1) Tell us something about yourself that your fans may not know.
A: A lot of people that have known about me for a while or have rocked with me since my beginning knows my origins, but a lot of new followers/fans may not know that I first got into music as a teenaged church musician. I first picked up piano, and then guitar, all self-taught. I led the music department as a high schooler, playing both instruments. I thought that my self-taught knowledge would translate in performing more technical music. I took up concert band in high-school, not realizing I needed to know how to read music in order to keep up. I ended up failing and never learning how to read music. That was around the time I began song-writing, which ultimately led me to where I am today!
2) How has Michigan had an impact on your music style, if any?
A: I feel the midwest region has such a distinct sound, and a lot of that has to do with Michigan music. My music style has always been influenced by live instrumentation, soul, and jazz. Being from Michigan, our influences start with Mo-Town. My grandma had bins full of mo-town records, and I think that's what sparked my interest in the soulful music. Then thinking about Dilla and all he was able to do for the culture of hip-hop and music in general. Listening to Mo-Town and Dilla joints, whether with Q-Tip, Common, Erykah Badu, or Slum Village, all play a part in my soulful, dusty-textured boom-bap sound. I think the Michigan as a place had a present influence for Greenhouse as well. Michigan is beautiful as f*ck. Transitioning to the fall from summer and from winter to spring is an inspiration within itself. I purposely tapped into that while recording songs from the album, whether taking walks or having mindful moments just to take in the trees and fields.
3) How would you say you've grown as an artist and person since entering the game back in 2016?
A: When I think about my inspirations and the music I was trying to create in 2016, I think it fell between the Neo-soul/boom-bap lines. Even then, I performed with a live band, and it was a very soulful experience. I think I just needed the time to find comfort in my sound, vision, and direction. After spending time recording music to myself, experimenting, and mixing my records, I began to feel completely comfortable in all of those aspects, and that's where the growth began. I stopped second guessing my words, cadences, and concepts, and began to feel much more free in my music.
That freedom is present when I perform now as well. I feel before, my priority in performing was to make sure that those in attendance were having a good time. With the freedom that comes with my music, I feel my priority has becoming making sure the band and I had a great time, which results in those present having a memorable time as well. That change in mindset keeps writing, recording, and performing fun, and I think it's extremely important to find joy as a creative. All in all, I'd say the music that I was trying to create back in 2016 is the music that I am creating now. So it's been great to see my own personal and artistic growth.
4) What have you been doing to stay busy during quarantine?
A: Quarantine has really been refreshing for the most part. I work in local school districts teaching students healthy conflict resolution and social and emotional skills. It's been good to scale back and plan how to be most effective when returning to working with students. It's also been great to scale back and figure out how to be effective in my own personal life and relationships. Outside of that, I've been pushing this album, doing interviews, and working on new tunes. Hopefully I'll have new music to share this summer!
5) What was the inspiration behind your project 'Greenhouse?'
A: In 2019, I began to really get into plant care, nature, and how we play a part in the world around us. I recorded a song called 'The Sunlight Song', which spoke about being my perspective of being black in America, being a creative, and how I'd like to use my platform. This ultimately became the inspiration for the music I'd start creating, and in September of 2019, I realized the theme of the project was green. I wanted to create a project that sounded like a sunny day in a field... Like if the color green had a sound, this would be it. My goal was to combine dreamy/serene vibes with chill/soulful boom-bap. My hope is that the project feels like a 35 minute ride through nature.
6) Which song did you enjoy making the most on it?
A: All of the songs were a lot of fun to make for different reasons. Palm Trees & Fajitas came together naturally and was a ball to make, and has been great performing. Black Out is a fave because I recorded it months ago and thought it was all set. The producer, and my friend, Ess Be, hit me telling me the production had been given away, and that he'd build a beat around my vocals. He sent me the final production the week I announced the album, and it ended up turning out way better than expected, and even better than the original. I think 40rty Acres was my favorite to create. All of my songs tap into past experiences and stories, but I feel 40rty Acres did that the most. It shares about untimely deaths of young blacks in my community, as well as feeling hopeless, and holding on to a dream of better days.
I shared on my IG story today how the US Army went to a group of black ministers in 1864, asking what our people needed after being 'freed' from slavery. They responded saying "land" because they we wouldn't be able to peacefully co-exist with others that don't value our lives or humanity. The gov. agreed and signed an order called Order No. 15, which was supposed to give 40 acres to each family throughout North Carolina, down through North Florida. This never ended up happening. Instead, fast forward to 2020 (156 years later), the communities that we have that haven't been gentrified or destroyed, are over-policed by people that STILL do not value our lives or humanity. So seeing stories like the recent killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, continue to make songs like 40rty Acres real and necessary for me.
7) Who is one artist you would love to collaboration with but haven't yet?
A: I've been really inspired by DIY artists like Saba and Kota The Friend. I think our sounds are similar, and those would be collaborations I'd love to make happen in the future. If there's one artist I'd pick to work with right now though, I think it'd be someone like Ajani Jones out Chicago. He dropped a video called "Lucid" last year that I came across and have rocked with him since. I think we have similar midwest influences, love his sound, and think we could make magic!
8) After dropping your LP, what's next for you in 2020?
A: 2020 has been interesting because the album was to be followed by a lot of concerts and festivals. With COVID putting live events at a pause, I'll be using my time to work on collabs with some of my talented friends, a new project, and will be using the internet to connect with folks I cant physically connect with.
Follow Mikeyy Austin:
Instagram - @mikeyyaustin
Twitter - @mikeyyaustin
Facebook - @MikeyyAustinn