By Kristi Kates
Guitarist/singer/songwriter Laith Al-Saadi hasnt had a real job since
he was 15.
Not having a day job is a great motivator to make sure that you keep
working (on your music), Al-Saadi explains with a chuckle. My last
and only real job was working at a Sbarro in Briarwood Mall in Ann
Arbor, he continues, but as soon as I realized that I could make
money doing what I loved, I was out of there. My high school blues
band, Blue Vinyl, built up a solid following, and I put all my
energies into booking us and writing material for the band.
Listeners will enjoy an earful of that energy when Al-Saadi performs
this Saturday at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey.
Al-Saadi, who attended the alternative-education Community High School
in Ann Arbor (it has an amazing jazz program, and great support for
the arts he says), spent most of his high school years playing four
to five times a week with the schools jazz combos as well as with his
own band. He still lives in Ann Arbor, and credits the school with
helping form the basis for what would become his career.
It helped me get a taste of what it was like to be a working musician
- it gave me confidence that I could make my living doing the thing
that brings the most happiness to myself and others, he explains.
That philosophy continues into today, with Al-Saadi now promoting his
sophomore album, In the Round (currently available on iTunes and CD
Baby.) His latest set, Al-Saadi says, is still rooted in the blues,
as was his first album, Long Time Coming; but the new songs are more
focused, and also feature a wider range of classic rock influences
from the 60s and 70s on tracks like Chains, Before Too Long, and
No One Left to Blame.
On my first album, I used many more musicians, Al-Saadi says, three
bassists, two drummers, and two keyboardists, plus a cellist; on the
new record, I used the same musicians throughout the entire project.
His band remains a constant in his life, as well, with Mark Damian on
drums and David Stearns on the bass; but Al-Saadis eclectic talents
are reflected in the setlist mix at his live shows, which he says will
feature a blend of original music, blues, soul, and rock n roll, all
presented within a jazz sensibility. Listeners can expect a lot of
improvisation, as well.
Every song is different each time we play it because of that
element, Al-Saadi enthuses.
Al-Saadis improvisational instincts also lend themselves to how his
audiences react, which is part of the live-performance draw for the
I love to connect with my audiences, he says, there is nothing like
the feeling that you are all experiencing the same moment
collectively. The energy generated by a good audience can really
propel you, as an artist, to the next level. That is another reason
why we love our music to be spontaneous. It IS music of the moment,
and we can go along with how the audience makes us feel and how we
feel to make sure that each show is custom-tailored to each audience.
His Northern Michigan audiences began to take note of Al-Saadi back in
1996 - and 14 years later, Up North remains a favorite place for him
I began playing in Traverse City in the summer of 1996 at Dills Olde
Towne Saloon on Union Street, which I did for two summers, Al-Saadi
explains. The following year, I spent the entire year up in Bellaire
where I played at Schuss Mountain/Shanty Creek as a Schussycat - and
then I got my own band to be the house band through the ski season. I
always love coming back to Northern Michigan to play - it is beautiful
and the people are great. TC will always have a big place in my heart.
It feels like a second home.
Laith Al-Saadi will perform a BlissFest concert at the Crooked Tree
Arts Center in Petoskey on May 22 at 9 pm. For tickets, visit
www.blissfest.org or telephone 231-348-7047; for additional
information on Al-Saadi, stop by www.laithmusic.com.