While some musicians take extended breaks from the road or join their bands on a prolonged hiatus, few artists manage to step away from music completely for multiple decades. Then there's singer/songwriter Michael Silverstone.
As the current leader of Amherst's Michael Silverstone and the SilverTone5, Silverstone (guitar, keyboards, vocals) has an old friend to thank for a midlife "awakening" that not only rekindled his interest in making music, but altered his outlook on life in general.
"I wrote some songs in my 20s, but added no new ones for about 30 years, when I had an odd and mysterious kind of Oliver Sacks-style awakening in fall of 2007," says Silverstone. "My high school friend and college roommate Marc Cohn released a song that was made of lyrics he had adapted from a letter I wrote him when we were celebrating his being alive to appreciate [his] existence after he was physically undamaged after suffering a random shooting when he was on tour."
He continues, "I started believing I could write songs after hearing one I helped write played on the Today Show, and it unleashed 30 years of unwritten songs in four years, and it's still going on."
Joining forces with David Waldfogel (lead guitar) and Rob Douglas (bass, rhythm guitar, vocals), Silverstone originally named his group Mr. Silverstone and the Silvertone Horns for his use of MIDI-generated horn sections in his recordings, and the need to find an easily understandable name to share with the second grade students he teaches at his day job. Eventually a change in moniker occurred, but not until inspiration was found in a '90s kids' show.
Silverstone says, "We came up with SilverTone5 because we were ending practice one day before a gig... wishing each other good luck, and we all piled our hands in a stack in the middle of a circle, and said, 'Go, go, Power Rangers!' I loved the mock-heroic comic book camaraderie feel of that. Rarely have we had five official members, but it sounds better than Trio, and more importantly, in my imagination we have always had five."
Working from a back catalog of roughly 75 songs, Silverstone and the SilverTone5 frequently pop up as part of the Travelling Yellow Sofa Open Mic series, which has found its most recent home at the Thirsty Mind Coffee and Wine Bar in South Hadley. Ad libbing and storytelling is often part of the show, but the group is also there to support novices in the Valley who may be performing in front of others for the very first time.
"I love living in this area. Talent equal to [that seen in] things that are known by millions is common," says Silverstone. "Not all of it is meant to be heard by millions or trumpeted through media corporations, but it is valuable, and it is beautiful that people want to do this in spite of the pressures that might divert us from making music, or the experiences that lead us to not valuing or hearing the music we make. I feel lucky and grateful for the music scene that is possible here."
For more information on Michael Silverstone and the SilverTone5 and to see future show dates, please visit www.michaelsilverstone.net.