Deacon Earl brings solo country, blues and reggae to Ellison Brewery


Deacon Earl Live @ Ellison Brewery


Saturday, Oct. 24, 8 to 10 p.m.

Ellison Brewery and Spirits

4903 Dawn Ave., East Lansing

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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14 — After a brief lull during Michigan’s period in lockdown, guitarist, bassist and banjo player Deacon Earl is once again booking gigs. On Oct. 24, he’ll be gracing the patio at Ellison Brewery with his unique brand of solo country, blues and reggae music. Though he admits he grew rust during his hiatus, Earl said that he’s excited to get back onstage doing what he loves.

“Mainly, I’ve spent lockdown catching up on another side of music,” Earl said. “I wasn’t working in kitchens anymore, so I was able to go through some things. There are some older songs I wanted to work on.”

Earl’s child was born a year and a half ago, only months before restaurants and bars shut down. He couldn’t work in kitchens and he couldn’t do gigs, so he spent lockdown taking care of his kid, performing at virtual shows and selling T-shirts to stay afloat.

“I kinda missed the live gigs, but I was really missing the money,” Earl said. “Mainly, I had time to let my wrists and my hands heal from being in kitchens all the time and performing.” He uses the fattest bass strings that he can find on the shelf at his local music store, so his joints and calluses needed the time off.

“I’ve got so much older material I need to use before I make anything new,” Earl said. He spent some of his time in quarantine practicing this old material, adding to it and updating it. “I have quite a few originals that I’ve been working on nowadays.”

Before he ever thought about being a musician, Earl moved out of his parents’ house. At home, he was only able to listen to gospel music. Two weeks of playing the clarinet in band class left Earl unimpressed. At around age 18, he decided that he wanted to learn how to play the guitar.

Now, Earl owns a large variety of custom-made instruments and makes his living as a multi-talented instrument, playing both solo gigs and sitting in with bands.

For his performance at Ellison, Earl is choosing to bring along three of his most commonly-used guitars. One is made from driftwood taken from the Saginaw River and carved into the shape of Michigan.

Earl will be playing solo at Ellison. Feedback from the audience will determine how his setlist flows; he likes to give the people what they want, rather than show up with a predetermined setlist.

“I’ve been playing solo, and when I’m playing solo, I like to feel out the audience,” Earl said.

As far as Earl’s future goes, he said that he’s not planning on booking any more gigs in 2020. The brutal Michigan winter will send lots of gigging musicians like him back into hiding. When outdoor patios and dining areas close down again, the gigs are going to dry up.

Still, Earl has plans to stay productive as the weather grows colder. If all goes according, he’s going to record some new tracks.

“From fall to spring, I may be working kitchens because I mostly play outdoors,” he said. “But I definitely plan on doing some recording once I get my copyright papers back.”


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