Mike Williams, Alias “Mikey Mike” is not exactly a background player, but you’d be surprised just how many times you might have heard a song of his sung by someone else’s lips, or a beat he constructed backing up vocals that are not his own.
He’s worked directly with some of the most high-caliber artists out there. his songs have accumulated millions of streams and plays across all platforms. He’s a creative powerhouse driven by a passion -nay, an obsession- with music and his undeniable talent is about to come to a head in his sophomore album after relocating to Nashville Tennessee, and linking up with 7x Grammy award-winning producer Dave Cobb.
Right now, Mike is celebrating the release of his latest single “Girlfriend”. an ode to the boundless patience his Girlfriend must have to bear with antics, impulses, and needs as a hyperkinetic musician always cooking something up creatively.
We had a chance to pop some questions to this ace creator and I think we came out more excited by the end of it than when going in. You can easily connect with the super positive and invigorating energy that Mikey gives off
This new song came to you while you were working on something for someone else. Does that happen to you frequently?
Yeah it does actually because I think when you go in to make a beat or write a song for another artist there’s way less pressure and thought. You’re just strictly having fun and a lot of times that’s where the best moments happen. And a lot of times you hit a point, like with “girlfriend” where some lyric just jumps out at that’s part of your own story or subconscious and you run with it. I write most my songs on an 80 dollar miniature acoustic guitar that was made for kids for this same reason.
How does that distinction feel in your head? Between making music for Mikey Mike or making music for Rhianna or whomever? It’s gotta be a different feel and it must come from a different place, right?
You know obviously, I’ve never been Rihanna, or a woman, or from Barbados, but at the end of the day were both human and probably deal with and care about a lot of the same things, so I think when you’re just writing from that fundamental level of the human experience -the real stuff- almost anyone can sing. It’s more just the filter you end up putting the song through in terms of the production and melodies. There have been so many times when I’ve written songs for myself about stuff I never even imagined another artist singing, like being 9 years old and in love with one of my older sisters friends, and some A&R person hit me up like ‘yeah we love that song for Jason Derulo” and I’m like “uh..huh?”
“I rode the Short-bus on the way to love school” is one of the funniest and most charming lines I’ve heard in forever. What lesson do you wish you had learned sooner when it comes to loving others?
I’ve learned it’s just way easier to be straight up about who and what you are and what you’re here to do on this Earth from the jump. Like to say to someone “hey I’m somewhat manically obsessed with music and I’m on an eternal journey to write the best songs I can, and I’m never “off work” and probably not going to be as “There” and attentive as the average partner, and I may wake you up a lot at 4 a.m. humming into my voice notes, does that sound like fun to you?” And let the person decide if that’s something they’re into, besides letting them figure that out in time. Luckily, my girlfriend gets that aspect of me and supports me in it.
I think knowing someone else’s truest intention with their time while they’re alive is a real core of being and “working” with another person.
You said you wrote this on the piano, is that often your go-to instrument to help you with songwriting, or do you rely on the guitar as much if not more?
It just depends. I like to flip things up to keep it fresh. Lately, I’ve been taking old soul songs and obscure recordings and filtering them down and writing songs to them because there’s such a feeling and vibe already there and alive, you already have a world to inhabit. And then later I may replay all the instruments, or like “girlfriend” just use a piece of it and replay a lot of it.
Working with Living Legend Rick Rubin must be pretty surreal. So again on the topic of learning: What’s the one lesson or wisdom you picked up from him that you hope you never forget?
That’s easy, that everything always just comes down to the way it makes people feel and nobody gives a shit about the details or how you got to that feeling.
For instance, the song I did with Rick, I recorded in the worst sounding room, through the worst gear imaginable, and just assumed we would re-record it through a 20,000 dollar mic and he was like “why would we do that? Everybody responds to the demo recording. They feel it, it was real and in the moment when you did it. You can’t fake or recapture that.” And obviously, he was right. When I worked on this new album with Dave Cobb, he was the exact same way, all feeling. I recorded one of the vocals through a hundred dollar USB mic in my Airbnb and you could hear the hum of the refrigerator faintly in the back and he was like “man that’s the one, it’s perfect.”
You’re pretty big on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, you’re wearing an “In Utero” tee for the music video. Have you ever given thought to make an official Mikey Mike cover of one of their songs? Which song would that be?
That’s too funny you asked that. Last week I did a version of “About a Girl” just for the joy of it. It almost pumps and grooves like a grungy metallic house song, and it might be a complete disaster but it was more like a moment of homage. I haven’t opened it since I recorded it but I’ll probably go back soon and see if it’s worth finishing. Nirvana is what made me fall in love with music and is still my favorite to this day.
Your debut album came out in 2019. What would you say is the biggest difference between the musician you were then to the one you’re right now?
Oh man, it’s night and day. The first album was more like a mixtape of songs as old as seven years back and I think you can hear my spirit it in it, but I’ve gotten way more musical and branched out into so many more genres and singing a lot in falsetto. I think the first album was just me exploring how to use my voice and getting my feet wet, and the new music is just way more dialed in sonically and song-wise. I think it will appeal to a whole new world of people and change the game a bit for me.
Your second album, “Life on Earth Vol. 2”, is tantalizingly in front of us. What can you tell us about it without spoiling any surprises?
I made album 2 in Nashville with Dave Cobb (sturgill Simpson, chris Stapleton, a star is born soundtrack) and he was like the pipe dream, way out of my league producer but since Rick had played him some stuff way back, I was at least on the radar enough for him to listen. So we sent the songs, and he got back about ten minutes later and said “I love the tunes I want to do album” so having a monster like him help me get all the songs I had worked on for the last 3 years fully dialed in was incredible and completely unexpected.
“Girlfriend” actually didn’t make the album, but it was one of my mom’s favorites so I figured it was worth putting out, as opposed to collecting dust on a laptop with another 60 songs.
Tell us a bit about the Family Ranch you’ve dubbed “The Tune-House”. Reveal some of the mysteries that await those who enter.
I just moved outside of Nashville to a cabin on 7 acres and am building a whole village and world in the back. There’s going to be a bunch of cabins and yurts, a speak-easy on the creek, a stage for live music. It was always the vision to create a whole world where fans, friends and guests could come out and escape the madness of the world. Kind of like the Manson Family ranch without all the gory and weird shit. There’s no grand message, it’s just a place to connect and have fun with other like-spirited people.
To kick it off, I just launched weekendatmikeys.com where you can book a weekend and come experience the birth of it. I’m playing the new album for people and we’ve got corn hole set up in the house, and going to go see live music in Nash at night. It’s gonna be gnarly and the first group is coming today! All the proceeds go to building the village and making the vision come to life. Luckily, I have fans and friends from all over coming to help build it.
Tune-House is actually a separate service I’m starting where aspiring artists/writers/producers can call up some of the artists that inspire them and get guidance and critique on anything, from their latest single, to issues with their “girlfriend,” anything goes. Whether you want to connect with Nombe or Gangsta Boo of 3 6 Mafia, there’s somebody for everybody to learn from, personally. Part of that will be here in person at the physical “Tune House” on the Ranch.
Between friendship posters, billboards, and impersonating bygone-era pornstars through email, it’s safe to say you’re not shy when it comes to self-promotion. Can you tell us about the secret behind that? How can Mikey pull all of these stunts while some people struggle to ask if you “want fries with that”?
I guess I was luckily born with that “There’s always a way” mentality. I think, whatever it is in life, if your intention is crystal clear of where you want to take the journey, and refuse to take no for an answer, anything is possible. I guess what fuels that mentality is just keeping that awareness that life is short and we’re all kind of creeping towards our death every day, and this whole experience unfolds and passes in the blink of an eye, I just want to try to do legendary shit while I’m here.
And on that same-ish note. Would you like to take this opportunity to plug your next insane project or maybe reach out to someone you want to work with?
I guess this is a good place to plug “The Yoga of Songwriting: A look through the cosmic lens at the DNA of great songs” also coming this year 😉
Story: Samuel Aponte Photos: Mackenzie Brassfield
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