Inge, Michael, Marijn
Michael Dowdle - Hoftheater Raalte, The Netherlands, November 6, 2010

Michael Dowdle performed this night in Raalte, during an exclusive Dutch tour. Surrounded by the Dutch sidemen Sietse Huisman (drums), Tico Pierhagen (keys) and Serge Bredewold (bass), Michael played his beautiful own songs.
Before his show we talked with him about being "Unknown", living in an obscure hole, TV dinners and most of all about his talents as an composer and artist.
The support act for the night was Dutch guitar wizard Wim den Herder and his friend Lars de Rijck.

Videoclips
Videoclips will be published soon


THE COMPOSER
SJEU: Michael, maybe you can introduce yourself to SmoothJazz Europe?
Michael: I am kind of an anomaly. I have been a professional guitarplayer for thirty years and my focus has been on studio work. So recording with other people and other styles of music is what I do. My own personal music which I write and record has been a "side" thing I have been doing. But over the years I have been able to do several albums.
SJEU: And do you only write songs for yourself or also for artists you do these recordings with?
Michael: Most of the stuff I have written for other people has been for television, e.g. for NBC, "Good morning America", news broadcasting promotional music, ABC sports, those kind of things. But when I did a recordlabel thing, I wrote for me, this was my time. As a guitarist I am always focused on melody first, which is very important to me. So I tend not to solo so much as other guitarists might do. I focus compositionally on an A, B and C section in the song.
SJEU: By saying you focus on melody, do you compose just on the guitar or also on other instruments like the piano?
Michael: Both. But the guitar is like the medium. If I were a painter I would choose oil over watercolors. The guitar just happens to be my favourite medium, but I do write on the piano as well.
SJEU: And first comes the melody and than the chords?
Michael: Both ways. Sometimes when I am thinking and cannot come up with a melody, I come up with a chords progression, and the melody comes later. And sometimes I here the melody first and integrate it in a chords structure.
SJEU: Is it different for you to compose for yourself as an performing artist or for the TV shows?
Michael: Different yes, because the TV shows have certain parameters. Within a TV show they would say we want this to sound very hiphop, or it has to sound very urban and dark. So they set parameters what they want you to write. Whereas you as an artist and when you are composing your own music, you pretty much are free to do what you want. There is no-one to say I want this to be a dark piece, or a light piece.
SJEU: For TV, is it also conditioned within some time parameters?
Michael: Yeah, they usually say that it cannot be than one minute long! Which is not long enough for a song
SJEU: For a TV commercial, that is long!
Michael: There is one song actually that I will be performing tonight, which is called "TV dinners". And that song actually truly was written for a TV show, as an opportunity to get the contract. The production company wanted to win the contract from the TV producers. So we submitted demos of different themes that we wanted to propose for this TV show. So my demo was the melody of TV dinners, but they didn't buy my particular demo but somebody else's. But I liked the song so I wrote a song from that little motive and I used it in the song TV dinners.
SJEU: Do you compose alone or do you have a partner you work with?
Michael: I did compose a few years in the nineties with a partner. We found that it didn't work that well because he was really good with the computer and the technology and was better with the music. And so it ended up being I would write the music and he would record it. So if there are two musicians really actually are working together it works pretty well.

THE PLAYER
SJEU: Besides composing you do a lot of sessions during a year, about 250 a year?
Michael: Yeah I do a lot of recording sessions for other people. For example someone who sings very well they hire me to play the guitar on their album.
SJEU: So if come back to question what kind of guitarplayer you are, is there some specific style you feel most comfortable with?
Michael: What I enjoy playing the most is probably a fusion of jazz and rock. A lot of the songs I do have a more funky edge, there is a lot of swing feels, but I tend to like blues and rock a little bit more than jazz. I would say my sound is kind of like a Carlton, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson mix. A blend of different styles. My acoustic style, a lot of people say, is like Earl Klugh.
SJEU: When you play for others do you play all these styles or are your hired because you are Michael Dowdle?
Michael: No, it's because I play several different styles. They do country a lot, country is very big in the USA, so I do all the country licks and stuff. If it's blues, I play blues, if it's heavy metal, I play heavy metal.

THE UNKNOWN ARTIST
SJEU: On your website you consider yourself as an unknown artist, why?
Michael: Because I lived my career pretty much in an obscure way. I come out every once and a while to play and then go back to my hole! When I started professionally to do any guitarwork I was 23 years old. I had big dreams being in a rock band. While I was doing the sessionwork, I was showcasing for people to get big contracts which never worked out. But in the process I still was doing the studio work, which was providing for family because I was married and had children. So that became very important to me. I continued to do that and stopped getting out and becoming famous. So I have pretty much been in the back, writing the music and occasionally come out to play.
SJEU: Do you like the balance between those parts of your career?
Michael: I wish I had more opportunities to perform in the past, but I haven't and part of that is my own fault. Like if you really want to be succesful in performing you have to be willing to sacrifice and you have to go out on the road and you have to not make any money. You have to play for very little money and spend months on the road. But I was married, had children so that was not an option. So I still was doing music everyday, playing the guitar, so I figured it was just the best thing for me to do.
SJEU: But you do play live, in the USA and now in Europe. How is it to perform in the USA?
Michael: Probably two or three times a month, I play with different groups. For example I play with a wedding band, also on company parties, around Salt Lake City, where I am from. Also with several regional artists. Or with people I do cd's for and when they want to do a concert...I am your man! I do sidemen work. But occasionally concerts as Michael Dowdle, the artist. So either as a sideman or the front man.
SJEU: But here you are the main artist!

PLAYING IN EUROPE
SJEU: Tonight you play here in the Netherlands where you have been before. Have you played in other countries in Europe?
Michael: I have played in other countries but not as a solo artist. For several years I was travelling with an American company who makes guitar processors. They would send me out to demonstrate it. So I would do clinics, but also trade shows like Musikmesse. I performed in Germany, England, Italy, the Scandinavian countries.
SJEU: Is it possible for you to compare the kind of audiences during performances in Europe and USA?
Michael: I like the audiences in Europe better than in USA. I play here in the Hoftheater my fourth time and with the other places I played, it seems people are more responsive and enjoy the music more. Sometimes in America people are kind of overcome with the music and they are not as responsive. I quite like playing in Europe, I would love to play here more!
SJEU: And do you only play in theatres?
Michael: Theatres, clubs etc. We are playing in a club tomorrow, 't Nonnetje. I like smaller groups, more intimate setting, I love this theatre because it's small and people are right there!
SJEU: We organized some concerts with the sidemen you are playing with, also in smaller clubs with other USA artists, so we know what you mean.
Michael: It's much easier for people to relate to your music.

PROMOTION
SJEU: It is hard for us to get you guys here and promote you. Do you have some suggestions or experience how to do this more?
Michael: I wish I had the answers. I try to make myself more visible on Youtube but I think this is one of those things that has to become viral. Like one person hears this and says to others you must hear this. And it spreads that way. There are so many different options in the world, so many things people can hear. But also radio is good.
SJEU: Also interviews. We know some radiostations who want to do that. Because it is not only the concert, but also the exposure, the little things.
Michael: It always starts small and you hope you do a good job. And people like it and say you gotta see this guy. It then spreads like a snowball.
SJEU: Thank you so much, we have one more question: what size do you have for our t-shirt?
Michael: I am a XL! Thank you!

all pictures by Marijn Eland