interview

5 Questions with John-Michael Lyles

Mar

10

John-Michael Lyles grew up in Texas, where he grew up singing and playing guitar in his local church. He broke out of the Bible Belt, making his way up to New York for Pace University’s musical theater program. The actor, guitarist, and vocalist joins The Songwriter’s Orchestra on March 12. We asked him about his musical background and what concert goers can expect on Saturday. Read on!
 
John-Michael-Lyles
 
1. Tell our readers about yourself and how you first started making music. 
 
Just like many other Texas boys, I started singing and playing guitar in a Southern Baptist Church! I was in a scrappy garage band called The Inside for a few years, while honing my skills at Booker T Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts in Dallas. I then spent four years studying musical theater at Pace University, during which time I learned a lot about composition. Now two years out, I’ve somehow managed to work steadily as an actor, and my songwriting provides a sense of solace and ownership amidst a career path very much devoid of control. 
 
2. Songwriter’s Orchestra brings musicians from countless genres together. The ensemble features vocalists from Broadway, up and coming rock guitarists, and more. What’s your musical background? What do you bring to the ensemble?
 
At heart, I’ll always be a Broadway Baby, but aesthetically I’d like to think of myself as the love child of Ed Sheeran & Aretha Franklin. I started singing in a church, so vocally I strive to make the gods hear me, and with my guitar I try to always find a truth-bearing folk/soul sentimentality. 
 
3. What does it mean to be a part of the Songwriter’s Orchestra? Are you traditionally a solo performer or do you play music with a band? What sort of experience can our readers expect on March 12?
 
Up to now, it’s always been just me and my guitar! Solomon has done a terrific job of harnessing every melodic idea and expanding them in a really thrilling way. Expect a rich musical experience, expect to close your eyes and feel as though you’re at the end of a tear-jerking movie where the music starts tugging at your heart strings. 
 
4. Can you tell us a bit about a concert you truly enjoyed being part of? Who was on the bill? What was the venue? 
 
Last year, I got the privilege of seeing Grace McClean & Them Apples perform at the Lincoln Center American Songbook series. Although I was standing in the back, I felt very much a part of the show because Grace is such an electric performer and has a way of making everyone feel involved in her musical journey.
 
5. Do you have any pre-show rituals (or even, superstitions) that you have to do before taking the stage? 
 
I always try to choose a person or reason, be it current or historical, that can drive my performance. Last time I sang at a concert, it was Black History month and before I went on I imagined MLK Jr and how I could dedicate this moment to him.
 
Catch John-Michael live at LPR with Kate Davis, Olivia Harris, Eisa Davis, and more on March 12th.

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