By Judy Reed
A Michigan-based bluegrass band’s star is rising, and a hometown girl is along for the ride.
When Melissa Kay (Missy) Armstrong graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 1996, she could never have imagined where she would be today. She didn’t play music; she didn’t take band or choir in high school. In fact, she’d never even picked up a guitar. But today, she is the female lead singer and plays guitar for Detour—a bluegrass band that is topping the National Airplay Charts with its latest album, “A Better Place,” and is one of five bands nominated this month for the National Bluegrass B.O.R.N. award (Band On the Rise Nationally). The winner is decided by fan votes. (Visit nationalbluegrass.com to vote.)
“My head is spinning,” remarked Missy, when asked about the attention the band is receiving. “But it’s exciting for me because I still live a normal life. I’m still a mom, but I get to do the thing I love, too, and play music with some of the very best musicians.”
Missy said she sang in church some while she was in high school, but that was the extent of her musical life. Once she graduated, she decided she wanted to play guitar, and took lessons. She had her own band for a time, but realized it was too much work for a young mom and dissolved it. Missy said she was a fan of Detour, and they had played at some of the same festivals. One of the band members had written some songs that he wanted to pitch to another female artist, and asked Missy to sing them so they could record a demo and send it to the artist. The rest, as they say, is history. She’s been with them since January 2010.
The band’s lineup features the powerful lead vocals of Missy, the championship fiddling of Peter Knupfer, the inventive rhythm lines of Jack Grant on bass, the soulful guitar of Scott Zylstra, the hard driving mandolin and superb song writing of Jeff Rose, and the stellar banjo playing of Kevin Gaugier.
Detour’s most recent album debuted at number 3 on the National Airplay Charts, and the next week was number one. They have remained on the charts for the last month, and on Wednesday, their song “Quarterline Road” was number 2. While mostly playing live in Michigan and a few surrounding states, their music is heard worldwide. “We are being played all over the world, and I have personally done some live, on air interviews as far away as Australia,” said Missy. “We are also receiving a lot of airplay on SiriusXM, much to our surprise.”
The band may soon start playing more live venues nationally, however, since signing on with Roe Entertainment, a national booking agent. Jim Roe talked about Detour in a press release on his website. “They are the complete package on and off the stage,” said Roe. “They have great material and arrangements on their originals and covers. They have been playing predominantly in the Midwest the past several years, mostly in Michigan, but they are ready to go coast to coast now and I don’t think a detour will stop them from doing it.”
band will be playing in Milan, Michigan on September 9, at the Pickin’ on Cystic Fibrosis Festival, and on September 25 and 26, Detour will be showcasing at the International Bluegrass Music Association Conference in Nashville. They will also make a special appearance on Randy Tumlinson’s “Bluegrass Express” Show for KRXT 98.5, to be broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, on September 26. “Anyone who knows country knows about the Ernest Tubb Record Shop,” noted Missy. “Out of all the bands, they chose us. It’s such an honor.”
To find out more about the band, visit their website at www.detourbluegrass.com or follow them on facebook at www.facebook.com/detourbluegrass. Their music can be purchased on itunes, Amazon, and other music websites. You can find links to those stores on their website.