I recently got a chance to sit down, or rather, stand in a parking lot and talk with up and coming singer/songwriter, Mikey Wax. There was no green room so were were standing next to his lovely new minivan at Velo Cult which can only be described as the most Portland, Oregon place on the planet. It’s a bike shop and a pub. Told you it’s so very Portland. We discussed his first headlining tour and of course his music. Take a look at the conversation below!
You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets here.
You went from being the first opening act just a few months ago to now headlining your own tour. What are the biggest differences between opening and headlining?
MW: Oh man, good question. The biggest difference, I’d say, is, well first of all, one of the biggest differences was I went from playing a 25 minute set to now an hour which is, you know, it’s a lot more music I have to perform every night, so in terms of like staying in healthy performing shape, is important, you know, when you’re doing an hour a night, show after show it takes a toll. So I’d say that’s probably the biggest difference and other than that it’s just people coming here to see you mainly.
When we first met in September, I said that you had the most intense crowd reaction I had seen from an opening act. Have you noticed a difference in how the crowd reacts now that you are headlining?
MW: It’s been that but just, so I got started touring a few years ago, so the Parachute tour for me, was a big chance to play for new people and now kind of test the waters taking, you know, as a headliner. So it’s been a lot of this repeat, people that have seen me before. It’s almost sometimes like second impressions are almost harder. But yeah, everyone’s having a good time and we’re having fun with the show.
IM: Everyone knows the lyrics this time.
MW: Everyone knows the lyrics this time, they’re singing along and I got a band with me so it’s a little bit different.
I read a few interviews from a while ago and you said you describe your music with a certain “cinematic-ness.” Is there any film soundtrack you have imagined your music being on or any film storyline that you would want to write just to fit your music?
MW: As I’ve gone through the years, it’s been kind of like different movie or different vibe every time, so, I’d say my first album or so was…I wanted to write the soundtrack for the movie Garden State. I felt like that was perfect for me.
IM: That was…Zach Braff’s?
MW: Zach Braff’s movie with Natalie Portman, yeah. I love that movie and so like my first record, you know, had a lot of that involved, that kind of vibe. I’d say newer stuff is really, it’s a pretty eclectic album so it can have some spots here and some spots there, I don’t know, maybe the show National?
You’ve spent a bit of time in LA, Nashville and are from Long Island, what differences and similarities do you find in the music scenes and the recording scenes of each city?
MW: Another great question. I’d say my favorite recording experience was in Nashville. Those guys know how to really bring the most out of each song and it was all about lifting the song so that every part kind of did it’s job. I never looked at a song like that before, how do we keep making this lift and exciting and move forward to keep the listener interested. So I found that the guys in Nashville were really…just had the mindset of how to really, really make the most of the song. So I would say that was the biggest different, was that there was no rushed, rushedness? What word am I looking for? It wasn’t rushed, it was very natural.
IM: I don’t know, but I know what you mean cause LA and New York are very fast paced.
MW: Yeah, like “Get in, lets go.” Lets get tracking so someone else can…so the attention to detail, I guess, in Nashville was great. And the music scene, I find that the New York music scene…still there’s nothing better than playing a hometown New York show compared to all others. We did New York a couple weeks ago, our show sold out on the Lower East Side, it was great.
Here at Infectious Magazine we have a feature called The Growing Up Playlist. Who were two to five artists who influenced you growing up?
MW: Yeah, so I was like eight years old and my brother was eleven or no wait, was he twelve, whatever. And he, for some reason, was a huge Beatles fan. So he introduced me to every Beatles song by the time I was like eight or nine years old, so I would say The Beatles were…even though I didn’t grow up in the 60s, The Beatles were my biggest influence growing up. Them and Billy Joel, cause I was from Long Island playing piano I had to know Billy Joel and then I kind of went into more like a jam band phase, I was really into the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer was an influence, Jason Mraz, I went through that whole thing, Jack Johnson, and then I kind of was like it’s a little too sweet I want to find the common ground. I don’t know if I want to be, well I’d take being Dave Matthews, I kind of had to swing a little back towards who I was, as in trying to find myself as an artist and not trying to be John Meyer or those guys.
What was the best concert you’ve ever been to that you didn’t participate in?
MW: Best concert…that’s a tough one…I don’t know, I’ve got to think about that because each concert is a moment in your life. You know? And I don’t want to say something that’s going to sound wrong, but like I went to a Billy Joel concert when I was twelve. In seeing a performer for the first time, like, my first concert, I think at Nassau Coliseum sold out and the whole crowd singing “Piano Man” when he when the lights shut out, I was like, I want to do that. You know? So that, to me, I guess kind of imprinted in my mind, so I’d go with that.
IM: I like that answer.
For this tour, I heard that you are driving the entire thing?
MW: This is us, minivan and uhaul, right there.
Do you think there is something gained from doing a road trip rather than flights?
MW: Oh yeah, I mean this tour, there’s too much gear, there’s too much merch, there’s too many people, you know, there’s four of us in that van and believe it or not it’s a brand new van we have rear entertainment system we’re watching movies all tour. This was a better option than getting the white old van that’s just crappy. A little safer and better gas mileage.
IM: Yeah, I was in those white old vans, they’re not…they’re bad.
MW:I don’t know why musicians feel they have to do that, well, I know why, this is a little bit more expensive, but we were going for this. I would say that this is the only way to do a tour where you’re stopping every city, I mean we’re doing 25 plus cities flights would just be too much with all the gear, and tour bus would be too expensive this was kind of the in-between route for our first headlining tour.
What was the best day of driving you had or experience? Did you see any site or?
MW: Yeah, honestly, the driving can sometimes…coming up here is always so beautiful, you know? We were coming from San Francisco. Yeah that’s a beautiful part of the drive…of the tour, but I’d say, a lot of the best stuff happened when we had a day off and were hanging out in New Orleans for the night or LA and we can really experience, have some fun.
If you could open for anyone currently touring who would you want to open for and why?
MW: I’d be, I have a lot of answers for that but I guess my unrealistic one, I mean I’d love to tour with Coldplay. I’d love to open for Coldplay. I would love that. In a more near future, feel like I would team up really well with a guy like Gavin DeGraw or Matt Kearney would be great.
IM: Wasn’t Matt just with…
MW: Parachute. Parachute was opening for Matt
And then, on the other end of it, what new artist, from home or just in general do you want to introduce to the world by having them open for you on your first major headlining tour where you do all the big venues?
MW: Lets see…what artist do I love that no one really knows…It’s hard to answer because I feel like I only really know people that are somewhat either at a level that I’m at or…Well, we have Alexis Keegan here on tour with us and she’s great and I would definitely recommend that everyone check her out. I like her songs a lot. Aside from her…who else would I really like…I’m going to have to think about that one and get back to you. I just want to pick the right person. Is Landon Pigg too famous? He did “Falling In Love at A Coffee Shop.” We did a few shows together a while ago. Probably him.
I noticed that you have had a lot of songs on television shows. What is the process for making that happen?
MW: A lot of music supervisors looking for a song for a specific scene or specific placement and obviously they’re familiar with my music and if it fits, they submit it. If it just all works together and the stars align you know, it works and it’s an amazing way to get exposure for the songs and stuff like that. So, I’m really, really thankful and, you know, kind of thrilled to have the support of a lot of the shows so far.
Is there any song that you are adamant about never being used on a show for one reason or another?
MW: Probably not, I mean, as long as it’s a fine show it’s not anything that’s promoting something terrible, I’d say, I feel like some songs wouldn’t work for specific shows but if there’s a…sometimes that contradiction actually does work so, I don’t know, I guess I would say as long as it doesn’t end up on the U Porns of the world it’s okay. And even if it does, whatever, who cares it’s reaching people. [laughs]
Last year you made a mash up of Shake It Off and All About That Bass that went absolutely viral. If you want to do another mash up this year, what two songs do you want to mash up?
MW: I’ve been trying to think of a good one…There were a few I had and then I just didn’t have the time to do them in the studio. I’m trying to think of the last one I thought of that could be…The thing is I realize that I want to do one song that’s really relevant and Taylor Swift had the top ten songs for a while and I was like I can’t keep covering Taylor Swift that just too much so I kind of had to let it wait a little bit till the charts changed a bit.
IM: Late Nite Reading just did a cover of, a mashup of Taylor Swift and The 1975 of Girls and Black Space, and that’s pretty amazing.
MW: Cool! Yeah, I feel like I could do that WALK THE MOON song. I would say their song “Shut Up And Dance,” it reminds me of a lot of different 80s songs I feel like I could tie that into something from the 80s and that would maybe be cool.
IM: Maybe that and something by like Cyndi Lauper or something.
MW: Sure, along that lines.
Check out the lyric video to his most recent single!
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