Melbourne singer/songwriter Michael Burrows catches up with theaussieword.com.
Give us an introduction. How did it all begin? What had you first interested in music? I grew up in a musical family where every year my mother would put on variety style shows where we all had to perform. She’d invite friends and a wider circle we didn’t know so we learnt quickly how to put on a performance. My cousins were all classically trained, and my brother and I could harmonise well. I had exposure from a young age to the Beatles but also quirky Australian artists like Slim Dusty, Chad Morgan and Rolf Harris who were actually really great hook-based songwriters.
When I was in grade 6, I mimed ‘six months in a leaky boat’ by Split Enz infront of the class and I was hooked on the reaction and connection music made on people. That Finn voice and tone was everything to me and when I finally got to record with Neil Finn many years later and he sang on my songs, I felt my life was almost complete.
My folks gave me opportunities to learn instruments, but I just couldn’t concentrate and do the homework. Dad could pick up any instrument and scratch his way around it to produce a basic melody. By 15 I knew one single bar chord on guitar and could play ‘ Twist & Shout’. My best mate offered to let me play in the school band at the High School Formal. I played that red Stratocaster like it was my last day on earth. The girl I brought to the dance kissed another guy that night while I was on stage but to see people moving and staring up at me was overwhelming. The band let me mime the rest of the show and turned my amp off as I didn’t know any other chords. I was hooked.
Photo by @dsimages
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music? Music is the soundtrack to so much of my life. My first kiss, my heart break, my heartache. You can map your life like a mix-tape and that’s what I hope my music can be for someone else. When you play a song and see a couple hugging tighter or staring at each other or feeling something towards the words and melodies they hear, that means you’ve connected. I’m always searching for the melodies and imagery that can feel so normal yet when put together can be extraordinary.
What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist? I want to play to larger audiences and continue to write songs to have a collection that stands up over time and paints a picture of my life here on earth
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour? I’ve just played a show with Old Man River and I really enjoyed playing the music as an acoustic duo. I have a full band and as the music starts to get some support and I find an audience, I’d love to play some festivals and some bigger venues opening for established acts.
Tell us a bit about your latest album and how would you best describe your music?The EP sound and even song choice was a process that I worked with in Nashville with Grammy award winner Frank Myers and Jimmy Nichols who produced the music with some of Nashville’s finest musicians including drummer Chris McHugh ( Keith Urban) Steve Marcantonio mixed it and he’s worked with everyone from John Lennon to Keith Urban so I felt spoilt for attention and knew I was in good hands. The songs have a more polished Nashville charm and flavour to them than how they were originally demo’ ed but I wanted to ensure they didn’t get lost in the noise for my first offering. There are still all the melodic hooks I love and everything was tracked live with a few overdubs so it has a great natural band feel which I wanted. The music is a fusion of folk rock, Americana and singer-songwriter. If Wilco and Crowded House went to bed with James Taylor.
Photo by @dsimages
Success, what is the secret to it? Persistence and learning to stop and be mindful of the opportunities that are reaching out to you. I was probably always successful but I never gave myself the recognition or permission to ride with it. This time around I can see it happening and I’m truly blessed and thankful.
What has been your biggest career highlight? Recording two songs with my songwriter hero Neil Finn in his NZ studio (Roundhead) and when he asked to sing backup vocals I was ready to die in that NZ chair. Co-writing with Frank Myers on a few songs. He wrote the hit song ‘I Swear’ which was basically one of the most romantic songs ever and on the minds of every teenager in the 90’s for a long time.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring? I’m a big fan of Jeff Tweedy and his ability to be himself and his music in all projects is him being him and him is so cool. I’m a big fan of my good friend Lior who does things his own way and writes such beautiful melodies and well crafted songs. We’ve been doing a bit of writing and recording together for a future project and I’m constantly amazed by his ability to hone in on a hook. I’ve been listening to David Ramirez and Dr Dog who are currently on constant spin in the car.
Any new projects in the pipeline? I have been writing and recording a loose new project with Lior and at this stage it’s really about enjoying the company and feeling out songs in late evening sessions with another mutual friend Simon Starr where it’s almost a confessional, counselling session with good whiskey. These conversations almost always lead to a song title and feeling to chase.
The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?Hopefully with a few albums under my belt and a growing audience I can rely on to give my music an honest chance. I write a lot of music for advertising so I’m sure I’ll always be doing this in one way or another till it’s time to hang up my guitar.