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Jill Jack’s career has spanned decades and taken her around the globe, performing solo and with her band at sold-out shows, and opening for world-renowned acts.
Jack grew up in Huntington Woods and has lived in Ferndale for the last 24 years. Her work includes self-written songs in a style she broadly calls Americana, encompassing elements of folk, rock, country, pop and blues. She plays acoustic and electric guitar, and describes her stage presence as friendly, with a focus on storytelling and a dash of humor.
“By the end of the show, we will all be great friends,” Jack said in an email. “As a musician, I feel we can heal with music. Listening to music is an emotional experience. I want to bring all of those emotions to the surface, while allowing the audience to be relieved of anxiety from their life.
“My storytelling is very relatable,” she added. “While some of my stories can be emotionally deep, I always add a hint of humor. It helps people feel a connection, and also that they are not alone in their troubles.”
Since 1997 she has won 46 awards from the Detroit Music Awards Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to recognize Detroit-area artists at the local, regional and national levels. Her career spans more than 25 years and 12 award-winning CDs, as well as three new singles during the pandemic.
She has toured across the country, appearing as a headliner at venues and festivals such as SXSW (South by Southwest), the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the 30A Songwriters Festival, the WYCD Downtown Hoedown, the Blissfest Musical Festival, The Bluebird Cafe and The Living Room in New York City. She has played for audiences as big as 20,000 people and as intimate as 20.
She has also starred in consistently sold-out shows at the historic Ark in Ann Arbor, and opened for such prominent touring acts as Bob Seger, John Waite, Emmy Lou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Dan Fogelberg, Marshall Crenshaw, Chris Isaak and Loretta Lynn.
On her new album, “Sin of Certainty,” Sadie Gustafson-Zook Embraces Self-Discovery.
Raised in a liberal Mennonite community in Indiana, Sadie Gustafson-Zook grew up playing music and attending quilt auctions with her folk musician parents. Life in a small town where her mother was a pastor was comfortable and straightforward, and she always felt supported in her music-making. On her new album “Sin of Certainty,” Gustafson-Zook explores the process of questioning all that she had taken for granted, through finding a new community in the roots scene of Boston, studying jazz, and coming out as gay.
Gustafson-Zook took a winding path of musical influence which is evidenced by the myriad of stylistic references in her work. Growing up, she sang hymns in church, played fiddle for square dances, and simultaneously played in the school orchestras and choirs. At Goshen College, a Mennonite school in her hometown, she studied classical voice, and was thrown headfirst into the world of opera when she was cast in the lead role for The Marriage of Figaro as a freshman. But as much as she loved classical music, Gustafson-Zook dreamed of being part of Boston’s thriving roots scene, where many of her favorite bands were based.
Leaving home and it’s’ warm cocoon of support,Gustafson-Zook moved to Boston and found a place studying jazz voice at the Longy School of Music at Bard College. At the famed “Brighton House”, a shared rental known for its rotating cast of wildly talented roots musician tenants, Gustafson-Zook found new community, and penned many of the songs that would end up on her album “Sin of Certainty.” “Back when I was at Goshen, I took a class about conflict and violence, in which we discussed ‘the grace of uncertainty’, to quote from my teacher Carolyn Schrock-Shenk ‘one of the first casualties of escalated conflict is uncertainty—meaning that as the tension rises, people tend to become more certain that their particular view of truth is the right one.’” Gustafson-Zook explains. “Years later, I was thinking about these songs, and how I say the phrase ‘I don’t know’ in so many of them, I realized how much that idea had stuck with me. As I have been stumbling my way through my ‘20s, the idea of the grace of uncertainty has emerged as somewhat of a mantra to me. Not only in an academic discourse sense, but in a personal self-realization sense; holding my own truth lightly enough that I can consider other truths for myself as my life winds in different directions. The flip of the phrase into the ‘Sin of Certainty’ speaks to certainty’s underside, which comes out with a vengeance. So far, my ‘20s have been more ‘Sin of Certainty’ than ‘Grace of Uncertainty’. Hopefully, as I age, I can become more graceful and less certain.”
The album describes the pain of self-discovery as well as immense gratitude for the new experiences found as a result. Starting her journey with “Maybe I Don’t Know,” Gustafson-Zook sings, “with every wrong decision, I get closer to me.” Later on “Lean In More”, which Gustafson- Zook describes as “the first gay love song I ever wrote”, she sings, “you have listening ears / and you yearn to hear/ all I have to say / even when I am unsure / you lean in more.” Accompanied by Mari Chaimbeul on harp and Alec Spiegelman’s intricate production, Gustafson-Zook’s Joni Mitchell-esque vocals soar with both gentleness and intent, leaving the listener feeling heard and understood just as Gustafson- Zook describes feeling in the song.