ABOUT BEING TRUE TO HIMSELF
FINDING HIS VOICE
AND HIS NEW CD STIRRED NOT SHAKEN
WRITTEN BY BRIAN LUSH
MIKE RICKARD is a true southern gentlemen. My only regret about doing phone interviews is that you never get to see your subject face to face. It was 7PM my time and 10PM his time. At an hour when I’m usually falling asleep, MR. RICKARD found to be the perfect time to do an interview. Most of his song ideas come to him at night.
One can only begin to imagine the endless nights spent toiling on his debut CD STIRRED NOT SHAKEN. The CD is a catalogue of vignettes with one theme in common: Trying to connect with someone. Anyone whether it be a father who has made himself unavailable (DO YOU KNOW) or finding that special someone and not caring what the world thinks. (NATURAL)
It was a nice little phone conversation that found me a little unprepared and MIKE seemingly dumbfounded by my lack of preparedness. Here’s how it went.
How did it begin for you?
I grew up going to church like a lot of people and singing in the church choir. When I hit my teen years, I became a soloist. Church music was a large part of my life for a few years.
But it didn’t always stay that way.
It did for most of my life. I didn’t do anything musically for a long time and when I did sing, they were songs that other people had written. It wasn’t until six years ago that I started writing my own songs. Most of it up until that time was Contemporary Christian.
I’ve noticed that the copyright and publishing year for STIRRED NO SHAKEN is 2004 and not 2005. What’s up? Was the CD on hold for a while or something?
I put it out in 2004 by myself and got some local press for it. CHIP SCHUTZMAN (SOVEREIGN ARTIST RECORDS) was a judge for this award ceremony. My CD was nominated for this award and CHIP contacted me and told me that he liked my music. We began a month or so ago working on a plan to better advertise my CD. So, it’s been out for a little while.
What was the CD nominated for?
It was nominated for an Outstanding Award for and Outstanding Debut Recording for a Male.
How hard was it to record STIRRED NOT SHAKEN? All of the material sounds kind of personal?
Believe it or not it was fairly easy. There were a couple of songs I felt a little weird about, especially when it came to showing them to my vocal instructor and people I was working with in regard to the CD but towards the end it really wasn’t all that difficult. Then when the CD came out, I was worried about how it would be received. When it’s personal, you’re putting yourself out there and so far I’ve had a pretty good response.
Are there any songs in particular that stand out for you?
The songs were written under different times and different circumstances. The song WHO I AM was the last song I wrote for the CD and basically sums up everything that I ever wanted to say. I showed the song to my guitar teacher and he was like “This is really personal! It’s gonna take guts to do this song.” WHO I AM is the song is the song that people have responded to the most. Probably more than the others.
What artists influenced you?
From a male perspective there’s JOHN MAYER. I think he’s a great songwriter. There’s JASON MRA. I absolutely love his stuff. Vocally, I think GEORGE MICHAEL has a terrific voice.
That was what leaped out at me when I played the CD; the similarity in your vocal styles.
You know, I get that comparison a lot. Personally, I think he has a much better voice than I do so I’m always flattered when people make that connection. It wasn’t anything that I was striving for. I’m also inspired by people like SARAH McLACHLAN, SADE and MADONNA. MADONNA really inspired me.
I can see that in the subject matter in your music: the themes of sexuality, spirituality and indifference. Is their any touring for this CD at the moment?
I do a few local things here in Atlanta but lately I’ve been branching out. I’ve been to Memphis and I’ll be going to Jacksonville soon. I’ve got dates coming up in the DC area and Knoxville. Next year, I plan on doing more of tour with back to back dates.
What would you like the audience to walk away with?
I would like them not to feel that the songs are about someone else. When they hear the songs, I’d like them to feel that there is something there they can relate to. If people can make the songs their own and have it mean something to them, then that’s what I’d like to see.
As a gay artist, what are your thoughts on this division in this country between these holier-than-thou types and gays.
I grew up going to church and went to Bible college as well. When I made the decision to come out, it was very difficult but once I made the decision, I was happy with it. I didn’t feel that huge weight of being something different than who I am. It was a huge relief. When I was writing the CD and deciding whether or not I wanted to deal with the sexuality or not, I felt like I wanted to be real. That was why I put the song NATURAL on there. I just hope that a listener will be able to see any relationship in that song and not just a same sex one. Today’s political climate is very difficult. I feel like we’re stepping back in time. It feels like the progress that we’ve made is fading away. It’s a scary thing to think about and it concerns me that people filter everything through religion. It’s hard for people to relate to each other with that kind of bias.
Explain the creative process to me. Are you always writing or do you only write when there is inspiration?
I think, to be a good songwriter, you can’t go on inspiration alone. There has to be a certain amount of craft to it as well. I write things down in a journal. It’s usually lyrics first for me. At the moment, I’m still writing. When I finished the CD I stopped writing for several months. Right now I’ve got quite a few songs and I hope to do another CD. I plan on working on it next year and have it released in 2007. As an independent artist, I’m trying to pay myself back in order to finance another CD.
What are the challenges to being an independent artist. Does it wear on you?
Not really. So far, it’s been a good experience. I come from a sort of corporate environment background so I’ve got a good idea on how to get the music out there. It’s been really enjoyable. I get frustrated every once in a while, but the people I’ve come into contact with have been very receptive. It’s been a fun experience.
How has the audience reaction been to your work?
I’ll start with live shows. In contrast to the songs on the CD, I love humor. I like getting up there and telling funny stories and I get the audience laughing quite a bit. I always get good responses to the music. I’ve got this one song called DO YOU KNOW. It’s this jazz song about my dad. There isn’t a time where I haven’t played that song and people did not cry. There are certain lines in my songs that make people laugh as well. People say WHO I AM could’ve been written about them. Sometimes, the most personal songs are the ones people respond to the most. Responses to the CD have been encouraging. I’ve been fortunate to get good press and such a receptive audience.
(Laughs) There are definitely people who come back again and again to my shows but no. Not really. I have a partner and at all of the shows, he’s there helping me sell CD’s and collecting e-mails for the audience. He and I met after I had started writing songs. For our first Christmas together, he gave me an acoustic guitar and that was just the most incredible message. It was the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for me.
Sounds like having him around has made the whole thing easier. Right?
He’s definitely given me the inspiration on some of the lyrics. He’s been a great influence on me personally as far as encouraging me to fulfill my dream. I always wanted to record my own CD and he was there to say “there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.”