Veronica Hartling interviews up and coming USC-based musician Michael K.
How did you get started in music?
My first memory of being interested in music was going to my Grandma’s house and seeing her piano. I was about 5 year old, I think. I begged my parents to get me lessons for about a year and finally got them. I’ve been playing ever since. I always loved singing too, so I think my interest in songwriting was a pretty natural progression to me. If I loved music why not make my own? I’ve been working on my own stuff since I was probably 9 or 10... that being said the songs were super juvenile, and I hope they never resurface haha.
Explain your songwriting process for Dorian Gray.
The writing of Dorian Gray started my Freshman year actually. I came up with this bizarre chord progression, and I knew it was special. Unfortunately, I wrote and wrote and couldn’t figure out anything. Then I retired the idea... but I came back to it halfway through my Sophomore year, and it just clicked for me. While it still took hours to write, it just made a lot more sense to me then. I had some of the lyrics written in my journal already, and I just fit it all together in about a week of writing on and off.
You’re a major mental health advocate, and even founded music for mental health. How does this come into play with your music?
Since high school, I’ve raised a lot of money by holding benefit shows, trying to both de-stigmatize mental illness and raise money for free counseling services. I think that music goes hand in hand with doing good, in any way. Music brings people together and starts conversations. That’s a lot of power. I hope to continue to use music to stimulate discussions about suicide prevention and mental illness which are incredibly important to me.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Other artists that I listen to. James Blake and Radiohead in particular I think have been widely influential. I’m also inspired by my own personal life - my struggles and successes.
What’s your favorite memory from performing?
Well, I had a show at Hotel Cafe last semester, and I thought it was on a Wednesday. We were super well rehearsed and ready to go. Then on Tuesday I got a text from the booking agent, asking me if I was ready to go that night. I panicked. Apparently I wrote the date wrong in my calendar. But it ended up all going super well. All of my band made it work (I rewarded them for being so nice by buying us all Chick-fil-a after the show haha), and my friends rallied a huge group to come and see me last minute. Just pulling off the impossible in about 10 hours was incredible.
You run multiple music blogs, instagrams etc. How do you keep up with it all?
I barely do, haha. I’ve been writing for Ones to Watch for about a year now, and now I’m working on my own blog for more critical articles about music. I feel like doing those things is really just another way to be creative. Writing also allows me to geek out about music which is super fun. I love to talk and write about the music I love. And then I also have @amplify.usc which is an Instagram designed to promote USC music and centralize the music community. I think it’s a very important thing to work on, so I make sure to find the time. When I started releasing music, it was so hard to find out how to book shows, who I could work with, etc. so I want to help other new artists feel welcomed in the USC music community. So basically, I keep up with these things because I just care a whole lot about them. Even if you don’t have time, you make time for what you care about.
What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to?
I’m studying in England for the semester and working on a bunch of new stuff. So when I get back, expect a lot of new music from me. I’m looking forward to having this time to grow as a person and as a writer abroad for the next few months, but when I get back I’m going to hit the ground running.
— Veronica Hartling, student