We're pleased to introduce the newest Center Stage artist, Mike Liegel. With his expressive voice and soulful appeal, Mike Liegel is creating songs that are alternately playful and deeply emotive.
The songwriter grew up in the rural suburban town of Oak Ridge, New Jersey, where he first started learning the piano at age seven. A highly touted baseball prospect, throughout his life Mike balanced his two passions – baseball and music – enjoying great success in both. When not competing athletically, Mike worked side by side with his father constructing a recording studio in the backyard of his childhood home. This studio, reminiscent of an old barn, became a place of creative solitude where Mike wrote and developed many of his early songs. After an injury derailed his promising collegiate baseball career, Mike took a step back to re-devote himself to his first love; songwriting.
Not long thereafter, the young songwriter teamed up with producer and Berklee College of Music graduate, Andrew Seltzer, to put together an EP that beautifully showcases Mike’s calm and easy delivery, natural vocal ability and focus to song craft. This process was a labor of love for the good-natured, charismatic singer, who left the comfort of his rural home to record the EP in the music mecca of Brooklyn, New York.
The album’s titular track, “Stick Around”, which was one of Radio Airplay's 2016 Summer Song Contest Top 10 songs, is a catchy offering which highlights the songwriter’s simple and heartfelt lyrics. Adding to the variety of the EP is the passionate love song “Forevermore” as well as “Lovely”, a track which blends the singer’s flirtatious vocals with a dynamically colorful chorus of backing instrumentals. Rounding out the record are “Hold On” and the powerful ballad “Be There". The EP Stick Around is slated for a 2016 release.
Get to know more about the talented artist, and see what he's got planned for his musical future in the Q&A feature below:
Describe your sound in one ramble on sentence
Expressive, soulful voice, with songs that are upbeat and also emotional
What’s your earliest music related memory growing up
I would go to piano lessons with my brother when I was around 6 years old to listen to him play. Every few weeks I would measure my hand with the piano teacher’s till she finally said my hands were big enough to start taking lessons.
What was the first tune you learned?
The first tune I covered was Imagine by John Lennon. I was in love with how simple the song was, and I think that’s what makes everyone, whether they like the John Lennon or not, sing along. From the start of my music playing days, my goal has been to create music that people can sing along to and associate with a certain memory.
Do you write your own songs? Briefly describe your songwriting process.
Yes, I do write my own songs. I usually start with finding a melody I like, sometimes playing one stream of chords or notes again and again because it sticks in my head. For example, I’ll be practicing and experimenting with a new progression, and if I really like one, I’ll revert back to playing it with out any planning – so it comes out naturally. Next, I’ll structure the melody on the piano and write lyrics to the melody I have and bring it into the studio to start structuring it into a real piece. On my first EP, Stick Around, I worked with my producer Andrew Seltzer on fine-tuning the songs’ melodies and lyrics. Then the production stage would start and we would add different instruments, and record vocals till we felt confident that we have a good final product.
If you were to cover another artist’s album which would you pick and why?
If I could choose one artist’s album to cover, it would be Billy Joel’s The Stranger. He is a master pianist that isn’t afraid to experiment, and his singing abilities definitely add to his technical abilities. The Stranger, in my opinion, is the perfect album that takes the audience on a trip and gives them a glimpse into his life through his song writing. It’s pop; it’s classic rock; and it’s all around groovy with a side of true artisanship. When an artist can do this, that’s the sign of great writing, which is what I try to emulate with my own production
What was the highlight of 2015, what was the low point?
The highlight of 2015 was the release of my EP Stick Around. The songs have led me to connect with many people I haven’t connected with in a long time and they have also led to a lot of amazing opportunities that I am very thankful for. It’s also a great feeling to finally have my own EP released to the public to hear and enjoy, which at the end of the day, is what I’m striving to do. It’s all about connecting with my friends, family, and fans on a more personal level, which I believe I accomplished with Stick Around.
My lowpoint would be the writer’s block I experienced around the time my EP was released. When working on new material, I felt pressure to attempt to minimize any influence by the sound Andrew and I created for Stick Around and go in a new direction. Finding inspiration for the songs I was working on during that period was difficult, but I think it led me to expand my musical and songwriting horizons.
What is 2016 looking like for you? Upcoming projects? Hints for the future?
2016 has been great so far. I have been focusing on growing as an artist and I have some opportunities coming up that I am looking forward to capitalizing on. I have a couple exciting songs in production right now, and I plan to schedule a series of upcoming shows for fans to come out and enjoy a live set with my band and I in New York and New Jersey. Also, I plan on releasing a few music videos, but this is a work in progress so stay tuned!
Embarrassing moments on stage?
At one point during my first show, I danced away from the mic for a second before realizing I had to continually sing into the mic for people to hear me.
What do you enjoy doing outside music? Does you hobby rejuvenate your creativity?
I love to go mountain biking, play hi-arc softball, basketball, billiards, and shooting darts. I think any activity can stimulate the brain to be creative in any setting, but I do enjoy being in the serenity of the outdoors when I’m trying to think of new ideas. Also, I think it’s important to keep those close to me in the loop because they help spark new ideas and keep me motivated to put out the best version of myself.
What do you like most about radio airplay?
I really like how Radio Airplay helps independent artists get exposure, and how they also give us a platform to release our music to new listeners. Without outlets such as Radio Airplay, releasing my music to interested listeners would be a much more difficult process, but you guys allow me to find people to hear my songs and to ultimately build a long term connection with them. You guys help create new, and true, fans.
“Be There” Live at Webster Hall