Mike Moran
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Mike Moran

Traverse City, Michigan, United States | SELF

Traverse City, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


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Surviving creatively

Musicians have to be diverse

Record-Eagle staff writer

Special to the Record-Eagle
Singer-songwriter Mike Moran does well in northern Lower Michigan come summer, but in the winter he needs to hit the road to earn a living.
See today's related story

For love, not money

TRAVERSE CITY — Mike Moran is living the dream — and works hard to do it.

Moran, 26, makes a living as a musician and lives in northern Lower Michigan. But to succeed, he often has to hit the road in the slower winter months.

"I go to Detroit, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids,” he said. "I couldn't make it if I didn't travel.”

It's a challenge to make a living as a musician here, but it can be done, some performers say. Yet the path appears to include related sidelines like teaching and a willingness to perform outside the area.

Moran, a singer-songwriter, does quite well in the summer and said he can play up to seven nights a week then if he wants to in venues around Traverse City, Petoskey and Mackinaw City. He usually works solo, but also takes jobs with bands sometimes to increase his opportunities to work.

He's diligent about booking gigs and at selecting songs to cover so audiences stay with him, and for showcasing his own songs. He sells CDs of his original material both on-line and at shows.

"My goal is to be a songwriter, like a Chris Smither, and hopefully do some soundtrack stuff,” Moran said. "I'm going to be doing this the rest of my life, so I have to really focus on it.”

Robert Farmer, owner of talent firm The Rose-Robert Agency in Elk Rapids, said the bands he represents are from large urban areas, like Chicago, Grand Rapids, Boston and San Diego. They also spend a lot of their time touring.

"The bands I represent travel hard and heavy,” Farmer said. "Strangely enough, most local bands don't like to travel.”

Despite the difficulties, singer Janice Keegan said there seem to be a lot of musicians and other artists in the area.

"Maybe it's because creative people like to live in a beautiful place,” she said. Her main work is as a graphic designer, but she said she's serious about music even though local gigs tend to pay little.

"It's not just a hobby,” she said.

Guitarist Ron Getz makes a good living working at music full-time, mostly in this area, he said. But that doesn't mean he's spending all that time performing. In the daytime, he gives music lessons.

"I do gigs and I teach,” he said. "I don't do anything besides this and I haven't for years.”

Getz is known as a jazz guitarist but also does several other styles so he can tailor his playing to a particular audience, event or venue.

"The main thing you've got to do is be diverse,” he said. "Be open-minded enough to learn different styles because the thing that makes it hard is to try to do just one thing.

"There's a lot of things I wouldn't play if I didn't have to on a gig, but then I learn a lot of things doing that.”

Getz also learns a lot by the styles his students ask him to teach them.

"One kid wanted to learn the solo on 'Smoke on the Water,'” he said. "Now I use those licks all the time.”

Laurie Sears, who teaches saxophone at Interlochen Arts Academy and Grand Valley State University, works weddings, clubs, house parties and other types of engagements. She said there are also a lot of opportunities to work music festivals in the area.

Still, she doesn't think she could make a living at it here.

"It's difficult anywhere, but I think in a larger metropolitan area, there would be more clubs and venues,” she said.

Bill Dungjen said he's tried what he can to survive strictly as a musician in the area, including performing, producing and promoting. He plays gigs as often as he can, but owns a title insurance agency to make a living.

"Our options are limited,” he said. He's working with others to form a non-profit agency that could offer promotional support for performers.

Singer/songwriter Claudia Schmidt agreed that musicians who live here have to travel to make it.

"Basically, the pay scale for club work hasn't changed in 40 years,” she said.

Concerts in other cities are her best-paying gigs, both for the show and in sales of CDs.

"I'm a celebrity in Minneapolis, but I'm a local in Traverse City, ” she said.

But she doesn't think that's just a Traverse City phenomenon.

"Sometimes it's worse in the big cities because it's more competitive,” she said.

- The Record Eagle


Show Before the Show
By John Sinkevics

Hot Club of Cowtown was on the bill as Tuesday night's first performer, but the real opening act was Traverse City's Mike Moran and the Big Ones, who played outside Fifth Third Ballpark on the sidewalk next the to the parking lot a couple of hours before the show began.

"You can't pass up Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Bob Dylan's been my favorite writer for 10 years," Moran 24, said after the five-piece rock band wrapped up a 90-minute set. The group was hired by the West Michigan Whitecaps to entertain concertgoers waiting to enter the stadium.

Moran joked that band members who play "Caribbean rock, Paul Simon-style." could now say they opened for Dylan. He said the band, which plays throughout Michigan passed out 1,000 free sampler CDs to passerby and earned plenty of good exposure for its music.

"It was cool, man," Moran said. "You can't get any better than that."
- Grand Rapids Press


Mike Moran, a talented, rock singer/songwriter based in Bellaire, MI, has won the SongwriterUniverse “Best Song of the Month” Contest for November, for his song “I Can’t Make Everybody Happy…”
“I Can’t Make Everybody Happy” is an excellent, mainstream rock song, which has a distinctive, hooky chorus and a personal lyric theme...Interestingly, Moran has also devised a unique strategy to market his music. He has manufactured and distributed 13,500 copies of a two-song, free promo CD, which features advertising from local, music businesses on the CD artwork. Moran hopes to eventually distribute a massive number of promo CDs to potential fans via this joint venture with his music business sponsors.
- Dale Kawashima, Songwriter Universe Magazine, November 2004


“Excitement does not hide itself in his voice when Moran talks about his new album. His eyes and smile get just a shade larger when he speaks of it. “It will be so much more polished and a lot more fun. We’ve got some really cool tunes that just have to be on the CD. You can go out and play them in the clubs and people will start to dance to them even though they don’t know the words yet. Once you get in one-on-one with somebody, that is when people can determine if you’re good or not. I think the listener will catch on. - Andy taylor, Northern Express Weekly, 7.14.04


Best Solo Performer: Mike Moran
Rick Coates

Singer-songwriter Mike Moran’s New Years resolution for 2007 is simply to “do more gigging this year than I did last year.” Considering he performed 150 times in 2006, his “more gigging” goal will be a big undertaking in a market that is challenging for full-time musicians.
At 26, Moran has become a fixture on the Northern Michigan music scene. Raised in Clarkston, his family summered in Bellaire, and after college he came north to pursue a musical career. This summer he will perform every Tuesday night at Chandler’s in Petoskey, Wednesday nights on the patio at the Holiday Inn in Traverse City, and every Thursday night on the deck at North Peak Brewing Company in Traverse City. His weekends are also filling up around the region, but winter and spring means a lot of time on the road.
“It is tough up here this time of the year for local musicians,” said Moran. “I do like hitting the road though - it is great exposure, and when you are a full time musician, it is about exposure. So I am playing a lot of college towns this spring.”

20,000 Cds
Moran has been a master at getting exposure. A few years ago he produced 20,000 copies of a sampler CD and passed them out to everyone he came in contact with.
“I tried to get other musicians to join me on the CD but they didn’t grasp the concept,” said Moran. “Those CDs have made their way all over the country, giving me a ton of exposure I otherwise wouldn’t get. It has helped out a lot and I have picked up a lot of gigs as a result.”
One of those gigs was as an opening act a couple of years ago in Grand Rapids for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Moran and his band played a 90-minute set in the parking lot while concertgoers waited to get into the show.
“My band won a radio station competition as a result of someone getting one of my CDs,” said Moran. “It was a lot of fun to perform at the baseball stadium and in front of all of those people.”
It must have been fun hanging with Dylan and Willie too?
“Are you kidding me? Dylan stayed on his bus until it was his turn to perform, and he walked off the bus and went on stage. We were told no one was allowed to get within 20 yards of him,” said Moran. “Willie pulled in minutes before he went on and played his show and left. Plus they had the Hells Angels for their security, so we didn’t even make an attempt.”
It was somewhat of a disappointment for Moran who has been a Dylan fan for years and considers “America’s Songwriter” among his greatest influences.

Mike’s Amigos
Vocally and lyrically Moran is a blend of Paul Simon, Dave Matthews and John Mayer. His shows feature a blend of his originals and an assortment of covers. He often performs solo but is joined occasionally by Northern Michigan legends guitarist Ron Getz, bassist extraordinaire Jason Kott, and drummer Matt Hayes.
“Ron Getz has become a mentor. He has helped me so much with every aspect of my career,” said Moran. “I feel real fortunate that these guys are willing to take the stage with me.”
So is being a full-time musician a dream or a nightmare?
“It is challenging, but this is what I have wanted to do for a long time,” said Moran. “The biggest challenge is you have to do everything yourself - set up the equipment, drive for hours, manage and market yourself. I tried booking agents but that didn’t work either. It really is a full-time job. Then there are so many avenues to market yourself on the web, it is hard to keep up.”
Moran readily admits that he is behind on his MySpace site and other websites where fans go to keep up with him.
“My focus has been on my new album and writing songs,” said Moran. “I have been working on the new album for the past three months at Jason Kott’s studio. I plan to release it this August with CD release parties at the City Park in Petoskey and Union Street in Traverse City.”
Moran has come a long way since his days playing campus coffeehouses. His music is found on Napster and iTunes and his phone is ringing off the hook with gig requests. He is not where he wants to be at in his career (most 26 year olds are not), but like most who pursue life as a musician, youthfulness is the key, and he knows the time clock is ticking.
His accomplishments are impressive considering he picked up a guitar for the first time seven years ago. He has also proven himself in the songwriting arena and has won competitions and awards for his talents. The road to rock stardom seems accessible for Moran; let’s hope he is able to get around the detours and potholes that have prevented others from the area from reaching that dream.
To keep up with Mike Moran (sort of) visit his site at www.mikemoranmusic.com where links may also be found to his MySpace and Sonicbids sites. His next Northern Michigan performances take place this Saturday, March 31 at City Park Grill in Petoskey and on April 5 at Union Street Station.
- Northern Express

"Mike Moran "Spaces" Review"

Back Legs Review by Steve Bell

Of all the music reviewed in this space, Mike Moran's new album, "Spaces," may have the most universal appeal. Luckily, then, for the local masses, he plays around here often - including a CD release party Friday at the City Park Grill.

The musicianship and delivery on "Spaces" are polished, recalling safe and successful artists, true pros like John Mayer, Tom Petty, Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson. Moran's delivery does a good job implying intimacy, with the affectations of short "e"s presented as "aw"s, and the occasional forgotten "r." When "critic" is rhymed with "cynic", and "college" with "knowledge,"

Mom and Dad can relax. Junior isn't going to come home from the show brandishing the Little Red Book, or a nasty junk habit. Heck, Mom and Dad were probably at the show, too. This isn't garage rock.

On positive-vibe tracks like "The Difference," it nods toward yacht rock. Which is fitting, as Moran often plays at Latitude and Knot, Just a Bar.

Don't pigeonhole Moran too quickly, though. The "James Brown" track is energetic, fun and different. His band shows itself pretty tight in its own right. And if you look at Moran's schedule, like The Godfather, he knows a little about hard work.
"Spaces" can be purchased at http://cdbaby.com/cd/mikemoranmusic ; visit also www.mikemoranmusic.com. - The Graphic Weekly

"Three for your Radio Mike Moran"Spaces""

By Kristi Kates Northern Express Music Editor

MIKE MORAN - “Spaces” (Mike
Moran Music)
Opening with “75 and Sunny Skies,” written by Moran, Spaces starts with a spoken rendering of a typical Northern Michigan winter weather forecast while Moran sings about his longing for our region’s warmer climes to return, making this truly the go-to tune for a Michigan travel promo or one of those uber-happy Lite beer adverts.
Fans will be glad to hear that Moran is continuing along the popular bluesy-pop genre that he’s become well-known for in the region.
That perky approach continues on “Persistance,” more of a relationship-based song that offers an appealing Jimmy Buffett feel, complete with tropical rhythms and well-executed horns. Those horns return in trio form (Jason Bohde, Pete Birchler, and Tim Fischer) on “James Brown,” another peppy number that will definitely encourage all those fudgies to dance it up.
Moran’s vocals often recollect those of a higher-ranged Darius Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish) and are especially distinctive on songs like “Turn It Up” and the title track; the album’s highlight is perhaps “Fat Man,” a forthright lament co-written with Josh Havens about the sorry state of the music industry, with easily singalongable rhymes that are sure to make this one a special hit with the locals. - The Northern Express


"Where Were You?" - June 2003
"The Balance" EP Sept 2006
"Spaces" July 25, 2008

Presently in Studio Recording second full band album due out this summer.



A staple on the touring circuit, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Mike Moran has earned comparisons to John Mayer, Dave Matthews and Paul Simon with his catchy acoustic melodies and high-energy live shows. Mike’s charismatic stage presence and relentless touring schedule have won the singer fans across the country, propelling songs “Best Be Falling” and “Chicago” to the top of fan charts on Ourstage.com and garnering invitations to open for Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Martin Sexton, Colin Hay, Buckwheat Zydeco, Eddie Money and Derrick Brown. In 2008, Mike was highlighted as a Featured Artist on AOL Music, and was a Grand Final winner on Ourstage.com for his infectious single, “Delicious.” With over 40 original compositions and two full-length albums under his belt, Mike continues to perform over 200 shows a year, earning critical and fan praise and building his reputation as one of the most in-demand artists on the independent music scene.

We are happy to announce that Mike Moran has reached an agreement with a private investor to create Quarter After Entertainment. Which will provide funds to market Mike Moran and his music on a national level for the next three years! This deal came to fruition on September 1, 2009.