Michael set about recording his debut album. Michael Armstrong’ was eventually released on 29th June 2015. It was met with resounding success, championed by the late Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2 and gaining airplay across the globe. The album featured guitar giants Albert Lee (2 x Grammy Award Winner), Elliott Randall (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers) and Phil Palmer (Bob Dylan, Robbie Williams) and was produced by Keith Bessey (10cc, Cliff Richard, The Ramones).
As a result of the album’s success, Michael has since been interviewed and has performed on just about every radio station in the land several times over. He has additionally gained major airplay across the globe including the UK’s BBC Radio 2, and mainstream stations all over Europe, USA, Australia and South America, where his single ‘The Radio Years’ was a Top 10 hit. This has further led to numerous appearances on national TV such as ITV’s Lorraine, Sky News, BBC News, ITN plus he is a regular on Vintage TV.
A dedicated touring artist, Michael has performed with some of the biggest names in the business. He has spent over two years ‘on the road’ headlining his own shows as well as appearing as a special guest on major tours with Leo Sayer, Vonda Shepard, T’Pau, Beverley Craven, Dean Friedman & The Hollies’ Peter Howarth. He has also collaborated and worked alongside massive global stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Cliff Richard, Mark Knopfler, Glenn Fry, Chris de Burgh, Russell Watson, Hank Marvin, Michael Ball and countless others.
In 2016 Michael released the official 60th Anniversary commemorative single for Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club and performed it on stage at the venue during a very special celebratory party which included many associated local and national dignitaries. That same year he was invited to open the Great British Radio Reunion with his anthem ‘The Radio Years’ and was selected by his local authority to perform and present an award at their Annual Local Heroes Awards Ceremony in conjunction with BBC radio.
Since completing his latest album earlier this year, Michael has spent time in Los Angeles writing new material with US singer-songwriter Ben Folds, and back home in the UK collaborating again with producer Warren Bennett.
As busy as Michael is, he shared his thoughts in his Underground Interview:
What Musical Genre Do You Feel Best Describes Your Music And How Would You Describe Your Sound?
I think I fit into the singer/songwriter rock/pop genres. I'm a huge fan of the great albums on the 1960's and 1970's and so my sound is unashamedly retro. I make music that I would want to listen to and so it comes out that way naturally. Lyrics are very important to me and I like to keep them interesting.
How Did You Get Your Name? Is There A Story?
It's my birth name so nothing interesting here!
What Are or Have Been Your Musical Influences?
My influences are many and varied but tend to lean towards the great artists and bands of the 1960's and particularly the 1970's. You can most definitely hear the songwriting influences of McCartney, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Billy Joel and Ben Folds and then there's the sound of the great groups like Supertramp, ELO, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Their music keeps going and will live forever.
What Are You Working On Now? Any Future Collaborations We Can Look Forward To?
I've just finished my new album #LookingForTheWorld which will be released globally on 23rd November. It was recorded here in the UK where I live and includes the guitar playing of New York's own Elliott Randall who famously played on many Steely Dan tracks as well as for The Doobie Brothers and John Lennon amongst many others. He's now an honorary Londoner and played on my 2015 debut album too. He's amazing! I spent a week or so in California earlier this year with Ben Folds and we did some writing so I'll be getting those tracks recorded some time next year.
What Is Your Ultimate Goal In The Music Industry? What Is Your Plan Of Action?
My ultimate goal is to get as many people as possible to hear, and hopefully enjoy, my music. Music and the songs I write are an expression of my personality and the way I see things and/or are feeling at that moment. I'm lucky enough to have a fantastic PR team here in the UK, www.lisadaviespromotions.co.uk, and we have a full promotional campaign for the forthcoming album which covers social media, radio, TV and printed press. We've had a fantastic response already.
What Is Your Favorite Track To Perform Live and Why?
On my debut album I recorded a cover of Billy Joel's 'Allentown'. We slowed it down a lot and used a lot of orchestration. I toured the UK and Europe for nearly 2 years after the release of the album and used to open the show with this track, solo on a piano. By slowing it down the lyrics become extremely effective and poignant, You could hear a pin drop each night as the audiences hung on every word. Joel wrote it in the 1980's about steel factories closing down in the North-East of America and the effects on the communities there. During the period I was touring the same thing was happening in many towns in the North of the UK. The song became very relevant and it was incredibly powerful performing it each night.
What Has Been The Biggest Challenge In Your Career Thus Far?
The biggest challenge in the music industry in recent years is just to sustain a living! Record Companies are no longer supporting new artists, financially or musically. They want to see success first before they will commit. This means that new artists have to self-fund which is extremely difficult. You have to beg, borrow and sometimes steal! Then you find yourself up against radio playlists which are getting forever narrower here in the UK at least. You're up against the big boys and the big bucks. It is not for the faint-hearted!
What’s Your Typical Songwriting Process?
I usually come up with a chord progression or a melody and then develop it. I find that the music the lends itself to a lyrical idea or a mood and try to match that with the words. Occasionally I come up with a title or a line first and then write from there. When I worked with Ben Folds earlier this year it was a fantastic experience as he taught me all sorts of tricks for writing which he uses. An example was to look at an email or text in your phone, perhaps an argument with someone, and then to write something from their point of view rather than your own. Another was to restrict yourself to just 10 lines of lyrics and let the music do the talking. That was a whole lot of fun!
How Has Social Media Influenced Your Career As An Artist?
Social Media is now as key to any promotional campaign as radio, press and TV. I still think you need all of these aspects to really make an impact but there is no doubt that with the likes of FaceBook in particular you can now reach your target audience much more easily. Advertising on these platforms can be extremely effective. You can narrow down your audiences across the globe and get right into their laps. You still need to be creative with your advertising as there is so much of it out there but for me my targets are quite clear. If you like the music of Billy Joel, Ben Folds, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan etc then you are going to like what I do.
What Are Some Tracks and Artists Currently On Your Playlist?
My playlist covers all the music and artists that I have mentioned above. Recent additions include the new Paul McCartney album 'Egypt Station' as well as Lindsey Buckingham's 'Solo Anthology'.
What Did You Do Before You Started Making Music?
I've been making music since I was around 12 years old. When I crashed out of University at 19 years old my dad insisted I needed a 'proper' job! I worked with him in the family construction business for the next 17 years. I was still writing, recording and performing my music but real life had also kicked in - marriage, children and mortgages! I never gave up and finally met someone in the music business who could hear what I was trying to do. After half a lifetime of trying, at the age of 38 years old, I found myself recording an album with some incredible musicians by my side - Elliott Randall (Steely Dan), 2 x Grammy Award winner Albert Lee, and a whole host of others. As a result of that album I met and worked with some of the world's greatest artists and my heroes including Sir Paul McCartney, Mark Knopfler, Glenn Frey and of course Ben Folds.
Any Advice For Young People (Men or Women) That Want To Succeed In The Music World?
Be prepared for a long and tough journey. Make sure you are in it for the long haul and that it is ultimately for the love of music and art and not for fame! If you believe in yourself then anything is possible.
What Would You Change In The Music Industry If You Were A Top Music Executive?
I think that the music industry has to start investing in new talent. Budgets are now tight because record sales are so low but without investing in new talent this can never be reversed. There is so much good music out there that is going unheard, and so many talented young people that just cannot get a break. It's all about taking risks and as things currently stand, no-one is prepared to do that.
How Do You Feel About Originality?
The history of the music business has been built on originality. Every so often someone come along who turns the music world on its head. This has to be allowed to continue although I'm concerned that the possibility is being quashed by the lack of investment.
Is There Anything Else We Should Know About You Or That You Would Like to Add?
I was born in November 1973 and it took my close to 40 years to break into the music business and make an impact. I released my debut album 'Michael Armstrong' in 2015 and my follow up '#Looking For The World' will be released on 23rd November 2018. Since my breakthrough I have worked alongside some of my biggest hero's and the finest musicians on the planet including Sir Paul McCartney, Mark Knopfler, Glenn Frey, Ed Sheeran, Ben Folds and Stevie Wonder. NEVER GIVE UP!
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