Clarence Michon – The Songwriter!
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WILL THE REAL CLARENCE MICHON PLEASE STAND UP?
I am a proficient songwriter who has been working toward refining my craft for a period that is approaching 30 years! I recall having written my first song entitled What Love Can Do For You which I wrote at the tender age of fourteen. This was my first real song anyways, complete with verses, a bridge and a chorus.
I my early years, I guess you can say I was strongly influenced by the rock and roll of the early 70’s to which I was introduced to by my older brother. Today, however, I can probably attribute a lot of what I am now writing to the songwriters and storytellers of classic country era. This music was imparted to me by my musician father. Furthermore, I have great affinity toward the smooth sounds of Motown and R&B which I first heard nightly on my old tube Radio blasted to my northern home from far away places like Chicago and Detroit. I specifically recall WLS out of Chicago in its heyday! I remember many late nights as a teenager lying in my bed watching the glow of the vacuum tubes lighting up to the beat of the music. Sure wish I had held onto that radio!
I was born in Nipigon Ontario and raised in the small fishing hamlet of Rocky Bay First Nation for the first two years of my life. Thereafter, I spent my formative years growing up in the small Northern Ontario gold mining town of Geraldton, Ontario. Like Neil Young wrote ” there is a town in North Ontario…all my changes were there” Hell, I sure wish I wrote that, because I can certainly relate to it. So, those were my formative years as a musician. I have to mention also about the time when I was 12, and I responded to an ad in the back of a comic book that read “Play Guitar in 7 Days!” I so wanted to play guitar, that I saved money from my golf club washing venture to pay for the mail delivery. I think that was probably a defining moment when I thought to myself, ” I’m gonna be a musician!”
After having taught myself the theory and technical intricacies of the guitar, I was fortunate to play in a garage band with my childhood friends. Like every other garage band of the day we played Top 40 hits made popular by bands like Boston, Foreigner, Grand Funk and Journey to name a few. In a mellower tradition, I also played as a featured guitarist in the local high school ensemble named Deep Shadows. While in that particular band I learned to play the FM hits of the day along with hits derived from soundtracks from movies such as Grease, Saturday Night Fever and that ilk. In retrospect, I can honestly say that I was grateful for both of these opportunities because it improved my guitar playing abilities significantly in just a couple of years. So, much for the 7 day thing eh? Thereafter, when high school was completed, I went to work in the local pulpmill, but all the while I had bigger aspirations. I wanted to be a songwriter! I think I figured at that point I would go out and get some recording gear and learn to use it to meet my objectives. However, only thing was I had no credit and that proved to be an obstacle with the banks. Ahh, but that’s what big brothers are for ain’t it? I managed to convince my older brother, who also worked at the mill, to cosign for a three thousand dollar loan. With the loan I purchased a Fostex X15 four track recorder, a Casio keyboard, a cheap bass guitar and an RX7 Yamaha Drum machine to compliment my ever growing collection of guitars.
Only thing was, I needed a space to set up my gear now! Fortunately, a neighbor had just retired one of his vehicles that he utilized to deliver vegetables locally and my dad bought it. We were able to take of the box off of the frame of the vehicle and park it in the backyard of my parents place. This became my first ever recording studio! Needless to say, but thereafter, many a late night recording marathon took place. Today many of those songs are still in the vaults and remain as a testament to the sounds of the day that I was trying to emulate. Although not yet a seasoned vocalist at that time, in my opinion, I became somewhat of a wordsmith singing songs with insightful lyrics that made it at least interesting to listen to for my friends. I think I spent two summers in that setting before I decided I would make the move to the Big Smoke – better known as Toronto. It was there I sought out formal training as a Recording Engineer and Producer at a now defunct audio visual training institute.
While in Toronto, I learned to write with classmates and we were able to workshop and record our songs in both home studios and professional 24-track studios throughout the city. In addition to my attendance at school, I also sought out seminars dedicated to teaching the craft of songwriting. The Toronto stint lasted for a period of 7 years where I worked a good deal of that time in the Marketing Department of Sam the Record Man during the day while attending evening courses in Radio Documentary Production and Marketing Broadcasting Advertising at Ryerson University in the evenings. All in all, my experience in the Big Smoke proved to be very beneficial and steered me into a new direction that soon eclipsed my music endeavors. Although I never entirely gave up my pursuit as a songwriter, I found my focus changed as I started to excel and enjoy a time-consuming career as a Television Producer, Director and Broadcaster administrator dude. The best thing about this time was that I learned other instruments and became more proficient as an acoustic guitar player. However, given the opportunity these days, I still like to plug in an electric guitar, crank up the amp and riff out and solo like a barbarian. Bring it on!
It is only recently that I am now concentrating my efforts in having my dreams realized as a performing and successful songwriter. At the expense of my broadcasting endeavors, my hiatus from the media has afforded me more time to revitalize my passion to write new compositions. With that said, I haven’t entirely abandoned my film ambitions, it’s just that I am trying to strike a balance between these two careers such that one does not have to suffer at the expense of the other. It’s it quite the balancing act I tell ya! I guess as a testament to my goals, I can proudly say that in 2008 I released a 10 song CD. This compilation of tunes were selected songs from my 60 plus song catalog of original songs I have written over the years. Admittedly, there is nothing fancy in terms of production, but that was a conscious decision on my part to offer a pared down version of my “babies”. Should you take the opportunity to listen, you will find the all the songs feature just myself singing and playing acoustic guitar. You may be interested to know that all tracks were recorded live off the floor, and for the most part, in one or two takes. Yep! No fancy studio setting for me these days. In fact, the songs were done in my parents living room while on vacation with only two mics! Thereafter, I did a little sweetening with effects thanks to a simple computer software program. In the end, I feel this approach yielded the best representation of my music and lets the listener imagine greater arrangements that might include full orchestration. Furthermore, upon listening, I hope one will also note the fingerstyle picking I’ve come to adopt as of late. You may in fact detect a little influence from a fella named Bruce Cockburn. Moreover, someone also once mentioned my writing reminded him of John Hiatt. Huh? Well who am I to argue? Hell, I’ll take any compliment wherever and whenever I can get it. BTW, my Mom thinks I’m good!
If you have already visited my MySpace page, you will note I have an extensive amount of singer/ songwriters I do enjoy. Here are a few dudes you might recognize! Tom Cochrane, Steve Earle, Blue Rodeo, John Hiatt, Elliot Smith, Don Henley, David Baerwald, Jackson Browne, Ray LaMontagne, Elton John, Neil Finn, Bob Seger, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, Burton Cummings, Townes Van Zandt, Mike Scott, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Hank Williams Sr. just to name a few! And, of course, we can’t forget the ladies! Joni Mitchell, Jewel, Lucinda Williams, Mae Moore. Sarah McLachlan, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Melissa Etheridge, Ani Defranco, Gillian Welch…well you get the picture. I am sure there are many omissions, but I guess I’ve been pretty much influenced by anyone who’s ever taken up an instrument throughout the ages and put words to their music to express themselves. Considering that, my thoughts turn to all the great songwriters back in the day who kept the Motown engine running and the Nashville Tin Pan Alley humming. Well I could go on, but I’ll save that for a future blog.
With regards to my publishing pursuits, I am currently in the midst of recording a slew of new songs to be released mid-May 2009. Also, in the works is a trip to Nashville to take up an invitation to visit with friends who currently reside and work there as songwriters and performing/ studio musicians. Oughta be fun y’all!
In closing, I’m enjoying a respectable amount of visits to my MySpace profile with a compliment of an equal amount of plays. In addition, I’m also promoting my music on facebook and reverbnation. And if that weren’t enough, I look forward to the summer when I am able to perform more often and sell discs out of my backpack. I have a heckuva lot of fun personalizing each an every CD I sells to my growing legion of fans. Umm, can you say”sarcastic”? No, but really, I did spend last summer hitting up folk festivals and promoting my music locally to the transient worker in the region. This included; firefighters, tree planters, tourists and other vagabonds not unlike me!
Well them’s the short term plans! As for long term plans? Well I do look forward to maybe going into a “real” studio to produce some polished demos for the purpose of promoting them to other artists to record. Time will tell I guess huh?
* More about my songwriting at myspace.com/clarencemichon
* Other instruments I play include; mandolin, bass, harmonica, piano and hell, I even know a thing or two about programming drums and fiddling with my Korg Musicstation.