Q&A with Bay Area singer/songwriter Michael Vincent, delivers an exciting infusion of positively electric energy

"I think that as long as there are young people going through all the angst and agony that's included in being young (sexuality; personal identity; finding 'my tribe'; rebellion against 'normal') music will thrive and be full of the frenetic energy that creates it. And it doesn't have to be rock n roll - which may someday go the way of the dinosaur."

Michael Vincent: Electric Bay Roots

The new Michael Vincent's album ELECTRIC FOX delivers an exciting infusion of positively electric energy! Michael Vincent is a well-known SF Bay Area singer/songwriter and recording artist who performs with his backing band U No Who in clubs, bistros, and concert venues across the country; and occasionally as a solo artist in more intimate settings with his trusty lead guitarist Scott Warren. Available worldwide on May 26, 2023, the new MICHAEL VINCENT album ELECTRIC FOX showcases an exciting new direction in Michael’s writing style that displays a range of genres from Power Pop to Alternative to Blues to Americana/Roots music, and even edgier Garage Rock influences while always maintaining that signature Michael Vincent feel. ELECTRIC FOX album will be released by Angel Blossom Records, Michael’s own Bay Area independent label that he and his wife Janet Klein Hollingshead formed over the last few years to cultivate a hand-picked collection of talented local artists.                          (Photo: Michael Vincent)

U No Who is comprised of guitarist Scott Warren (NYC’s White Collar Crime); bassist and backup vocalist Dave Mendoza; and percussionist Anthony Fulgar. With influences from across the spectrum including New Order, The Strokes, Nada Surf, Fruit Bats, Snow Patrol, Malo, Azteca, and Jaco Pastorius, the band came together in 2018 to perform live with him. Michael’s influences are originally from the Folk Rock era of the singer / songwriters of the ’70s, along with these day’s more contemporary influences. All the guys – Scott, Dave, and Anthony – bring a whole set of flavors to their performances, from Blues to Classic to Pop to Progressive Rock to Latin, and even Jazz-Fusion. Michael’s songwriting and performance philosophy is change it up! “You don’t listen to one kind of music; I don’t listen to just one kind of music,” he observes, “So why in the world would I only want to make just one kind of music?” 

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Michael Vincent & Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has Folk Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The singer/songwriter era has influenced me more so than simply Folk Rock itself. FR was introduced early-on by artists like John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful, which had little influence on me as a writer, whereas The Byrds, rocking up songs by Bob Dylan, had a huge impact - taking the stylings of The Beatles and syncretizing with the aesthetics of Dylan's complex multi-faceted relationship to all the characters in his songs. Dylan himself would influence my writing much more so than (for instance) someone like Phil Ochs. Whereas both these gents would write about the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the latter would do a traditional Folk Rock (nearly rhymey dimey) song about it with good intentions, Dylan would write about ALL aspects of the murder - including all humanity in the 'guilt' (for lack of a better word than mere 'responsibility') for his death. 

A major turning point for me came with the entry of James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Warren Zevon (Lawyers, Guns, and Money - not-so-much about Werewolves - lol)!  These individuals crafted their songs not merely with story-lines, but with both strong melodies and textured metaphors that expressed in great detail and depth and relentless struggle of the human condition. They also translated their own experiences with words that would resonate so well with the listener that one would often feel as if the song reflected as much our own life as that of the artist. I continued throughout my writing career to include elements I'd learned from the 'masters of metaphor', as I called them, and try to bring something meaningful to the songs and to the audience. 

How do you describe your sound and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I'm going to 'nearly' contradict all of the above, and say that most of my creative energy these days comes from having intentionally branched out into the field of Pop music - with the goal of having people moved by the beat and excitement of my 'sound' that people immediately want to get up and dance!  Some of this, ironically, comes from getting older - where despite that I'm still a thoughtful artist (and still very involved with vital causes that my spirit and person are drawn to) and will occasionally write an 'important' song about such things (think Backwards Land in support of Black Lives Matter, for instance), I'm mostly find myself writing a song like In a Whisper  (while still engaging the 'thoughtful metaphor' of the singer/songwriter) that instantly causes people at many of my shows to get up and dance. This comes more than a little inspired by the chorus of Dylan's song My Back Pages, wherein he sings, "Ah, but I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now..." And so tis true of me. 

"Not much, regarding the music of the past. Though I do wish that record labels did business a little more like they did in the early days; though the democratization of music via streaming platforms has its more positive elements as well. But as for things I miss about music from the past, not so much, really. I think great advances have been made in making music by far more sophisticated in ways never even considered in years past." (Photo: Michael Vincent)

What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

The Pretender album by Jackson Browne (and seeing him live on tour for that album) which brought a greater rock-and-roll presence to the singer/songwriter genre - powerful images and metaphors in his lyrics, and stronger rock anthems than many of his more 'mellow' (and sometimes nearly boring) songs from previous albums. I can say this with the advent for particular artists, albums, and songs - including 1979 by Smashing Pumpkins; Songs for the Morning After by Pete Yorn; Don't Talk and Jack Kerouac by 10,000 Maniacs; till now, with bands like New Order (Age of Consent); Nada Surf (Always Love); and more. Also impactful were things like opening for and collaborating with and even recording with artists connected with The (Grateful) Dead - Mark Karan of The Other Ones (and of Rat Dog and Phil Lesh and Friends); Jeff Pehrson of Further (and Box Set and The Fall Risk) - have all been terrific experiences - most especially because they're singer/songwriters whose work I've long admired and learned from.  I've also enjoyed hearing from some of the best in the biz (Danny O'Keefe; Michael Silversheer of Disney Studios; Lee Mendelson of the Charlie Brown specials; David Tedeschi of Martin Scorsese's Sikelia Productions in NYC; Trudy Green of Columbia Records; and Olivia Harrison - all of whom have heard songs I've written, and either just simply loved them and wanted to reach out and tell me so; or some who were actually considering putting one of my songs in a film or TV special they were working on (in Olivia Harrison's case, in response to my sending her a copy of Here Come Stars that I wrote for her late husband and former Beatle, George Harrison).

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Not much, regarding the music of the past. Though I do wish that record labels did business a little more like they did in the early days; though the democratization of music via streaming platforms has its more positive elements as well. But as for things I miss about music from the past, not so much, really.  I think great advances have been made in making music by far more sophisticated in ways never even considered in years past. Indeed, I'm tired of some of my peers insisting, "Well, I might be old, but at least I got to hear all the cool bands!" which somehow insists that there are no cool bands now? I regularly hear my peers complain about "Kids' music these days - they suck, man - they don't know how great our music was!" They sound like our parents (and I know that my parents for sure did nothing but bemoan my fave artists as having no talent like the crooners they adored)! Indeed, even some artists that I consider rock 'gods' of the singer/songwriter genre, often accuse newer artists of not using metaphors, either properly or at all, when one of the things I find fascinating about some current artists who just push the obvious words out instead of slyly and carefully creating an illusion with words, is, their lyrics are often more 'raw' by doing-so, and raw is often what rock and roll is all about. There's a place for metaphor, to be sure. But sometimes the angst is so intense, you just gotta howl it out!  I think that as long as there are young people going through all the angst and agony that's included in being young (sexuality; personal identity; finding 'my tribe'; rebellion against 'normal') music will thrive and be full of the frenetic energy that creates it. And it doesn't have to be rock n roll - which may someday go the way of the dinosaur. 

"The singer/songwriter era has influenced me more so than simply Folk Rock itself. FR was introduced early-on by artists like John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful, which had little influence on me as a writer, whereas The Byrds, rocking up songs by Bob Dylan, had a huge impact - taking the stylings of The Beatles and syncretizing with the aesthetics of Dylan's complex multi-faceted relationship to all the characters in his songs." (Photo: Michael Vincent)

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Marshall McLuhan said it rightly that "The medium is the message," so that the music and the genre and the generation that creates it, will also reflect the socio-cultural issues (or apathy) present at the time. In the early 1960s, rock n roll went to shit when Elvis was manipulated into military service and left the world of music to the Frankie Avalons and Bobby Vees of the world, which reflected perfectly the complacency of youth to live out a life captured by Ozzie and Harriet. The Beatles changed all that, despite being the first proverbial 'boy band' or even wearing suits, because their music made people jump (indeed John Lennon's own Aunt Mimi asked him why he wanted to play "that Negro music").  So, even if music isn't always about something important like civil rights, the very genre of music that causes the listener to either jump up on the dance floor and feel and act in some way differently than the established order, THAT will in-turn re-lease into the socio-cultural ethos the seeds of rebellion and change - and so it should.  What's kind of ironic is, the parents of early rock n rollers were actually quite RIGHT when they were (clearly) terrified that rock n roll would lead to immorality.

But not really immoral behavior, but certainly a revolution as-to what it is we'd regard as moral or immoral or amoral. And this is how I want my own music to affect people - I want people to rethink their prejudices, but not always in a political way; sometimes in having to rethink what it means to 'be' in the world, with deeper questions as-to why we're all here!  BUT, I also want to be able to do that in such a way that makes people want to get up and dance - and the dance itself is the first 'step' if you will, towards bringing about change. For instance, I have a song called Hard Luck Stranger - a Mississippi Blues tune that's based on an encounter I had with a man and his family in the projects in San Francisco when I was a seminary intern. The encounter turned out to be a very redemptive experience, as he went from seeing himself negatively in the eyes of the Divine, to seeing himself as worthy of acceptance, even when his behavior as a falling-down alcoholic was allegedly unacceptable. This is the 'message' of the song. It's also one of 'the' most popular songs I perform with my band, and more people than not get up and dance to it, especially in larger concert settings - and that's even after telling the audience about this so-called 'religious' encounter!  BUT, to me, when they get up and dance, they're actually celebrating the message of freedom and redemption in the song - dancing off the old and celebrating the new - THAT'S how I want my music to affect people, as often as I possibly can!                    (Photo: Michael Vincent and U No Who) 

"That music is magic and magic is music - there's something very spiritual about the elements of music that have the capacity to lift our souls as we're listening to the Muse (which means one must truly pay attention), and in the hearing - and there's  a deep spiritual connection between the performer (especially if we're performing something we've created from our own soul) and our audience -and the space between us is, as more than one mystic has recognized, holy ground."

What would you say characterizes SF Bay area music scene in comparison to other local US scenes?

The lead guitarist for U No Who, Scott Warren, hails from NYC, and he and his band back there (White Collar Crime) has said that while there are just as many venues to play  in NYC, it's decidedly a more competitive environment to try and make it to the top; but says in both places that people who've been at it for 30+ years can still get a good hearing if you have  decent enough following. In my experience the SF 'sound' seems to still be rooted in a lot of ways in psychedelia (even influencing Punk rock out here) in ways that it doesn't seem to have as great an influence in other cities. Of course, Austin, NOLA, Nashville, L.A. are 'the' proverbial hubs besides SF and NYC - and the first two have roots in Country and Blues; whereas SF, LA, and NYC are rooted in rock n roll of all stripes. As an aside, here, White Collar Crime has invited us (Michael Vincent and U No Who) to come and open for them at The Bitter End in NYC as soon as they finish their latest record. THEN I'll have an even better opportunity to speak first-hand about comparisons. Film at 11...as they say...

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Well, I'd hate to say that the infamous Hunter S. Thompson quote (look it up) is in many ways all too true; but on some level and some experiences I've had have led me to believe some experiences have shown it to be accurate. But not most - so far, anyway. Mostly that people count first - that it's important to build personal relationships in order to find your way amongst the grist and the grit and the blood, sweat, and tears. It's important to act and be professional, but that also includes showing a great deal of grace if you want grace shown to you. That ambition and talent are not the only things one needs to 'make it' in this biz; and that there are any number of definitions of what it even means to 'make it'. That music is magic and magic is music - there's something very spiritual about the elements of music that have the capacity to lift our souls as we're listening to the Muse (which means one must truly pay attention), and in the hearing - and there's  a deep spiritual connection between the performer (especially if we're performing something we've created from our own soul) and our audience -and the space between us is, as more than one mystic has recognized, holy ground.

Michael Vincent Music - Home

(Photo cover by ELECTRIC FOX album / Michael Vincent is a well-known SF Bay Area singer/songwriter and recording artist who performs with his backing band U No Who in clubs, bistros, and concert venues across the country; and occasionally as a solo artist in more intimate settings with his trusty lead guitarist Scott Warren.)

Views: 286

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2024   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service