By Kristi Kates
Bouncing between two coasts these days is Mike Moran, the popular singer-songwriter whose alternating career ranges from Northern Michigan to San Diego.
Moran is scheduled to open the Microbrew & Music Festival in Traverse City this August, but for the time being, you can catch him at his new gigs in southern California.
Spending every summer in Northern Michigan was a rite of passage for Moran, who was born in Pontiac and attended high school in Clarkston. His parents fixed up a house in Bellaire - which turned into the family home while Moran was finishing high school - and it was shortly after graduation that Moran got into music while, as he puts it, bouncing from college to college, playing acoustic guitar and singing. Eight years ago, he decided to settle in Traverse City.
I just felt at home there, he says simply.
But wanderlust doesnt often pass completely, although eight years is a decent amount of time in one place for an ambitious talent like Moran. After garnering plenty of local attention, winning Best Musician/Performer accolades, and notching a long list of regional live performances (over 200 a year at one point), Moran left his long-time Northern Michigan residence and relocated to California.
I moved to San Diego on October 1 with my girlfriend and my dog, Moran says, I was motivated to take the next step. I wanted something more for my music, and I figured I was driving an hour and a half to Petoskey, two hours to Mt. Pleasant, and four to Detroit, so I might as well keep doing that, but in larger markets.
That larger market has, so far, served Moran quite well, making his story definitely one of local boy hitting the big city and doing far more than just surviving.
While he says the most difficult part of the move is missing his family and friends (but who doesnt when you make a move like this, he relates), hes now keeping busy working on a new full-length album project, which hes recording at San Diegos Studio West, the recording facility thats played host to everyone from Blink 182, Boyz II Men, Jars of Clay and Jewel, to Patti LaBelle and Patti Smith.
I have 30 or so songs that I am splitting into two CDs, Moran explains, Ill be doing some recording at Rolling Thunder Studios in Traverse City as well. I am recording demos before I go in, so I have a nice idea about the feel of the album; there are songs Im excited about, but I still have a lot of lyric work to do.
MUSIC FOR GOLFING
Some of Morans existing music, now that hes in a larger market, has already drawn the attention of the big-time cable channels, one of which has tapped several of his songs to utilize as background and theme music for their shows.
I got connected to The Golf Channel because of a friend I did a wedding for, Moran explains, she passed my Spaces CD on to someone at the channel, and they wanted to use my song 75 and Sunny Skies. Then they wanted to use the song Spaces, and now they are asking for more songs for another show.
Moran says that the cable channel opportunities are helping to give him a different avenue for promoting his music.
There are so many different routes to making music a career, he says, and I always wanted to write songs that worked well with TV and movies.
MICHIGAN AND BEYOND
Moran, whose own music has been compared to the likes of Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, and John Mayer, has also opened for Eddie Money, Bob Dylan, Martin Sexton, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Willie Nelson, and he is definitely keeping live shows in the mix; he says that his time in Northern Michigan is what helped prepare him for a professional musical career.
Northern Michigan turned me into a performer, Moran says, it gave me lots of different crowds, and helped me understand how to read a room. I dont know if people have to leave Northern Michigan to succeed in music, but I do believe you have to tour once in awhile even if its on your own, just so you dont get stuck in the same routine.
He also says that theres not much he doesnt like about the Northern Michigan music scene, but if there are any improvements he might suggest, its that he hopes that people might become more open-minded as far as listening to musicians performing original material.
Give the local guy or gal credit for trying to create something that is subject to be judged by all, he says, the best thing about my move (to San Diego) for my career is that I am getting critiques and opinions from people I really need to get an opinion from. They are pushing me to be a better songwriter.
And what does Moran like best about the time he spent developing as a musician Up North?
What I love about the Northern Michigan music scene is that its underrated, he says, there are a lot of great players and writers there, and as Traverse City grows, thats going to be a great story over the next couple of years.
To find out more about Mike Moran and his music, visit him online at www.mikemoranmusic.com.