Michiko Egger has kindly taken the time to speak to Smokin’ Charlie Brown about her new record ‘Where Your Heart Is’. Read the exclusive interview below!
01. Your debut album ‘Where Your Heart Is’ has been out since 2011. Now that some time has passed since it’s release have your feelings changed towards the record compared to when it was first released?
I feel that as time has passed, I’ve fallen more in love with this album. Each time I go out and perform these songs at a show, it’s as though I’m growing closer to them. They’ve become even more a part of me than they were when I wrote them. I find that some of songs take on a whole new meaning because I’m not in the same place I was when I wrote it.
02. Some artists find recording their debut record a daunting thing to do. How did you find the recording process?
I have to say, I was extremely lucky. Having the chance to work with a producer/recording engineer as incredible and inspiring as Bret Alexander doesn’t happen every day. He and I clicked right away, and we were able to work together in an extremely comfortable, productive, humorous way. He has an unbelievable ear. Also, it helped to work everything out in pre-production so that when we went into the studio, we were all prepared to get the job done.
Having wonderful bandmates such as Tim Breon and Todd Egger really helped the process move along smoothly. They recorded their tracks on the album in a single day. If it wasn’t for Bret, Tim and Todd, the recording process could’ve been much less enjoyable. Working with all of them made it so easy and fun.
03. You can play everything from the drums, guitar and clarinet. How many instruments did you manage to play on ‘Where Your Heart Is’? And were your hands on in the Production of the record?
Although I play a vast number of instruments, I kept my focus on the guitar and vocals on this album. Besides, I’m humble enough to know that I’m not the best drummer or bass player! I’d rather leave that to the real pros, and do what I do best. Guitar truly is the love of my life, and singing each one of these songs was a really emotional, heartfelt experience for me. Each line I sang took me back to the memories they were created around. As for the production of the record, yeah, I guess you could say that I was involved in it every step of the way. I’m very definite about what I want my songs to sound like. I guess I’m kind of a perfectionist. But I’d like to think that I’m not difficult to work with.
04. You’ve worked with other musicians such as Grammy-award winner Steve Mitchell and Jazz guitarist Sheryl Bailey. So what was it like to work on a project of your own?
I enjoy working as a guitarist on other people’s projects. It’s kind of stress free for me because I’m not the focus of attention. It’s just very chill. By comparison, working on my own project is very personal because there’s an emotional connection to all the songs I’ve written. Then there’s the feeling of being “in charge” that I don’t necessarily enjoy at times. I like having my own band but I want my bandmates to have an equal amount of say and input on each song. I don’t want it to be all about me. Given the choice, I’d much rather have a band than play solo.
05. Were there any artists in particular that influenced you during the making of the record?
My biggest influence is John Mayer. Especially when it comes to song writing. He’s an amazing guitarist, too. People try to compare me with other female artists but, really, I’d like to fancy myself as the female John Mayer.
06. What are the themes and messages running through ‘Where Your Heart Is’?
“Where Your Heart Is” was, basically, written about one person. Each song describes different stages of that relationship, from the joyful beginnings to the sorrowful ending. You see, things never work out for me. So I always end up writing about it. I find it easier to write songs when I’m miserable than when I’m happy.
07. How did you go about writing your material? Do you have a particular method or process?
I don’t have a set method for writing a song. Sometimes, I’ll come up with a chord progression first, then go from there. Other times, I get lyric ideas. I’m always jotting things down in one of my many notebooks, or, if I’m out and about, I’ll record things on my phone. I sort of piece together the fragments like a puzzle. Then there are times when a song comes to me out of nowhere, the melody and lyrics all at once and, bam, it’s all there. Either way, I can’t sit down and tell myself, “I’m going to write a song.” It has to come to me on it’s own.
08. ‘Mulberry Breakdown’ is your current single. What inspired the song and what are the song’s core messages?
“Mulberry Breakdown” is about an incident that happened on “Lower Mulberry Street”. Of course, I shortened the street name but, the inspiration is the same. It’s about having your heart broken. Whether it’s over the phone or on the street where there’s no privacy, it still hurts. There’s no underlying message except to say, “You’ve really hurt me and I’m going to write a song about it!”
09. With the music industry currently being in a state of uncertainty, where do you see the future of the music industry heading?
In my direction! Ha ha. Just kidding. Well, it’s definitely harder to break into the music business now than it was years ago. I think a lot of it has to do with technology. And the whole social media thing, too. Sometimes I think to myself, “I just want to play!” But, what can you do? As long as people have ears and can hear and feel, there’s always going to be music. I believe in that.
10. Finally, when you’re not writing or recording what do you like to do to relax?
I’m not sure that I know how to relax! I did discover recently, though, that I can really amuse myself by just watching people. I was sitting on a stoop with a friend in New York City the other day, and it was incredibly entertaining to observe passersby. I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania, so coming out to the big city these past few months to play shows and explore has been quite an experience for me. Each adventure makes me feel as though I’m discovering something new. All of my recent travels have given me amazing opportunities to see what the rest of the world outside of PA has to offer. I’ve met some pretty incredible people along the way. It’s been so wonderful!!
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Smokin’ Charlie Brown