After dinner, Seth puts a ladder against their little house, which Seth’s family built years ago from trees harvested and milled on the Earthwork farm, and leads the way to the roof to watch the sunset. Crickets are singing and the air smells of well-baked summer grass and pine trees. Balancing on the peak of the gently sloping roof, May recalls when her path finally converged with Seth’s: when she introduced herself after seeing him play at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival in 2003.
"That was a big catalyst for me in making music a career," May says. "I could just tell that he had so much faith in it, and it was just going to work for him, and I realized I could do that too. So, I really started to try hard, and we got to know each other after that, slowly but surely."
Two years after that meeting, Seth and May decided to record an album together. They enlisted the talents of several musician friends – upright bass player Dominic Suchyta from the Lansing-based band Steppin’ In It, cellist Andrea Moreno-Beals, and Drew Howard on pedal steel guitar – and dubbed the band The Copper Country Quintet. The group rented the historic Calumet Theatre, an elegant century-old playhouse on the U.P.’s Keweenaw Peninsula, and trucked up there from downstate to record a catalog of 10 original songs, playing from noon to midnight for three days in the empty theater.
Since meeting, Seth and May are often seen as a duo, but they continue to grow as solo musicians as well. A new Seth Bernard album, which has "been in the pressure cooker for a long time," is slated for release in early 2008; an additional Seth-spearheaded album, titled Airborne or Aquatic?, will be released this month . And 2007 brought Daisy May’s fourth solo album, Mother Moon, which has richer musical textures than her previous records and represents another step forward for her as a singer and songwriter.
"Ever since I was little, I have loved to create landscapes of music," May says. "Now I have amazing musicians and friends to play these parts. [This album] was the first time I trusted all those little pieces fully and saw them to the end."
When they are not busy writing or recording songs, Seth and May keep their schedules filled with gigs, festivals and community-oriented gatherings that underscore the duo’s values. In July they host a family weekend at Earthwork farm, where kids and parents do art projects, write songs and perform in a talent show held in a barn with hay bales for bleachers and Seth as emcee. Under the umbrella group Earthwork Music – the couple’s music production company – Seth and May also have helped organize Water Festivals across Michigan featuring musicians and speakers to promote water preservation and education. Their approach to this advocacy is as gentle as their sound.
"My folks always told me, it is more powerful to be for a thing than against a thing," Seth says. "You can stand up there and say ‘Boo for Bush’ and some people will boo, but if you say ‘Let’s hear it for the Great Lakes!’ everyone will cheer."