Zander Michigan is propelled by songs, strong fan base

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

He’s got that Bob Dylan cadence when he sings and a Nashville undertone to his guitar playing, but songwriter Zander Melidis is firmly rooted in Michigan.

He’s fond of his home state so much that his stage name is Zander Michigan. The bluesy folk singer admits to a more endearing origin to his adopted moniker.

“When I was 5 or 6, my parents put me in this beauty pageant. It was like Little Mr. Michigan contest,” says 24-year-old Melidis, who grew up in Clawson and graduated from the University of Michigan. “I thought (calling myself Zander Michigan) would be kind of funny as a homage to my stylish and handsome past.”

“Around that time I think I was Elvis for one of our school plays... I wanted to go into music ever since.”

These days he’s definitely more Dylan than Elvis, and he also cites Jack White as an influence. So much so that he’s scheduled some studio time in Nashville with the same musicians that back White on tour. His hope is that they like his song and pass it on to the Third Man honcho.

After that, it’s off to England for a short tour that, since he’s a solo artist, will also function as an eight-day vacation.

Around Detroit, Melidis is slowly picking up steam as a songwriter. He’s performed at most of the local festivals, from Arts, Beats & Eats to the Metro Times Blowout, and he’s played clubs big and small including the Magic Stick and the Cadieux Cafe. He has two shows this weekend: Saturday at the Majestic Cafe and Sunday at the Old Miami.

He put out a demo album followed by an official full length release “Zander The Great.” The latter is available anywhere music is found (YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, etc.) because in addition to writing catchy folk songs, Melidis, whose day job is a quality engineer for Ford, is also extremely aware of the other side of the business. He’s connected with college radio stations and has cultivated a fan base that truly seems to support and promote him.

“I wouldn’t necessarily be anywhere without my awesome fans and friends that shamelessly promote me everywhere they go,” he says. “I don’t know, it’s like a fun side quest to be good at promoting and network and all that kind of stuff. People notice.”

Zander Michigan

opening for the Appleseed Collective and the Normandies

9 p.m. Saturday

Majestic Cafe

4120 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 833-9700

$8 advance, $10 at the door

as part of Summer Heat Wave Festival with the Infatuations, White Shag and more

1 p.m. Sunday

Old Miami

3930 Cass, Detroit

(313) 831-3830

$5 cover