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Rising Up from the Underground
Dr BLT Interviews Jeffrey Michaels
When I met Jeffrey Michaels on April 12, 2008 at Homer Joy’s birthday celebration at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace, I said to myself, “Yep, he’s got the look.” By “the look,” I was thinking about what the ideal “look” would be for a young, up-and-coming artist with one boot firmly planted in the Bakersfield Sound of yore, and one boot in the air, ready to put the kick back in country.
Jeffrey Michaels was sitting in a table right next to mine, with a pretty young lady friend, and Howard Yearwood, the guitar player in his band that, just a week or two prior, had performed on the Blackboard stages at Trout’s as part of a tribute to the Bakersfield Sound.
Jeffrey was farm-boy friendly, as was his guitar player, and I hadn’t come across that sort of genuine display of friendliness since I was growing up on the prairies of Saskatchewan.
When I got home, I went to his myspace page and, after playing a few songs there, I realized that he had much more than a distinctive look and an affable manner going for him.
The songs of Jeffrey Michaels, and his band, the Traveling Salvation Show, captivated me instantly. They took me back to the days of the Bakersfield Sound, and then thrust me into a future I had almost given up on---a future where the attitude and style of the Bakersfield Sound is respectfully preserved, while new territory is boldly claimed. A fertile paradise where every twang is given a tasteful new twist.
I realized that, while the Bakersfield Sound was very much alive, some of the most promising seeds Buck Owens had planted had blown with the wind, and spread well beyond Kern County. Everywhere that Jeffrey Michaels goes is fertile ground for a Bakersfield Sound revival and an all new nu Bako Sound TM. He’s a bit Bakobilly TM, a blue grass, and a bit Krock TM, a term that refers to the newest brand of Kern County country rock. Of course he puts his own unique personality and his own creative mind into the mix, not to mention his tri-state roots, his mid-western sensibility and his own set of unique childhood, adolescent and young adult experiences.
There’s a more talking I could do about Jeffrey Michaels, but I think that by now the visitors to this site are probably growing increasingly eager to have me talk directly to the man that is, without a doubt, a legend in the making. Let’s get started.
Dr BLT: How about if we do this the way
Johnny Cash built the Cadillac he
First of all, Jeffrey, it was a great privilege
to meet you at the
Jeffrey Michaels: I met Homer through the
guitar player in my band, Howard
Dr BLT: Tell us a little bit about your
band, and your role within the
Jeffrey Michaels: Howard Yearwood is on
B-Bender, baritone guitar, banjo, and the B.U.Vox. Then we
have Mark Thomas, who does upright, and electric bass.
The band is called Jeffrey Michaels &
the Traveling Salvation
Dr. BLT: I know that you are very rooted
in the Bakersfield Sound. I have a
Jeffrey Michaels: The sound comes natural
to me. As a kid I didn't know that there was something called the
Bakersfield sound. I watched HEE HAW and knew that when Buck sang
he meant it. He seemed to be sad when he sang a sad song, and happy
Dr BLT: How would you describe your music
and what you are attempting to
Jeffrey Michaels: My music is me. I'm trying to accomplish sanity.
Dr BLT: How did you first get started in
music, and what have been some of
Jeffrey Michaels: My older brother got
a guitar for Christmas when I was 5. He
Dr. BLT: What artists have you, as a musician,
and you, as a band been most
Jeffrey Michaels: Of course Buck. Rodney Crowell is one of my favorite songwriters and pure singers. John Denver for the same reasons. I'm really influenced by "singers" Marty Robbins, Faron Young, Ray Price...
Dr BLT: Where did you grow up, and how
did your experiences as a child
Jeffrey Michaels: I grew up in the hills
of Pennsylvania and West Va.
Dr BLT: Are you familiar with the music
of Billy Mize? Will you be coming
Jeffrey Michaels: Missed it. We were performing in L.A.
Dr BLT: What sorts of projects are you
presently working on and what can we
Jeffrey Michaels: I'm working on a new
album that I hope to have done by July.
As a band we really want to do more live gigs. And our guitar player Howard Yearwood and I have been talking about doing some acoustic shows.
I've been missing the intimacy of just guitar and vocals.
Dr BLT: How do people find out more about your music and your band?
Jeffrey Michaels: Where else? Myspace.