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INTERVIEW: Matt Michaelis

How would you classify your music?

Guitar-driven rock and roll with blues, funk, and psychedelic influences.  With this as my “foundation,” I also dabble in many other genres including pop, singer-songwriter, jazz, and country.  Above all else, I strive to write songs which are crafted, pull from many different musical influences, and have a sense of building emotion.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Like any serious songwriter, I try to have no limit on what I am influenced by.  I remember I was in an airport in Florida once, and they had the sweetest elevator music playing over the intercom – I still remember the sound of that phat snare!  Influences are all around.  This being said, my top five would be Jack White, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Trombone Shorty, and Eric Clapton.  It doesn’t matter what song, from what era, at what point in their careers – everything these artists/bands have put out honestly gives me goosebumps.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

First and foremost, the greatest honor I could receive is to hear that something I created has moved someone. Music has a great healing element in that regard.  I do find that some of the hardest experiences that we go through in life can result in the best music.  The idea of taking a “broken heart and turning it into art” is my favorite aspect of being an artist.  Ice-T once said that he raps about “the B-side of life,” because it’s more interesting.  Like these artists, I’ve found it easiest to write music about experiences that are hard, as opposed to easy.  I would hope that when people listen to my music, they hear and connect with the deep struggle expressed in it.

What in your songwriting journey has led you to this point?

A few months ago, I released my debut album “RESOLUTE.”  With my history, I never would have thought this would ever be possible.  The first time I tried to produce my own album was 10 years ago.  The feedback I was getting at the time was that the songs were pretty good, but my voice needed work.  So I began taking singing lessons.  However, I went after it too hard, and I ended up severely inuring my vocal chords.  After speech therapy, surgery, and rest, my voice still wasn’t getting better.  At that point, I decided music wasn’t for me, so I basically gave up.  But then I had the thought “you’ve been playing the piano your whole life, why not just try a different avenue?”  So I decided to learn the guitar.  Learning the guitar is what reinvigorated me.  I started getting a lot more into rock, blues, and other musical styles.  For the past 10 years, I wrote a lot of material, but I also listened.  I paid attention to what moved me and studied why.  After many years of writing instrumentals, I realized that I could still write songs with lyrics, I would just hand-pick singers to sing on them.  Once I realized this, the rest is history.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

My favorite concerts are the ones in small clubs where you can really connect with the artist.  I try to get as close as I can to the stage – I want to see what pedals the guitar players are using!  A couple really stand out.  I saw Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown in an intimate setting before they started touring with ACDC and Guns N Roses.  Talk about passion!  Jaime Cullum stands out as one with the best technical skills.  I went to Bottlerock a few years ago and saw Lenny Kravitz – what a showman!  Obviously we as musicians could go on and on about these shows we’ve been to.  My favorite part of playing live is winning over a tough crowd.  It’s all about connecting with the audience.

Tell us about the concept for your album “RESOLUTE.”

This album was 10 years in the making.  I didn’t necessarily know it 10 years ago, but as said above, various life experiences were “preparing” me for this project.  Once I decided I was going to do it, I was all in.  I have a very busy life and family, so I had to sacrifice a lot to make it happen. The whole album took about a year to make.  All these things considered, I wanted the album theme to convey determination, or resolve.  I chose a bison to be on the cover because these are incredibly tough and resilient animals capable of enduring harsh realities (hence the bison in front of a jagged mountain range).

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

Instruments and production come naturally for me; lyrics do not.  I’ve really admired rappers for spontaneous wordsmithing, artists who are rhyming geniuses such as Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz, and artists who are incredible story tellers such as Johnny Cash or James Taylor.  On this album, I’m most proud of “Running from the Law” because it actually tells a story of a man who got in too deep to something that he didn’t want to be a part of, the “struggle” of having to live a conflicted life, and the subsequent departure.  Plus, even though the melody and chord progressions aren’t necessarily that “original,” the combination of what appears to be hard rock, electronica, and psychedelia make for an unpredictable listen.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

During the production of “RESOLUTE,” I learned SO MUCH.  I learned how to play a bunch of instruments (I played everything on the album except drums), discovered some great recording techniques, I learned how to identify people’s strong points and accentuate them, and most importantly, how to trust my instincts and stick to them.  In addition to writing a bunch of hard rock songs, I also dabbled in country, pop, and singer-songwriter.  It was an effort which helped me develop a lot of diverse skills.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

John Mayer – not only is he the “total package,” but he’s just a fascinating dude.

What’s next for you?

Continue to progress.  Become a better songwriter, guitar player, and producer.  Honestly, I feel like the sky is the limit to what I can accomplish.  J

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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