How many of you have heard of Michael Van London? In 2006 he wrote, played, engineered and produced his own album ‘Fortunes of Misfortunes’. He already has a large fan following, although I admit to only hearing his music recently after watching fan videos on YouTube and realising that Michael’s songs were being used in the film Struck by Lightning due for cinematic release in 2013.
Considering how busy his life has become recently, I was surprised and thankfull that he was able to talk to me. Remember his name, you will be hearing a lot from him!
Can you start by giving me some back ground information on yourself?
Well, let me see, I started playing drums and singing at an early age, I then switched to guitar and bam! I grew up in rural Michigan and I love nature.
You seem to have travelled quite a bit with your music; do you have a favourite destination?
I think most people could assume I love Los Angeles since I’ve been here for almost 8 years but frankly I’m not that keen on it, I like simple things like deer, my dogs, music and friendly faces, I love New England, I’ll probably move to Oregon eventually and grow pumpkins for a living.
That sounds quite peaceful in comparison to LA.
Yeah, the city can be a bit overwhelming at times.
You wrote, composed and produced your own album, how difficult was that to achieve?
Well I did that on my 2006 release “Fortunes of Misfortunes” it was brutal to say the least but a wonderful experience. My new record “American Blood & Guts” which comes out in January 2013 was recorded, engineered, mixed and produced by the talented Bradley Cook.
Did you write all the lyrics and music?
Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think if you can’t do that then why are you making music?
What was your inspiration for it?
My inspiration behind “American Blood & Guts” was finding my niche in Americana music. The late 60s and early 70s AM radio stuff was what I was inspired by.
You have performed songs on Chris Colfer’s film Struck by Lightning, how did that come about?
The talented Brian Dannelly (the director) is a friend of mine and knew I was working on a new album he asked if he could hear it and to my surprise everyone loved it. They ended up using 3 out of 5 songs on the record and it’s become the unofficial soundtrack to the film.
How do you think your life may change, if at all once the film is released and I assume a soundtrack? Chris has a huge following whom I am sure will all buy it.
Well honestly this last year has been crazy, I’ve gained SO many new listeners, I’ve noticed a giant change already and the film isn’t even out yet. I receive fan mail every day, album sales have shot way up, I mean, all the things a musician dreams of are happening for me. I feel extremely lucky.
Are you receiving many more job offers?
Yeah I’m actually doing another film (or two) with Brian Dannelly and a few other things so the future looks very bright. There are days though that I feel like giving up, of course, like everyone else. Everyone has those days but that’s when I have to remember why I CHOOSE to do this, it’s not something that I have to do and I’m lucky people are listening. I have a really tight grip on who I am. I do try to take time out for myself everyday even for a half an hour, just do nothing and appreciate what you have.
What has been your biggest struggle so far either personally or professionally?
I think as a musician, you deal with both of those struggles at the same time. Most often they can make great songs. I think it was important for me as a gay man to be taken seriously amongst my peers as a songwriter and a guitarist, I think I’ve accomplished that to some extent and that makes me very happy.
Do you find that your sexuality has hindered your career in any way?
Not really. I think if you allow yourself that handicap you’re going to have it, if you rise above it you won’t.
I suppose it helps that most musicians and actors are quite open, or so I believe.
You would think that’s the case but I would say it’s not.
Really? I find that sad
Me too. I used to say, “yeah I’m a musician” and people would say “do you play piano?” I would giggle. I would usually respond with, “no I play guitar and I’ll melt your face, come to my show”.
Apart from pumpkin growing, what is your biggest dream or goal?
I think I’m living it. I mean of course I want more but I am so grateful for my fans, they are so sweet and I try to say hello to each of them when they reach out. I think it’s truly important.
I actually just did a really cool project where I opened it up to fans. Basically they make a video for one of my new singles, “Downtown”, “Feel Love”, or “Sound of an Amp” and then me and a panel of judges would chose a winner. The winner would come with me as my date to the Struck by Lightning world premiere red carpet and all that jazz. I was SO impressed by all the videos.
What would you consider your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge… hmm I think the biggest challenge I’ve had was just “getting over myself”. When you are in the entertainment biz your business is YOU so it’s easy to get really self involved and that can come off badly. I think being grounded is a gigantic challenge.
I do have a wonderful family and friends. And yes, they definitely “check my ass” when I’m being a diva which I appreciate. My best friend Kate, she has the most enigmatic way about her and she simply says, “girl, u need to check yourself” I’m like oh god okay! I trust her judgement 100% she’s kind of amazing, she is a History Professor so she’s all smart and shit.
Is there anything in particular that you want to expand on or tell the readers about?
I think it’s important, if you want to achieve your goals in life to keep on track even when it’s easy to be derailed, listen to your “Kates” in life and don’t be afraid of what people think of you, they’re going to say and think whatever they want anyway “what people think of you is none of your business”.
Sounds like great advice to me!
My record “American Blood & Guts” comes out in January of 2013 and I have that to look forward to.
I have three singles out on iTunes from the film Struck by Lightning, people should check those out cos damnit they are good – “Downtown” “Feel Love” and “Sound of an Amp” and I’m working on a new record at the moment as well.
I hope British readers check out my songs. Cos, when I wrote “Feel Love” I imagined myself in some English countryside town so I hope someone in the English countryside listens to it and then tells me that it worked
Have you been to England?
yes I’ve played London a few times. OH yes I’ll be on a European/UK tour in late fall 2013 look out for me.
Whilst recording for SBL did you manage to go on set during filming? If so, how was it for you?
Yes I actually have a little part in the film. I play a janitor and my line was with Chris he was all upset (in the scene) and I said, “NICE COSTUME”, it was kind of funny. It was Brian’s idea to have me do it of course, he’s fantastic.
Have you known Brian long?
Yeah like, maybe 5 years.
How were Chris and Brian to work with?
Well they were both wonderful of course. Chris is very sweet and sort of soft spoken and Brian, well we have a hilarious relationship so are just terrible. lol
As I said at the start of this interview, remember the name MICHAEL VAN LONDON! Anyone that would like to know more about Michael’s music can contact him on his Facebook page,Twitter or Tumblr. Go say hello, he is such a lovely gentleman.