Having played 400 plus shows in the past year, Michael Persall is well and truly making a name for himself. Now, with big ambitions for 2016 and his new EP 400 out now, he talked with us about Sam Smith, social media and his plans to make it in the movies.
PW: Sum yourself up in five words.
Michael Persall: Tell it how it is.
PW: When did you first realise you wanted to be an artist?
MP: I always liked entertaining people. I didn’t really have the confidence to think of it as a career until my last year of high school when people heard me and started to encourage me a little bit and told me I wasn’t terrible. I took those comments and ran with them into college.
PW: Which bands or artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have those influences changed much over the years?
MP: I always listened to Elvis, Otis Redding, James Brown, The Beach Boys and lots of other artists/bands from the 60’s since that’s what my dad had playing all the time, - so as far as influences go I think a lot of them came out of that era. I also listened to a lot of R&B, whatever was popular at the time, throughout middle school and high school. I got really into Lloyd for a while.
PW: What would you say makes you different from other artists out there today?
MP: I just try to put as much of me and my experiences and truth into what I write. I think by doing that, my voice and what I have to say is going to be different from anyone else’s, so that’s the way I look at it.
PW: Are there any artists you would say you are more similar to or do you make a determined effort just to be yourself?
MP: I try to be myself first and foremost. It’s important to be clear about the kind of artist you are because people like associations and sometimes need them to understand the music, but I’d like to have as many touching points as possible to reach as many people as I can since I really am into a lot of different music. Whether it’s older soul music, R&B, rock, pop, or hip-hop, I think everything I’ve listened to and still listen to influences me somehow. All those unique influences put together is how you get something original.
PW: You've been compared to the likes of Sam Smith - how do you feel about such comments?
MP: He’s a very successful artist, has an amazing voice and has great songs, so I’m definitely cool with those comments.
PW: Is there a story behind your latest track "The Move"?
MP: I wrote it about the idea of being more comfortable with someone you don’t know rather than someone close because you aren’t held to any standard or preconceived ideas of who you are or should be.
PW: You've also got an EP out, 400, what's the story behind that?
MP: My New Years’ resolution for 2015 was to play 300 gigs in the year and I ended up beating my goal, setting it higher, and ultimately playing over 400 in the year, so I titled the EP 400 since it seemed to tie my year together nicely.
PW: Who or what most influences your song-writing and how easily does inspiration come to you?
MP: I’m influenced mainly by things in my life, whether I experience them directly or through a friend or maybe something I just hear about. Things that happen to one person generally happen to a lot of people so I try to just present stories in a way where they’re real so they’re relatable. Usually the closer I stick to something that happens in real life, or an idea or thought I have, the better and faster the songs come since they’re accurate and raw.
PW: Of all the shows you've played so far, could you pick a favourite?
MP: That has to be my 400th of the year at Rockwood Music Hall. I had played Rockwood before but at that one I had my family, close friends, and lots of other people I cared about in attendance there to celebrate completing my goal with me.
PW: If you could play any venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
MP: Madison Square Garden is the one that comes to mind first just because that seems to be a career milestone for most artists and I’ve been playing in New York for almost 4 years now. Whichever venue in this world can safely hold the most people would be my follow up answer.
PW: Which three artists or bands who can be living or dead would you most like to share a stage with and why?
MP: Elvis, James Brown, and Nicki Minaj. All three of them have such wild and amazing stage presences and such unique personalities. It would be cool to feed off of that.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media and how it can help earn an artist a fan-base?
MP: It’s huge. It keeps you active and helps you share your personality and opinions with fans when that wasn’t always present. It also adds a different dimension to the artist-fan relationship and allows artists to be normal and helps keep everyone at the same level.
PW: What was your highlight of 2015 and what does 2016 have in store for you?
MP: My highlights were graduating from NYU since I was the first person in my family to go to college and also completing my goal of playing 400 shows in New York in the year. As for 2016, I’m planning on releasing a lot of new music and touring extensively to keep things rolling.
PW: Finally, what's your ultimate ambition? At what point in your career would you be willing to call it a day?
MP: I just want to constantly improve and be the best man I can be really. I don’t really see the point of doing anything unless you have it in your mind to excel at the highest level so I don’t think I’d ever call it a day. I’m going to keep recording, playing, writing, and eventually will start my own label, get into TV and film, acting, writing and producing, and once I’m in a position to really help I want to give back as much as I can.
Check out the video for Michael's latest track "Move" below and to keep up to date with him, check out his website, give him a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. His music, including the new EP 400, is available on itunes.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX1I4dXCsw4&feature=youtu.be&h=500