Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers-Lonely
Lansing is not a big music market. To be fair, it is not even a market representing one genre. The city sits comfortably in the middle of big and small acts.
However, Lansing has something that is unique: a trampoline for musicians to grow before taking the next leap.
We have all heard it. Making it in the music business is close to impossible. From the high schooler dreaming of Los Angeles to the clerk auditioning for American Idol, the goal is fame and fortune.
But is this what “making it” means?
The answer is not easy.
For local artists, making it might mean something completely different. Many would say that Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers and Finkel, both acts sharing strong Lansing roots, have made it. But their stories are not so black and white.
Jane and Brian Spencer from the band Finkel. Photo by Finkel
This band is made up of Brian and Jane Spencer, Michigan natives who met while students at Albion College. After finding love in both their music and each other, they decided to take some time off performing to work on their music and their style. Their latest album,
W / O, will be released on May 11 th.
Finkel is now in Los Angeles. After much thinking, Brian and Jane decided that moving to the West Coast was best for them. There, they have been working on their music style and their songs. Not quite definable by conventional genres, this duo mixes electronic music components with vocals and guitars.
“I think we all belong to specific places,” says Jane Spencer. “But it is the place we feel most comfortable in that is where we belong.”
For her, this place is where she can make music which in the past has been in many different cities, including Lansing.
“I could really try to be a doctor,” she says. “However, I believe that we should follow things we care about, so I know I would be a better musician than a doctor.”
That prompted her to make more and more music with Brian on the guitar and Jane on vocals.
As a young Albion College student, she taught herself to write music from the beginning to the end of a song.
“Finishing a song was hard,” she says. “But the feeling of satisfaction I got once I learned how to write and finish is incredible.”
After learning how to make music, Jane met Brian in college and they started talking about music. This quickly turned from talking music to writing new songs together.
Jane and Brian Spencer from the band Finkel. Phot by Finkel
“We got our first gig at Mac’s Bar,”
Jane says. “We learned a lot about what we liked and disliked about music.”
In her eyes this is what allowed Finkel to make it to Los Angeles. “I think it’s about mistakes,” she says. “I would have never been able to learn without my time in Lansing.”
After graduating from Albion in 2014, Brian and Jane focused on improving their music.
“We worked on every part of songwriting and performing,” she says.
While working on their music, they traveled the United States and set their eyes on Los Angeles. “We toured through LA and after graduating we wanted to move there,” she says. “But the idea was still that of improving so we both agreed to wait until we were ready.”
That brings them to where they are now, getting ready to produce new music from their new home.
Through all the moves, Jane has never forgotten Lansing. “It’s family,” she says.
“It’s this very supportive community where people want to see you succeed.”
Travis Valentine, a Lansing promoter, agrees.
“We have to support each other and build our own communities to push each other up,” Valentine says.
Due to its size and population, Lansing is not at the level of Grand Rapids or Detroit, so the community has to take care of itself.
“Everyone in this community works hard to promote themselves and promote the community,” Valentine says. “It’s hard to perform when there’s no community to perform for.”
Whether you consider Finkel as successful, it is evident to Jane that they are changing people’s lives, and for her that “is all that really matters.”
Jane and Brian Spencer from the band Finkel. Photo by Finkel
Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers
Musician Joe Hertler at one of his shows. Photo by Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers
They are an American rock band from Michigan. Hertler recorded his first album in 2009 in his dorm room at Central Michigan University. Rejected from one of his favorite orchestra in the school of music, Hertler decided to study English literature. He also decided to set aside the cello he had played throughout high school and bought an acoustic guitar. His first performances were open mic nights at a coffee shop in Mount Pleasant. After performing in small venues, Hertler and fellow students Shawn Adams, Richard Hale and Kevin Pritchard formed the band in late 2010. Their name comes from Joe Sample’s album
Hertler and his band are in the middle of a national tour. After returning to East Lansing to open the UAB Mystery Concert recently, they are moving on to Florida and North Carolina for the rest of the spring.
“My music allows me to follow my dreams,” Hertler says, explaining why he chose this career.
I wasn’t always as into it as I am now,” he says. “It is something that grows on me the more I do it.”
Joe Hertelr and the Rainbow Seekers performing in a club. Photo by Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers
Starting in Mount Pleasant gave Hertler the chance to see music in different ways.
The first venue he played “was very small and offered open mics,” he says. “It was more about the experience for me than the music.”
It was not until he started to experiment with different sounds that his music started to take shape. “I just kind of stumbled on to folk music,” he says. “After learning acoustic guitar, the music I was previously playing on cello didn’t seem to fit, so I tried something new.”
“I released my first album in my sophomore year of college,” Hertler says. “I was young and at the time it was a huge achievement.”
Hertler met guitarist Ryan Hoger in college and performed with keyboardist Shawn Adams and drummer Richard Hale at a New Year’s Eve event in 2010.
“It’s really about doing what you like,” he says. “I went to Lansing to get more experience and play in front of bigger crowds.”
Little did he know that Lansing had other plans for him. “It still amazes me how much the community wants to help you,” he says
“It is as if people really wanted me to succeed.”
As a young musician, Hertler embarked on a journey to make a living out of music. In the beginning, he relied on local promoters and fellow musicians to learn. “It is an incredible environment,” Hertler says about Lansing.
The band played all the Lansing venues they could, including Mac’s Bar.
“The experience was very positive.”
Now, Hertler and his band, have become a pillar of the Lansing music scene with new and old bands alike sharing their respect for him.
“Joe is quite well known around Lansing,” says Travis Valentine, a longtime Lansing promoter. “He sorts of radiates personality and it’s infectious.”
Joe Hertler (left) and promoter Travis Valentine (right). Photo by Travis Valentine
“He dresses flamboyantly, generally I see him in some sort of Hawaiian print or plaid shirt and a bright baseball cap,” Valentine says. “His smile and attitude is like a lighthouse.”
While Hertler has found his way in the Lansing community, he doesn’t see himself as having done anything other bands can’t do.
“It’s all about enjoying what you are doing and having fun,” he explains.
“I don’t want to sound too philosophical, but it truly comes down to following what you like and continuing on dreaming on.”