Interview with talented singer/songwriter Mikey Wax
What inspired your passion for music and who has been there supporting you from the beginning?
My passion for music started really young. My dad was a piano player, and I remember being 6 or 7 years old and sitting underneath the piano in our house as he would play. He taught me my first piece of classical music when I was 8, and I started taking lessons shortly after. My family has always supported my playing and writing since I was a young kid. My brother is now my manager too.
How do you feel about people downloading music rather then buying physical copies?
In a perfect world, the economy and music business would be strong enough that everyone would still buy physical copies and support artists. When developing my career, I knew at the beginning without major marketing from a label, I just wanted people to listen and become fans. I am okay with giving away free downloads in order to grow a fan base, but at some point, the goal is these fans will want to support you and buy future records and come out to shows.
How do you feel about the music industry today?
The music business, from my understanding, has always been a crazy but exciting industry. What makes it that way is there’s no wrong or right way to go about building a career. It’s unfortunate that right now most labels don’t have the money they used to have to develop artists. While it’s never been an easy business, I think it’s a lot harder now than ever before to become a full-time musician. These days, you have to be as creative with the business side of things independently as you are with making the music. My thing so far is I’ve done over 60 personal house concerts. I told my fans I would come play a show in their living room if they can get 25 or more friends to attend (in addition to covering the gas). I’ve toured all across the country this way. I’ve also focused a lot on building an online fan base through social networking sites.That led to a pretty cool feature on the YouTube homepage. It’s all been very grass roots but effective.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Hopefully much won’t change except the number of people who know my songs. So depending on the time of day, either sleeping, eating, writing, or playing a sold out show somewhere.
Do you think singer/songwriters are the best interpreters of their own work or do you believe some cover versions can be better then the original?
That’s a great question. Look at Leonard Cohen. Many people prefer cover versions of “Hallelujah” over his original version. For me, there is always something special and authentic to hearing the actual writer sing his or her song. So often you hear about songwriters who were originally looking for a different lead singer. I don’t know. I probably prefer the raw emotion of the writer, but there are lots of covers that give the song justice.
Who have you always dreamt of working with and why? How would you go about accomplishing this?
Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, John Mayer, Chris Martin, Dave Matthews, James Taylor. We’re all having a writing session together next week at my house. I wish. The only way to go about reaching musicians at that level is to be on their level…And that’s not easy.
As you are starting out your career in the music industry what steps do you plan on taking to reach your goal?
I keep a strong eye on what’s popular in todays music scene. You want to be original, obviously, but you also don’t want to be too far out of the loop. Other than that, it’s a lot about surrounding yourself with a good team and people who are motivated.
Have you found that as you are starting out your career in the music industry there are aspects that have taken you completely by surprise. If so, what are they?
I didn’t realize how important it was to surround yourself with a crowd – with people who are in the business and doing what you’re doing. Most of my time in college I spent writing by myself in my dorm. I think if I could go back I would have tried to jam and write more with other musicians and start networking earlier.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The greatest thing is it’s an exciting and creative industry, and like I said, there is no wrong or right way to climb your way up. There’s no corporate latter from an artistic standpoint. It’s all about what you put into it – that goes from the songwriting, to performances, to networking and building your fan base. Of course there are things you come across you wish could be differently, but it forces you to constantly think outside the box. And without that, I may have never gotten to the point I am now.
If you could have asked anyone for advice when you were starting out. Who would you have liked to ask? What would you have liked to ask?
I would like to pick Dave Matthews brain, or John Mayer – ask them how they would go about starting a career in todays music business. I’m pretty sure the advice is always the same though- play shows as often as possible, write as much as possible, work hard and don’t give up.
What would be your answer now?
Play out as often as possible, write as much as possible, work hard and don’t give up.
From your experience in the entertainment industry what advice could you offer people looking to get where you are today?
Find a friend, family member, or fan who will help you out, then play shows as often as possible, write as much as possible, perfect your craft, collect e-mails, work hard, and don’t give up.
What courses/classes would you recommend someone take if they want to be a professional in the music industry?
I took songwriting classes in College and a few other courses, but truth is none of that really did anything for me. I would recommend Yoga. You’re gonna need a way to stay patient and relaxed.
How many years were you fighting to get to where you are today and what was that time in your life like?
Still fighting, and 2 and a half years in.
From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging? And how are you dealing with it?
I used to get very nervous for shows which would often prevent me (in my mind) from giving my best possible performance. Every show is a challenge to get in the right mind state, and the more you do it, the more you learn tricks on how to stay focused, relaxed, and deliver. Other then that, keeping track of all the e-mails, contacts, newsletters, updates, etc – mainly the boring business side of being a musician.
15.Share with us your proudest moment in your career so far?
There’s a few, but a recent one that sticks out is on my last tour opening for Elliott Yamin, I recevied a standing ovation and encore at our show in Knoxville. Afterwards, the owner of the venue came up and told me in all her years I was the first opener to ever receive an encore! I’ll take it.
To find out more about Mikey Wax please visit: http://www.mikeywax.com/constantmotion/