Manistee County musician Ted Bounty uses music to spread a message

BROTHERS – Theo Batzer is like most musicians who believe that music can be a powerful instrument to convey an important message when performing in front of an audience.

Batzer, who primarily plays guitar and harmonica while also playing mandolin, banjo, fiddle and piano, began his musical journey in 2009 while a student at Michigan State University. It’s an adventure that has taken him down many exciting paths since.

“I started doing solo acoustic stuff because I was hosting an open mic party back then at McManigals in Manistee when Brett Rogers was still the owner,” Batzer said. “Then I started a jazz funk fusion type band called Theo Batzer Band and did that for several years.”


Over the past five years, Batzer has branched out more into folk, roots and gospel music in solos, duos, trios and with a full five-piece band as Ted Bounty and the Bounty Hunters.

One of the unique things about this band, like many other local bands around Manistee, is that membership can vary with certain gigs; musicians are very versatile and can adapt to play other genres of music. He pointed to a recent Bounty Hunter gig where he had never played with three band members before that night.

“To know as many players in Michigan as possible is great,” he said.

Batzer said after speaking with many musicians, he came to the conclusion that Michigan’s music scene is unique. What makes it different is that there is brotherhood between the musicians no matter where they are from in the state.

“There’s really nothing like the music scene in Michigan because you can call guys from Detroit or Lansing to play with you in Traverse City and even if it’s four hours away they’ll still come. because it’s a big family,” Batzer said.

Batzer does similar things himself with other bands, such as when he occasionally plays harmonica with Brother James and the Gazing North Band.

His band, Ted Bounty and the Bounty Hunters, performs in a wide variety of venues, but prefers places where the music is central.

“We play at festivals, beer halls and anywhere where the focus is on the music instead of just being background noise,” Batzer said.

He also performs regularly at churches and with the Jesus Christ Worldwide Revival meeting near Nine Mile and Skocelas roads in Manistee County. He plays gospel music and preaches there every Sunday.

Performing and writing their own songs is part of the music scene that Batzer enjoys.

Find a video of Ted Bounty and the bounty hunters with this story online at manisteenews.com.


“It’s my calling and my purpose to play songs and as a songwriter, I believe love writes all the greatest hits,” Batzer said. “That’s true for anyone who stands the test of time, because as songwriters, we’re just the vessels and the hand to write this.”

He said music can accomplish this so easily in the message it delivers.

“I believe it’s part of my purpose to be here on Earth, to sing and connect people with something bigger than themselves,” Batzer said. “When I perform and give in to what I say and do, then I’m doing my job changing the world one song at a time.”

Batzer said he loved so many types of music that it was not easy to call him a performer of a specific type or genre.

“I love gospel, but also so many other types of music,” he said. “In the full band, and sometimes even when I’m doing solo performances, the genre isn’t really something you focus on. But with the acoustic sound, it sometimes sounds like folk, roots, gospel .

He said he often likes to put his own spin on popular songs to make them sound folk, roots and gospel in nature. It’s his way of putting his own personality into the music.

“The great thing about music is that it’s meant to be passed on and sometimes we play songs that are over 100 years old, but they sound more modern in context,” Batzer said. “We don’t lose the essence of the music, but we’re not afraid to add electric instruments to it if necessary.”

There are some genres of music that Batzer hasn’t delved into at this point, but he likes to be versatile in trying out different types of music.

“Music is a bit like a language and each genre is like a different dialect,” he said. “It’s just really cool to collaborate with other musicians because everyone brings their own voice to the table.”

However, he said musicians need to connect with their audience.

“It’s our job as musicians to engage with the audience, which is why I like to sing along,” he said. “One of the things I’ve learned from folk music is to commit to a simple idea and know how much love and heart you can put into that idea. It’s also our responsibility if you want crowd participation, we have to be the ones leading in this area.

Batzer said this can be done either by the audience singing, joking with the musicians, or by getting up and dancing. He picked up many ways of doing it from his performances with Brother James.

“He’s an amazing artist and he gets the audience involved and everyone sings along,” Batzer said. “Sometimes all it takes is an invitation from the musician to engage the audience.”

Batzer also enjoys writing music and has composed around 25 of his own songs since performing.

“Songwriting is probably my favorite thing about music,” Batzer said. “I have a bunch of originals that need to be registered.”

Two of the songs he wrote led him to a Nashville retreat for songwriters with Judy Stakee, well known in the music business for developing young songwriters.

“She was senior vice president of artist development at Warner Chapel for about 20 years and since her retirement she still enjoys developing singers and songwriters in that retirement,” he said. “She’s worked with Katy Perry and Sheryl Crow and people like that, so it was a blessing to go out there and connect with a bunch of songwriters.”

He emphasized that the purpose of the retreat was to co-write music. Everyone who was retired had written their own songs, but the company in Nashville or Los Angeles does a lot of co-writing and then sells the songs to other artists.

“I was just going to retire for songwriting development,” Batzer said. “I still don’t like co-writing that much, but I was glad to have the experience. It was interesting and it made me grow a lot as a songwriter and some of the conversations we had there were a skill I had wanted to learn for a while.

Theo Batzer (center), from Manistee, performs with the band Ted Bounty and the Bounty Hunters.

Photo submitted/Theo Batzer

He said it was good to get feedback from other songwriters and to hear that some of the songs he wrote were good.

“It definitely gave me more confidence as a songwriter to put my stuff out there,” he said. “I also got to the point with my music of being comfortable playing solo with my music.”

He finds the opportunity to perform solo easier as he works around a schedule for bookings instead of five with a full band.

“The doors have really opened more for solo performances, which is good because it’s easier to make a living like that now with solo gigs,” Batzer said. “You can connect better with the audience in a solo concert because people tend to listen better to what you have to say.”

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