Successful Musicians Podcast – Episode #29: How to Find Your Inner Compass in Songwriting with Michael Averill

"Just because something maybe doesn't fit in the moment in time or maybe it just seems like it's a newer thing for the community that you're in doesn't mean it's not going to work. It just means sometimes that you have to be the one to try. You don't necessarily need a bigger company or a bigger entity to represent you. It's just all it matters is you just find some people that this is going to work for, and you help them. If they change, then you're doing something good. It doesn't need to be more complicated, but you don't know that until you try it." ~Michael Averill

Successful Musicians Podcast Episode 29


Interviewee: Michael Averill

Interviewer: Jason Tonioli


Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong, and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast.




Jason: Welcome to the podcast. We’re excited to have you join us. Today, our guest is Michael Averil from Canada. We’ve just been chatting a little bit right before this and as I was doing research on you, some of the comments that people have said about you is that you’re the Willy Wonka of songwriting coaches. I’ve seen that you’ve been called a Pied Piper quality. You just have a natural ability to help people, to have a desire to learn music or songwriting. I’ve learned more and more about you. You’ve walked all the way across Canada virtually, pretty much, over a lot of years. I know you told me you were writing a book about that, but I’ve probably just destroyed your bio. Tell us a little bit more, fill in the blanks right there. Hopefully, we got people interested. You’ve walked over 4,000 miles across Canada which must be incredible as long as it wasn’t the middle of the winter with polar bears, right? Tell us a little bit about yourself and tell people a little bit more where you come from.

Michael: That’s Fernando’s cousin, the chicken.

Jason: He does the rubber chicken, right?

Michael: No, you did great. Thanks for the intro there. Yeah, it’s been quite an adventure and actually funny enough. Most of the walking I did was in warmer weather seasons but there’s one part of Canada that I specifically wanted to go in dead winter that is actually very north, Northwest Territories. There’s a place called Yellowknife that in March, actually in and around this time we’re coming into here, that they run a festival, music festival and culture festival that literally is held in a giant ice castle.

Jason: Wow.

Michael: The community spends months building this structure and it’s incredible. There’s ice sculptures and whatnot. When I found out about it, it’s called the Snow King Festival. I was like, I have to go during that time, and I have to see what that’s like. It was amazing. That was a really special walking expedition but most of it was pretty warm weather.

Jason: Interesting. That’s awesome. How did you end up getting into the music business? As a kid, did you say, I want to be doing music? How did that work out?

Michael: Kind of accidentally, in a way. I was way more into sports and video games when I was younger. I was really involved with a lot of different sports, particularly basketball but I was always a good runner and that evolved eventually to finding track and field. The more I hung around just through the school systems of having the sports that you did there and then eventually through some of the local city clubs, I really found a good groove in that space, not just in the sport of doing the act but in the community of it, particularly the Kelowna, where I’m from and where I actually am back living now. The city club was a really interesting mixture of multi-generational people so there are kids just learning to do this stuff for very young people in their 70s and everything in between and I always loved that atmosphere of being around it and so where music didn’t really start coming in for me playing it until I was just coming out of elementary school, going into high school where my brother was really into learning guitar. My dad wrote songs. He was an elementary school teacher but he’d been writing songs and singing for years and years. That goes way back in his family.

When my brother got into it, most of the time, my older brother, I just followed along and did whatever he did, whether that’d be sports or whether that’d be games or whether that’d be whatever. He started learning stuff and he would just show me how to do it. That was my learning cycle for a while. My dad just eventually bought us an electric guitar. That was a really awesome growth into what felt just like absolute power to be able to plug into a guitar and play rocking tunes that we loved listening to. It just slowly evolved out of just pure joy. My brother was so good at figuring out songs. He would just mostly do it by ear or reading tabs and then just show me. That was great for a lot of years until he moved out. Then my holy learning source disappeared, and I didn’t really know what to do. I don’t know how to learn. Just slowly through myself and a couple of friends I had in high school, we had this little underground. We would learn guitar songs by ear and just try to solve them.

I would work on one, another friend would work on another and then we’d meet and show each other. That’s all I did for a lot of years. I didn’t ever think about music as a career. It was just really fun and a great way to… That was my crossword puzzle or Sudoku or whatever. It’s so satisfying when you can solve a song without necessarily needing help. It may not sound the exact same but that’s also the benefit of the evolution of sound is. Everyone’s trying to emulate other people and maybe not quite getting it exactly but then somewhere your style evolves in that. That was always a lot of fun.

When I went to college, I left Kelowna to go to Vancouver for college. That experience is where I just started meeting a lot more people. I took a guitar with me, and more people started finding out that I played. I didn’t sing at that time, and I wasn’t writing anything, but I was noticing just in residence, they had open mics and really comfortable, cozy spaces just in the lounges where most of the people are in their PJs and having tea and hot chocolate.

I thought “This is great”. This is actually a perfect scenario. I loved watching it. Then it wasn’t very long before friends that I lived with, neighbors were just like, you should try. You should try playing and doing that thing. It took a while. It took about a year of encouragement for me to get up and try something, but I did, and I did it with people that I lived around. That was really special because I don’t think I probably would have done it otherwise. It just kept evolving from there. I think when you keep having a positive experience from something, it’s like, Oh, this isn’t so bad, maybe I’ll do it again and it just keeps growing and you share. I think that goes for a lot of things. Then you give something the chance to be impactful to others and thus sometimes opportunities to do it again come up. So, I started getting opportunities to maybe play at different places like some of the local pubs or local cafes or just with other artists and that just started getting me out and about but even just finding the clubs on campus, there was a guitar club that I showed up to, not really knowing what to expect but I met a really great friend who became a great friend, a guy from France, who helped me learn so much about how to solo and how to play along, how to jam and through that, that led to my first songs, my first writings of songs through this club. They really encouraged me to, after spending some time with them, be a part of the organizing committee, which by doing that meant I had to teach something, which then I thought, dang, I got to learn something to teach. What am I going to teach? I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately that most of the things that I do in life, I didn’t really do out of my own decisions. I was just prompted with people saying, hey, do you want to do this? I think you’d be good at that. Or why don’t you try this? Or you should do that. Which is unique to reflect on. I definitely was not one of these kids that came into the world with a maraca in hand or singing whatever. That definitely took some time.

Jason:  Interesting. I think coming from the sporting world, I think it provides a whole different perspective, too. Sometimes those experiences we have really add into the flavor of what comes out in your music oftentimes, which is… I’m sure you’ve seen that as you’ve evolved as a musician over the last several years with people.

So, you’re doing these songwriting courses and people are coming to you and I suppose asking you, how do I write songs or how do I find inspiration? Tell me more about these classes that you found. Where do you really excel as a musician teacher, just like an athlete would? What do you feel like is your superpower in that realm?

Michael: I think just making things fun for people. Lots of stuff happens in our lives in pretty pivotal ways. Music is one of those things. I think exercise is one of those things where at young ages, often those who carry on with it have had good experiences and those who don’t felt really bad at one point, or someone made them feel really bad, or they had some experience that just they don’t ever want to revisit. So, I learned a lot of this from the training, personal training world when I was in that world, that a lot of the people that would come to me were the people that didn’t want to be there or they hated exercise, or like the traditional idea of what exercise should be or could be. So, it was always up to me to find out these other ways and I always loved games and trying to make things interesting. I’ve always loved that about performances and shows as being a performer, too, that the performance, the experience of being at a show for the audience is fun and that’s memorable. Maybe making the audience do ridiculous things or fun things or have to talk to other people, they’re going to remember that but not just for the sake of that they’re going to remember it, but maybe if I can help them get out of their comfort zone a little bit, they’ll see that it actually doesn’t have to be a bad experience. It can be good. So, I started doing that a lot with musicians, particularly and I just was watching one of your videos where you were at a concert and it said something about how at the end of it all, you just invited a bunch of students or people who were up on stage to do an improv jam, and it wasn’t rehearsed. It was just something that we’re just going to get up in front of all these people and play a song and for a lot of musicians, that’s terrifying.

Jason: It’s terrifying even when you’re the one doing it, too.

Michael: [laughing] Which is great. I think that’s such a magical thing to undergo and to welcome others into and I think that particularly is somewhere where I really jived with musicians first is learning to jam because I was always terrified of it, too. I never knew how to enter it and there’s always the thing if anyone’s ever been in a jam who’s listening at a phase of time, you don’t know how to speak that language and a lot of the circles, it feels like everybody knows and no one’s really willing to tell you how. It’s either you do or you don’t. When there’s that awful moment where someone’s like Jason, solo time. You’re like, No.

Jason: Where’s my sheet music?

Michael: So, I had that experience. Then I also toured for a little while with a band who are so good at this. I just really just being in the moment and letting music unfold on stage. They taught me so much about how to do that. I learned a lot from watching them and playing with them. It led to this cool sequence of events of studying with Victor Wooten in Nashville and learning more about his methods through the music lesson and that book. There are so many other ways of looking at how to do that.

So, I started exploring it and wanted to start teaching other people. Not teaching, but just providing space where it could be safe for people to explore that and to try screwing up and making mistakes and realize how you actually work out of those? How can those be the cool things? That’s magic. When you can do that, you can do anything.  It really changes this whole idea of having to be perfect and embraces the whole concept that 15:08 perfect is not the goal. It’s just having your radar open for those little freak weird things that weren’t planned, that if you can embrace and then utilize, they don’t sound like mistakes. It’s like mistakes usually only appear to be mistakes in isolation but if they’re repeated musically, they actually sound like they’re meant to be there and they’re very unique and they’re very special.

So anyway, I found a love for my own sake of just enjoying the power and just the excitement that came from really being able to matrix there is no spoon, anything in the moment and then be able to sit there with other people and at least have them try it to see if they had the same experience and they would. So anyway, just seeing that it started making me think differently, especially actually some of my background being a trainer. I worked in a lot of areas in that industry that were very high, high service, like modeled out of a five-star hotel and it was really modeled around paying attention to all the details and very much about experience and all these things. I was able to transfer a lot of that to music in terms of the experience. A lot of musicians I’ve found haven’t really come at it that way. Just again, making it fun and making it clear that creating those kinds of experiences and really just allowing your own personality of the space to shine through is much more effective for everybody.

It’s more fun, but it also impacts more strongly on the audiences, which again, if you’re looking at different forms of success as this podcast talks about, if you are looking at career-based kinds of things, when people generally support you longer and more, the better they know you and the better that they feel, the more they feel impacted emotionally and so on and so forth and that only happens by you going to those places.

It’s a funny thing and hard to sometimes arrive at because we often don’t feel, especially as solo songwriters, that we have the safety to do that without being criticized or without… and a lot of industry stuff is like, none of that, can’t do this, can’t do that and those voices come up. So, I’m the antithesis of that. I’m the other way around. I’m like, 17:30 Try it all. What did you think about that? I love providing spaces for people not to be told what’s good or bad but to just have to express their stories and how they feel about it. Why are you playing it? Why did you choose those chords? Why are you saying those words? Does that feel like you? I can say I’m feeling good a certain way but how do you say it in your family? Embrace that.

Jason: I think the music industry, at least the traditional learn piano or learn guitar, especially piano and the classical piano teacher that a lot of us have started with, you’re taught to read off of a page and you pass the song off when you get it good enough or get it perfect. Even with the competitions, the higher level you get, the more you play it exactly the way Beethoven wrote it or whoever it was. I think it’s fantastic to master songs so I’m not knocking that world, but I think there’s a lot of incredibly talented classical piano players or even musicians that if you pull the music away from them, they don’t know what to do.

I remember a story one time that I heard back in high school and I’m trying to remember where I heard it, but essentially, it was somebody that had been a judge at I think it was Gina Bach or piano festival, so a big piano competition and they had this student that I think they were from Japan or China. I’m not sure exactly where it was but the person stopped him and said, I want you to stop for a second. I want you to picture clouds up in the sky and I want you to play it like those clouds would feel and sound and that student, who knew the song inside and out, just brought them to… They didn’t know what to do and I think when you pull that emotion… It’s like that fifth dimension, fifth sense, or an extra sense that I think somehow, you’ve got to be able to find that as a musician to find the emotion and all of a sudden it just opens up worlds to you. I do think it’s a shame that a lot of the traditional paths that a lot of people start down don’t even know how to encourage it or teach it or tell you it’s even okay because you don’t pass the song off if you don’t play it well enough. I don’t know. I think that’s the hardest thing. I think it’s interesting where you’re coming from that coaching or health and fitness. I’m sure that’s given you a very unique perspective in helping people try and find the joy in the music versus just lifting the weight or just playing the note on the page, right?

Michael: Totally. I can recognize, too, that I have had the fortunate benefit of… I didn’t learn that way. I didn’t have that experience. I didn’t have people saying, you have to do it this way, or it’s wrong, or you can’t do that. My parents, first of all, were very… They just held that space open. It was just there. They never said, stop playing. My brother and I’d be rocking out loud on an electric guitar all day long and they’d be like, fine. Even though I know it got to them after a while, they still wouldn’t say it. They’d still just allow that space. From all the people I’ve talked to that haven’t had that freedom, it sucks to learn about. In some ways I’m just like, Whoa. It took me a bit to realize that Wow, my experience is not a lot of people’s experience. A lot of people have had this closed door, or their toes stepped on in a way that’s painful. So, learning more delicate communication around, how do you recover from that and how do you reform a new perspective on that or help create the space for that to happen again.

It’s slow. It can be really slow, but it’s worth it. It’s really amazing to see somebody who overcomes something like that and feels like they can have music back in their lives in a way that is positive and oftentimes, whatever they were trying to do before starts happening because now they actually really feel a good peace with it and then they find their way in it. I can’t think of anything better to be able to do. If you can do that, that’s all you need.

Jason: If you read the books or you watch influencers, the ones that really seem to get the traction, I think you find that the people if they’re willing to share their imperfections and share their scars, share the things that are hard for them, those individuals seem to have much many more people that are excited about. If you feel like you’re more like them and I think people are more prone to follow them. I think the same is true on the music side when the fact that you embrace a mistake. I’ve been at concerts where I’ve played completely bad notes and it’s been very obvious, and you just laugh with everybody else. There’s been times I’ve actually made a mistake in the first song on purpose just to get it out, just really screw it up really bad. I’ve done a thing for piano teachers and the guy that wasn’t a very good piano student and never really excelled at being perfect, I’ll just screw up in that first song and I’ll stop, and I’ll look at him and say, there, I’ve got it out. I’m going to just tell you; I make mistakes and I know you do too.

That in itself all of a sudden just endears the audience to the fact that, oh, my gosh, I can be like, I’m more like that person than anybody realized. I think at some point as a musician, you’ve got to recognize it’s okay to screw up. Some of those mistakes are where the best songs and best experiences even come from.

Michael: Well, good life lesson there. Everyone makes the thing, makes the mistake. I’m not sure who said this, but I think I heard it first from Victor. 23:40 There are no right or wrong notes but right resolutions. It’s like, what do you do after that? What happens because of that or as a result of that? Or how do you move through that? That’s really amazing to watch. That’s often where that moment of endearment and connection happens. It’s because when it happens, everyone’s like, there’s a breath hold moment but seeing it demonstrated how it can be handled gracefully, or it actually can maybe lead into somewhere that you wouldn’t have been able to go to otherwise, that feels better or maybe it’s more empowering to think about trying it for yourself as potentially what could happen which is very cool. Super cool but it’s risky.

Jason: I know you’ve coached probably hundreds of people over the years. If not, you are probably pushing into the thousands. As you look at some of those experiences, is there any specific experience that’s been extra special for you that may have impacted you, you changed somebody’s life or helped somebody, but it really got to where you realized, wow, that was awesome. Do you have anything that comes to mind that you could share with us?

Michael: Yeah, there’s lots, particularly in the last two and a half years. The workshops that I started in 2011 have evolved and write songs you love is relatively new as an idea but it’s been really cool to have it more focused into really helping artists get deeper into themselves and while there’s several, but there’s a couple of particular ones that are coming to mind right now that are happening right now where some of the artists that have been coming through, one particularly goes by the name of Senua. They’re based in Western Canada and have a Chinese Canadian background mixture. Their whole project that they’ve been working on over the last bit that I feel honored to be able to witness and just see it develop has been about exploring that as an entity, a whole pathway of their culture and its involvement in Canada and the foundations of the development of this country and just the different cultural conflicts and collaborations and racial things that have happened and giving light to that story and that way but particularly within their own family and how that has looked across many generations, to how that is showing up now and doing that.

The way that this project has developed has been really cool to watch because it’s just come through in such a unique way that isn’t just the music. I don’t mean that lightly. There’s music but it’s also turning into a theater performing piece. It’s just a very interesting galvanizer of a big discussion and a difficult discussion sometimes but utilizing the music and it’s been so cool. I think that there’s an experience like that to one other one who has really discovered more about their method of delivery and really looking at talking about, I guess, breaking traditions of, hey, I write music, I make CD, I make whatever form and put it out.

This other person ended up doing things from making… and I actually have them with me here. The artist’s name is Diane Barberich, and she has gone through this thing of making books out of her stuff and she developed this whole process of almost like an expressive arts healing situation of having a system of how you can arrive at songs and it’s like she would do these blind pencil sketches to then doing these pastel paintings to those generating lyrics and then that generating songs. She put this whole thing together and every one of these has a little QR code so you can hear the song that goes with this whole thing. Just watching different forms of music be delivered and executed. This is something, too, that she did with another artist, a hairstylist who… A calendar that has not just songs on them but stories from the person who took these pictures. They ended up using this whole project as a fundraiser for the Indigenous Fashion Week show that happens in Vancouver at the end of November. This is what I mean.

It’s just seeing these kinds of projects come up and what they’re for and what they open up in terms of the different artists is such a treat. It happens all the time now. I feel like this is amazing. I couldn’t imagine doing stuff when I first decided I was going to do music full time, but it feels like the best stuff I’ve ever been able to be part of.

Jason: If you were in front of a younger you, or let’s say you’re in front of a group of college kids that are on that fence, so do I want to do music? Do I not want to do music? What advice would you give to those kids?

Michael: There’s a couple of things. I think the main one is to actually 29:15 put your ideas into action as opposed to just leaving them in idea land because the funny thing, even me being here today and talking with you, when I first started trying to do workshops and this stuff, I got a lot of NO’s. I was trying to just offer music schools this program or just an idea to creating this space where artists could come in and work on their performances, their actual live ways of how they connect to their audiences and to me, it seemed like everything, and no one was really doing that in Canada.  had learned a lot from Tom Jackson and other people in the states who touched base on that stuff and nobody wanted it. Everyone was just like, Nope and wouldn’t even take me as a volunteer person. Then I remember even with my music and the ideas that I was trying to do with my walking tour and doing that stuff. I was trying and I’m thinking, this would be really great for applying to the cultural heritage grants or stuff like this and a lot of people are like, Nope, that’s not going to happen. That probably won’t happen.

So, all these things, there’s a lot of major things that I have done now that I got a lot of NO to or just a lot of shutdowns, that’s probably not a great idea, that I found other ways of doing them. Now, ironically, in the last five or six years these are the same things I’m being invited to speak about. A lot of these things that others didn’t want have been the building blocks of where I’ve been able to have a full-time career for over 10 years in the music industry. You don’t know that. 31:02 Just because something maybe doesn’t fit in the moment in time or maybe it just seems like it’s a newer thing for the community that you’re in doesn’t mean it’s not going to work. It just means sometimes that you have to be the one to try. You don’t necessarily need a bigger company or a bigger entity to represent you. It’s just all it matters is you just find some people that this is going to work for and you help them. If they change, then you’re doing something good. It doesn’t need to be more complicated, but you don’t know that until you try it.

31:37 It’s better to just try something as opposed to doubting if it’s going to work or not. That’s a big one there. The second one that comes to mind is 31:47 just invest in your audience. That never gets talked about, about what it means to nurture the people that are there and to include and to welcome and to support and make stuff for them. Depending on what you’re doing, I guess it doesn’t really matter but as a musician, I loved writing songs. I would always ask people, what kind of thing do you need to hear to get through your day? What would make things better right now? Then I would get a list of people saying what they wanted, these lines on social media and then I would make those songs and just be like, here you go. I hope your day is better.

There’s a big drive to try to have huge amounts of people, fans and listeners and all that stuff on your socials and all those things but if you can do that level of connection with your audience, then that will be way stronger than just those numbers alone of people that you don’t know. I’ve always had all of my stuff; I could say all of my success or anything that’s come positively has been from just really trying to provide good experiences and uplifting experiences to the few people that are in my circle. Spending that time and when more comes, more will come, but you don’t have to be in a rush for numbers.

Jason:  Well, and I love what you’re saying there. The success that you’ve felt and it really comes from the long-term success and joy that I can see just from listening to you comes from that fulfillment. You get this fulfillment factor from helping and really being close with somebody else versus the whole bunch of thousands of people that say they like you, that really don’t know who you are or aren’t really could care less what you’re doing are near as valuable as the…

Let’s say you only had a dozen people. Those dozen fans are way more valuable than a thousand people who just clicked a thumbs up or something on you. The fulfillment factor of knowing you made a difference is much bigger with those. I think as I look at artists that I know that have gone big, typically it’s because they have been able to connect with that audience at a personal level in some way first and then they are lucky enough and that’s when it grows. I think that’s fantastic advice.

I’ve got another question for you. I know you do a lot of song coaching, and I’m sure you’ve had artists that come to you with the writer’s block or they’re like, oh, I can’t do this. What advice do you have for people who are maybe in a slump or struggling and feel like their music isn’t for them. What do you tell those people?

Michael: Yeah, it’s a fun one. Actually, it’s funny. I put up a post about it a couple of years ago. It was very simple. It was just like, writer’s block. Do you believe in it? If so, why? If not, why? It was one of the biggest discussions threads I think I’ve ever had. It’s a funny one to watch and there are a lot of opinions on it. For me, I don’t think it has anything to do with your creativity or your writing at all. For me, it’s usually more, or I’ve noticed anyways, it’s more illustrating or illuminating of something really emotionally difficult going on. It can be something. It could be any number of things, but it may be that if you’re trying to write a song… I can say this is the only time I’ve ever really felt this, as I wasn’t sure if I had a writer’s block scenario but I started working on a song that was more of a serious… It was one of the most difficult songs I’ve ever worked on and it had to do with the topic of suicide which was which was very, very, very challenging with some experiences that I had with people in my community and family.

It was coming out in a way in a song which felt like the only way I could really process it in any fashion. I’ve never had this experience since but it was almost as if I couldn’t write any other songs until that one got finished. It was hard. It was just emotionally hard to process and make sense of. I actually couldn’t do it on my own. It went on so long that anytime I tried to do anything else, it just didn’t really work. When I’d come back to this one, it would start nudging along but I actually signed myself up that summer in another songwriting workshop that I had to drive 14 hours to get to where I spent a week. I went there because one of my main songwriting mentors was going to be teaching there. I thought, maybe this is something I can just present to this other group. If I get nothing out of this entire trip in this whole week there, I would just want to finish that song. It was a hard one to share with other people, too. It was just a fear. It was a fear of really feeling that stuff.

Going there and sharing it and then having some coaching on it and just other people’s perspectives on it really helped me because I didn’t feel like I had perspective on it. I didn’t know enough about it. So having more of that frequency, that community, and that new information helped me finish it to the point where I could then perform it in the festival as part of this thing and that felt huge. Then as soon as that happened, everything came back again and it actually came back stronger.

I think if you ever feel like you’re stuck that way, it’s good to look at what else is going on. That has nothing to do with your writing. It’s like, what’s going on in your life that maybe there’s… Or it’s a topic that you’re thinking about writing that is bringing up more difficulty than you think it might be.

Jason: I’m sure as you got through that, it was very therapeutic probably too. That song, I’m sure, means way more when you… If you even do share it with other people, you connect with the audience with that song better than most they even have.

Michael: Yeah. It’s a brave thing to do that creatively for just even if it’s just for yourself. If that helps that’s a great thing but then to share something like that, I didn’t share that song for about four years. I just sat where it needed to after that. Yeah, that’s another decision I didn’t share because I didn’t feel I had the skills in a communication way to field the responses or to deal with the magnitude of what might come back from presenting on a topic like that, whereas now I do but it just took time. It took time to sit with that and learn, which was, again, songs can be so guiding. My bright songs, the love thing, the heart that’s in that is actually a compass. I think that’s for a reason. Songs can really guide us into some very special places in particular when sometimes we don’t want to go but at least it’s a bit of a nudge to explore and you don’t necessarily have to know what you’re looking for. I think just going in the direction of… you wind up all the better for it and finding the answers maybe that you need and that tends to take you into better places in new growth and evolution which results in stronger songs. Stronger, I mean, they’re more meaningful for you. They feel more like you.

Jason: Absolutely. Gosh, last question I have for you. So, as you look back on your career and even just with people you work with, what would you define as a successful musician? If you had to write the definition of that based on your experiences.

Michael: I guess the word that’s coming into my mind is a lifelong musician. I think when the problem that happens a lot in anything industry related or business related is it becomes dependent on or it can become dependent on the monetary side or if you achieved some status or if you played on a certain stage or if you got some award or blah, blah, blah but I think the successful thing is being able to have it in your life till you’re dead. Being able to carry it. I’ve met a lot of people through the walking tour that are in their 80s or they’re literally involved and somehow still playing or writing something until their last days. I think it’s such an important language in the world. I think it’s one of the strongest universal languages that we have. For it to disappear or for people to leave it or quit, like you said this earlier, too, from having an experience where they felt they didn’t fit or they couldn’t do it, it sucks. That I find difficult to hear about or to see. I think as long as that’s something that can stay in someone’s life and it can always bring them joy and healing and exploration or just expression, any of the things it can do that we all know are good, that’s a major win.

I just think of all the times I’ve had that music has bailed me out of a lot of situations that I didn’t feel I had skills to do but somehow the songs did. They taught me so much. I don’t see that ever going away and I think just having that faith in that that’s going to be there forever. Even if I lose my hands and whatever, I can’t play an instrument, it doesn’t matter. I think it’s just that idea that you can always be doing something in there and I think that commitment is the win. Whatever else comes is always a bonus.

Jason: Absolutely. Well, Michael, I know we’re about out of time but appreciate you taking time to share. You definitely made me think today. I appreciate you taking that time to share with me and with those who are listening, if you’d like to learn more about what Michael does, he’s got a website, it’s, correct? I believe you got a podcast with the same name, correct? It’s a weekly podcast. Definitely go check that out.

If you’re looking for ideas on songwriting, even for me, where I’m writing, I write a lot of music but I think the more you surround yourself with people who have similar values and can bring the best out of you, it’s going to help get you out of that funk or even take your music and you’ll find new joy, I think, by adding more skill sets and more people around you to do that. So, I encourage anybody out there who might be struggling to seek out people. One thing I’ve realized, Michael, is in this music community, there are a lot of amazing people that are very, very willing to serve and give of their time.

Even really high-level people that you’d think, Oh, they’re untouchable. We’re all human beings. Definitely, if you’re one of those people that’s looking for that mentor or for help in that area, just reach out. It’s easy to find people these days with Facebook and the Internet. Again, thank you. Go check out writesongsyoulove.Com and we’ll catch you guys on the next one. Thanks for your time again, Michael.


Michael: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me.


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Finding success and fulfillment in the music industry is possible. Looking forward to seeing you in our next episode.



How to Connect with the Featured Guest:

Michael is the Willy Wonka of songwriting coaches, a skilled host, and a motivator who helped hundreds of artists along on their path through his workshops and mentoring, and is committed to deepening that journey with Write Songs You Love.

He has literally walked over 4000 miles of Canada over an 8-year tour called “I’d Rather Walk,” sharing songs and encouraging others to share their stories on his way. 

Michael specializes in boutique songwriting for special occasions, group workshops for artists or businesses, and community building. 

What You’ll Learn

In this special episode, Michael tells us how he is providing a space where it could be safe for people to explore music and to try screwing up and making mistakes and that perfection is not the goal.

He also shared how music has bailed him out of a lot of situations and his idea of success.

Things We Discussed

Snow King Festival – a music and culture festival in Yellowknife, Canada  that literally is held in a giant ice castle

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