Michael Graye is a singer-songwriter from Moriarty, New Mexico who’s varied influences have sparked a style all his own. Today’s “grace note” is a pick up to what I see as a very promising career.
Jacob Paul: Good afternoon Michael
Michael Graye: Good afternoon Mr. Paul (chuckles sipping on his Venti caffeinated something)
JP: You’ve been in New York for about eight months now, can you tell me about your decision to move here and what it’s meant for you as an artist?
MG: The decision to move to New York started with my brief visit to the city last March, in which not only was I exposed to the rich and eclectic culture of the city, but was enlightened by the amazing possibilities a musician has here. The final decision was made when a colleague of mine got into the Manhattan School of Music and asked me to move out here with him. Being here in the city has opened me up to countless possibilities as an artist. Just being in a place where I can see and even meet so many of the artists I admire has changed not only me, but my all around sound as well.
JP: Some of those artists are?
MG: Everyone has a list a mile long, even if they’re not a musician. In order to understand my sound, however; there are only 3 that I need to name. The first is Joni Mitchell. With Mitchell, I am inspired by her lyrical craft and harmonic mastery. Her songs will be timeless, and that is the most important thing to consider when you are writing a piece of music: will my work be remembered? The second is Tori Amos. I mainly look up to her for her work with the piano, though I can’t deny that her raw emotion is an incredible trait in her sound. Last, I would have to say Bobby McFerrin. Like McFerrin, I am an avid fan of musical improvisation, and believe that some of the best music comes from a place un-calculated and unprepared.
JP: I vividly remember seeing you at choir competitions in high school. To give my readers an example I would compare Moriarty High School’s choir to Glee’s Vocal Adrenaline and my choir (Belen High School) to New Directions season episode 1… you know, when they kind of really sucked.
MG: Ok. I can see the parallels as well. I think it’s very interesting how much the ‘glee’ phenomenon has introduced mainstream America to the a cappella performance art form. When I was in that choir back in high school, very few people knew what a cappella music was. I don’t relish the over-commercialization of Glee though, and feel that the original intent of the show has been lost amongst the Britney Spears and Lady GaGa episodes. The moments I love on the show, which I rarely watch now, are those built upon the honest performance of a song and the appreciation of real talent.
JP: I’ve had the rare pleasure of knowing you for five years now… the first original piece of yours that really caught my ear was 2007’s “Over Ivory”. Between then and your more recent collaborations with Corrine Byrne, you seem to have really found your musical identity.
MG: Identity. I appreciate that you like the newer sound that I’ve been exploring. I like it, too. The best part of being a musician though, is not necessarily finding a permanent identity, but finding a periodic associative complex within which to satisfy basic needs. Artists, in my opinion, create in order to communicate in a different way than other people. Over the last five years, I haven’t been searching for an identity, I’ve been changing the sound that satisfies me, or gives me comfort. My collaborations with Corrine have just tapped into a new way of reaching that.
JP: A common theme I find that you and Ms Byrne seem to explore in your collaborations is friendship. In what ways do feel your relationships with others play in your music making? http://michaelgraye.bandcamp.com/album/there-inside-ep
MG: Great question. I have tried to open myself up more and more to others in my writing process. I used to be very, for lack of a better way of saying it, close-minded about the influence that other people have on my music. I used to find the majority of my inspiration in other music, or observations I made about world events, or politics; basically the normal fare for any singer/songwriter. Three years ago, I met an individual that changed that. The connection that I had with this person was so strong, in made my music much more intimate. It wasn’t even that I was attempting to be more personal about my writing, it happened naturally. Bottom line, I try to be honest in my music and hope that people listen. To me, that’s what’s missing from the industry today. People have forgotten how to listen.