Belles and Gals has a fast growing team of enthusiastic and passionate individuals, all wanting to spread the word about the music we all love. Today is the second in a series where you get to meet the team – we’ll be interviewing each team member and they’ll be telling us all about the artists they love! Today we interview our only team member based in the US, Mike!
Hi, Mike! To start, tell us a little bit about yourself?!
I’m a mid (or late) 40’s father of two incredible boys and proud to be a US contributor to Belles and Gals. I have a rather broad background, having done everything from retail management to owning my own businesses, teaching at the middle school level, and developing medical systems. Currently, I am the director of a non-profit that provides emergency shelter to families experiencing temporary homelessness, which is second only to teaching as far as “favourite” careers go.
I have a particular interest in “discovering” artists who have yet to become household names. I appreciate the passion and energy of their early fans, and, when they break through, I like to think I may have been a part of that success! My musical tastes are eclectic, ranging from metal to country to classical and nearly everything in between. Great music is great music, regardless of genre, and I believe it’s a pity that so many incredible artists are ignored by mainstream radio.
What was it that got you interested in country music in the first place?
This is a story I love to tell. Growing up, my parents listened to a great deal of country music. I was (am) a huge fan of Dolly, Loretta, Crystal Gayle, and, a little bit later, Tanya Tucker. On the guy’s side, nobody can top Willie Nelson! I then took a 20+ year hiatus from country music.
My re-introduction to the genre began on August 22, 2014, when my youngest son (8 years old, at the time) saw Katy Perry on her Prismatic tour. He was (is) a Katycat (crazy/passionate fan of her and her music). Coming off of an impressive Grammy Awards showing, a young woman by the name of Kacey Musgraves opened for her. I didn’t attend that show, so I still wasn’t hooked. I did, however want to encourage my son’s passion for music. So, when I saw Kacey’s “Same Tour, Different Trailer” was making a local stop in February of the following year, my son’s “big” Christmas gift was set.
He could not have been more excited. He made a sign, put on his best cowboy boots and hat, and off we went – his absolute joy and enthusiasm were contagious, but I felt his 9-year old expectations were set somewhat too high, as he had a picture of meeting her and chatting and becoming “best buds.” I tried to gently temper those, but was still afraid he was going to be disappointed. About ¾ of the way into the show, I told him to make his way up to the front of the venue (it was a small, intimate show of about 1500 seats) with his sign and just hold it up, so she could see it.
He stood in front of the stage as she sang for what, to him, seemed an eternity as he began to become self-conscious, though it was only about 15-20 seconds. At that point, he lowered the sign and turned around with the most dejected look on his face and began to slink away – as a father, my heart almost broke. This is when I became a lifelong fan of Kacey and was drawn back into country music. Kacey stopped mid-song and called him back. He was so distraught and embarrassed that he didn’t hear her, so I had to tell him she was talking to him and physically turn him back around to the stage. She could not have been more sweet and compassionate. After the show, we managed to have a stagehand take his sign back to her for an autograph, and it is now displayed prominently on his bedroom wall.
If you had to pick three favourite artists, who would you choose?
This one is easy! #1, Kacey. #2, Stephanie Quayle. #3, Lauren Alaina. #3, RaeLynn (okay, maybe not so easy)
And if you could only listen to one album ever again, which one would it be?
Same Trailer, Different Park is an absolutely brilliant album. The lyrical genius, vocal beauty, and country roots-based sound is second to none. Even more, the fact that the album (almost) single-handedly opened the genre to the LGBTQ community makes this, in my mind, one of the most significant albums of our time.
What has been your personal highlight in country music?
My son won a trip to the ACM awards in Las Vegas in April of 2016. Both of us agree that this was the experience of a lifetime. We were front row for the Women of Country Music day at “Party for a Cause,” seeing Maddie and Tae, Cam, Carrie, Kelsea, and Martina McBride. We were also able to meet a number of personal favorites, such as Maddie & Tae, Tara Thompson, Luke Bryan, and Brothers Osborne (who we had met a few times previously). The official After Party show was also a blast, but, by that time, we were so tired that I’m not sure either of us recall exactly who performed.
During the awards ceremony, we were cheering unabashedly (and, perhaps, to the annoyance of some around us) when Kacey’s name came up for Female Vocalist of the Year, even though we knew that her winning was a long shot. Fans will be fans, though, and we weren’t embarrassed to show it!
If you had to pick an artist to watch, who would it be?
I’m going to cheat (again) and choose two. I am very impressed by Stephanie Quayle. Even though I have been following her for a while and have seen her live several times, I was still pleasantly surprised by the quality of “Love the Way You See Me.” I hope this is her breakthrough album that gets people to sit up and take notice.
There is another local favorite, Caitlin Smith, whose first album, “Starfire,” is being released this week. While she already has a name as a songwriter in both the country and pop genres, I was absolutely blown away by her vocal talent when I saw her perform several months ago. I think she could be VERY good!
What is the most embarrassing record you have ever bought?!
I’m not sure I can answer this, as I buy/sell vinyl as a hobby. I have about 5,000 albums and well over 10,000 45’s in my collection – they run the gamut as far as embarrassment level goes!
To finish, tell us the last gig you went to, the last album you played, and the last song you played on your phone!
My last gig was Jackie Venson (@Jackievenson) at a small, local venue. Jackie is a killer bluesy-rock guitarist/singer who I discovered when she opened for Gary Clark, Jr. If you like Lindsay Ell, Jackie may be right up your alley.
The last album I played all the way through was Natalie Hemby’s Puxico, in celebration of its first anniversary on January 13!
The last song played on my phone was Caitlyn Smith’s This Town is Killing Me.