Motown. Detroit Rock City. Whether it’s Bob Seger or Aretha Franklin, Kid Rock or Eminem, the musical beat has always been the lifeblood flowing through the veins of this city. Despite the layoffs, despite the bad press of “drive by journalism,” despite the political scandals, there is one area where Detroit, Michigan is still seen as the epicenter of cool — its music scene.

While some may be attempting to “party like rockstars” elsewhere in the area this Friday, the real rockstars of Detroit will be gathering downtown in the Fox Theatre District at The Fillmore (formerly State Theatre) for the biggest night of their year – the 19th Annual Detroit Music Awards.

Leading the pack with a dozen nominations this year is singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Carolyn Striho, best known for her past work with punk legend Patti Smith and fronting the Detroit Energy Asylum. Her nominations include Outstanding Vocalist, Best Instrumentalist, and for her latest CD, Honesty.

Although her musical résumé includes collaborations with some of the most legendary names in music, that only seems like a sound check — Striho’s recognition is finally coming to center stage at this year’s DMAs. Her only prior DMA was in the 1990s for Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist.

Detroit Unspun was able to obtain an exclusive interview with Striho, where we discussed the importance of these awards.

“The DMAs are important for the region,” said Striho , “With all the layoffs, all the bad press we get, we can do the DMAs and still show the world that Detroit is music.”

Kathy Vargo, marketing manager for the Detroit Music Awards and partner at music publicity firm On the Rocks Detroit, agrees.

“Detroit musicians work harder and generally get paid less and recognized less than anyone else in Detroit, and they’re so talented,” said Vargo, “we have an ongoing mission to show the awesome talent here in this area, and that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for great entertainment, as you can go to any venue in the region and see a great band for as little as $10, or even free.”

Carolyn StrihoDespite the hard times, Striho, who regularly tours Europe, strongly feels that Detroit is still on the map, especially musically.

“In Europe they think the world of Detroit musicians,” Striho said, “They have a great reverence for us, and we take it for granted. . . it’s cliché, but when things go bad, people tend to think ‘Who needs art and music?’ We do. Detroit is still the barometer for a lot of things that go on in the world, the country, the music scene, and it’s important that we show that.”

Vargo says she thinks Detroit is ready for its next “big breakout” musician.

“I think it’ll be Ty Stone. He’s recording with Kid Rock and is his protégée,” said Vargo, “Ty [Stone] has the #10 song on WRIF right now, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets huge.”

Many locals may be tired of hearing about Kid Rock, but Vargo gives him a lot of credit.

“Kid Rock has done a great job of keeping all eyes on Detroit, musically,” she said, “He’s an amazing example of Detroit rock and roll.”

Vargo is insistent to point out that the DMAs are not just an “insiders only” event. “The only thing that is exclusive is the voting process, but the public is more than welcome to attend. It’ll be the best $20 they’ll spend!”

But even to give the public some say in a win, sponsor VitaminWater has created an interactive contest by choosing 10 songs by nominees for free download in a special widget on the Detroit Music Awards homepage. Users can promote their favorite artist via Twitter or Facebook, and the artist that garners the most downloads by tomorrow, Wednesday, April 14, receives a special award at the ceremony.

This year, distinguished achievement awards will be presented to Detroit rock favorites The Rockets and to the Sun Messengers. The Sun Messengers will perform, while The Hell Drivers — featuring Rockets founders Jimmy McCarty and Johnny “Bee” Badanjek — will play a set of Rockets songs.

National Artists receiving DMA nominations include Eminem, Bob Seger, Uncle Kracker, The Von Bondies, Mayer Hawthorne, K’jon and Ty Stone.

What started as the Motor City Music Awards in 1988 and first presented in 1992, the Detroit Music Awards are the only music awards in the nation to be completely organized and presented by a not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to support and nurture the musical community in the Detroit metro area and throughout Southeastern Michigan.

The DMAs this year will present at total of 70 awards across 11 different genres, ranging from rap to rock, country to classical, folk to electronic, and everything in between. Voting is done by Detroit area music professionals in a multiphase process beginning in January and culminating the end of March. A full list of nominees and performers can be found at

The Detroit Music Awards will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 16, at the Fillmore. Tickets are $20 for General Admission and still on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets.

Special thanks to Carolyn Striho and Kathy Vargo.