PLAYING DETROIT: Six Tiny Desk Contest Submissions from Detroit

Audra Kubat reps Detroit in NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest this year. Photo by Daniel Land.

For indie bands on the rise, it’s become a rite of passage to perform a live set in Bob Boilen’s office as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, which has been ongoing since 2008. But since 2014, the inception of an annual contest to discover new talent has allowed unsigned acts to get a piece of the action, too. Not only does the winning band get a chance to play for the esteemed All Songs Considered host, NPR also sponsors a national tour, often with life-changing results. Past winners have included Grammy-winner Fantastic Negrito (2015), Gaelynn Lea (2016), Tank and the Bangas (2017), and Naia Izumi (2018). With thousands of submissions, the contest seemingly pulls talent out of the woodwork, attracting artists from all different backgrounds and styles. Here are six artists based in Detroit that threw their hats in the ring this year. The winner will be announced this month. Good luck!

Audra Kubat

Detroit folk mainstay Audra Kubat breaks hearts with her chilling rendition of “Oh Mother.” Her graceful delivery and wise lyrics recall sitting alone in a deserted dive bar or falling asleep to the sound of rustling leaves.

Allye Gaietto

Singer-songwriter Allye Gaietto showcases her earnest writing style and crystal clear vocals on “Soon,” an unreleased song she performed for her Tiny Desk submission. The lyrics here are just devastating and Gaietto delivers them with a range of emotion, gliding from a shimmering falsetto into a strong belt that could move mountains. It’s a genuine, beautiful performance.

Strictly Fine

Up-and-coming seven-piece funk/alt-jazz group Strictly Fine go through a full range of emotions in their performance of “In My Life.” All seven of them squished into a room to perform their unique genre of music, which includes a full horn section, jazz croons and a whole lot of funk.

Greater Alexander

Greater Alexander’s soothing folk music is perfect for this stripped-down setting, with just his vocals and acoustic guitar. “Smoke” sounds like a gentle hymn that starts on the ground and drifts into the clouds.

Carmel Liburdi

Carmel Liburdi shares her brand of folk music in her eccentric song “One Too Many.” The song showcases her knack for storytelling and almost circus-like performance style that combines theatrics, timeless rhythms, and mouth trumpet.


Handgrenades strip things down for their submission, opting for acoustic guitar, muted drums, and a xylophone. As always, the harmonies are on point and the band is super tight. The video is filmed in what looks like the band’s practice space, full of different synths, concert posters and somebody’s cat, making it feel like you snuck up on them for an intimate glimpse into an everyday rehearsal.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Award Shows, Tiny Desk Concert, & Eartheater


  • Vote For The Best ‘Tiny Desk Contest’ One-Person Band

    Around this time last year, every social media feed you had was suddenly flooded with home-made videos featuring small desks, coffee tables, or some sort of writing surface. Every friend you had in a band made one, along with everyone who had a thirst for fame and knew a few chords (Obviously, most entries were seriously amazing, even if you found out the hard way your cousin wrote love songs on an out-of-tune ukulele). Well, the whole process was repeated this year, and while you wait for the final winner to be announced, NPR will be letting the public vote on their favorite performers in certain categories. This week, the focus is on one-person bands. You can check them all out here, but here’s one of our favorites:


  • Noisey Breaks Down (More Of) The Music Industry’s Diversity Problem

    In this article, writer Emma Garland discusses the Billboard Power 100 list. Released last week, it doesn’t feature musicians or performers, but “your chairmen, your CEOs, your executives; the people we don’t tend to think about but who spend most of their time influencing everything we hear.” The list is pretty much a bunch of white dudes; the 10 people at the top are white males, 96% of the top 50 are white and just 9% of the people on it are women. Statistics like these shed light on the fact that even in creative industries, there’s some sort of glass ceiling that cannot always be broken. You can check the actual list out here.

  • Courtney Barnett Performs On Stephen Colbert

    The Australian singer/songwriter/bad-ass guitarist didn’t seem at all upset that her nomination for this year’s Best New Artist Grammy award didn’t pan out; on Wednesday, she gave a spirited performance of “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” from last year’s Somethings I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

  • That Little Thing Called The Grammys

    Red Carpet! Crop tops! Swift/Kanye drama! Mic malfunctions, tributes, medleys, and Dave Grohl with…. a Solo cup? A lot of stuff happened that you probably already know about, but make sure you watch Kendrick Lamar’s goosebumps-inducing performance:

  • That Other Thing Called The NME Awards

    NME readers voted 5 Seconds of Summer 2015’s worst band, and Bring Me The Horizon destroyed Coldplay’s table. You can read the full list of winners here. There are some interesting categories like “Best Fan Community,” “Villian of the Year” and the “Godlike Genius” award, which went to Coldplay.

  • Eartheater Releases “Homonyms” Video

    The NYC based artist, whose name is actually Alexandra Drewchin, creates electronic music that is also folky and organic. The video for “Homonyms” features dancers in a beautiful, lush wilderness that seems more like a dream than reality. Her vocals oscillate between hushed whispers and angelic cries, which contribute to the effect. Check it out below: