Smile Politely

Harmony within The Appleseed Collective

When I asked Andrew Brown about folk music, he said,

“Folk music is really music that is passed down as a tradition and interpreted through the present. In this sense we are creating our own folk music in the truest sense of the word, [with] feet firmly rooted in a myriad of traditions, and head in the present, looking towards the future.”

Brown plays guitar for the Michigan-based “folk” band, The Appleseed Collective. The music his band makes doesn’t fit well into any one genre, but those who try tend to lean towards characterizations like folk and bluegrass, with the ethos of indie music. The guys embrace this variety and don’t seek to fit into any slot – they simultaneously buck and embrace all sorts of definitions, because they know that being cut and dry isn’t for them.

The Appleseed Collective was founded when violinist Brandon Worder-Smith met guitarist Andrew Brown in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The lineup of the group has changed a bit at it goes, but this year finds the group as a foursome, with percussionist Vince Russo and bassist Eric O’Daly rounding things out. All four musicians come from different backgrounds and cite different influences, from traditional Irish fiddle to Motown to Indian classical music, and more. The resulting product connotes their cohesion and their ability to drop ego, which means a lot in this realm. the neo-folk music craze that has taken over the country is rampant with pretension, and it’s refreshing to find a group like Appleseed that can tip their hats and keep the humor going.

SP: How would you describe your sound?

Brown: It’s like Bill Monroe, Tom Waits and Django Reinhardt sat down to listen to some psychedelic rock albums and then decided to start an indie band.

SP: [Besides folk,] What are some other musical flavors present here?

Brown: New Orleans Swing, Detroit Funk, French Gypsy-Jazz, Bluegrass, Psychedelic Folk, and Indie-Pop. 

SP: Each band member seems to come from a very different musical background. Is this at the heart of the band’s eclecticism? 

Brown: Yes. Like a four headed hydra with unlimited curiosity, we aim to have no limits to the collaboration, and to the ingredients that we put into the melting pot.

The band’s latest release, an EP called Tour Tapes, is five tracks of all-new material that the band put out ahead of their next studio album, which is set to drop in the summer of 2017. It’s light and substative at the same time. Mostly, the EP sounds likes four collaborating artists using their work to strengthen their friendships. Brown tells me that Tour Tapes consists of “Five of our favorite cuts from our 2015 tour, all recorded live with absolutely no overdubs.” The Appleseed Collective know that they don’t need it – excessive editing isn’t necessary with this type of smooth cohesion.


In addition to their work within the band, a vital component of The Appleseed Collective’s ideology is their passion for togetherness in everyday life. The guys maintain commitment to important causes that they believe in, and work for them in their Ann Arbor community. Brown talks of the band doing their part:

SP: Outside of music, you guys are also involved in your community, with emphasis on the environment and food sustainability. Care to talk about that?

Brown: We were born out of the local food and pro farmer movement in Ann Arbor, and also we are a part of the Earthwork Music Group in Michigan, which is a collective of musicians who unite under the banner of environmental and social justice advocacy. We sometimes have local farmers introduce us at our shows around the country and try and connect our fans to their local community supported agriculture. Whenever and wherever possible we try and eat healthy and support local and sustainable food sources.

The guys’ devotion to local causes and their efforts to spread the knowledge of them outside of their community is audible in their music, and fortifies its authenticity. They know that making music, for them, is a group effort, and requires cooperation and camaraderie. They have honed their craft well this way, and it’s often easy to succeed at something when you have plenty of practice at it.


The Appleseed Collective will play at Cowboy Monkey with the Hot Iron String Band on Thursday, July 28th, at 9:30 p.m. The cover is $8 at the door.

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