Sunday, April 21 2024

In the dynamic world of indie music, MICHIE (formerly known as The JMC) from the North of England stands out for his captivating creativity and versatility. With over 700 thousand streams of his most recent masterpiece, ‘I’ll Write Your Constellation,’ he truly showcases his profound musical prowess. We had the privilege of catching up with MICHIE to delve into the depths of his name change, creative journey, writer’s block, inspirations, and the sound that defines his music. In this exclusive interview, he unravels the secrets behind the intricacies of his songwriting process and gives us a glimpse into what to expect in the future.

You announced that The JMC will be renamed to MICHIE. Why did you choose to change your name? 

Well… I haven’t just changed the name… I’ve put the past behind me. All my previous releases will keep their original name of The JMC, but from now on, it’s a fresh start under MICHIE. The upcoming singles and album reflect everything I’ve learned and refined since my initial debut with High Vibrations et al. The leap I’ve made is substantial in my opinion, not just due to experience and knowledge but also thanks to upgraded equipment. The days of the grotty shitty microphone are gone, and I’ve invested in some fantastic guitars that normally bald blokes with beer guts in their 60s can afford. People say it ain’t the equipment but try and record “Sgt Pepper” armed only with a case of haemorrhoids and Nigel Farage’s toothbrush… you’ll sound like Ed Sheeran. The culmination is a record for me that surpasses everything I’ve done before and I am all over it and love it. It is 100% better than the shit Gary Barlow released solo and that is a fact. You try listening to “Twelve Months, Eleven Days” and not tell me it was the dullest experience of your life. A new and improved sound accompanies the new name. The shift is also significant because, being an albums person, the time gap between the two eras has allowed me to evolve beyond who I was back then. The guy once buggering around in a DAW not really knowing what I am doing is gone. This is a new chapter, a clear divider. Contrary to conventional music industry wisdom we get spoon fed advising against changing names for the sake of momentum, I believe in doing the opposite. Afterall in this little pocket of the world people still know it’s me. I have the same mailing list and social media handles…

It’s been a while since you released an album or a single, Can we expect new music from you in the near future?

I’m launching the bandwagon in February, kicking off with my first single “Did You Ever Wonder?” (Ed. Pre-save here >> https://tinyurl.com/3n76p228) The song was one I loved, then hated and then loved again only at the final stages of putting the album together. The bass line I have to thank James Willows for… he sent it to me on the crap initial demo he heard and I adapted his suggestion to match the changing keys. It nearly didn’t make the cut but I’ve had two people I trust say it’s great so decided to get it out of the window first. Throughout 2024, I’ll be releasing a total of 6 singles, followed by an album in early 2025 called “Explore”… accompanied by 2 more singles after. By the end of it, you might be tired of hearing from me so will put my feet up for a bit. Planning ahead, I aim to start working on the next album next year, hoping to establish a creative conveyor belt to minimise the gap a little between releases but with any great plan life has a habit of throwing some spanners so I’ll see. It is all about albums for me though and will depend on when I get at least 10 songs I don’t cringe at. However, it is important to note I faced significant setbacks after “High Vibrations.” My ancient computer gave out on me, and despite needing a new one, I chose to splurge my funds first on guitars and then hit a period of writer’s block… Consequently, I ended up taking a whole year off and not writing.

How did you manage to go through the period of a writer’s block? How did you come out of it?

Well, I tried to overcome it by embracing a prolonged period of inactivity. Sitting on my arse and watching Heartbeat. Not forcing things which is kinda the guidance of the rock gods like Paul Weller. But even after acquiring my new Mac Studio, the ole writer’s block persisted. So, I then spent time just revisiting old sessions and pushing them to a higher standard now I could mix and record again. After that I had five great songs finished. The block continued and I then felt the pressure to reach a total of 10 for an album. It seemed like a mountain to shift and I was close to just releasing an EP as it just felt like shit… I honestly thought this is it… I am at a creative end. How the fuck did I write songs like “Wish You Were Dead?”… How am I going to match these five songs I’ve got? But instead of waiting or breaking in panic, I actively experimented and pushed to try and find inspiration to finish and make an album… I began to force it. At first trying to rapidly compose and demo songs. This resulted in the creation of eight songs within a month, contributing valuable material to the album like the title track “Explore” and also the song “Breathe”. I definitely got a sound that feels different slightly to what I’d usually hit. Not radically different but it hit the spot. However, the breakthrough occurred when I finally… Finally, picked up my Gibson Hummingbird guitar. This bloody expensive guitar I had literally sitting as furniture in the room. What the hell was I thinking? I had been using the Fender Ultra Telecaster to write as it was just so comfy but the connection with the Hummingbird sparked the creation of rock-toned songs like “Coming Down” and “Not Giving You Up.” When those two songs fell out, I was like fuck my songwriting has gone up a few levels here. I did not know the album was done though until I started going over each session again and polishing… I thought I had maybe 9 songs but came up with these 16.

How would you describe your music? What music is the biggest inspiration for your own songs?

I’d describe my music as colossally surpassing the shitty output of Gary Barlow’s solo work. The upcoming album is a total sonic journey that mirrors my eclectic music tastes. I just hope people bond with it the way I have… It features classic indie rock, ambient vibes, tinged psychedelic moments, and even a track that could be on a Netflix series soundtrack. So, Greg Peters when you get a moment buy some hair dye and check out my track “The Key” when it’s released. The album embraces contrasts, incorporating old-fashioned pop alongside a fast-paced, snappy progression that draws inspiration from various classic sources. You’ll definitely detect the echoes of Pink Floyd, Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, and a pinch of The Chemical Brothers. One distinctive aspect is the inclusion of ridiculous guitar solos, a passion of mine that seems somewhat rare these days. Off the top of my head 12 or so of the 16 songs have a solo… I took a specific approach when recording, basing the album’s rhythm guitar on the Fender Telecaster and the lead guitar on the Gibson Les Paul, providing that classic indie rock foundation and sound. The new material on “Explore” also exudes an old-school analogue feel, with layers of tape and cassette saturation adding a warmth and depth to the overall sound.

How has your musical style evolved since you first started?

Err… I’m not entirely sure if my musical style has undergone any changes as such. I still approach song writing in the same manner. The lyrics don’t carry any deep meaning but rather complement the track’s cadence. If it fits, it fits. I don’t consider myself a confessional lyricist, and, truth be told, I find the entire process somewhat dislikable. I hate it but it’s a necessary component for the kind of music I want to produce, which is on the whole psych-tinged indie pop rock. I maintain an affinity for provocative sounds and continue to seek out new textures to layer onto a track. My recording sessions remain painfully elaborate, often involving up to 100 tracks with all sorts of shit like coins being jangled. I am basically creating overblown nightmares… 

I will always remain fully committed to the format of albums though, as, for me, that embodies the essence of what is rock ‘n’ roll. It’s “Led Zep II”, “Dark Side of The Moon”, “The White Album”, “Spirit of Eden”, “Solid Air” and so on. Truthfully, and this may come across as abrasive but I feel a bit let down by artists who solely release singles like they’re Cliff Richard, as it comes across as somewhat disposable and doesn’t fully explore the artistic depth of being a musician. However, I do recognise the challenges in creating albums, and I understand why some opt for the single route. For instance, some songs on “Explore” are over three years old and will be five years old by the time they’re heard. It’s a substantial commitment to sit on material for that long and also the wider industry wants you to compromise, compromise, compromise… To me as an indie it’s bullshit and I will do the opposite even if it means I sell just three CD’s. 

The primary change lies in the improvement of my equipment and sound and a deeper understanding of mixing. The essence of what I do remains exactly the same.

Is there a specific message or theme you’re aiming to convey in upcoming releases?

For the fans, the message is clear… go grab it on physical because none of us musicians are going to be getting shit from streaming going forward. I will have a pre-order up in October as Bandcamp only allow 90-day run-ups, otherwise, I would be milking it now like I am Noel Gallagher with the Oasis reissues… Like… come on what the fuck is that about? There’s like 100,000 versions of Definitely Maybe knocking around now. As for the music, just as the title suggests, explore it. In my humble and measured opinion, there’s some fucking great songs on there.

Cheers MICHIE, always a pleasure to chat and for more news check out the socials:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/johnmichiemusic/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/john.michie.75839

Bluesky: https://bsky.app/profile/michiemusic.bsky.social

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About Author

Gee Nelson

Gee Nelson has been a musician, producer and songwriter since the '90’s. Besides music Gee loves reading, writing, watching British sitcoms and playing board games. His biggest influences are Green Day, Nirvana, Offspring and Eels. His favourite genre is 90’s and early 00’s (indie) rock.

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