shaping the sound of many of today’s most compelling indie acts
– artists like Five for Fighting,
Augustana, Limousine, One Republic, The Daylights, Colbie Caillat, Drowning
Pool and Gary Jules
- producer Mikal Blue finally
heeded their constant urging to put his talents to use on his own work.
Last year, he took time off to write and record his debut album, Gold.
Tackling themes of alienation, love, and redemption, Mikal stepped out
of the shadows just long enough to reveal himself as a remarkable singer-songwriter,
unafraid to have a little fun along the way.
While growing up in the UK, Blue’s love for the Beatles promptly
turned into a full-fledged obsession with music. At seven years of age,
he began attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts for 11
years, studying everything from classical composition to prose and Shakespearian
acting, and even voice production. “At a very young age, I learned
about breathing and how to get the notes out,” Mikal recalls.
He also muses that the school’s elocution lessons softened his regional
accent as well, drumming the “Newcastle out of him.”
By sixteen, he was already playing North London clubs and his band was
the youngest ever to make the final four in the UK’s popular television
show Band of the North. “Make no mistake,” he says,
“the club circuit wasn’t quite as glamorous as you’d
think.” It was certainly an eye-opening experience for an adolescent
lad. “We were sharing bills with strippers in clubs on Sunday
afternoons,” he laughs.
After high school, Mikal left England to busk around the world, taking
him everywhere from the Greek Islands and Austrian Alps and finally to
the US, where he decided to stay. Soon after arriving, he was tapped to
write music for films including Adrian Lyne’s Lolita and the punk
rock documentary Songs for Cassavetes. Immersed in the American music
scene, Blue found himself spending his nights with the indie acts that
played the Hollywood clubs and was asked to do pre-production work with
Orange County punk stars The Offspring.
To his surprise, he quickly became a highly-sought after record producer
and decided to shelve his own ambitions.
Mikal built a studio, Revolver Recordings, and began a production career.
“I became a producer as kind of a by-product while on the road
to developing my own career as an artist plus my love of music,”
the enigmatic Mikal says. “I found myself working on other people’s
recordings, helping them co-write, playing instruments and using my knowledge
of engineering. Now I’ve come full circle taking ideas that even
go back to when I was a teenager – even a couple of melodies –
and pulled it all together into this album. I guess you could say it’s
an album I’ve been preparing for my whole life.”
The result is Gold: A tapestry
of resonating emotion and vivid musical textures built on atmospheric
framing for surging songs imbued with often-subtle, yet lasting hooks.
Produced by Five For Fighting’s Curt
Schneider and John Trickett, Mikal seized the opportunity
step away from the studio boards as he spent six months writing songs
and honing material.
“While working with Five For Fighting I’d been impressed
with Curt’s taking the lead on production, so I brought him in to
do the album with John and it all became pretty organic,” Mikal
says. “I wanted to be the artist, not be the guy plugging in
all the mics, just focusing on performing.”
The songs on Gold were sketched
out on acoustic guitar or piano. “Melody is always the driving
force,” Mikal says. “If is doesn’t have a strong
melody the song won't get finished and the lyrics are usually what I’ll
work on last. I’ll even start recording a song without having all
the lyrics as long as that melody is there. And being so into the Beatles
was and still is a great way for me to understand pop song arrangements
and production; even in working with contemporary artists that’s
in the back of my mind.”
The title song “Gold”
reflects a theme that surfaces later on other album tracks – that
of change, denial and acceptance. “A lot of the songs are written
in second, third person, though it’s me just kicking my own ass
about issues I have with myself,” Mikal laughs. Television
audiences got a preview of the track when it made its debut on the new
ABC show October Road on April 26th (immediately following Grey’s
One of the most topical tracks is “Change
Tomorrow,” which was actually written a decade ago.
“It works pretty well for today with (the documentary film)
An Inconvenient Truth and so on,” Mikal says. “’Today’s
the day to change tomorrow.’ That’s such a simple little phrase
and while it’s more a commentary on me, it delves a little bit into
what we’ve done to the environment.”
3. Never Gonna Say
5. Adeline’s Store
7. Already Lost You
8. Change Tomorrow
10. Break The Skin