Best New Artist of the Year

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature, Review Music Awards,   From Issue 769   By: Robert E Martin

09th May, 2013     5

Lemon Frog is one of those rare musical congregations that through diligence, persistence, and talent, has managed to make a serious mark on the regional circuit. Born from the musical ashes of several former popular Northern Michigan bands, the group consists of Steve Obuch (drums), Steven Obuch, Jr. (lead guitar), Donald Benjamin (guitar & vocals) and the sultry Colleen Babcock on keys & vocals.  After facing a decade of line-up changes and religious touring, the group sought to re-imagine themselves with the help of a new sound, energy, and a fresh plan of assault.
At the 2013 Review Music Awards, Lemon Frog secured awards for Best New Artist of the Year, Best Blues Vocalist & Songwriter (Donald Benjamin), and Best Female Rock Vocalist (Colleen Babcock).  In 2011, with the help of a dedicated push to find a more unique vocalist, successful multiple-award winning songwriter and former 102.5 WIOG Mid-Michigan Idol semi-finalist, Donald Benjamin, joined the line-up and Lemon Frog was born.  Since their inception they have gained statewide acclaim as a musical powerhouse, casino headliner, and potential national-level talent.
Not just a silly name, Lemon Frog is a symbol for the wild, crazy performances and the fun and energetic atmosphere these musicians bring to the forefront. Whether the bluesy, soulful sound of Benjamin, the gnarly metal vocals of Steve, or the powerful feminine rage of Colleen, this group brings a massive dose of variety whenever they hit the stage.
The senior member of the Obuch's has been performing in some of the state's most notorious bands for over 30 years, including the once highly popular Cycosara. When Benjamin (a longtime performer on the solo singer/songwriter circuit joined the fold, the band totally meshed. “The goal from day one was always to make good music,” explains Benjamin, “We'd be happy if we 'made it', but if we didn't that was fine, too.  We weren't going to be the next Eagles but we would give the local scene something new, fresh, and worthy of discussion. That was our key goal.”
When asked what he feels distinguishes Lemon Frog from other bands on the circuit, Benjamin points to the collected disaffection of the group. “We've embraced the fact that we're the outcasts of the local Michigan music scene. We're different, wild, and a bit crazy. It isn't, however, a detriment. We pride ourselves on the showmanship aspect of the field.  Our array of personalities combines to form an incredible unit - one which brings a huge amount of excitement to the stage. When you come to see Lemon Frog, you don't get just a group of musicians playing songs. We provide a show that we feel rivals much of what is currently available in the industry. You can see, hear, touch and experience the energy. That's called getting your money's worth. That's what we give back to all who support us on the road.”
When it comes to their original material each member contributes creatively. According to Obuch, Jr. “Our songwriting process is not unlike most bands. We all contribute. Our vocalist, Donald Benjamin, has won multiple awards as a songwriter. As such, he does a lot of the lyric writing and re-working. As lead guitarist I am pretty good at lick/hook development. Steve Sr. and Colleen are incredible at finding and developing the best vocal harmonies for a particular progression. Together, it makes the process quick and, relatively, painless.”
“The blending of musical styles is what makes the LemonFrog sound so unique. Donald is a long-time songwriter in the genre of Richard Marx, James Taylor or Phil Collins. My father and I  are die-hard “metal heads” and Colleen is your non-typical 80's glam chick. At any given songwriting session, it is not uncommon, for example, to have someone bring in what might be a good start to a ballad and, after a few minutes, find it has meticulously evolved into a great rock song. That's just how it works, sometimes. You follow the flow. Having the band's diversity allows for a wider array of possibilities.”
“Our aim, as songwriters, is to send a musical message to the masses,” interjects Benjamin. Our music tells a story. It covers life, love and the American Dream. We try to make the listener feel and experience the emotions put forth through the lyrics and melody. It doesn't matter if we're singing about war, politics, love or times of immense sadness. We want every individual to feel the song down to their very core and live what we have lived.”
When asked about their reaction to securing the Best New Artist honor and various ancillary awards, Benjamin says “It was an incredible feeling. As musicians, you grow up dreaming of days when you're headlining events, hearing your songs on the radio and winning awards. To reach one of those “brass rings,” having spent so little time together as a group, is amazing, let alone reaching all three in under a year, as we have.”
“Best New Artist” is an award that means a great deal to us. When bands are starting out, all too often they, eventually, begin to feel as if they are getting nowhere. Being recognized with this award has given us all the confidence that what we are doing IS working. The music we make is reaching people. Being the “Best New Artist” is something we don't take lightly. We look at it as something to build upon… to work harder for, in the future. It's a standard we aim to live up to as we progress as a musical entity.”
“We try not to kid ourselves. We're the new kids on the block, as it relates to the Saginaw Bay music scene. There are several talented musicians and acts that routinely tour the area. Some of which have done great things. Being thrust into the same categories, nominated and selected for a Review award by our fans and peers is an incredible honor. To surpass that, being nominated for 13 was absolutely surreal.”
Over the next six months Lemon Frog has a full slate of opportunities. They are currently working on preparing a live CD and DVD set entitled Full Frontal Froggity and from there they will finish their full-length studio album and release their next single, Lost. Plus they will continue to tour across Michigan and the Midwest, with stops planned in Saginaw, Lansing, Alpena and a return performance at Saganing Eagles Landing Casino in Standish on July 6th.
When asked what they the most challenging component is with growing a band and making it flourish in this current place in time, Benjamin notes that the biggest challenge is “branding the band and making it known as a commodity. Building a fan base takes time, talent and a lot of dedicated hard work. In today's market, there are fewer playing opportunities, decreased revenues and people are less likely, because of the economy, to go out as frequently as they once would have. As such, you have to make every opportunity count. You never know when a chance opportunity may pop up. You always have to be prepared to seize it.
Meanwhile, you can catch Lemon Frog at The Hamilton St. Pub on May 10th and at White's Bar on May 11th. They will also be doing an acoustic show at Mid Michigan Music in Midland on June 14th and headlining at Bemo's in Bay City on June 15th.


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Snow Shoes

The singer Don puts on the Northeastern Michigan Music Awards and he gave himself and his band awards this year.How cheesy is that? . Lots of bars like the Unwind won\'t touch them. Lemon Frog have such a bad reputation.

January 18, 2018     10:01 PM
Brad Giddings

As a longtime reader of the Review, and admittedly not aware of the group until I read this article Robert has generously done, I must say I find it hard to understand why \"Snow Shoes\" would anonymously post something so disgraceful to this magazine. Regardless of what anyone may, or may not have done, defacing REVIEW is highly unsavory. REVIEW is the oldest, most respected music awards of its kind and has no affiliation with any other. To indulge any of this so-called \"fact\" into this esteemed magazine\'s fold is unprofessional and, frankly, tacky. I would certainly guess that \"Unwind,\" since it has been so named, has something to do with whatever grudgework is behind this. I would hope Robert or his staff would see fit to remove both of these posts, mine included, to restore the dignity of REVIEW magazine.

January 18, 2018     10:01 PM
Jay Ricardo

Wow, \"Snow Shoes,\" jealous much? The only thing \"cheesy\" is that you would take to degrading another group on their article page. I saw the Frogs play at Mort\'s and they were fantastic. They were polite, down-to-earth and took time to interact with every single person in attendance, which is more than I can say for half the bands in the area. You might want to try growing up a bit. At least have the guts to sign your name to your statement. - Jay Ricardo, Saginaw

January 18, 2018     10:01 PM
Carrie Carrie

Compare the Elvis song Steamroller Blues written by James Taylor to the Lemon Frog song Steamroller Blues written by Don from Lemon Frog.

January 18, 2018     10:01 PM
Rusty Thomas

@blueskat68 - If you follow the history of the Blues, much of the music, throughout the ages, has come from the sharing of ideas. In fact, we can thank this type of idea and music sharing for the continued existence of the Blues genre. Many, many songs have been made which take a line or two from an existing song and expound upon its concept. This is called, in the music world, a \"derivative work.\" Having looked at YouTube videos for both, it is clear that this situation is exactly the case. James Taylor used the line in a single instance. In this case, as the start of a single verse. The aforementioned derivative work uses the line as a repetitive hook and basis for an entirely different take on the subject. This is both legal and expected, within the Blues genre. I cannot claim to know this was a derivative, as a fact, as I do not know James Taylor or Donald. However, a derivative work is perfectly acceptable in the music industry and can be considered his own work, in that respect. My opinion is that both versions are very well done and worthy of existence. Just my two cents worth, having a lifetime of music industry experience. Rusty

January 18, 2018     10:01 PM


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