Posts Tagged ‘ Potter’s Field ’


If you have ever been one to enjoy a good story that involves the main character taking a huge risk, giving up comfort and security, to follow a dream, you’ll find yourself inspired by my friend, Mike Vial. Mike left his job of teaching high school for the last 7 years to have a go at a career in full-time music. He has 3 releases under his belt and has grown with every effort. If you met him at one of his shows, his warm, unassuming attitude wouldn’t give you the impression that he’s such an adventurer. But that’s what he is and that’s what makes his story so compelling to me. A guy, a guitar, and a big heart taking a chance out on his own. Have a seat and listen in to our recent conversation.

You recently left a job as a teacher to pursue music full time. Can you talk a little bit about what was behind that and how the process has been for you?

Great question, Jason! Leaving the schedule of a high school teaching career was a difficult choice, but it was essential to focus and dedicate time to practicing, writing, and working through the music business.

For seven years I felt I could walk two roads and do both well, but there was always a fork in the path; I always had to put the guitar down and give up gigging until summer returned. The number of papers that followed me home and the constant, changing curriculum plans made teaching a 12 hour a day job, taking many hours of my weekends too. I really loved working with the students in the classroom, but if you look at my past gig schedule, you can see where I just stop gigging.

I also think I needed to experience more to become a better teacher. Only working in the classroom started to feel like I was running out of life experience to offer my students. Being an independent musician is like being a small business owner, so if I return to the teaching profession, I’m excited to have a lot more business and travel experience to bring to my classroom.

However, let’s not forget I’m still teaching. I now do private lessons for guitar and really enjoy it.

Over the last few years you have released 3 records. Can you share a little bit about each one of those releases and what your learned from each experience or writing and recording them?

My first EP, Three Men Make a Tiger, is a snapshot of a 25-year-old learning how to be a studio musician for the first time. Marshall Block at Real II Reel Studios helped guide me through that recording process.

“Mahogany” was written in my dorm room and “Intelligent Fool” and “Faster Than Slow” were written my second weekend as a teacher, so you have a young Mike Vial on that record! The chinese proverb of the EP’s title highlights the theme of “Pieces of This World,” but it also hints at the over arching theme of searching, making choices. And who isn’t searching when they are 19, 21, 25? Right? Boy I sure was!

Burning the Boats didn’t feel that different to me until quite a few people told me how it felt like a hearing a new Mike Vial. Bill Keith of the Trinity House told me he could hear the songwriting growth between the two records, and that gave me confidence. Honestly, what I love about that EP is how long I left some of those songs on the shelf before deciding they were strong enough to record. I played Cory Glover part of “Kalamazoo” which I almost never finished, and he told me it was going to be a great song and that it had to make the record.

Plus, working with Dan Achen at Catherine North Studios (before he passed away suddenly) really affect my life. Dan taught me things through his musical direction that I’m still practicing–how to add counter melodies to songs and move beyond a solo acoustic guitar player. He had a great, musical ear.  Some of the best direction he gave me is in Kalamazoo, from the guitar fills to the vocal cadences, and the band production on “Only the Rain Knows Why.”

Where the Sand Meets the Tide is about arrivals and departures. The theme of “transitions” is hiding beneath the love stories, and my career change is obviously inspiring that. One new arrival for me is working with more full band arrangements. Stuart Tucker’s playing drums, David Mosher’s on fiddle and mandolin, Kirk Starkey’s on cello, Hannah’s on backing vocals.

I’m really proud of this little release. Working with moon:and:6 (Michael Chambers) again at Catherine North was like a musical vacation, too. Michael and I became close friends while finishing Burning the Boats, so it just made sense to cross the border again to do the third EP.

Can you share a little bit about how community and/or collaboration has influenced you as a musician? Continue reading

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