FYIG recently had the chance to chat with singer/songwriter Michael Blum about his latest single, “Taking You Back” Check out the full interview here!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a singer/songwriter, and I play guitar, bass, and keys. I’m originally from Great Neck, New York, and over the past several years I’ve lived in New Hampshire, Boston, and the Bay Area as well. Growing up, music was everywhere–my mom is a singer, my dad is a guitarist, and my brother sings and plays the drums. My parents formed my first musical tastes–they showed me The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and James Taylor. When I went to college, I got really into jazz guitar, especially Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. After college, I lived in Boston briefly, and all of a sudden, I started writing songs for the first time–mostly inspired by my long-distance relationship. Eventually, I had enough of long-distance, and joined my girlfriend out in the Bay Area. Soon enough, I started inching down to LA because of the music scene down there, and now I’m in the process of moving here!
How did you get your start in music?
Well, all throughout high school I played in jazz band and sang in choir, of course. But my first professional experience in music was playing guitar in the pit bands for musicals in college. The first musical I played was “Hairspray” during my freshman spring. That summer, I played in the pit for “Hair” as well. It was so fulfilling to be a part of something that touched people so deeply, and I decided then that I wanted to make a career out of music.
How would you describe your musical style?
Well, my sound is evolving, so it’s difficult to pin down in just a few words. At this very moment, it’s a little bit of electropop, a little disco, and a little jazz. I think that what makes it uniquely ‘me’ is that it’s a mixture of all the music I’ve listened to and absorbed over the years. Above all, my background in jazz is probably what makes it unique, even if it just peeks through in the form of a particular chord progression or melodic phrase. That, mixed with my other biggest influences–Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Michael Jackson, to name a few–is what makes up my musical style.
What did you learn from studying with Berklee College of Music Professor Emeritus, Jim Stinnett?
I studied with Jim for about 5 years, and I grew so much during that time. Musically, I learned countless lessons, and there are too many to list. But beyond what I learned musically, I think the most important lesson I learned is that I’m capable of more than I think. He’d often say that my biggest mistake was thinking too small. He demonstrated this by setting seemingly impossible goals for me. For example, I once said to him that I wanted to play the guitar like Oscar Peterson–a virtuoso jazz pianist–played the piano. I thought it was a pipe dream, but he didn’t. So he assigned me a few of Oscar Peterson’s solos to learn, and eventually gave me one of the fastest and most technically challenging. That project led to an album, which we called “Chasin’ Oscar: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson.” Whenever I listen to that album, I think to myself: “holy shit, I can’t believe I did that.” And I think…because I tackled that, I can learn to do anything. I have Jim to thank for that lesson.
You recently released your single “Taking You Back”. What can you tell us about this song?
“Taking You Back” is the lead single from my new solo project, and it represents a new chapter in my life for several reasons: it’s the first single I’ve released since relocating to LA, it’s the first song I’ve released that I co-wrote, and it’s the first song I’ve released that uses mostly electronic production. So in many ways, “Taking You Back” symbolizes change and forward-motion for me.
The song itself is funky, cool and even a little bit sexy. It reminisces about the early stages of a relationship, and I had my girlfriend, Rebecca, in mind when it was written. She and I have been together for 6 years now! It’s incredible to have someone in your life who’s been with you through so much and still supports you unconditionally. But, after 6 years, it’s easy to take each other for granted. So “Taking You Back” is a wish to “go back” to the beginning of a relationship, when everything is fresh and exciting, and you constantly have that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling.
What was your experience like co-writing the song with Jason Strong and singer Naïka Richard?
Naïka, Jason and I wrote “Taking You Back” in just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. When we wrote “Taking You Back,” it was actually the first time we had ever met, but we really gelled creatively, and the two of them are supremely talented. I came in with a keyboard riff and the concept for the song, and the rest was easy. The three of us just went back and forth with ideas until it was perfect.
Once we had written the song, I recorded the vocal tracks, and Naïka recorded some background vocals. Then, I got together with Jason a few more times for tweaks, and then it was done!
You started out doing Jazz which didn’t involve using any words to express yourself. What prompted you to alter your style?
Well, I think my musical journey so far has continually pushed the limits of my comfort zone. At first, I learned to express myself just with my guitar, which felt very safe and comfortable. When I started singing in public and on recordings, that was scary too. Then I started writing my own songs in sort of a folky pop/jazz genre. This music—this new project—is me coming out of my shell. I’m making music that boldly shares the most intimate details of my life. So I don’t consider it an alteration as much as an evolution—this music was always natural to me. It’s just now that I’ve been ready to share it.
What’s next for your career?
Well, I’ve got lots more music coming out this year! Currently, I’ve got about 7 more songs written that will be released later this year, either on an EP or a full album. Now, I’m in the process of producing these songs and getting them ready for release. Also, I’m writing all the time, so stay tuned for lots of new music
What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?
I would say not to be afraid of collaborating with others. For far too long, I made the mistake of thinking I could and should do everything myself–I wrote, produced, mixed, mastered and released my entire last album. I don’t regret it a bit, because I learned so much in the process. However, I now recognize that when you work with other talented people, the product is almost always greater than the sum of the parts. So I would recommend seeking out other talented musicians and trying to co-write or co-produce something. I wish I had done it sooner!
What’s your life like outside of music?
Well, right now it’s in limbo. My girlfriend and I are now in the process of moving to LA. So we have to find an apartment and get settled. We’re thinking of adopting a kitty as well–I assure you I’ll keep everyone posted on Instagram about that process!
Let the readers know where to find you online.
I thought you’d never ask!
And of course, you can stream Taking You Back anywhere using the following link: ffm.to/takingyouback