RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST MICHAEL LYON
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
It took me a while to figure that one out. I always loved music, but to realize that I could actually be the one doing it took a lot of time. An important fork-in-the-road moment was when someone (a former CBS Records president) told me, “There’s the ‘creative’ and everything else is the cocoon.” Funny how a thought like that helped provide the encouragement necessary for me to get on the path to “make” the music and not be satisfied with anything less.
What was life like for you before music?
Music was always a big part of life – listening to it, going to concerts… but before making music became “the thing,” life was focused on other adventures – completing a liberal arts education, career exploration (lots of trial & error that led eventually to a career in teaching) travel, and work abroad…
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
Probably, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the Broadway show, Oklahoma, which my parents would often boom throughout the house to wake up the kids for school: “Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day. I’ve got a beautiful feeling. Everything’s going my way…”
Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?
Such a BIG world of music – I guess I’m sitting somewhere in the middle of gigantic music industry ballroom, but try not to worry too much about the noise that doesn’t have much to do with me. I think of how folk legend Pete Seeger went about his business: “Keep it small, but keep it going.”
Whats the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry?
Whoever the teacher(s) may be at a given moment – Mozart & Beethoven… Rodgers & Hammerstein… Lennon & McCartney… Simon & Garfunkel… invariably the lesson being assigned: why not try to be great?!
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you?
Truth: Anything that seems like it’s “all ME” is actually a case of “so MANY others” that have made it possible for me to look good.
Truth: My music is unlikely to appeal to most people, but that’s totally normal and okay.
Lie: Writing songs comes easy
If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?
It couldn’t hurt much to be added to a Spotify editorial playlist.
Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….
I used to worry more about “what people think” but in the end (“the love you take is equal to the love you make” – thank you, Beatles’ Abbey Road) you can’t control which way people are going to take things. As a songwriter it’s just out of your hands. Some will dig what you’re doing… for others, for whatever reason (gender, age, interests…) the thought won’t even occur to, “give a song a chance.”
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If no why not?
You mean like, “the 2020 election was stolen?” I wrote a song about that (shameless plug) – track #5 on the new album: https://youtu.be/AHIKICNUXP0
What was the worst experience on stage?
Cast as one of the leads in a college production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, I missed a cue and didn’t come in with one of the lines I was supposed to deliver. (Instead: “crickets”/”The Sound of Silence.”) I eventually forgave myself, but I’m not sure if the Pirate King ever did.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about?
As member of several community orchestras (playing violin) it turns out I didn’t miss a single New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day performance of Beethoven’s 9th in San Francisco – over a period of 15 consecutive years.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
Here at the point of “overnight success” (that took a lifetime) – thank goodness for finding my voice and having something to say.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
It took three years to write and record the songs for the new album, titled WHAT COULD BE. Among the differences between recording these tracks – songs like “Love” and “How Long It Takes,” for example, as compared with those released on 2019’s CURIOSITY or 2017’s WAKING UP albums: during a global pandemic (especially before vaccines were available) there’s nothing quite like risking your life to go in and record a song that helps inspire you to do your best work, “in the moment” (because there might just not be a tomorrow).
What was the recording process like?
Working with world class recording engineer, Paul Horabin, at ReadyMixMusic in Van Nuys, California is – and has long been – bliss! Recording is a sport, and like many sports, the name of the game is how well you’re working together, as a “team.” Over the last 12 years Paul and I have gotten to know each other’s strengths/preferences to the point that I can probably count the number of “less than great” recording sessions on the fingers of one hand (if that many).
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
As I understand the meaning of learning curve (figuring out difficulties and progress made while learning) it may well be this time around realizing that the most important thing in writing the song is not necessarily the quality of initial melodic and/or rhythmic gift from The Muse or a even a particularly intriguing line that gets the ball rolling lyrically. Rather, it’s how you build on and develop what you start with – over time. Unless you’re Mozart the song will probably not come to you fully-formed.
But the question is, are you “in it for the long haul?” Are you willing to treat the beginning stage of a song like the delicate living “child” it is – that requires a significant amount time to grow… listening to what the song wants to become… and perhaps requiring more patience than you might think you have in you? For example, I found that the title track of the album, the song “What Could Be,” took 24 drafts to get to the finish line. (It might have been nice to wrap it up at draft 10, 15, or 23, but if that’s what the song wanted and required, well, OK!)
Would you change anything now its finished?
After repeated listens, there happens to be one word in one of the songs I definitely would change, but I should probably keep that a secret. (I’ll go ahead and make the adjustment when I play the song live.)
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
It cannot be repeated enough times: for everyone listening – I’m grateful that you took the time. Big THANKS for listening! (Nothing better than when learning that a song of mine has become a favorite “song of yours!”)