TRAVERSE CITY — It would be a monumental understatement to say things have changed in the 18 years since West Michigan’s Brian Vander Ark soared to multi-platinum, rock-star success with alt-rock’s The Verve Pipe.
Vander Ark, now 50, after penning the band’s 1996 Top 10 hit, “The Freshman,” is now an East Grand Rapids family man with two daughters who boasts a burgeoning solo career as a creator of children’s music and a master of intimate house concerts performed across the country.
But he also felt the time was finally right to produce The Verve Pipe’s first bona fide rock album in more than a dozen years.
“I sent the original email to my manager about one year ago. I wanted to make a no-nonsense rock record,” says Vander Ark. “I wanted to get everybody in a room and write and record together. No more working on part after part after part: Hit it and quit it.”
The Verve Pipe did just that, churning out 10 fetching, pop-hued rock songs at Grand Rapids’ Atomic Sound and Planet Sunday Studios for the band’s new independently-released album, “Overboard,” which was released in mid-June.
“These were all written to be Verve Pipe songs. Joel Ferguson, Randy Sly, Lou Musa all contributed songs for the first time,” Vander Ark says of his fellow band members. “Theirs turned out great.”
The album, produced by Vander Ark and engineered by Grand Rapids’ Al McAvoy, also features a songwriting collaboration with actor, singer and fellow Michigander Jeff Daniels on the poignant title track.
“I told Jeff I had a song that I was stuck on. He’s an actor and a great songwriter: He knows how to tell a story,” Vander Ark says of Daniels. “I asked him if he would mind having a listen and suggesting a line or two. He came back with a short story on the subject. The puzzle pieces all came together after that.”