ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A new web series and platform composed in Ann Arbor is connecting southeast Michigan musicians to new audiences.
Hosted by Tree Town’s Nadim Azzam, Whip Jams is part jam session, part personal interview.
Shot from inside Azzam’s car as he drives around different Michigan cities, each episode focuses on a musical guest who performs and shares their thoughts on making music, turning points in life and their own origin stories.
Season one guests include Ann Arbor’s one-man-band Ki5, electronic pop duo Mirror Monster, intergalactic lo-fi singer-songwriter Dani Darling, Flint-based hip-hop lyricist D. Vaughn the Illest, and Detroit-based multidimensional artist Pariis Noel.
“The idea was essentially ‘let’s take these local artists that I know are amazing, and that people would love to listen to if they were present in a format that is approachable for them,’” Azzam said.
While the series is similar carpool karaoke, which features well-established artists, Whip Jams focuses on music discovery.
“A huge part of the whole idea for Whip Jams, aside from just showcasing, is really curation. We [Azzam and the production team] want to take what we think is best and show that to the community, and see who agrees,” Azzam said, adding that he and the team used their own networks across Michigan to find musical talent for the first season.
Whip Jams highlights Michigan musicians in the same way musical celebrities are shown on late-night TV shows, something that Azzam is excited to present to new (and old) fans of his guests.
“We’re trying to present artists that maybe the community isn’t familiar with yet, rather than hyping the same ones that we already all know,” he said.
Azzam already has a few artists in mind for season two but he also plans to ask community members for their input so he can showcase musicians they want to know about.
The series was inspired by conversations that Azzam and friend Luke Jackson had while working on a project about Azzam’s own music in 2018. The idea then expanded over time, even as the Azzam and the production team were filming.
Each interview was shot between the summer of 2019 to early 2020 (before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but Whip Jams released this December with the hopes of helping audiences reconnect with live music since their favorite venues are currently closed.
“I hope that it provides a way for the community to feel a sense of community and connect with each other while we’re all so isolated, especially during this winter,” Azzam said.
Whip Jams has also turned the tables on the Ann Arbor artist. As a performer Azzam he is used to just performing and received a finished product later, but for the web series, he’s had to sharpen his interviewing chops and do some behind-the-scenes work.
But he didn’t put the series together on his own. Azzam has been working with Ann Arbor-based Drop Creative, Audio by Ell, Dennis Scherdt and Natalie Robbins to fine-tune the series. The team worked together to over come the challenges of filming performances in a moving vehicle and figuring out how to incorporate different musical instruments, like looping and drum machines.
The team’s efforts have been worth it. With only a few episodes of the show released so far, Azzam has already been approached by people who have enjoyed discovering new artists or learning more about artists they thought they knew.
As for the series’ unique name, Azzam said “Whip Jams” just popped out one day while discussing the project. He definitely wasn’t going to call it “Car Tunes” and Whip Jams stuck.