Christopher Michael Unleashes Visions
"I don't know if I should say this or not," laughs musician Christopher Michael, but I bought my first guitar with money I won betting in football. I was, like, 17."
Despite the shady nature of his earnings, Michael proved himself to be a hard worker, finding his way into bands from high school on, self-teaching himself how to play the ill-gotten guitar and making a modest living as a musician by the time he was in his 20s.
"I didn't really come from a musical family," says Michael, "but my mom played the piano and sang in the choir. But they were very supportive when I decided to become a musician myself. I'm the only one in my family who didn't go to college, but I'm also the only one who tried to do something like this."
Christopher Michael first CD, Visions, reflects his varied influences, mixed with a grittier and more powerful type of pop rock and even a little garage rock. The songs are loaded with cool guitar hooks, a monstrously melodic bass, and an adrenaline-charged percussion, so raw and wonderfully tense that it's as though the performers are on the brink of exploding.
"I've been playing music with Jim since we were kids," Michael says about his drummer and bass player Jim Hart. "We were in bands together in high school. Over the years, it seems like somehow, we end up being in the same bands together. We work really well together. He's like the brother I never had," he adds.
The album tells a story of determination and loss, and it's the story of Christopher Michael himself. "These songs kind of came together for me after this band I was in called Killing Words decided to take a break after the lead singer got married," says Michael. "When the band broke up and everything, I was stuck working hard in a non-musical job, a regular job, and I found myself inspired to write some songs by myself without a band. The whole album just kind of came from being out of music for like, 3 years, and, you know, just reaching for something, and deciding I wanted to put my own songs together, and get it going again, because I had lost my interest due to, you know, finances, being a broke musician.
"I'm a single dad, and it's really hard to pay the bills when you're not making any money as a musician. And then work took over for a few years, and I did nothing but work. I still played guitar all the time, but really didn't, you know, do much about songwriting and actually getting out there and playing, being in a band. I kind of lost that for a few years, raising a child."
You can follow the path of the story from the very first track, from the plaintive vocals in "Help Me Now," where he asks for divine intervention - and love - in his life in order to get by. It moves on to the crisp sound of the acoustic rhythm guitar on "Time," where Michael takes a slightly harder-edged approach to both his music and his attitude, telling instead of asking, determined that everything's "going to work itself out all right...in time," now that he has nothing left to lose.
In "Rag Child," Michael sings, "I don't love you/I'd rather be alone," while in the last track, "Hold Me," Michael sounds slightly optimistic, singing, "should I love... should I love her?" in a song about a new relationship.
As a whole, the album is so refreshingly innocent and heartfelt that if the sincerity in the songs weren't almost palpable, it could be dismissed as corny and simplistic. It's because of this sincerity that Michael succeeds where someone less brave and less willing to bare all would fail miserably. The honest and creatively charged sound of Michael's music today seems to come naturally to him as a person. While Michael seems to have a balanced attitude, he is able to authentically express both suffering and hope in his music.
"I'm a pretty solitary person, and the only way I've ever been able to really communicate what I'm feeling to people is through music," says Michael. "So this album is basically about me trying to connect with people in a way that's impossible for me to do just through regular day to day conversation. All of the songs on here ,with the exception of ‘Hi,' are extremely personal, are taken right out of what was going on in my life at the time. ‘Hi' is just a happy pop song that was fun to write. The rest kind of came out of me of their own volition, because they were things I desperately needed to say."
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