Ypsilanti songwriter Matt Jones’ extensive River Street Anthology of Michigan music had very humble beginnings. Inspired by Saturday Looks Good to Me front man Fred Thomas’ 2006 Ypsilanti compilation, Jones set out to do a Volume 2.
Within an hour after making a Facebook post seeking musicians on February 6, 2015, his little 10 to 15 person compilation quickly had more than 60 artists lined up.
The project started in the cramped basement of his River Street home. Using a stripped down setup with just one microphone, Matt figured out how to capture everything from a quiet solo acoustic performance to a loud metal band in just one take most of the time.
His simple setup made it easy for him to take The River Street Anthology on the road and record a lot of artists at one location. What initially was a project to document Ypsilanti music quickly took on the entire Michigan music scene.
He’s since recorded more than 200 artists from Kalamazoo to Detroit to Marquette. He’s joined at most recording sessions by videographers Charlie Steen and Steven Holmes while his fiancee Sarah Campbell sketches the performers.
Jones is a historic preservation student at Eastern Michigan University and hopes some day to submit The River Street Anthology to The Library of Congress. This summer, after learning about The River Street Anthology, Mark Harvey of the Archives of Michigan partnered with Matt to preserve all the recordings and make them available in the future at the Archives website seekingmichigan.org.
Jones also recently received $1000 from the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation which allowed him to upgrade his microphone and portable recorder. Matt is most excited about the last purchase he made with the grant. “I also got my hands on a little Tascam field recorder so that I can literally get out of my van in any town, anywhere, and be ready to capture whatever happens.”
Not surprisingly, teaching some history appears to be in his future. “I have also been asked by several teachers and professors in the area to come in and speak to students about the different ways in which we can preserve history- whether it be performed in actual song or by recording that song. My public speaking skills are getting a crazy workout.”