By Rick Coates
Boyne City singer/songwriter Michael Lee Seiler sandwiched a career as a manufacturing supervisor between what his heart and soul called him to do.
Play the guitar, said Seiler. I felt the calling as a kid and at first it was about the girls -- the guitarists always got the girls. But then it became more of a spiritual thing.
Seiler will perform this weekend at the Concord Academy in Mancelona on Friday for the Relay For Life event; Saturday night at Lil Bos in Traverse City; and then at the Mothers Day Gospel Blues Brunch at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon.
He started playing the guitar in middle school, and like many who grew up in the 60s and early 70s, his musical influences were developed through the new FM radio rock format. But for Seiler, he also had his parents jukebox that influenced his ear.
I was drawn in by Crosby, Stills and Nash. I loved that sound, said Seiler. But my parents owned a truck stop in northwest Ohio near the turnpike. The musical tastes of the customers coming through the door meant that a lot of Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagner, and Hank Williams were being played. So, that certainly influenced my musical style as well.
Nearly 40 years later that style has led Seiler to become an accomplished blues, folk, roots and gospel player for solo gigs. He expands his musical repertoire when performing in groups to include, Celtic, mountain, Christian Contemporary and even urban metal.
In 2008 he won the Mid North Michigan Blues Challenge, securing a spot to compete last year at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Seiler wowed the audience with his guitar work and sultry vocals at Mr. Handys Blues Hall.
I really loved his set, said Billy Gibson (IBC judge and blues musician).
Michael Lee Seiler has a distinctive voice and musical style. I was like wow, out of town, man.
Seiler decided to return to being a full time professional musician and entertainer after the manufacturing operation he worked at closed a few years ago.
I worked second or third shift, so I didnt get a chance to go to open mics. So I just goofed around at home and when I found myself without work, I decided -- what the heck -- why not do what I love, said Seiler. It has been a great experience and I am fortunate to have gigs all over.
DANCE LESSONS TOO
In addition to his work as a musician Seiler is also an accomplished dancer and gives private and group dance lessons throughout Northern Michigan. Seiler offers lessons in the Waltz, Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, Merrenge and Tango.
I offer entry level instruction as well as intermediate training. What I like to focus on is the social dancer, the person who is looking to have fun on the dance floor.
In between performing music, giving dance lessons and guitar lessons, Seiler serves the musical director for his church.
So how did a kid from southwest Ohio end up in Northern Michigan?
When I was in high school I was in a band, and after high school we performed gigs all over and ended up performing at Boyne Mountain because one of the guys had a place on Lake Charlevoix. Well, I didnt have money for college and didnt think there was a career for me as a musician, so I knew I needed to get a real job.
That real job ended up in Boyne City by a fluke.
We were up performing over the weekend, it was October - but there was snow on the ground, said Seiler. I saw that this place, Circuit Control, was hiring and by Monday I started working for them.
That was in the late 70s , and from then through the 80s, the guitar was basically a hobby for Seiler.
I decided to start getting serious again in the 90s and took lessons from Ron Getz, said Seiler. I was astounded by his abilities and knowledge. Ron really motivated me.
So what prompted Seiler to walk away from job security and become a fulltime entertainer?
I was getting tired of breathing in all the chemicals and knew that I had really never tested the waters 100%, said Seiler. I went on a mission trip in 2006 and re-thought my life and decided to go for it. I have not looked back since.
Michael Lee Seiler is passionate about his music; his solo sets blend a mix of originals from his CD, My Own Man, to covers and standards. His guitar work is technical while explorative at the same time.
Seiler will perform this weekend at the Concord Academy in Mancelona on Friday for the Relay For Life event at 11:30 am. He will be joined by several other musicians from the region. On Saturday night his trio, Juke, will play at Lil Bos in Traverse City. On Sunday he will return to his solo work at the Mothers Day Gospel Blues Brunch at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon.
For details on Seiler and to view his summer concert dates go to michaelleeseiler.com.