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M897 Artist Spotlight: September 2016

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LEVI BRITTON

Traverse City Singer Finds Reward in Supporting U.S. Troops

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Sarah Spohn

Levi BrittonSinging an iconic song by one of your favorite artists to a sold-out crowd of thousands is enough to be considered a real ‘dream come true.’ Singing that song with the band is even harder to imagine, yet it’s just what 36-year-old Traverse City native Levi Britton did.

The band—classic rock ‘70s mainstay America. The song—you guessed it: “Horse with No Name.” In 2007, Levi’s Chicago band Down the Line went out on tour with America and sang songs on stage with the same band he had listened to through all of high school. Levi spoke about how that memorable moment came to be.

“At the time, we had a manager out of LA who introduced us to someone at the William Morris Agency. We went out there and played at this little venue called Safari Sam’s,” Britton said.

The only people in the room ended up being the band’s manager, an agent and a few friends. Down the Line rocked the place, and the William Morris rep liked what he heard. The band was then booking shows with Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton and America.

“Playing ‘Horse with No Name’ on stage with America was honestly a dream come true,” Levi said. “We were incredibly honored and of course, I was freaking out (on the inside).”

The blue-eyed-soul singer songwriter describes his music as a result of a variety of places, spaces and sounds. He grew up in a musical family, and started playing music at 14 in choir, then started a band in high school in Traverse City. Some of his biggest influences include Tom Petty, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, Martin Sexton, and Bon Iver.

After moving back to Traverse city from Chicago about eight years ago, Levi’s now-wife motivated him to view music as a career, something he hadn’t thought about.

“Before that, I pretty much thought it was sacrilegious to see my music as anything but art,” he said. “She just convinced me that I could make more money from the art I was already creating.”

His creations, no matter what genre, are always personal.

Levi Britton“It stems from my personal experiences, artists that I admire, but mostly my music needs to feel meaningful,” he said. “Sometimes my sound is a bit lighter, but I find myself writing mostly about dark times. That seems to be the easiest time to write, is through pain and anguish.”

Having performed with his bands Down the Line and Stolen Silver, the Traverse City musician admits he’s played just about every type of music before settling in on his current solo project.

“I have performed everything from classical, to folk, country, some hip hop and eventually settled into my own sound, which feels mostly soulful and a bit poppy.”

His latest solo release, “Inside,” was made possible by an impressive Kickstarter campaign. Although hesitant at first, Levi admits it was such a great experience, one he can thank his wife for.

“It was quite emotional for me, to be honest. My wife would call me with updates (I was on the road most of that month) and to see how many people were not only interested, but passionate about helping me was very moving. We ended up exceeding the goal, which helped fund my entire album, which has led me to connecting with some really great producers out in Los Angeles,” Levi said.

While Los Angeles is appealing, deemed the City of Angels with the glitz and glamour, Levi appreciates his hometown right here in Michigan.

“Traverse City is an interesting town,” Levi said. “We have a lot of art and music lovers, so that gives me job security! The music scene is great. We have amazing performers that come from Northern Michigan including Josh Davis, The Accidentals, Billy Strings and my friend, Drew Hale, who just won the National Country Showdown in Nashville.”

Over his twenty-year-career so far, Levi has had many proud moments, sharing the stage with big name groups like Lifehouse. Playing a free 4th of July show outside of Chicago landed the band’s largest crowd to date: the venue stopped counting people around 95,000 in attendance.

“That was wild,” Levi said. “I have had the opportunity to play some amazing shows with some of the biggest names out there, but I have to say that my favorite shows are the ones we play for the Troops, wounded warriors and military families.”

Levi BrittonWorking with Gary and The Lt. Dan Band, the acts and the foundation aim to raise money to build ‘smart homes’ for wounded warriors. The concerts always inspire those both on and off the stage. Levi recalled a Fort Jackson, South Carolina show.

“At one point, I looked up and saw nothing but a sea of Army recruits (there for basic training) in uniform and they were cheering, dancing and even singing along to our music. There were thousands of them! I got pretty choked up. I have had soldiers that have just returned from combat thank me for what I’m doing. The people I’ve met at various military bases around the country have been some of the coolest and sweetest individuals I have ever met,” he said.

Up next on the agenda for this blue eyed soul singer-songwriter is some rest before his next stops on the road in October. He’ll be traveling to Colorado, California and Texas before returning back home to the mitten to write and hopefully release some more new music.

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