Wakey! Wakey!

Article by guest blogger Minni Me.

For those of you who might not have been introduced to the musical genius that is Wakey!Wakey!, Michael Grubbs (songwriter/vocalist/pianist), is a NYC songwriter with a hugely soulful and resonating voice. If he seems somewhat familiar it may be that you recognise him from playing a supporting role on the CW’s hugely popular One Tree Hill, where he played a struggling musician who bartends on the side named Grubbs.

This was the first time Wakey!Wakey! was playing in a continent other than America so I felt very privileged to get an exclusive interview with Michael and his supporting act Casey Shea. Both of them are signed to Family Records which was founded by Wesley Verhoeve as an independent management and artist development firm.  The labels’ aim is to help their extremely talented musicians create long lasting careers with artistic freedom and longevity. Wesley, having previously worked at huge record labels in NYC decided to start his own label and currently manages four artists. He says the reason for the small signings is that he wants to give each artist the attention they deserve and keep the organisation very intimate and family-like (thus the name).

I arrived at The Relentless Garage in London an hour before the starting of the gig. I walked into the room to the sounds of Mike rehearsing his set and even whilst practising, and without a microphone, his voice is so strong that you’re drawn to stop and listen. In the meantime, I got a chance to talk to both Casey and Wesley. Both agree that working hard and getting to the top gradually is the way to ensure longevity in the music industry. After a while, Mike joins us for a chat and we’re all sitting in his dressing room whilst the venue is slowly filling up with his fans.

Mike mentions how excited he is to be in London especially since this show sold out in less than three hours. “I wanted to go on an insane adventure in London, but it’s so much like New York, I need more time to explore. I did find myself trying to get in the cab and walking the wrong way to the wrong side of the cab and confused as to which way to look when crossing but its awesome”. Looking at Mike you wouldn’t think he’s masking an extraordinary singing voice. He’s about 6ft tall, quite thin and sitting casually on a sofa wearing a simple black sweater with jeans and shivering from England’s frosty winter. With us in the room are a local violinist (who’s practicing the songs whilst we talk since the whole band didn’t come along), Wesley, Dan (an old friend of the label) and Casey who’s strumming and providing us with some melodious background music.

The name of the band at first seems a little hard to place in terms of music genre, but Mike explains “The first song cycle was all political songs but I found I was bad at writing political songs and I’m really only good at writing love songs so I figured out a way to do it in order to make it work, I wrote an album of love songs to the government but then it somehow become more of a breakup album so then I decided to name it Wakey!Wakey! to be like a hint to what it’s really about”. Having said that, he admits that he is not an indie rock artist “I wanted us to be an indie band because it’s so cool, but in reality I love Billy Joel and Elton John and I like that structure to songs, and honestly I’m just not weird enough for indie”.

Whilst we’re all talking Mike’s phone start ringing and we’re all surprised to hear Lil Wayne as his ringtone, he laughs and starts singing along in a scarily good impersonation- that’s another pleasantly surprising side to Mike; he has a wicked sense of humour, and although he puts it down to social awkwardness he constantly has the room in stitches.

The show itself was intimate. It began at 7pm on a  Monday night, and the crowd was a mixture of  teenage girls, lots of guys, older housewives, parents  and a mixture of various other people. Casey began  the gig with an acoustic set from his album My Life in  a Cube. He got the crowd properly warmed up before  Mike came out to start with his song Light Outside. I  decided to sit at the back of the room so I could  observe this eclectic mix of people, some of whom  travelled ten hours to just see Mike play.

In order to fully appreciate his talent you have to see  Michael Grubbs play live; he talks to the crowd, tells  stories and jokes in-between performing. At one  point, I found myself singing along to a song I knew  the words to but had no idea how. Once it led into the  chorus I realised it was a cover of Cyndi  Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and boy was it  an extremely good cover! Throughout the night he  had the crowd’s undivided attention. There was one  instance in the night while he was singing Dance So  Good (featured in One Tree Hill) that I looked across  the room and I swear on my life that every single  person in that room, almost as if in a state of trance,  had their full attention and eyes on Mike, including  the bartender. He has an unexplainable magnetism  that draws people to him. His singing commands the  whole room, and you realise he has the potential to  remain a fixture on the musical scene for years to  come. “I have no intention of getting a helicopter  ride to the top of the mountain, I’m happy walking  up myself”. After the show, he personally met each  and every fan that had attended the gig and spent a few minutes with each of them taking picture and signing albums.

Forget the stereotype about artists being stuck up and out of reach because both Casey and Mike are great examples of musicians who are genuinely happy mingling with people who appreciate their music. “I’d say to people, come out and see us play, because as long as we are able, we will try our best to remain accessible” and it’s totally true. The next day they were flying out to Hamburg for another show. And thanks to the hugely successful response they received in Europe, they’ve added new dates in January 2011 for a bigger show with the whole band at The Relentless Garage in London, and plan to add more dates and locations. It’s rare in this day and age to find something new and substantial on the music scene, but Wakey!Wakey! is definitely it. Check out their hypnotic music and tour dates at www.wakeywakeymusic.com and do make an effort to see them live because I guarantee you’ll become a supporter for life.






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