Last Wednesday I attended a concert held at my favorite coffee shop, Thirty-Thirty Coffee Co., featuring the very talented Michael McFarland. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a Boss Loop station, and a collection of thoughtful narratives set to music; Michael is currently on tour in support of his latest album: Waking Up Is A Letdown. ("Next Train South" is my favorite track from that album!)
Singing to the crowd
It looks like the bear is singing along
After the concert, I had a chance to briefly chat with Michael and found that we shared an interest in storytelling and even fashion as a storytelling endeavor. As we talked, I realized that he would be a great person to interview for this blog! He graciously agreed to an interview and the next day I sent an itinerary of questions via email. Before I share the interview with you all, I wanted to share a video from Michael about his take on storytelling and anecdotal value:
And here is the interview:
Q: Tell me (and the readers) more about yourself. How did you get started as a musician? Where are you from? What inspires you?
A: First, Laura, I'd like to thank you for asking me to do this interview!
I grew up in Kent, Ohio, my father was a professor at Kent State University. My start in music began at age 6, when I began studying piano, but I didn't really begin down my path as a songwriter until I picked up a guitar at age 14. I learned how to play every song on Third Eye Blind's debut album, but didn't have any conception of how to write songs. One day, while on the riding lawnmower going in circles, a melody popped into my head that I didn't recognize. It continued repeating in my mind and each pass I added a few words, and by the time I finished mowing our half acre I had my first completed song.
As far as inspirations, musically I don't specifically look to other songwriters or bands for inspiration, but if I'm listening to something a lot a little of that has a tendency to bleed into the music. I definitely owe a debt to the 90s alternative rock that I was listening to when I first started writing songs, but there are also elements of modern pop/rock artists (think Mat Kearney, Matt Nathanson, The Fray) and of course the classics like Paul Simon and The Beatles.
Q: How would you describe your music? (ie; how it sounds, what you write about, etc)
A: The description I usually use for my music is "Rhythmic Alt-Pop". For my live shows it's just me, my acoustic guitar, and my Boss Loop Station. I beat on the body of my guitar to build backing rhythms, then play catchy acoustic pop songs over those backbeats.
Q: I understand that you are on a tour, can you tell me more about it? What do you hope to achieve through this tour?
A: Of course! I'm currently on a 6-week tour, ranging from Nashville to Chicago to Austin to San Diego to Portland to Denver. I'm traveling by myself, staying with friends in towns I have them, and complete strangers in towns where I don't. Most of the cities I'm playing in this tour I've never been to, much less played a show in, so I'm looking to make some new friends, share my music, and discover the country!
Q: During your concert you mentioned that you live in Asheville, NC. How would you describe the city's style? What makes it distinctive?
A: Asheville is an awesome city - sort of like a mini-Austin, Texas or a mini-Portland, Oregon, set in a mountain paradise. Amazing arts scene, incredible food, beautiful landscape. The music scene is an eclectic mix of americana, roots, indie, bluegrass, and the occasional wildcard artist like me that doesn't quite fit in. There's a lot of bohemian/hippie style you'll see around town, as well as healthy dose of hipsters & outdoorsy types. It's a very accepting city of whatever your personal style is, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have an impressive beard.
Q: Speaking of cities, what did you think of Peoria?
A: One of the things that's both a blessing and a curse about playing so many shows on this tour is that I don't get to stay in any one town for very long - I get into town in the afternoon, and leave the next morning. The parts of Peoria I did get to see were great. Thirty-Thirty Coffee where I played the show, my new friend Nate's awesome old house where I crashed for the night, and One World Cafe where we grabbed dinner - the food there was fantastic, and their Long Islands are not to be toyed with!
Q: How do you define your personal style? And does it change when you go onstage?
A: For several years I've been mostly unintentionally pursuing a style I'd describe as vaguely post-apocalyptic - distressed military jackets, henley shirts (I'm convinced they're the official shirt of low-tech wasteland freedom fighters), worn out jeans, and heavy motorcycle boots. If you catch me on a day I'm not playing a show, you'll find no difference in what I'm wearing from when I'm on stage.
Q: What is a "typical" concert outfit? Do you have any lucky or favorite items or clothing or accessories?
A: When I'm touring, I pack really light - aside from workout and sleeping clothes, I bring with me 5 shirts, 3 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of boots. What you're likely to catch me wearing is:
A short-sleeved Mossimo henley tee from target, slightly modified to let my great uncle's dog tag sit a little better.
-My great-uncle's dog tag, a cross necklace, and a big bulky Fossil watch facing inwards so I can tell how long I've left to play without conspicuously staring at my wrist - I forgot to wear that when you met me in Peoria!
Q: You tell stories through your music... do you think that what you wear is a storytelling endeavor? If yes, how so? (I tried to remember what you said about wearing anecdotes but I couldn't remember the term you used).
I'm not wearing them on this tour, but my other pair of motorcycle boots was given to me on my last tour (which I undertook on my motorcycle, guitar strapped to my back) by a woman who saw me sitting next to the bike in a grocery store parking lot and handed them to me saying, "These were my Father's. He passed away two months ago. You look like you're on an adventure, and I'd like you to have them."
Q: What has been your favorite experience or story from this tour so far?
A: Nothing so far to match the story about the motorcycle boots, but the tour is still young! So far my favorite moment has been on my day off from touring in St. Paul, Minnesota. I stayed with my brother Phil and his family, and in the evening I got to skip stones with my 10-year-old nephew Joe on the Mississippi river. It was a perfect moment of serenity in the midst of a hectic schedule.
Q: Is there anything else that you want to add or share?
Just that it was wonderful meeting you, and I can't wait to come back to Peoria to play again, and see all my new friends again!
Thank you, again, Michael, for being a part of my blog with this interview! I wish you the very best in all of your endeavors!