Playing Rockford Brewing tonight (Friday), the drummer-guitarist churns out catchy pop-rock. Watch a video of a new song and listen to the podcast of Local Spins on WYCE No. 40 with the debut of tracks by Peat in the Creel, Bong Mountain, Rochelle & The Spoilers and more.
For more than a decade, Michigan singer-songwriter Brett Mitchell has weathered the ups and downs of life as a full-time touring musician, from the fan accolades, appreciative audiences and critical acclaim to less-than-attentive bar crowds and long hours spent on the road.
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He even had his guitar, clothes and other belongings stolen in New York City on one road trip, forcing him to cobble together gear and eventually invest in new equipment, thus delaying studio work on a new studio album.
But Mitchell, a Midland native who now makes his home in Alden, northeast of Traverse City, wouldn’t think of doing anything else. Music is his life and passion.
“For every musician that works hard and puts all the money that they make scraping by back into their equipment, to have that happen is pretty devastating,” Mitchell says of his burgled gear. “But we bounced back and it’s water under the bridge now.”
It helps, of course, that Mitchell has established himself as an in-demand musician, from Grand Rapids to Traverse City and beyond, playing Rockford Brewing in downtown Rockford with his band at 8 tonight (Friday). He also plays Docker’s in Muskegon at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before swinging up to Traverse City’s Harbor 22 on Wednesday.
He stopped by the studios of WYCE-FM (88.1) this week to chat about his music and perform a couple of songs on the air — the title track from “Falling Apart at the Seams” and a catchy new tune, “Almost But Not Quite (It’s the Story of My Life).” Check out videos of the performances below, with the full Local Spins on WYCE podcast here (including the on-air debut of tracks by Peat in the Creel, Bong Mountain, Rochelle & The Spoilers, Kaitlin Rose and more).
“I’m very fortunate and lucky and thankful that I can do it full-time. But it’s also hard work,” says Mitchell, who says his pop-hued rock and power pop was inspired by the likes of late ’70s artists such as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Joe Jackson.
“When you start to play more throughout the years, venues start to recognize the music, recognize the buzz that you’re getting from your music and your group. Once that starts happening, it’s a little easier to be successful because it just keeps flowing and you don’t have to look around for places to pay anymore. They start coming to you and that’s a pretty awesome place to be.”
The singer balances solo acoustic guitar gigs with performances featuring his band, with Mitchell playing drums and singing at those shows.
Mitchell moved to Alden last year, after long hankering to settle in the Traverse City area. He lives without a computer or cable television, and says the isolation of his home can spark ideas for a songwriter. “I just sit and things come,” he says, noting he’s “inspired by life itself.”
WINNING AWARDS AND WORKING ON NEW MATERIAL
Northern Michigan’s vibrant music scene has been a blessing.
“In Traverse City alone … in one day you could see three or four amazing musicians or groups within a block. It’s just ridiculous. In a week, there’s music every day of the week of musicians that in my opinion can be or should be signed, or whatever that even means anymore — people that should be out there and appreciated more.”
Starting as drummer who earned his first dollar from a bar gig at age 17, Mitchell quit high school to play music.
He eventually earned his GED and attended Saginaw Valley State University, before leaving during his junior year to pursue a career as a musician and songwriter.
“I’m still at it,” he says of performing and writing songs that he considers musical poetry. “Though I’ve had some meager times with the recession and all, I was able to survive.”
He concedes he depends heavily on longtime manager Jan Hecht for bookings and publicity.
As a result, Mitchell plays more than 150 shows a year and has released three studio albums (“Stereo,” “Small House” and “Falling Apart at the Seams”) over the years. He even was named critics’ choice songwriter of the year as well as fans’ choice for best male vocalist, best solo artist and best songwriter by Saginaw-based magazine The Review.
He’s also involved as a drummer in a side project, Gutbucket, with high school pals Dave Kellan of New York on guitar and Jake Krull of Grand Rapids (Hey Marco!) on bass. Mitchell describes that band as a more “aggressive blues, funk-rock” outfit that offers him with a completely different sort of musical outlet.
Mitchell has been recording songs for a new album, though he concedes that he may end up releasing the songs digitally — and perhaps individually — instead.
“It will be more eclectic than the last album,” he says of the new material, noting 2011’s “Falling Apart at the Seams” was “more thematic and structured as far as sound goes.”
VIDEO: Brett Mitchell, “Almost But Not Quite (It’s the Story of My Life)”
Video by David Specht
VIDEO: Brett Mitchell, “Falling Apart at the Seams”
Video by David Specht
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC