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Ohly Gives His All On Debut Album “Miracle”

Ohly releases debut album Miracle

“Bridge Over Lake Huron”  the opening track from Ohly’s debut album Miracle, recalls a trip that the narrator takes with a friend up north. The lyrics describe an amusing conversation about whether jumping into the lake from the bridge would actually be like hitting concrete. They take a wrong turn but the song ends on the sentiment, “I wonder what I’d do without you.” 

The song, which just crosses the one minute mark, serves as a tasteful intro into the lyrical storyboards that Detroit singer-songwriter Christian Ohly creates.

It’s detailed, but we don’t always know who the players are. At the same time, we’ve all been there in some way. 

For instance, “Knuckles”, a folky and piano-plucked track takes the listener on a romantic encounter that feels warm and secure until Ohly’s voice intently asks, “Annie, won’t you stay around awhile? I could make do with only a smile” which pulls the song into a place of longing.

We haven’t been to these places. We don’t know who Annie is, but we know this feeling of aimless romance that could lose grip at any moment.

Miracle represents the sketches and echoes of the last few years as Ohly’s been navigating young adulthood.

“There are 3-4 years worth of songs and I went through a lot as anyone does,” he says. “Loss of several family members, being in your twenties, being in relationships.”

It’s a time of one’s life where the pressure and expectations of figuring life out collides with great uncertainty and directionless ambition.

“That’s an interesting time of life […] you start to think ‘okay maybe I should start getting a move on.’ You kind of wonder – should I follow this passion? Should I be in a relationship with someone?”

After attending his first concert as a teenager, Ohly started learning guitar. A few years later, as he started writing his own songs, he connected with John Katona, a Detroit based producer and musician, who at the time, was tapping friends and artists to get more production experience.

The two befriended and started working on the first Ohly EP together in 2016. They would release the self-titled EP two months after Ohly moved out of state to college. 

Looking back, Christian laughs at the naivety of his younger self and how much he’s had to learn on the fly as a musician.

“I recorded this EP with John over a year and a half, then moved out of state to college and released this EP two months after moving out of state.” he says. “I never played with a band, didn’t know about any music community or networking or anything.”

In the middle of the pandemic, when Ohly returned from college, he reconvened with Katona to work on two more projects. They collaborated on a more electronic-focused project called Bird Fight. This side project found Ohly trading in his acoustic guitars and Katona pushing the production with synths, pianos, and drum machines. 

The other project the two worked on is Landlines, Ohly’s second EP  released in April 2021. This release featured more of Ohly’s trademark indie-folk sound, with even brighter and tighter production and songwriting. In the years post-college, Christian began settling into the spirit of being an artist in Detroit.

His hard work was beginning to take shape with two EPs under his belt. This attributed to his experience of  playing shows with a full band combined with  growing connections within the Detroit music scene.

Ohly would open for national touring acts like Bad Bad Hats and The Brook and the Bluff, headline his first show at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, and even drive down to Austin for a gig at SXSW.

Continuing to write songs and eager for the next move, Ohly and Katona agreed to start their next project together. Katona would encourage Ohly that a full length should be the next thing. In 2022, they would record Miracle, the first Olhy record at Katona’s JK NK Studio

You can hear Ohly’s songwriting and Katona’s production really push these songs into new places.

Songs like “R&P”, “Black Mirror”, and “Phone Call” feature orchestrated arrangements that help Ohly’s voice to higher places. “Wintertime,” features a saxophone and guitar epilogue that could exist alongside Bon Iver’s second album. 

Songs like “Maybe It’s You”, the album’s first single, contain some of Ohly’s catchiest and funnest work.

“It doesn’t feel like something I’d really write,” Ohly recalls. He notes his desire to push his vocal range and write something fun to perform. 

Without wavering on the earnest and intricate storytelling, the song could be sung around campfires, during the end credits of a romantic comedy, or while driving with the windows down.

Similarly, “Pistons” showcases Ohly as a band and potential energetic force. The quasi-punk standout features a jangly earworm of a guitar riff  from Tom Mihalis, Katona’s production partner who’s playing can be heard on Miracle. Songs like “Pistons” and “Maybe It’s You” add new territory and great range and exploration to Ohly’s sound. 

As for the album title, Miracle, the name means a few things to him, but most important is the closing track which shares the same name.

“Especially today, people don’t often listen to a full album, especially 14 songs,” he muses. “‘Miracle’ (the song) means alot to me and I’m hoping people will [listen] to that one.”

The song in question is a sparse acoustic but deeply personal reflection of the death of a loved one. It’s poignant, arresting, and the perfect punctuation to this collection of thoughtful tunes.

“I didn’t have a central theme going into [the record],” Ohly recalls.

But,  listening to Miracle, its songs speak for themselves. It’s coherent in its themes, even if it was coincidental. The album represents a specific time in both Ohly’s life, but also any young person’s life – the pain and grief of life, but also its joys and surprises.

These stories are artifacts of those trying to figure out the complexities of life and relationships. As Ohly reaches the finish line of the album’s release, he’s hoping people can connect to it. 

Ohly releases his debut album Miracle through Bird Fight Records which was founded by John Katona and Tom Mihanis. 

Ohly and his band will headline Detroit’s El Club on September 8th to celebrate the release of the album. Fellow Detroit artists Jackamo and Hala will be supporting. Tickets can be purchased here

You can also support Ohly by purchasing merch such as the vinyl of Miracle, t-shirts and stickers.

Photo by Alexis Backus
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