Whether his music is being played during some of television’s most popular reality shows or inspiring people in the aftermath of Boston’s worst terrorist attack, singer-songwriter and pianist Jeff Michaels has been entertaining fans with thought-provoking lyrics examining today’s biggest social and political issues while infusing them with his unique brand of humor.
BTS: What was the reason you started writing songs?
Jeff: I began writing when I was 14 as a means of pure expression. There was no plan to do anything professionally until I won a contest in high school with an original song called “Everything Good Must Come to an End”, and people started telling me I should think about writing for real.
BTS: What was the first song you ever wrote about?
Jeff: Obviously a girl! Although the exact circumstances escape me…
BTS: What is your most current song written about?
BTS: Where do you derive inspiration from?
Jeff: Ideas just pop into my head, and I try to catch as many of them as possible. Some aren’t necessarily “song worthy” but I jot them down or record the idea anyway as it might lead to a complete song down the line.
BTS: Who were your musical influences in the beginning of your songwriting?
Jeff: They were, and still remain, the major artists of the 60s and 70s, like Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Leonard Cohen, etc., along with traditional country folk writers like Jimmy Webb.
BTS: Who are your musical influences now?
BTS: Do you have a method of writing, place, vibe, setting, instrument you prefer to write on? And why?
Jeff: I go back and forth from piano to guitar. Piano is my main instrument, so I can sit down and complete a song idea without thinking, but when I want to challenge myself and focus on the lyrics and coming up with chords I wouldn’t normally use, I jump on the guitar because I can’t play as well and it forces my mind to think for a minute.
BTS; What are the elements you think contribute to the making of a great song?
Jeff: Intent, passion, consistency of an idea, a well thought-out song structure, and memorability. You can have a great song like “American Pie” that runs for nearly seven minutes and filled with literary and historical references, or you can have a two-minute pop song like Pharrell’s “Happy” and both can be great provided they remain true to their intent.
BTS: How do you push past writer’s block?
Jeff: I don’t believe in this. If you aren’t writing you simply are on a break. If you find yourself “blocked” it’s likely because what you’re trying to write isn’t worth the effort.
BTS: What would be your advice to a beginner songwriter trying to make their way and trying to express themselves musically?
Jeff: Learn your instrument to the best of your ability, because we are at a time in history when so much material has already been recorded it is important to challenge yourself to come up with new melodies and chord progressions in order to compete with the thousands of other songwriters out there. I see so many young writers strumming the exact same intro chords on a guitar because it’s all they know how to play, and their song might be great but it’s lost in that familiarity of sounding like everything else. That being said, if you are just looking to express an emotion, the best advice is simply to play, sing, or write what your heart is trying to say… those are the best songs anyway, and you can always tell when something comes straight from the heart. There’s no faking that.
Jeff’s passion for creating extends beyond the world of music and into the realm of published books. His comedic travel book, Please Hug Me – I’ve Been Delayed, was featured on NPR and the Chicago Tribune. When he isn’t writing or creating music, Jeff is a vocal proponent of human rights.
Follow Jeff on his Official Website: http://www.jeffmichaelsband.com/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegreatjeffmichaels
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/jmichaelsrocks