A Detroit Beatboxer

By: Spencer White - Staff Writer 11/30/2016

Kevin O’Leary famously loves several things: wine, photography, money and guitars. At a recent event in Detroit, O’Leary spoke about his passions with the Motor City community.

O’Leary was visiting Detroit to receive the inaugural Detroit Inspiration Award at the Benzinga headquarters and plugged in for an impromptu jam session with local beatboxing sensation Stevie Soul.

After talking about his life story and investment philosophy, O’Leary strummed some blues chords while Stevie Soul busted out a backbeat. Check out a video of the pair playing below.

“When the folks at Benzinga told me Mr. Wonderful played blues guitar, I knew I had to figure out a way to jam with him,” Stevie Soul, real name Stevie Ansara, said in an interview with Benzinga. “I’ll tell you what, it was nice to interact with his artistic side compared to the Shark side!”

While the jam session wasn’t formally planned, both O’Leary and Stevie Soul are masters of their craft and didn’t have any trouble finding the rhythm.

“We chatted briefly prior to the set, but didn’t rehearse, so I wasn't sure what to expect,” Ansara said. “My plan was to let him find his groove and hop on when I saw fit. Once we locked into a groove together, it was seamless. Overall, it was a very memorable and humbling experience. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity.”

During the event, Benzinga CEO Jason Raznick also presented O’Leary with a bottle of wine from Charles Woodson Wines, a label from a former champion University of Michigan cornerback turned winemaker. The bottle was provided by the House of Pure Vin, a Detroit wine shop recently featured on CNBC.

BENZINGA: How One Detroit Artist Overcame Stuttering To Go On A Beatboxing Quest

Every Detroiter knows certain struggles. Part of the city’s indomitable spirit, however, is how Detroiters turn those struggles into forces for positive change.

Stevie Soul’s story is a classic example of that spirit. He’s struggled against a condition of his birth, but turned his adversity into a medium to teach those around him the power of art.

When Stevie Soul (birth name: Stevie Ansara) learned to speak, his mouth wouldn’t make the words his mind articulated: he had a stutter.

“I would try to say words I would get caught up on the first letter,” Ansara says. “I would try to push through it and all these funny, weird sounds would come out as I tried to say words.”

Ansara’s parents tried speech therapy and other attempts at helping him with his stutter, but Ansara found an ingenious way to help himself.

“In order to try sentence structure, I would take these funny sounds and arrange them into beats and patterns which gave me a little rhythm and I discovered that I had this little talent,” Ansara says.

And with that realization, Stevie Soul was born.

A few weeks ago, Ansara’s life took a turn that capped off his struggle with speech: He served as the keynote speaker for the National Stuttering Association’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Currently, Ansara is embarking on a year-long quest to create original beatboxes every day and upload them to Instagram with the hashtag #yearofbeatbox.

As a young beatboxer, Ansara honed his craft, guided by popular beatboxers like Rahzel, the Fat Boys and Biz Markie. He says the first artist that he loved and connected to was The Roots, with whom Rahzel frequently appears.

“When I really [started to] understand music, it was because of The Roots. They introduced me to Rahzel, who at that time was playing with The Roots. Then I understood, man, there are beatboxers who can sit in with the band, can sit in with a rapper...I started to understand how artists collaborate and then, ideally, how you could make a career and make money off of it.”

Ansara has since devoted his life to music, and later developed a passion for video after studying digital media at the Academy of Design in Troy, Michigan. He’s taken to the stage several times, the first when he was still in high school.

“I didn’t want to be the sit-around lazy artist. I wanted to create content in every possible way. I knew [from a young age] that content was king.”

Ansara spent his early 20s teaching music and art to Detroit schoolchildren in partnership with the College for Creative Studies, a job that was as rewarding as it was challenging.

“Teaching in the inner city is not a joke, but it was a great time for me.” Ansara says. “I did it for five years. Man, some days were the best days of my career. When you teach something, it sharpens your craft.”

Eventually, Ansara achieved a level of local celebrity, with interviews in local weeklies like the Metro Times and local DJs playing his beatboxing records on the radio. He was even interviewed for a USA Today piece on Detroit’s comeback.

He lucked into a job shooting videos for Quicken Loans chairman Dan Gilbert’s family of companies after Gilbert saw Ansara perform at a Detroit event and was impressed by his talent and drive.

Ansara’s living his dream, he says, and the only thing he wants next is to do more of what he’s doing.

“I never had an idol or someone to look up to or admire in a similar craft that I have,” Ansara says. “I just want to share my story and create content on the highest possible level.”

 

NBC: Detroit artist overcomes speaking disability through beatboxing

Stevie Soul WDIV Ad.jpg

DETROIT - Beatboxing is not just a form of music -- it's an art. When executed correctly, beatboxing can replicate almost any instrument in any song.

To Detroit artist Stevie Soul, beatboxing is not just a special talent he pulls out at parties -- it's a passion he practices every day.

When Stevie was a kid, he had a speaking disability and stuttering problem. When he would try to speak, funny sounds -- instead of words -- would come out of his mouth.

"it was rough. Kids would make fun of me," Stevie said. "Stuttering is an odd thing; you never see it coming. It just hits. One second you have full control -- the next, you can barely speak."

Stevie was able to take those funny sounds, and turn them into beats and patterns. This ultimately helped him form sentences in an easier way.

As a result of this struggle -- a beatboxer was born.

"I started beatboxing, banging on the desks in class while my classmates were singing and rapping," said Stevie. "The same kids that were picking on me before were constantly asking me to 'do that thing that you do.'-"

For years to come, Stevie would showcase his beatboxing and singing talent around the world.

Since those days, Stevie has performed in front of large audiences, produced music for national commercials and collaborated with some of Detroit's best-known artists. He even performed at SXSW in 2016.

Working with Detroit's Y Arts of the YMCA and the College for Creative Studies - Stevie has been able to take his talent to the classroom.

"Teaching something -- it makes you so much better at whatever you're teaching. It was an added benefit. Getting to work with kids, keeping music and art alive in our schools -- and at the same time, practicing my craft in a new environment," said Stevie.

Fast forward to 2016 -- Stevie Soul is bringing his now well-known beatboxing talent to a different platform -- the Internet.

The latest challenge he's taking on is one imposed by himself: post a beatboxing video on Instagram every single day in 2016. With more than three months under his belt, he's not slowing down.

"Instagram was the perfect platform for me to showcase and test new material. It also has given people a glimpse into my life," said Stevie. "This project has helped me to understand that variety, experimentation, and collaboration is important for artists."

The daily video challenge includes beatboxing covers of popular songs, game show tunes, and collaborations with other artists.

With 365 videos to produce (plus a leap year bonus), the challenge will be finding ways to keep creating fresh ideas. 

"I'm not running out of ideas. I get inspired every day," said Stevie. "Every minute of the day, I think about how I can challenge myself to create fresh material."

Along with beatboxing, Stevie also writes and performs his own music. He's currently working on a new EP, which features his raspy blues vocal style, paired with his staple beatboxing sound.

"It's a great time to be a Detroit artist -- there's a very collaborative spirit here right now," said Stevie. "You have fashion designers mixing with musicians, street artists mixing with restaurants. There's an open creative platform. The opportunity to collaborate has never been so vastly available."

If you'd like to follow Stevie's challenge, check out his Instagram page.

Interview w/ National Stuttering Association 2016

Stevie Soul Year Of Beatbox Press Photo.jpg

We recently met up with professional beatboxer Stevie Soul, who is also a person who stutters.  As a young child, Stevie used stuttering to transform into an award-winning artist.  You can check out some of Stevie’s video on his website, and read his interview below!

National Stuttering Association: Tell us a little about yourself.  Where do you live, and what do you do?

Stevie: I’m 28, I live in Detroit, Michigan, and I’m a professional beatboxer.  When I was a kid, as soon as I could talk up until about high school, I would stutter so bad, that I would struggle to speak and weird sounds would come out, like clicks and pops.  As a way to teach myself to speak, I would arrange these funny sounds into beats and patterns.  It gave me structure and a little bit of rhythm.  I used that as a technique to understand sentence structure and a beat to talk to, and then I discovered I could beatbox.

I kept doing it – it was my technique to help me speak better.  I kept developing and growing and stuck with it.  I became really good at it when I was young…fast forward to current day, and it helps me overcome and not stutter as much.  Kids would pick on me for not being able to speak, but then I found out that they were the same ones asking me to do that “thing that I do.”  It was an incredible transformation – even my brothers who would pick on me before would now ask me to do this thing.  They were amazed to see that I somehow figured out a way to pull it all off.  My parents were both immigrants and spoke English, although not that well, so I did what I could to figure this out on my own but with their support.  Once I figured out music and beatboxing became my voice, it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

My friends started signing me up for talent competitions, and I found out this was something I wanted to do for a career.  I researched what beatboxing was, the contribution it has had to hip hop music, and the icons in beatboxing, and I was obsessed with how they stayed relevant and made a living as artists.  I wanted to incorporate elements of singing into beatboxing – there’s so much more to the art form than standing on a corner making a beat – I started incorporating singing and other instruments and making music.  Who would have thought that this thing that I was doing when I was stuttering would let me make a living out of it?

I’m also a film producer, and I work on film projects like commercials. Performance is a big part of what I do, so that’s kind of one part of it, and I also fell in love with the production part of it.  I started producing music for producers and then was introduced to film.  I love film because it mixes every element of art into one thing.  Film is the highest level of art in a sense, where everything comes together.  Now I work in Detroit as a filmmaker and a film producer.

NSA: What is your experience with stuttering?

Stevie: It affects me in general conversation.  I’ve only recently opened up about it.  I never talked about it – why would I want to remind people that I stuttered?  It was only recently that I wanted to share it.  Stuttering doesn’t affect my music as much, but as an adult I still stutter as I speak.  I still do struggle with it, but I do my best to pause for a second and recompose myself and go through it.  I’m sure it’s different for everybody.  For me, sometimes I can predict when it will happen, but the worst part is that you never really see it’s coming.

NSA: What advice could you give to others who stutter?

Stevie: Take it slow.  I’m going to be my parents now, but there is some truth to that.  It’s hard because I don’t have any great cutting-edge, ground-breaking advice because everyone’s doing this differently.  Learn to beatbox! Basically, just be yourself and don’t let stuttering define who you are. No one can do you better then you!

I also was given the opportunity to teach in the Detroit public school system as a working artist.  For many years, I worked with 6th-12th graders in music production and graphic design.  The public school system consolidated every class into one program due to budget cuts, so I worked on that program.  I would tell these stories to every class, and every class, there were one or two people who stuttered.  There are more of us than you might think.  I have a special place in my heart for that.

CBS: Detroit Artists Meet The South - SXSW Showcase Recap

Detroit is known for many things: cars, food, music, and most importantly, our attitudes. But what about our collaborative spirit? Or our yearning to raise each other up and spread our Detroit pride?  These things may not be what most people think of when they hear about our city, but Detroit is a breeding ground for these ideals. Small businesses, art installations, nonprofits, artists, doers, makers and believers. They flock here. They know that Detroit is the hub for all things hustle. And this year,South by Southwest (SXSW) got a taste of what that hustle is all about with the first ever “Born and Raised In South Detroit Showcase,” featuring 20 Detroit artists at Indra’s Awarehouse near downtown Austin, TX. The showcase was curated by Blake Edwards of Parkhouse, Myron Watkins of The Yellow Wall, and Angela Gallegos, manager of the bandONEFREQ. Plus, the showcase was sponsored by Tequila Cabresto, a Michigan owned and operated tequila company.

For those unfamiliar with the annual Texas music festival, SXSW is a six-day event with thousands of musicians, hundreds of venues, and people flocking from all over the globe to catch the best all genres of music. Gallegos explained that the idea for the Detroit showcase was sparked by a previous visit to SXSW.

“We went to South by Southwest last year and we all had a great experience. We all work with music in some way shape or form, so we thought, why not put together a Detroit experience for all the artists who go down there?”

Utilizing social media (Instagram, most specifically) and Assemble Sound, a collaborative space for Detroit musicians, Gallegos, Edwards and Watkins were able to share their idea for the showcase, recruit artists and curate events to raise money to make their vision a reality. The artists they rallied for the festival include: Kash Tha KushmanBless Mcfly,LokyePrada Leary, Lin-SayMartezTyler TazBritney StoneyBevlove,Asante, Steph, ONEFREQStevie SoulKing Visionary, DJ FLOW, DJ LANKADJ DASH and DJ MELE. Genres ranged from hip-hop to funk, R&B, dance, jazz fusion and even beatboxing. Along with all of the great performers they were able to provide free entry, free tequila, free parking and other special prizes for those who attended.

Stevie Soul, a well-known Detroit beatboxer, traveled to Austin for the first time to attend the showcase and was able to experience the vibe of the festival firsthand.

“Imagine,” he said. “All these different people are in town for South By and a lot of [them] just go to party and network even outside of the actual festival. It’s the perfect place for aspiring or even established artists to go and perform, and network with their peers, show off some new material, and hang out.”

The Detroit lifestyle may not have been as foreign as you may think in Austin, TX, thanks in part to Michigan House, a roving pop-up space that takes the best aspects of Michigan art, music, food, and creativity and shares it with different cities. Temporarily housed in downtown Austin, Michigan House provided entertainment, drinks and Michigan pride during SXSW.

“There’s this sort of sub-scene happening. And connected to that, Michigan has had, for the past several years, this really big presence [at SXSW], and that’s in big part due to the Michigan House,” Ansara explained.

With networking and collaborating being at the top of most artists’ lists, there’s a lot more bringing musicians together. There’s a particular homogeneity that manifests when artists, no matter their hometown, come together and share their talent and inspiration. It creates a space for expression and encouragement that translates across geographies.

“The most flattering thing for me [during the showcase] was when I was up there beatboxing. There were different groups of people rapping and ciphering to my beat, while I was performing. That was a testament to how awesome and free-spirited the whole vibe is there,”

There were many like-minded people collaborating to make this showcase happen, anywhere from 50-60 people traveling down to Texas to spread the sound of Detroit and working behind the scenes to facilitate a smooth experience.

“This was the first year people were coming together in the spirit of being together and supporting each other. So I think that excites me the most,” Gallegos said, “because this culture of collaboration is building in this town [Detroit]. And supporting one another with the grind and the hustle of sharing music and art in general is a great thing, so I can’t wait to see what happens beyond this.”

After the successful turnout from this year’s showcase at SXSW, Gallegos, Edwards and Watkins hope to increase the participation, spread the word and acquire more sponsors to keep the showcase free for artists…and create an even bigger and better experience for next year’s Born and Raised In South Detroit Showcase.

PPL WATCHING: DETROIT'S EASTERN MARKET

PPL Watching is a collection of street photography by Detroit multimedia artist Stevie Soul. He travels the city by bike, freezing in time spontaneous moments and ordinary people. This photo blog represents his ongoing mission to capture the essence and energy of everyday life in Detroit. 
Eastern Market is the largest historic market in the country, celebrating the freshest, most wholesome fruits, vegetables, specialty foods, art and music; all undeniably Detroit. The district was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974, and draws over 40,000 people every Saturday.

PPL WATCHING: DALLY IN THE ALLEY 2015

PPL Watching is a collection of street photography by Detroit multimedia artist Stevie Soul. He travels the city by bike, freezing in time spontaneous moments and ordinary people. This photo blog represents his ongoing mission to capture the essence and energy of everyday life in Detroit.

The 38th annual Dally in the Alley festival took place on September 12th, 2015 in the historic alleys of the north Cass Corridor in Midtown Detroit. Dally is a neighborhood celebration of local musicians, artists, restaurants and vendors of all sorts.

PPL WATCHING: GREEKTOWN

PPL Watching is a collection of street photography by Detroit multimedia artist Stevie Soul. He travels the city by bike, freezing in time spontaneous moments and ordinary people. This photo blog represents his ongoing mission to capture the essence and energy of everyday life in Detroit.

Detroit's historic Greektown is undergoing a facelift. This summer, Greektown began Greektown at Sundown, a weekend event bringing Greektown's great restaurants, culture and diversity together for a pedestrian friendly celebration, including music, outdoor patio dining, street entertainment and more.

Local Musicians to Perform Jazzy Holiday Classics at Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Stevie Soul Parade CBS

In Detroit, mention the words Thanksgiving DayParade to someone and you will be met with stories and memories. Ben Sharkey and I are no exception.

Since I can remember, my family and I would wake up early each Thanksgiving morning and head downtown to reserve our spot in front of the FOX theatre. No matter the weather, we would gear up and head down.

As kids, my best friend Justin and I would use the parade as an excuse to roam around and explore downtown Detroit. We loved the excitement, live music, and especially the larger than life floats that move down Woodward Ave.

It was because of this time spent exploring that I really fell in love with downtown Detroit. I knew that this is where I wanted to be.

For Ben, waking up at his house in Ann Arbor and traveling to Lapeer to watch the parade at his grandmother’s has always been a Thanksgiving tradition. “It’s very nostalgic for me,” Ben told me. He can’t wait to see her reaction when he tells her he’s going to be in it.

This year, the parade will still be a part of both of our Thanksgiving celebrations, but instead of watching it on TV or from the sidewalk, we will be in the middle of Woodward Ave performing a barbershop quartet style holiday jazz set.

Ben and I will be performing a cover of Louis Armstrong’s holiday classic Zat You, Santa Claus? We have also brought on Detroit Percussionist Rick Beamon to add some extra flavor to the song.

See you on Woodward!

LIVE - 11/27/2014 on WDIV Local 4 at 9:23am

‘Man In The City’ Film Series Will Debut Local Films at Detroit’s YMCA

Stevie Soul Victor CBS

In the past five years, Detroit’s local film scene has blown up with hundreds of filmmakers working on short films, music videos, and documentaries exploring the changing landscape of the city.

With a storied past and bright future, Detroit is the perfect place for storytellers and filmmakers to create and share their day-to-day experiences living and working in Detroit.

The Man in the City Film Series gives these filmmakers an outlet to showcase their work. This ongoing event highlights locally-produced films that raise much-needed program dollars for Y Arts of the YMCA. At each event, the filmmakers will be in attendance to share insights into their creative processes.

Man in the City Film Series

Marlene Boll Theatre inside Boll Family YMCA

Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 7 P.M.

$10 suggested donation

This week, I have the opportunity to premiere a short film my team (Jon Braue, Joseph Talbot, and Sean Jackson) and I made for the Children’s Tumor Foundation titled “Victor.”

Our film tells the story of a 26 year-old Nigerian medical student who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes massive life-threatening tumors on his face.

Take a deeper look at his journey and see how he’s overcome his disorder in the most inspiring way.

British Music Entrepreneurs Bring Music Education to Detroit: Behind the Scenes at DIME

Stevie Soul DIME CBS

As a Detroit artist, I’ve always looked for a place to call home: a place to develop my skills, create, rehearse, and perform. There was no single place in the city that offered all of these things until Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME) opened its doors this spring.

DIME immediately attracted the attention of the local music community. Founded by British musicentrepreneurs Kevin Nixon, Sarah Clayman, and Bruce Dickinson, it’s currently situated at a pop-up location at 1520 Woodward and will soon move into its permanent building this fall at 1265 Griswold in downtown’s Capitol Park neighborhood.

Kevin, Sarah, and Bruce opened DIME in Detroit with a goal to provide local musicians with the information, encouragement, and expertise needed to build successful music careers. Through DIME, musicians have opportunities to play in bands, meet industry professions, hone their technique, promote themselves, and take advantage of other career development activities.

After hearing the buzz around town, I decided tocheck DIME out for myself. I passed through the doors of the large, open industrial space and was immediately greeted by Kevin and Sarah. I took note of the space’s center point: a full stage that was completely lit with every instrument available and ready to play.

I was so excited that I jumped on stage and started beat-boxing on the microphone. Out of nowhere, another musician joined me at the piano. Before I knew it, we were creating a song together. This sort of collaboration and camaraderie is emblematic of what DIME is all about, creating a community space for local musicians.

The DIME founders’ solid mission and visible passion for Detroit inspired me to pay the space a second visit with my film team (Joe Talbot and Jon Braue) to capture the DIME story for a mini-documentary.

Upon our arrival, we met Elise McCoy, the leader singer of My Pal Val – a rock band Kevin is currently producing. We had the unique opportunity to see Kevin in action as he coached the band through a rehearsal, which we found to be the perfect scene to film.

DIME is helping shape the music culture of Detroit 2.0, and once their full facility is completely built in Capital Park, they plan to be the industry leader in Detroit music education.

Keeping Rodriguez’s Legacy Alive at DETROIT by DETROIT IV

Stevie Soul Omar Aragones CBS

Detroit music has always been broken up into eras, and each era has brought us some amazing music. DETROIT by DETROIT is an annual event that lets current Detroit bands cover other Detroit bands…bands that are current – or from some of these past eras.

This year’s DETROIT by DETROIT showcase will take place at the Magic Stick on Saturday, February 22nd, at 8pm. What can you expect? Fifteen local bands will be alternating between two different stages and performing 3-song sets…by other Detroit acts.

This will be my second year participating in this event, and I couldn’t be happier. Last year, I teamed up with my good friend Omar Aragones to cover Mayer Hawthorne. Omar and I decided to do something a bit different this year; we plan on covering Detroit artist Sixto Rodriguez.

Here’s a little background on this tremendous Detroit artist. The story goes…back in 1970, Sixto Rodriguez put out a record called Cold Fact, a record which was planned to secure his spot as one of the greatest recording artists of his time. As it turned out, however, the album did not reach the level of success that was expected, and Rodriguez disappeared…

Though Rodriguez himself was seemingly absent, his music remained present. Somehow, bootleg recordings of Rodriguez’s record made their way to South Africa, and over the course of many years, his music and story became a phenomenon.

Within all the buzz and attention about this talented artist, rumors surfaced that Rodriguez committed suicide. Two South African fans set out to find out what really happened to their hero, and their search led them to discover that Rodriguez was, in fact, still alive…and still living in Detroit.

In 2012, the world was (re)introduced to Sixto Rodriguez in the highly-acclaimed, award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

It’s crazy to think about, really – rumors were swirling (and the treasure hunt was at full-speed for this local treasure) – and all along, he was living, very humbly, just blocks away from me in Midtown Detroit.

Picking Rodriguez for this year’s DETROIT by DETROIT event was so natural for us. Besides his inspiring story, his sound is the perfect mix of rock, folk, and soul. Plus, his records are raw and never overproduced, which is a perfect fit for the type of music Omar and I love to perform.

To find out more about Rodriguez, I highly recommend you watch Searching for Sugar Man – and check out his record, Cold Fact.

Oh, and to hear some Rodriguez tunes live? Come to the Magic Stick on Saturday night. Omar and I will be taking the stage with a 3-song set to keep Rodriguez’s legacy alive.

Parking Structure With A Twist – Local Filmmakers To Make Documentary about “The Z”

Stevie Soul The Z CBS

There are a lot of revitalization efforts happening in downtown Detroit to restore the city to its former glory…and I’m loving every bit of it.

Amidst Detroit’s historic landmarks, new construction is occurring, allowing for creative contributions by globalartists as we work towards the expansion of the city.

Lately, “The Z” has captured all the buzz – a massive, ten-story, “Z”-shaped parking structure, retail center, and art gallery which recently opened its doors to the public last week. Personally, I believe the most impressive features of this structure are the paint-covered interior walls, showcasing the work of twenty-seven international artists who worked day and night to make this vision a reality.

A team of local filmmakers – including Sean “Seabright” Jackson, Jon Braue, and Joe Talbot – and I had theopportunity to capture an amazing series of moments. We filmed these talented artists painting each of their murals. This footage will be compiled and edited to create a documentary with an impending Spring release, taking Detroiters behind-the-scenes of the creation of these breath-taking murals

Where is The Z, you ask? The structure wraps the entire block of Broadway between the streets of Grand River and Gratiot. Over the past year, Detroit residents have had the opportunity to watch this colossal structure being built from the ground up. The LED lights, which lace around and illuminate the exterior fascia, bring a fascinating glow to The Z at night.

In addition, the alley below The Z will be transformed into an urban hangout where young professionals and art lovers can socialize and exchange ideas. The Z, which has become a large part of Detroit 2.0, brings novelty and order to the city.

There’s a video running on loop in both lobbies of the structure that fully displays the intensity of the artwork within The Z. With floor-to-ceiling murals on the walls of this parking structure, Detroiters are essentially “Driving-in” to an art gallery. Check out the teaser video HERE.

One good thing about artists is that we always find a way to interconnect through our work, no matter the genre. Between the months of August and December, I had the opportunity to meet, interview, and hang with most of these artists while they worked on their murals.

Although I admired each and every artists’ pieces, check out a gallery of my ten favorite murals HERE. (Note: photos are of the artists painting these murals, in-progress. Murals have since been completed)

Bring in the New Year with a trip downtown to explore The Z and see all the brilliant paintings! Plus, keep your eyes peeled for a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of these amazing murals in the upcoming documentary from local filmmakers…coming this Spring!

Festive Attractions Through the Eyes of a Detroit Musician

Stevie Soul Downtown Detroit CBS

The future of Detroit is looking super bright…literally. Have you seen the colorful lights up and down Woodward Avenue? The holiday spirit is in the air!

As a musician who’s been living downtown for years, I haven’t seen the city this alive before. Detroit is in full motion with the Warren Buffet endorsement, the election of a new mayor, and the construction of The Z parking/retail structure that will accommodate more drivers (and shoppers) downtown.

In addition to these developments, there are two areas that are housing some incredible holiday festivities this season: Campus Martius/Cadillac Square and the 1200 Woodward Block.

Let’s take an inside look at what not to miss this year…

Campus Martius is celebrating this year’s holiday season in high fashion. With a sixty-foot, well-dressed Christmas tree, grandiose ice rink, carriage rides, fire performers, and carolers, there’s nothing lacking to get you in the holiday spirit.

It’s Cadillac Square, however, that really caught my attention this year! Up until December 22nd, the Square transforms into a completely activated holiday paradise every weekend. They put together the “Holiday Marketplace” which is divided into four different parts.

The first part – which also happens to be my favorite part (for obvious reasons) – is the holiday music series. The music series consists of local Detroit talent playing an assortment of genres through intimate, up close and personal sets.

The second part of the marketplace consists of the artisan huts. On any given weekend, you can stroll through the huts and explore a bunch of unique, handmade products from local artisans. I discovered one new place I really like called “The Wooden Hanger,” which specializes in cool vintage apparel along with custom bow ties!

Sprinkled among the artisan huts are five local food trucks including Rollin’ Stone Pizza, which makes fresh wood-fired pizzas to order. They serve one of the best thin crusts I’ve ever indulged in.

To top it all off is the Beer Garden…a massive heated tent offering local brews with a full-service bar. The beer garden has another venue for live music performances, plus TVs to make sure you’re able to catch all the live sports games. Go Lions!

While you’re downtown hanging out at Campus Martius and Cadillac Square, you have to checkout the 1200 Woodward Block. It’s located directly across the street from the Hudson site. You can’t miss it – all the buildings are dressed with a net of tightly-strung decorative lights.

The 1200 Woodward Block features six unique retailers: some permanent and some pop-up shops for the holidays. At 1201, is The Detroit Shoppe…part-museum, part-store, but all Detroit. A few doors down at 1213, there is a pop-up shop called Rock Paper Scissors, an Ann Arbor-based company that sells artsy DIY crafts. Neighboring Rock Paper Scissors is The Handmade Companyat 1219, another trendy pop-up that believes “Michigan is shaped like a hand for a reason.” Once you make it to the end of the block, you’ll find City Loft, which houses many booths of higher-end retailers. There are several other stores stretching across the Woodward Block, be sure to take a few laps before you head out

NOTE: Occasionally, City Loft has one of the best Frank Sinatra impressionists on this side of Vegas!

With all these attractions (and more!), there’s no reason to not support local and enjoy downtown Detroit this season while it’s at its best! In this era of cookie-cutter…well, everything…these festive attractions are sure to provide you with a unique and authentic holiday experience.

So? What are you waiting for?

See you downtown!