Interview with Buffalo Musician Michael Bly
By Tom Waters
For the uninitiated, Michael Bly is a pop musician who brings the party crowd out in literal droves to his concerts. With a flair for a rollicking great show (whether solo or with his band, The Michael Bly Band), and a full command of 21st century technology (texting all of his fans the day of each show as a gentle reminder and an invitation to wherever the party's at for the evening, so to speak. His debut album (Cliché) along with bookings, press clippings an event calendar and a full guestbook can be found at www.michaelbly.com and his Myspace multimedia site is located at: http://www.myspace.com/michaelblymusic. Mike took some time out of his hectic summer schedule to talk with me about his career(s), his peers and his heroes.
TW: What compelled you to leave a stable job as a successful lawyer in NYC to become a nationally touring solo and group musical act?
MB: I love being a lawyer, I'll always love being a lawyer and I just love writing songs and changing people's lives through that medium much more than law. Sometimes when you put so much time and effort into something whether it's a relationship or a career, it just doesn't matter. When you find something that you know you love, you just have to make that change.
TW: With a trail of ex-girlfriends in your wake, what's the most uncomfortable situation you've been in while performing at a live show?
MB: Oh, man! (Mike repeats the question to his girlfriend whose apartment he's staying at) You are precious (speaking to interviewer again). One time I was talking to a girl who, unbeknownst to me at the time was only 18 years old. This was at Yings Wings & Things in Depew for further details on the story and I was talking to her while I was sort of dating Becky and on a break she came up to me and we started talking. So I told Becky, 'Hey, we're only dating and I can talk to girls at shows, whatever.
I went back on(stage) and during my next set, what do I see about three songs in, I look at the bar and there's Becky making out with this girl. You can use this girl's name, too. She lives in Michigan, but the Buffalo tie-in is that she is the niece of Terry Buchwald. I couldn't make this shit up. But she was making out on the bar with Becky. I'm sitting there playing and watching the two of them making out on the bar. Now in the next break I go over and say 'You're killing me! What are you doing?' (laughs).and she says to me and I quote, 'If I didn't make out with her you were gonna, and I wasn't going to let that happen.'
TW: Some of your musical influences:
MB: Bruce Springsteen, Paul Huston. If you don't know who Paul Huston is, you might know him by his more popular stage name Bono. It's not even anything musical to do with Bono. Honestly, I don't even think he's that good of a musician, but he's an incredible person and an incredible thinker. I love writing the way he does, and really thinking about what you're trying to say.
TW: But you don't throw the corny pronouns 'brother, mother, sister and Jesus' into every single song that you write.
MB: It's easy to avoid those when you don't have much of a family, only a mother and a dad most of my life, and you don't believe in God. So it's easy to avoid those cheesy pronouns.
TW: So Springsteen, Bono.
MB: Billy Joel.I would say Bob Dylan. Mostly pop rock. The newer artists that I love are Eminem, Jason Muraz, Gavin McGraw.
TW: What do you think about that Sarah Barielles?
MB: (sings) I'm not going to write you a love song. It's good, I like her! You know what I love about her is that she's not really attractive in the traditional sense of the music industry and she's a great singer/songwriter. When you see women that are able to break that barrier, it's awesome.
TW: And she's not around-the-bend insane like Tori Amos, either.
TW: Tell me about your studio album (Cliché), the process behind it, and any plans you may have for a follow up album.
MB: I was signed to Heavy Tone records in New York City. We recorded the CD partly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and partly in Manhattan. I got to meet a bunch of famous artists during the process. I got to meet Rob Thomas and Santanna and they were recording at the Hit Factory in New York while I was mastering the CD there. It was an amazing experience. I got to see how a major label production comes together. On the third song of the album, 'Why?', the vocals were recorded in this guy's apartment which is probably the size of most people's bathrooms. And it was recorded in his bathroom with a sheet falling over the tub singing in the bath tub and that's how he got the best sound that he liked. He's done recordings for everyone from Dave Matthews to U2 to Rob Zombie. He has his way of doing it, that's the way he does it. And the other part of the album was recorded at the Hit Factory which is a studio that's the size of most people's homes in Buffalo.
It's an interesting process. Sometimes the band members aren't even talking to each other and they lay down their tracks for an hour and they go home and don't even talk to the guys in the booth. They're fighting and you don't even know what's going on. One's sleeping with the other guy's wife. I've seen it all come and go in New York and it's unbelievable.
As for plans for a follow up album, we have all the tracks, we record them live and a lot of people know them already. Songs like 'Buffalo' or 'You Were There', songs that people would love to have on CD, and I'm dying to put 'em on. I really just now am putting the money together this summer to be able to do a production at that level and do it right. Have all the lyrics included. I don't want to do a CD that's anything less than better than the last.
TW: What have you learned from opening for brand name recording acts?
MB: Well, we opened for Trace Atkins one time for about 20,000 people and that was the biggest show we ever played. That was incredible.
TW: He's great!
MB: He is. You know, 'Honkytonk Badonkadonk' was just getting big at that point and it was unbelievable. I learned that it really is the same shit. And you can quote that (laughs). The difference between a really good local band and playing for twenty people and a national band playing for 20,000 isn't much. They're doing the same stuff with maybe a better sound guy, maybe with a bigger crowd so it seems like wow, this is a big deal and 'Boy, we're going to see Tom Petty tonight and it's gonna be a huge show.' or we're just going to a local bar to see this local band perform and it's not that big a deal. Honestly, I think those are the major difference. For the band, when we play one of those big stages, it sounded great, and if we had a hit single out there, I'm sure the people would have come and been into it. There are so many bands out there that deserve that shot and it just doesn't happen. But they do all the same things that we do. They do it well and they're good musicians, but I don't put them on that much of a pedestal.
TW: Is there a lot of professional and unprofessional jealousy and conduct within the Buffalo music scene?
MB: There is. I think most of it comes from the things that we all deal with in Buffalo: the economy, the struggling ideal that we're inspired enough to aspire to. There isn't a lot of money to go around, people do stab each other in the back and it all trickles down from that harsh reality that it's not easy. It's a difficult industry, an industry that's been down for the last ten years or more and we're dealing with a very difficult economic city. Any time things are going well, everybody's friends and everything's fine. Any time things start to get stressed, I really don't believe that there are bad people, they want to do good, but when they get cornered like a rat.you don't want to corner the rat. Then the rat gets nasty. Unfortunately, that happens a lot out here.
TW: How competitive is the music scene in terms of obtaining regular gigs in the city of Buffalo?
MB: I would say it's gotten more competitive in the last year or so. With the economic situation, the gas prices and more DWIs, it's very hard to bring people out to shows, and therefore it's very hard to bring out to bars for owners. Every band has to deal with it, though, so it's like bad weather at a football game. There's no sense complaining about it, both teams have to deal with it, and if you love the game, you quit.
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