Chicago duo Birds of Chicago is bringing Americana sounds to Traverse City this month! MyNorth Media entertainment writer Ross Boissoneau reveals the rootsy rock collective centered around Allison Russell and JT Nero before their Traverse City concert March 24.


Birds of Chicago

How the Band Got Its Start

Nero and Russell ran into one another multiple times as their bands, JT & The Clouds and Po’ Girl respectively, criss-crossed the country. When the two began singing together they found a sound they wanted to continue to build on.

Eventually, the singing duo became a couple as well. Married since 2013, they tour with their daughter and occasionally with other musicians. Russell was the primary songwriter for her previous band, but here she mostly sings Nero’s songs, written expressly for her to sing. Nero and occasionally others, such as Michelle McGrathm augment her voice.

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Merrill is another frequent guest. His wife Suzi serves as the band’s road manager and baby wrangler when Nero and Russell are onstage.


Rootsy rock with gospel and folk overtones

Influences and Inspirations

Tom Petty, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, the Band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Additional Background

The group’s Americana sound is built on restraint, eschewing the vocal gymnastics and over-emoting inspired by the likes of The Voice and American Idol.

The group’s latest recording, Real Midnight, was produced by Joe Henry, famous for his production work with many singers. “He has been building righteous spaces for great singers for quite some time—I mean, Solomon Burke, Bettye Lavette, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris, Rhiannon Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Joe and his usual suspects, especially Ryan Freeland (engineer) Jay Bellerose (drums) are just a tribe of monstrously talented men with huge hearts and a serious love of music making,” said Nero in a Q&A on the band’s website.


“All 12 tracks (on Birds of Chicago) are high quality including the brass-infused finale The Wide Sea. These birds can soar.” –

“When you’re willing to tour, you don’t make a killing, but you can make a living. We’re so grateful to be supporting ourselves doing something we love.” – Allison Russell


InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City

Date & Time

Thursday, March 24 at 8 p.m.

Ticket Information

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and available at InsideOut, Oryana, and Brilliant Books. For tickets and more information, call 231-929-3254.

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