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Tuesday, February 01, 2011 

GoGirls Interview with Michelle Schmitt

by Madalyn Sklar

What drives your music?

My passion for connecting with what people are feeling and my observations of life. Having things I need to say and having music and songwriting be the mark I make in this world.

When did you first know you had to do this thing called music or bust?

When I was in 7th grade I worked very hard for my first guitar. I spent every day playing that guitar until I wore the thing out. The first song I ever wrote was in 7th grade and it was about the Vietnam War. The second song I wrote was about love and hope. I’m still writing about love and hope 35 years later.

Describe your music style and name three musicians you have been inspired by and why.

Americana and folk rock. Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and Alanis Morrisette. Joni Mitchell helped a generation of women feel their feelings in the most poetic artistic graceful way. I am still amazed at how many women I meet who can sing all of Joni’s songs from the 70’s. I spent a long ferry ride in western Canada a few years ago singing the record “Court and Spark” with 3 women I had never met before. It was an incredible experience to bond with women over music. How beautiful. Bonnie Raitt, for staying true to herself, for being an absolutely talented guitar player and for breaking the barriers and limitations that were put on women musicians when Bonnie was a young girl starting out. She is respected for her straight forwardness, incredible talent and for not selling out. I admire her so much. And Alanis Morrisette, for having the courage to write what she is feeling, no matter how gritty or difficult the subject matter may be. I am in awe of her bravery and truly cathartic way she uses music to get through the ups and downs of life. I really have learned so much from these women as well as many other women musicians. To take this art form on is a big weight to carry and I always want to stand behind and support women doing this. Actually this is why I support GoGirls Music. Great support for women.

What's your ideal venue atmosphere?

A small 300-500 seat venue with character and history. I love the Throckmorton Theatre in Marin County, Ca. I just played an impromptu show in Rochester, Michigan which was a blast. Mid-westerners are such good audiences.

Describe how your music career has evolved since you first started.

When I restarted my music career, after stopping to raise my 2 sons, I was 40 years old and had a lot of men in the business tell me what kind of music I should play. “Jazz” was on the top of their list because of my age. I kept true to my heart and true to the music I knew was mine. It took me a few projects to find where I sit comfortable in the music as an adult woman but it has been wonderful since…and I don’t regret the journey at all. Everything that has happened in my life has somehow found its way into my songs, my music and the way I interact with the musicians I work with. I have a very talented band (check my band page on my website michelleschmitt.com) and really stay true to my voice, both in my style and the songs I write. I started out again at 40 with a lot of men questioning my commitment and have ended up with 2 recording studios that I own, one in San Francisco an the other in Alexander Valley, an incredible band, and 5 records that I am very proud of. I also go to Paris every September to do music, New York, in my home town Detroit and where I live now, San Francisco.

How would you describe the music scene in your area?

Filled with talented indie musicians as well as lots of big name musicians with incredible history. Lots of people live in Northern California and stay out of Los Angeles, It is very real here and very supportive. Lots of great venues to see live music any night of the week.

What was the inspiration for your latest release?

I went to the funeral of my dear friend’s son. I was so taken by my friend’s courage and went home and wrote a song called “Being Here” about how fragile life is and how we have to really be present and aware of all the gifts we have. The record unfolded easily from that song. “Being Here” is available on CD Baby, my website, Amazon and soon…on iTunes.

What do you think is number one for a musician to think about before preparing for a CD project and do you have any tips on saving time in the studio?

I think it is great to have a “container” for the project. A starting idea that the rest of the songs can fit into…like a vessel. For me, I can’t throw a bunch of random songs into a project…it needs to make sense like the sewing of a quilt. Each piece is different but when it’s put altogether, it works. As far as saving time in the studio…be prepared and practice. Get the kinks out ahead of time. I spend a lot of time on my roughs (the demos) so that when I go to record the finals my band and I are ready to roll. We also record as a whole band which is amazing and really leaves space for the magic to happen. I have recorded where each musician comes in separately to record his or her tracks but it isn’t how I prefer to do it.

What makes or breaks a musician just starting out in your opinion?

Trusting the wrong people…if it sounds too good to be true, it is AND most importantly, don’t sign your power and rights away. I own every one of my songs 100%. Really check it out with lots of people before you sign anything with anybody. There are a lot of desperate people looking to make money without having the credentials. Even some of the people that have the credentials are shady. The music business is really different now. That is why the whole indie movement has taken over. Real musicians making real music for the right reasons.

Describe your toughest moments in your quest for a music career and tell us how you overcame them.

Look at answer to last question! I trusted the wrong people…I learned an important lesson though and haven’t repeated it. As long as I stay true to myself and my music, all is well. I have not let anyone tell me that I cannot do this.

What advice would you offer up and coming artists that get discouraged other than don't give up?

Get a day job so that you don’t get desperate and be realistic. A long time ago someone gave me great advice. This person told me to stay in the music and forget about worrying about any results. The second I got out of my heart and into my head, the music would suffer. I have stayed true to that and am enjoying the relationship with my very talented and impressive band mates and writing songs that I feel really proud of and living a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Tell us something you want the music world to know about you.

That my songs have integrity and intelligence and honesty and that I will be sticking around for a long time to come.

What have you gotten out of being a member of the GoGirls community?

Support and great help from Madalyn and Tish as well as great help with Myspace and ReverbNation. Their work frees me up to do what I do…write songs and record.

More about Michelle Schmitt at:

Copyright © 2011 Madalyn Sklar

Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success in the biz. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

You can reach Madalyn at MadalynSklar.com or madalynsklar AT gmail.com



    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

    Madalyn's Sites:
    * GoGirlsMusic.com
    * Social Networks for Musicians
    contact: madalynsklar(at)gmail.com


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