Introducing....Michael Logen

Pennsylvania native Michael Logen released his sophomore album, New Medicine in the summer of last year and is set to join Sarah Darling and Jenn Bostic as part of the upcoming 'Nashville In The Round' tour throughout the UK (you can read my review of the last 'Nashville In The Round' Tour here). I caught up with him earlier today, shortly before the trio fly to Glasgow tomorrow to kick off the tour....

What was your first experience of music?

I was born into a musical family. My dad is a guitar player, a banjo player and my mum has a wonderful singing voice and so some of my very earliest memories are of music and my dad playing the guitar, my older brother playing the guitar. I started playing the piano and guitar around five so I almost don't remember a time when music wasn't in my life if that makes sense.

Did you ever feel like you would do anything else?

You know honestly I didn't think about it a ton, it was a very natural progression and yeah, I knew that I wanted to do this if I could, if it was possible [laughs]. As I got older and kind of thought about it I thought well it is a challenging thing to make a living at but I'm going to go for it and try. I've been very fortunate to get to do it. 

How would you say your particular sound came about?

Ah that's a great question, I was definitely influenced by the music that my dad listened to. He was a truck driver and listened to a lot of traditional country like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash was a big influence...he listened to a lot of that and he also listened to a lot of singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Paxton...so that was definitely a big influence on me. The music that my brother listened to impacted me as well, rock and roll, Springsteen and Tom Petty and that kind of stuff. So very classic influences I guess for me, that impacted my sound for sure. I started writing when I was around thirteen - trying to write! [laughs] - and then I guess it was a process of just finding my own voice.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

The very very first thing I ever wrote was actually an instrumental piece on the piano. I didn't really name it I guess, it was just a very dark, strange piano piece. The first song I ever wrote with lyrics...I guess I was around twelve when I wrote {the piano piece} and then the first song with lyrics was probably about thirteen and it was called "No More Pain" and it was very very cheesy! [laughs] It was very dramatic.

As well as releasing your own albums you've had multiple songs cut by other artists, which was your first?

Oh let's see here...very first cut...that's a good question...I think it might have been Mat Kerney, a guy named Mat Kerney. We wrote a song called "City Of Black And White" together.

Do you find it feels different hearing your songs sung by other artists having than having them yourself as it were?

It is, it's a real honour, it's really a privilege because it's something that they value enough to give their own voice too it's really special. Any time another artist covers your work or records it or anything it's really an honour. I should mention I wrote that song with Mat as well, with Mat Kerney, we wrote it together so it's not like he recorded my song really, I helped him create his song I guess. But yeah, it's always an honour to have someone else record a song I've written. 

You recently released your own second album, did you find the process of creating that different to your first album?

Yes it was definitely different. Typically with the first record you have your whole life to write and with the second one you don't although there was a pretty long period in between albums where I spent a lot of time focusing on writing and so it was different. In some ways it was more enjoyable because I knew a little bit more about recording and producing and I had maybe a bit more of a clear vision of what I wanted on the second album. 

How did you decide which tracks to include on your second album?

That was a tough choice because I write a lot. I try to write just about every day so there were a lot of songs to chose from and for me it really came down to...the theme of the record is new medicine and to me the theme I wanted to have with these songs, to tie them all together was just the struggle of life, the searching and the redemption and break-through that we all have, the ups and downs of life. The idea that music is medicine has always been really intriguing to me, that it kind of helps people get through difficult, dark seasons in their lives. That kind of became a theme as I was looking back on songs that I'd written and so I chose the songs with that theme in mind. 

Did you find it easy to find inspiration for the song-writing or did it vary?

Yes...I often wake up first thing in the morning almost every morning with my very first conscious thought is either a song lyric or a melody or sometimes both. I'm so grateful for that, I don't take that for granted, I don't fully understand how it works! [laughs] It's a bit of a mystical thing but I'm very grateful for it.

In terms of performing, do you find there are specific venues or audiences that you feel more nervous playing in front of?

Sometimes it's the smallest venue that is the most kind of surprisingly nervous...that I get the most nervous in. I've heard that from a lot of my friends. The Bluebird Cafe is a great example, in Nashville, it's a relatively small venue, very very intimate and people are sitting very close to you. For some reason that's where I tend to get the most nervous. In a larger venue or where there's a spotlight you often can't see as well [laughs] so you just often get lost in the light and the songs and that kind of thing but when you're really close and intimate sometimes it's much more intense.

You're set to travel over here as part of the 'Nashville In The Round' tour, what can audiences expect from the show?

One thing that's makes this kind of a show unique is that it's set up in the round, which is where all three of us will be on the stage the whole time. We will talk in between songs, we'll take turns playing songs which is based on The Bluebird Cafe in the round, that's where it kind of originated. We play on each others songs, we sing on each others songs and we tell stories about the writing of the song and the inspiration behind the song so there's a lot more emphasis on the stories behind the songs than a traditional show maybe. 

Do you feel like the format of this particular tour will make the show feel like a different experience to other solo shows?

Yes, absolutely no question. In some ways there's a lot more variety, exactly three times more variety! [laughs] There's more banter and interaction between the artists on stage and we're all friends - in fact, the three of us recently played a show together at The Bluebird Cafe - so yes, it's certainly different. It's certainly different for us as artists than doing a solo show, it's very enjoyable, I love it. I love solo shows as well but there's a unique aspect to it when you're onstage with your friends, listening to them play their songs and supporting them with harmonies and instruments and then also every once in a while playing one of your own.

You've chosen local openers for each show rather than one opener for the whole tour, how did that come about?

I've got to give credit to Jenn Bostic and Sarah Darling for that. Sarah and Jenn did this tour in the UK last year with another artist and so they had friends in all of the places we were going that they wanted to bring out and give them an opportunity to be part of the night as well as give us a chance to hear them play. 

You've played shows in the UK before, do you feel a UK audience reacts differently to other audiences?

That's a good question...my experience has been that in the UK there is an exceptionally positive response especially to lyrics, I'm really impressed with my particular music it seems like there's really a lot of people that come up after shows and pay attention to the lyrics which as a song-writer means a lot. Also inversely I am very influenced by music that comes out of the UK, Ben Howard, Damien Rice, David Grey, Passenger are all artists that I love and have certainly been influenced by as well so maybe that's why there's a special connection! Maybe it goes both ways. 

Thanks to Michael for his time! I'll be making my way to one of the Nashville In The Round shows so make sure you keep an eye out for my review but you can find the full tour dates and more information about Michael's music on his website here - it sounds like it's going to be a great tour!

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