By Asia Sheppard
Gary Mitchell is a personification of his music: sunny, upbeat, cheerful, and encouraging. I caught up with the Chapel Hill native artist at Muddy Creek Cafe’s 4th of July Original Music Showcase.
CCD: So, Tell me all about Gary Mitchell? Who are you?
GM: I was rocketed from the doomed planet Krypton…just kidding. Gary Mitchell is a guy who grew up in a very musical household. Both of my parents sing. My mother is a jazz and gospel singer. I started off with piano when I was very small and I picked up drums in middle school. I actually wanted to be a professional drummer. I played drums throughout middle school, high school, and college. Nobody knows that because I don’t really play drums much anymore. I picked up guitar when I was in college at UNC Chapel Hill (Go Tarheels!). Now I play music full time and I love it.
CCD: Why do you do music? What is the purpose behind why you play?
GM: I play music to encourage people. I play music to be a blessing to people and to help them know that they are not alone. There is so much negativity in music these days. It’s so shallow and superficial with everyone “hooking up” and getting some or trying to do this and that. I want to do something positive and I want it to be good music that people can enjoy. But I want it to be meaningful to people.
CCD: How would you describe your style?
GM: Full of awesomeness! I describe it as rock/R&B/Pop. Sort of like John Mayer meets John Legend. I had to do a press write up once and I came up with acoustic pop rock with upbeat hooks and inspirational/thoughtful lyrics. I think its good music. You all should listen to it!
CCD: “Go Forward” is your latest album. Tell me all about how you put it together.
GM: I would love to! If you had 7 to 8 hours I could tell you all about it! The edited-for-television version is I wanted to put out a new CD. My last CD was a few years ago. I started writing and as an artist you are always trying to refine what you do, you always want to try to make it better. You want to write tighter songs and more thoughtful lyrics, catchier melodies and all that stuff. All of the songs were written specifically for this album. I tried to get a great variety. There are some short, sort of radio single type of songs, and there are a couple that go on for a little bit more and have more of a journey to the lyrics. There’s a straight up blues tune, some Michael Jackson old school R&B kind of stuff, and there’s a song called “Last Ride” that’s just hard rock. I try to write music that I think sounds good, that I would like to listen to, and hopefully that other people will like as well.
CCD: What comes first for you: music or the lyrics?
GM: It depends. Sometimes I’ll get a musical idea and come up with a cool chord progression or a nice rift on the guitar and I’ll say “Oh, that sounds like a song,” and I’ll write something that goes along with it. Or sometimes it’s the complete opposite and I’ll come up with a great idea for a song. Every songwriter has their different techniques.
CCD: Do you think music as an art is dead?
GM: Absolutely not! I think music and art is more vibrant than ever. Especially with what the internet has done to change the game for everybody. Now there are people all over the world that can listen to my music and that would not have been possible 20 years ago unless you were on a major label. Now anybody can be heard; anybody’s art can be seen. You have access to the whole world and the world has access to you. I think music has greater potential now more than ever. There’s so much genre blending and it’s gotten to the point where it’s hard for artist to classify their music. It’s gotten more sophisticated. This is a very exciting time for music.
CCD: What is something that people would not know about you?
GM: I am a big geek. I love nerdy stuff. I grew up reading comic books. I am well versed in what I call classical cartoons like Transformers and Gargoyles. Anything that was animated as a kid, I was there. I used to sneak into the basement to watch Sailor Moon because my brother would like make fun of me for it.
CCD: How did you get involved with Muddy Creek?
GM: I played here with my band about a month ago. I’ve got a group called the Gary Mitchell band and we did a show here. I met Bill Heath and we hit it off. We kept in touch on Facebook and I asked him to keep me up to date on opportunities to get involved with playing in the area and he invited me to play here for the 4th and I said sure! The rest is history.
CCD: So you seem like you’ve toured a bit. Anything weird ever happen to you while performing?
GM: Oh I have one! One time I was playing at a Starbucks in Durham a few years ago and I get done with the show and I’m standing outside. I had packed up my stuff and I was ready to leave in the parking lot talking to a buddy of mine. So this is a Starbucks in Durham so police come in all the time to get coffee on their shifts and to check in make sure everything is okay. A couple of them were in there earlier and I held the door for them when I came out. Anyway, I’m talking to my friend and these two cops come up and one says “excuse me are you Gary Mitchell?” I said “yeah…” and he says “I really hate to do this but we have a warrant for your arrest. Nah! I’m just playing you!” I was like what! That’s not okay. He said they saw me playing inside and I was nice and opened the door for them so they just decided to mess with me. I’ve always had good experiences with police officers but that was the only time I was concerned.
CCD: Fantasy Band! You can have three people: alive, dead, or unreal. Why?
I would have Dante from Devil May Cry and he’ll play guitar. I would have Shana from Jem & the Holograms just so I could watch him hit on her and watch her shoot him down. That would be hilarious. There is a character in the X-Men mythology called Banshee. He has a sonic scream and that could get interesting in a rock band. I think listening to him wail and destroy solid matter around him while Dante and Shana rock out would be awesome. I would pay to see that.