Mike Herz
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Mike Herz

Newton, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Newton, New Jersey, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Mike Herz - Life Music From Northern New Jersey"

There’s a difference between daydreamers and people chasing dreams… Chasing down a vision isn’t for the faint of heart. – Mike Herz, in “Doin’ Alright” and “Faint of Heart”

I asked Mike Herz, “If you could sing a duet with any living singer, who would you choose?” Mike’s first choice was his friend, Emily Barnes. Stevie Nicks was his second choice. And that is what separates Mike Herz from the daydreamers.

The daydreamer sits at a desk pushing numbers around and thinking it would be really cool to sing with Stevie Nicks. He accomplishes his goal several times each day as he toils down the freeway on his commute, singing along to the Fleetwood Mac songs that seemingly comprise the entire playlist of 93.7 The Arrow. And yet thirty years later, all he has to show for his effort is thirty extra pounds on his waistline, a feat matched by Stevie Nicks.

Mike Herz, the man chasing his dream, grabs the best available singer and makes a run for it. Thirty years later he may not have made it much beyond the county line. But at least he gave it a damn good try and got as far as possible within the allotted time.

Shoved into the northernmost toe of New Jersey, Sussex County’s extensive parks and natural preserves create a protected cove within the Greater New York City area. But a protected cove can easily become a stagnant backwater in which economic development lags. Thus, a town like Newton, the Sussex County seat, can become a town that people are from. No one moves there seeking fame and fortune. And yet it is in Newton that Mike Herz is attempting to simultaneously make a stand and chase a dream.

Mike’s first album, Overgrown, tells the story of a man who is tormented by his dreams, attached to his home, and running out of time to make it all work. The album is divided into two sections which would have been Sides One and Two in a forgotten era.

Side One speaks of life in his home town of Newton, surrounded by state parks and forests. But the songs speak also of dissatisfaction. In “Spring Street,” he admits, “There are ghosts in this town and I’m one of them.” And in “Intermittent Rain,” our man is judged “caught between your childhood dream and your full-grown nightmare.” Side One ends with graduation from college, a milestone that traditionally signaled the arrival of economic comfort but that today marks, for too many students, the arrival of economic hardship.

In Side Two, the singer settles down, finds love, and almost becomes reconciled with his life’s choices. He is willing to consider his life a “work in progress,” but closes, in “Hard Times,” with a defiant voice: “I won’t back down, and I can’t stop now … The trunk is standing where it’s always stood.”

A statistical analysis: The word “dream,” or a variant, appears in 4 songs on Side One, but in only 1 song on Side Two. The word “love” appears in 1 song on Side One, but in 3 songs on Side Two.

Overgrown is a triumph of the lyric-driven, acoustic-based, and highly personal music form. At one time it would have been labeled Folk Music, music by and about regular folks like us. But perhaps we should call it Life Music. Mike Herz is singing about his life, and about our lives.

It is impossible to listen to Mike’s music without engaging him as a person. The songs themselves, raw and underproduced, make his voice, and therefore his person, very real. I was fortunate to be able to take the relationship a step beyond aural, as Mike [very patiently] engaged in an extended “email interview” with me. His thoughtful responses reflect his introspective nature, and perhaps a tendency to be slightly guarded with outsiders…

Is it accurate to say that you would like to become a well-known artist without leaving New Jersey or giving up your Real Life?

I think that is an accurate statement. I would like the songs to be heard by as many people as possible. That’s not to say I would not travel to do so. Right now I am booking venues in the Tri-State and New England areas, and this summer I plan to expand on that. I would love for music to be my sole profession, but that can only be possible if I can provide for my family. And from what I have seen that is rare. Having said that, I don’t think being a “success” in this is measured by the money you are making or the amount of Likes on your Facebook page. I played a gig last week and a lady cried, she was so moved by a song. I’ve had people email me after shows or send me messages online about how much they enjoyed the show or a particular tune. That is amazing to me. I am gratified, but never satisfied. I want to take it as far as I possibly can.

Do you think you can get your music to the world without leaving your job and committing to music 100%?

I don’t know. I ask myself that question all the time. I don’t know that I’m not committed 100%. What does that mean? To have no steady income or fall back plan? I have too many strings to gamble that way. I’m committed to the craft and to spreading the music, for sure. I think there is a lot more than commitment needed. Money, connections, and some good fortune need to factor in to the most obvious aspect, which is writing and making music people connect with.

Ever think about leaving New Jersey?

I think about leaving New Jersey all the time, but I know I’m staying. I have a lot of family and close friends here. As tempting as it can be to picture myself elsewhere, Jersey offers a little bit of everything. I have NYC and the ocean within an hour drive, yet my town is surrounded by beautiful forests and farmland. That’s pretty sweet. The grass is always greener.

On your website’s news section you posted, in June, that your first child was about to be born. So you are a father now?

I am a father now! My daughter, Olivia, is 5 months old. It has been incredibly inspirational. I even wrote a song for her.

Does fatherhood make it more difficult to sit down and write?

Time is more limited than it used to be, but I think it’s made me more efficient. Since time is limited, I need to use it wisely. I don’t sleep much anymore, but that’s OK.

What comes first: words or music?

With me it’s usually words. Often it comes in whole phrases so I just scribble them on the back of receipts or whatever is near. Sometimes an idea for a hook or a clever line will enter my head while I am trying to fall asleep so I write it on the notes on my phone before it disappears forever. Usually that’s how it happens, and then I piece it together over music. Not always though.

Are you still working as a high school English teacher?

I still teach high school English to 10th and 11th graders here in New Jersey. They know I play music, but I don’t really get into the details with them. I don’t want them showing up at gigs; that would be awkward. The majority of teenagers I encounter are either listening to Top 40 pop songs or rap anyway. I prefer to keep that world separate from my music world. I do use songs and lyrics to help teach figurative language though. They dig it.

What are some of the songs that you use?

I think the last song I used in class was “I am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel. “A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” I was teaching metaphors. I think some of them got it. Some had no clue. [Laughs] They had to bring in metaphor lyrics from the song of their choice as a homework assignment. I don’t remember any of their metaphor examples off the top of my head. We did it for similes as well, and I remember a lot of Miley Cyrus “I came in like a wrecking a ball” and Rihanna “Shine like diamonds”. I then proceeded to do a lesson on cliches.

Balancing having a job of this nature and writing and playing music is challenging. I am dead set on proving that I can reach a large amount of listeners without having to live in my car touring the country. Press and word of mouth helps.

Some of your songs paint a somewhat bleak picture of life after high school.

I think everyone gets bleak at some point. That’s reality. The ups and downs are part of the deal. There is an inevitable let down when being confronted with the details of what being an adult actually entails. Not to be pessimistic, but there is a lot that gets left out of the vision we have of being “grown up” when we’re young.

Which two songs from Overgrown do you want the world to hear?

Hmmm… It’s hard to choose. You’re not supposed to choose your favorite child. I would have to say “If the Stars Align.” It was a last minute addition to the album and I think it ended up being the best song on the whole thing. I can picture it being done with more production and sung by other people.

Maybe “Dear Younger Me” because it seems to be a song that people relate to well. It’s got some lines that came quickly to me and all kind of fell into place.

In “Dear Younger Me,” what previous age did you imagine yourself addressing?

Good question. I think I was talking to my teenage self, pre- high school graduate. Regrets are real. I would do some things differently.

If you received a letter today from your Older Me, what do you think he would tell you?

Older Me would tell Me Now to slow down. Me Now would decline. Time is great motivation. The hour glass has been turned. I constantly hear the sand cascading.

Tell us about the abandoned basketball court that is the background image for your website, and that is the “cover art” for Overgrown.

That is next to an old run down monastery by where I live. I love basketball. I played in high school and college, and still do when I can find the time. It was my primary focus for many years, but that has changed. Music has replaced what basketball once was, so there is a lot of symbolism in that photograph.

Describe your dream album. Who would produce and play on the sessions?

Dream album and recording session: I was just talking about this with some friends. I think it would be great to have a party or social gathering feel to it. People hanging around, letting loose but focusing on the goal of recording the music. Ideally, I’d love it to be a big studio space with an open floor plan yet with a cozy feel to it. Some throw rugs and couches, a bunch of positive faces with a creative vibe happening. I don’t really have any dream musicians in mind to accompany the songs. My only requirement is that they know what they are doing and create the sound I’m hearing in my head. Producer would probably have to be T Bone Burnett because he’s worked on so many great projects and I would get to say “T Bone” out loud over and over again.

I think an Austin producer like J Wagner or Andrew Pressman would be perfect for you.

I know of both those guys, just from knowing John Elliott, Raina Rose, and Anthony da Costa. John is great, so is Raina. I love them and their music. John has been very inspiring to me. I bet many things about Austin would be incredible for me. I think the geography would be an issue, but technology is pretty amazing so ya never know. I’d be willing to work with anyone that was interested in my music, to be honest.

How does John Elliott inspire you?

With John, first and foremost it’s the music. I love his music. He is probably my favorite songwriter other than Dylan. But it’s more than the music. It’s his integrity and balls. He is the true to his art and is not afraid to put it out there in its most honest form. He can be ruthless, hilarious, and heartbreaking all in one verse. On top of that he is a super friendly guy who has been very kind to me. I think he has a lot of respect amongst the fans and songwriters that know him.

I believe you recently opened a show for John. How did that go?

We played two shows, one in Philly and one in Asbury Park, NJ. They were great. John wore a kimono and crown for a few of his newer tunes, bringing a little theater to the singer-songwriter scene. It was wild. Great to hear his new stuff and share my newer songs with him.

If you could sing a duet with any living singer, what singer would you choose and what song would you sing?

I have a lot of fun singing with my friend Emily Barnes. It’s been fun to collaborate with someone and have similar goals to push our music as far as we can. We sing a song called “Color Me” that we co-wrote and it’s always a blast. Playing gigs with Emily has made performing more fun.

If I had to pick a famous name, I guess it wouldn’t be awful to sing “Landslide” with Stevie Nicks, especially if I was a few drinks in and in a sentimental mood.

If we expand the field to include dead singers, who would you choose?

Dead singers? Maybe I would rap with 2Pac. I loved him in high school. Knew all his songs, even the bootlegs that came out years after he was killed. He was a poet.

What are your goals for 2014?

I have many. I’d like to do some touring in short bursts, primarily on the East coast. I’d like to record another album with a full band sound, as well as an EP with Emily Barnes as this duo side project we’ve formed called “Closer to Home”. I think another album should be ready to go probably sometime next spring/summer. It’s gonna have a more upbeat kind of folk rock sound. More instruments, drums, better production. Now I just need to figure out the best way to record it all.

There are so many indie singers and bands competing for the listener’s attention. How do you plan to rise above the pack?

There is so much music out there that it is too much to keep up with. Figuring out the formula to rise above the white noise is beyond me. All I know is that I feel I am bringing a unique perspective to it all. It’s not like what Springsteen does, trying to relate or connect with the working man. I am the working man. I don’t have to look far for inspiration. I just want to play as many places as I feasibly can and keep expanding my fan base and friendships through music. Most importantly, I want to keep writing and growing as a songwriter and performer. That’s all I can do. Just keep pushing the music forward.

Thanks, Mike. And since you’re an English teacher, I have to ask: How’s my writing?

Your writing is great.

Mike Herz’s music is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. Join Mike on his website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. - Reverb Raccoon

"Album Review - Overgrown"

Review: Mike Herz – Overgrown

Mike Herz – Overgrown (Independent)

New Jersey singer-songwriter Mike Herz understands the power of words, and on “Overgrown” he presents 14 songs that recount facets of the human condition with some skill. It’s no surprise to read that as a teenager he was fascinated with rap, though it’s artists like Dylan and Springsteen who provide much of the inspiration to be found here. It seems I’m not alone in being impressed; Herz has recently received nominations by the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards in several separate categories, including Top Male Songwriter and Top Folk/Americana Act. Things are definitely happening for the young musician.

Recorded with Pro Tools and Garageband in various studios and rooms, “Overgrown” sounds remarkably cohesive given the circumstances. Herz plays and sings, both in a solo setting and with a band, and the variety of methods add to the album dynamics. Obviously, it works so well because at the album’s core is Herz’s songs and vulnerable voice, and the joys of both can be heard immediately on opening cut “Preserved Land”, a rootsy, lyrical narrative, bolstered by delicate instrumentation. “Doin' Alright” is upbeat and persuasive, and “Dear Younger Me” gets to grip with regrets and various misgivings, and includes some supple guitar work.
www.mikeherzmusic.com - Leicester Bangs - U.K.

"Jersey Acoustic Music Awards - 3 Nominations"

Mike was nominated in 3 different categories for the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards 2013.

1. Top Male Songwriter
2. Top Folk/Americana act
3. Top Single/EP for song "Graduation Day" - JAM Awards

"Local songwriter immortalizes Newton"

Local songwriter immortalizes Newton

Mike Herz incorporates his hometown into his music

By Glynnis Jones
Published Oct 19, 2012

On a quiet autumn afternoon inside Newton's Plaza Diner, a young writer wearing a wool snap-cap jots down thoughts on back of a paper placement. He writes about life in general, the underdogs, the hardships — about familiar people and places in Sussex County.

Mike Herz has put down roots and doesn't give thought to "getting out" of the town where he grew up. He appreciates the architecture and the home town feel, especially on Spring St. and around the town green.

"I have several songs that are directly connected to this area including one about the heart of Newton called 'Spring Street'."

Reflecting his belief that modern day Newton has never thrived the way he thinks it could, it is a poignant story that captures and immortalizes the effects of a dwindling economy on a small town.

Herz is part of the independent folk scene, comprised of under-the-radar musicians and lesser known artists. Playing solo acoustic guitar, his music is "lyric driven" with verses that hit home and go deep to listeners. "It's folk music at its heart."

Speaking to the burden of financial debt from student loans is his song, "Graduation Day," which will be featured in a documentary about the current student protest movement in Quebec, Canada.

After hearing lyrics of the song on a clip Herz posted to YouTube that include, "And my high school diploma is somewhere buried in a box / My college degree put me in a hole / On my graduation day I had to marry Sallie Mae / With an interest rate that suffocates my soul.", the producer contacted him about using it in the film.

But Herz also shows his humorous side in songs like "The Ballad of Waving Willie", a quirky anecdote about the man named Willie who sat along Rt. 206 waving to cars for 40 years.

As a youth growing up in Newton, he liked playing sports, particularly basketball, but after graduating high school in 1999 he didn't think a sports-related hobby would be sustainable.

He found his love of writing and song writing in college while attending Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison where he earned a degree in English literature and published a 40-page poetry book titled, "The Altered Master Plan" in 2008.

After listening to early songs of Bob Dylan, he decided, "I want to do something like that. Nobody reads poetry, but I thought I might be able to connect to them if I put music to my words. I never wanted to be a guy who plays covers during happy hours, I want to write songs that people could connect to."

Thus began the discovery of other singer/songwriters that fell outside of the Top 40. He found a community of folk musicians from around the country who are all very supportive of each other and the music they create, including John Gorka, also a native New Jerseyan and John Elliott, an independent songwriter, who Herz describes as "chips all in with no retirement plan" for the non-stop touring around the country.

He also admires Bob Dylan, who he says is ever-changing and always interesting, John Lennon for his passion and Josh Ritter, a songwriter and novelist.

Making no plans to become a famous rock star, he enjoys playing small venues and open mics where he can meet the audience after shows. Being able to connect directly to people through his song writing makes it worth the effort.

He has traveled along the East Coast from Vermont to Philadelphia and several trips to New York City, including the legendary Bitter End in Greenwich Village, NYC to perform.

Another notable performance was opening for Jill Sobule at The Stanhope House on a night where the audience had to evacuate right before the show started due to a propane leak in building next door. The incident inspired Sobule to write a song during the wait and performed it for the audience.

Herz currently teaches high school English and is finishing graduate school to earn a masters degree in special education. While his own courses inspire him through the reading curriculum — including classics like 'The Great Gatsby' and others on obtaining the American dream —he is sharing expertise and his love for writing by starting an after-school songwriters club. Between 6 to 20 students receive help in creative writing and song structure at all different levels.

When asked what the near future holds in store, "If I'm still writing and performing in front of audiences, I'll be happy."

Herz has been invited to WNTI Radio (91.9FM) on the morning of Oct. 26 to play a few songs and talk about his song writing and music on the "One More Cup of Coffee" program. It will be his first time on radio.

The next big local show on his schedule will be opening for Marshall Crenshaw at The Stanhope House Nov. 3.

Friend and independent musician, Jeremy Manjorin, is helping Herz produce the recordings for his first CD release which will be available - NJ Township Journal

"Danger's Theory - Music Reviews & News (Mike Herz - The Acrobat)"

Danger's Theory - Music Reviews & News
February 28 at 12:00pm ·

Artist: Mike Herz
Album: The Acrobat (2017)

Two albums in as a solo artist, singer/songwriter Mike Herz has developed a unique style that breathes life back into folk music. Debuting in 2013 with 'Overgrown', Herz has since toured the country sharing his experiences through song and continues to do so with his sophomore effort, 'The Acrobat'.

"Another Summer" begins to paint the picture as Emily Barnes lends backing vocals over an endearing violin. The genuine sorrow heard in Herz's vocals in songs like "Broke the Mold" tear at the heartstrings and memories of the love we've all had to let go in our lives. Title and closing track, "The Acrobat", is a beautiful end to this piece of art and the additional instrumentation of this album adds such depth to the overall tone of these songs which really provide the element of escape for the listener. It's rare to hear such emotion and insight evoked from an artist, but the beauty in this record is exactly that - truth. Introspective might be putting it lightly, but I applaud 'The Acrobat' in the search inward and hope that search continues for years to come.

Notable Tracks: "Another Summer" / "Don't Expect Nothin'" / "Naked Heart" / "The Acrobat"

If you find yourself in New Jersey area and would like to catch a show, he'll be playing various venues now through the end of July - more info provided on his website, www.mikeherzmusic.com. You can listen to or download both of Mike Herz's albums at the link below:

Mike Herz & Emily Barnes are also part of the project Closer to Home, which you can stream or download here:
https://closer2home.bandcamp.com/releases - Danger's Theory - Music Reviews & News


Overgrown  (2013)



 With an uncanny ability to turn a phrase and pen lyrics with rich resonance, Mike Herz writes and performs in a style that is all his own.  An aspiring poet long before picking up a guitar, Herz quickly came to the realization that his words stood a better chance of entering more ears if put to a tune.  Flash forward years and many miles later and Mike feels most comfortable on stage in front of complete strangers.  Music has brought him across this great nation and into spellbound evenings in some of the best listening rooms around.  His debut album "Overgrown" was released in 2013, duo album "Closer to Home" in 2015 and his follow up solo album, "The Acrobat" was released in January 2017.

Band Members