Artist Spotlight: Michele McGuire
A new year is upon us and to kick off 2018, we shine the spotlight on one of Chicago’s brightest singer-songwriters, Michele McGuire. When we first heard Michele’s music, we were amazed by her soulful vocals and how you can truly feel her emotions through her words.
There’s nothing we love more than artists that can really bring the feelings out of you when you listen to their music, so we wanted to chat with her about what inspires her, learn about her songwriting process and what she’s up to.
First off, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Tell us a bit about you and what got you interested in a career in music.
Thank you for the chat! I grew up in Chicago with an Irish family who enjoyed music and I was always playing piano and singing around the house. I started writing (probably really terrible) songs when I was 9 or 10, then once I began playing guitar I would write parody songs for people as gifts or for special events. I really enjoyed performing and just continued playing at pubs and parties through high school and college. Now, I am very grateful that I get to write songs for myself and for others as a career.
When I listen to your music, I can feel your emotion and passion through your vocals. Where do you pull inspiration from for your sound?
I have always been obsessed with lyrics in songs, while the melody is equally (if not at times even more) important, I really hang on every word when listening to a well written song. I remember my mom teaching me to sing the Irish folk song “Fields of Athenrye” when I was very little and I thought it was the most beautiful and heart wrenching song ever. When I perform any song I really do try to think of where the words are coming from and what they mean for the people that are listening. In my everyday life I am usually pretty good at sarcastically joking or sweeping emotion under the rug, but when it comes to writing songs I can be an emotional wreck.
Explain your typical song creation process.
I like to have a phrase or some general idea that I will build the song around.My voice memos and notes app on my iPhone are both just a mess of very strange strings of thoughts or quiet melodies I hum while trying not to wake my husband. A lot of times these main phrases will be used just as a line in a verse because I tend to just get rolling and have some “a-ha!” moments as I am going along.
I really enjoy writing songs for other people because I can hear their story and it is immediately obvious to me what the main message is that they want to get across to listeners. When I am writing songs for myself, I tend to overthink way too much and can sometimes find it hard to take a step back and realize what I am really trying to say. This last year I have been working a lot with other songwriters and that has been really great, they tend to help me stop all my overthinking and some songs are definitely better off with a few different perspectives coming together.
Where is your favorite place to play a live show?
Ooooh, that is a great and tough question. I have played most venues in Chicago and while there are some that stand out because the sound/room is amazing or because I love the people that work at the venue itself; I guess I can’t really answer based on the actual space. My favorite place to play a live show is with a room of people who are listening and engaged. Some of my favorite shows are when the audience members become part of the show. Before I play a song I’ll sometimes chat with people from the stage and see what’s going on in their life and try to pick a song of mine that might speak to them. Many times, this turns into silly back and forth banter that the rest of the room gets involved in and then everyone is excited to hear the next song. I remember playing a house show in a small town in Iowa, you could hear a pin drop every song we played and after the show I got to meet and mingle with the crowd hanging out for a few hours. Those kind of shows are always special to me.
What’s been your favorite moment of your music career thus far?
You mean, besides being interviewed by Songfinch? I think I would have to say back in 2013 I was part of the Chicago Rock-n-Vote to pick the best local band of that year. We played House of Blues and ended up winning the contest and my picture was on the cover of the paper the next day. That was one of those first moments I thought “hey, this could maybe work out!” I think it’s easy to set your goals and achieve them, but then be so consumed with your next goal that you forget to appreciate how far you’ve come. That was one of the first times I really took a breath and appreciated the moment.
Who are your top 3 musicians right now?
Another tough question! I will forever be a Beatles girl and John Prine’s song have taught me so much in terms of writing. Also, I am so excited for all the upcoming artists coming out of Chicago right now – but ok ok – I will go ahead and pick three artists I’ve been listening to a lot lately: I am a big fan of (Miss) Lauryn Hill and I’ve also been jamming to Father John Misty and St. Vincent’s latest albums. (Sorry I totally cheated and gave more than 3!)
What has been your favorite song you’ve ever written? Why?
Probably a song called “Built for You” which will be out on my next project. It was one of those songs that sort of wrote itself. It is pretty emotional in describing what was going on in my life when I wrote it, and I also think it is really beautiful.
What are you currently working on at the moment and what plans do you have in the future?
I am recording a new album at the moment that will be released by spring of 2018. I am also writing for some friends upcoming projects which I am super excited about. Basically a lot of writing and re-writing and recording… I am loving every minute of it. 🙂
Anything else that you want to say?
Just thank you guys for all you do! Cheers to a great 2018!
Above is a song Michele made for a gentleman to play before he proposes to his future wife. While it’s filled with personal details specific to the couple the song was made for, it’s still a song that you can’t help to want to play a second and third time after the first listen.