‘Houghton-Hancock Hum-Alongs’

HOUGHTON – Blake Morgan, who goes by the stage name of Esto, is not a resident of the Copper Country. But after visiting the area, he became swept up in the beauty it presents. Being a musician, he was inspired to write an album of songs about his experiences.

“I spent a summer up in Houghton in 2010. I had seen pictures of Houghton online and was totally appalled that it was a part of Michigan that I hadn’t been to yet,” Morgan said.

Morgan found a job at the Summer Youth Program at Michigan Tech. He turned out to be the only person working there that either didn’t go to Tech or wasn’t from the area.

“I got to meet everybody that lived up there and made a lot of cool connections,” he said.

While here, Morgan, who is currently 22 and hails from Grand Rapids, Mich., was inspired by his surroundings, like the monuments and areas and decided to write songs about them. One song is about Cyberia Cafe, another is about Quincy Mine, which was written from the perspective of a miner back in the 1800s.

“It’s about the historical aspects of it,” he said.

Other songs on the album, titled “Houghton-Hancock Hum-Alongs” are about the experiences Morgan had up here, like when he was in Calumet.

“I had driven through Calumet a few times and it had always been sort of a ghost town, but I drove through on a Friday night and there was a ton of people that came out at 5 p.m. and the town came to life. There were street musicians and all the bars were hopping. It was really cool to see that.”

In order to fund his CD, Morgan started a Kickstarter campaign, which was successful and raised over $4,000 for him, despite only asking for $3,000.

Almost all of the tracks are recorded. Morgan only needs to have the album mixed, mastered and then made into a large amount of copies.

“I’m hoping that (it will be finished) by Christmas and I can make it a Christmas present,” he said.

Putting the CD together has been a very slow process for Morgan, having first started the album while he was working up here in 2010.

On the record, Morgan does vocals and plays guitar and bass, but he also has a variety of other instruments played by other people that will be featured.

“There’s violin, trumpet, trombone, cello, oboe, flute and harp,” he said. “All of those instruments were played by friends of mine and I wrote the parts out for them,”

Morgan has been studying at Western Michigan University for the past four years, where he is getting a degree in music education. He also has a degree in opera performance.

“I basically killed myself over the past four years and have just taken a ton of credits,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a semester where I’ve taken less than 20 credits.”

From a very early age, Morgan has been involved with music in one way or another. His dad used to teach him to play drums and in high school Morgan was active in musicals.

Once the album is released, Morgan is hoping to come back up here to do a live performance. He has played at The Orpheum Theater a few times and is in talks with Orpheum Theater owner Mike Shupe about returning.

As of now there’s no planned time for a concert, but Morgan is hoping to make it up here once the eventual snow begins to melt.

“What will probably end up happening is that it will be in the spring.”

Morgan also hopes that his music will reach people who haven’t been to the Upper Peninsula and sparks their interest.

“I like to think of the CD as an entire experience,” Morgan said.