Saturday, July 9, 2011

Acclaim keeps growing for musician Michael Jade after collaboration with John Mayer


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

There's not many 23-year-old musicians who can say that they've already worked with John Mayer and made it to the Top 40 of "American Idol."

Northbrook resident Michael Jade can. His appearance on "American Idol" this season drew high praise from judge Steven Tyler, and Mayer has said Jade has a ''special voice and attitude.''



Jade will perform from 8 to 10 p.m. July 15 at the Nova-HP teen center, 1770 1st St., Highland Park, www.NovaHP.org.

I had the chance to talk to Jade about his appearance on "American Idol" and what it was like working with Mayer.



Q - Were you a fan of "American Idol" before you auditioned for the show? What made you want to be on the show?

Well, to answer your question, yes and no. Can I be a fan without actually watching the show?

I saw the first season, and I loved the idea. And then I started watching it the way I watch sports. I watch the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup and the NBA Finals.

So I was only watching the season finales, so to speak. But I was still a very big fan of the show. I just didn't have time to actually watch each of the seasons.

Q - What intrigued you about the show?

Just the idea of it was brilliant. The idea that you could take someone who normally sings in a subway and change their lives in this kind of superhighway to a music career is pretty incredible.

If anything, I wish I had auditioned earlier, because then I would have felt ready for it. But I think it was just an ego thing, and being worried about the stigma that comes with 'Idol.'

The good thing is that I didn't get that much airtime. So I got to be on a reality show without being on a reality show, which is kind of cool.

Q - So you're not Snookie.

Right, exactly.

Q - You made it to the Top 40. Did you surpass your goals?

Yeah. I sort of went into it on a whim, and I didn't really get a grasp of how far I would go until I got to Hollywood Week.

So I don't think there is any doubt about that. I definitely went further then I thought I would go.

Q - As far as this year's "American Idol" winner, Scott McCreery, was he the right choice?

I love Scotty. I had a lot of time to talk to him when I was out there, and he's all grass roots. He loves his mama, and right now, he's doing everything he's doing for all the right reasons.

And I just hopes he sort of remains that way. Because the real competition starts now for him, being able to make a career for himself. Now he's competing with all the artists out there.



Q - How are using what you learned from "American Idol" in your current activities?

I learned what an well-oiled machine in the entertainment industry looks like. That's probably one of the biggest things I learned.

Q - What about the comments from the judges? Steven Tyler had nice words for you, saying he loved your sound.

The comments from the judges are pretty minimal I think until you start getting into the Top 12. They say things that we already know.

There wasn't that much face time with them, where you are really getting some serious counseling.

Q - Was that nerve-wracking, the first time you walked out on the "American Idol" stage?

Yeah, sure. I've never been in front of people like that. I was fortunate enough in college to be gigging four nights a week in wedding bands and cover bands and doing original stuff, so a lot of the general fear of performing I didn't have, because I got those butterflies out of my stomach after doing it so much.

I think that is part of the reason why I got as far as I did. But yeah, you're always going to be a little extra intimidated when you're standing in front of Jennifer Lopez.

Q - What was the best piece of advice you received from the show?

I guess it would be to keep doing what I am doing, to not give up.

Q - You're only 23 and you've already worked with the likes of John Mayer. What was that experience like?

Working with him was priceless. I was studying at Berkeley, where he is an alum, and I was taking a songwriting class with a mutual teacher of ours, Pat Pattison.

And I played a lot of my songs for Pat and I guess he liked them, because I got a call from him one night asking me if I wanted to spend some time working with John Mayer.

He was in town, so I played for him, and then I was told the next day that he wanted to get in the studio and record the song ("Chicago") with me.

I knew I had the winning lottery ticket when Eddie Bayers, who has played on tons of big records in Nashville (working with the likes of Peter Frampton and Steve Winwood), he walks in the studio, and decides to play on the song with us. It was just a cluster of incredible talent that I got to work with, so it was really, really fun.

Q - Did John Mayer give you any advice?

Obviously there's three hours of stuff I could tell you about things that I learned.

Probably the biggest thing that I can manifest is how much I actually don't want to be him.

And it's not because he's an undesirable guy or anything. But it's more because nobody can do what he does better than him.

People are kind of sizing you up next to these artists. I got to the point where I realized that if I want people to listen to me, I want to be the only one up there and I don't want to sound or feel like John Mayer when I do my stuff.

Q - So you don't want to be so identified with him that people start calling you a John Mayer sound-alike or look-alike?

Right, right. I don't want people saying, 'Oh, that's just like John Mayer.' Because there's already a John Mayer. We don't need another John Mayer.



Q - That said, how would you describe your music and who are your biggest musical influences?

Well, that's also an interesting question. I think that's up for you to decide.

When I start to classify myself too much, I start playing by the rules I don't really want to play by. But if I had to fill in the blanks, I would probably say my music is about lyrics that make you think, dressed in pop Top 40 clothing.

I grew up listening to The Beatles. Rob Thomas, from Matchbox Twenty, is one of my biggest idols, just the way he carries himself and the honesty he has about himself.

Q - Was there something that propelled you to want to become a musician?

It just felt right. It's kind of like when you see a girl you like. You can't really say why or why you don't like her. You just do. And that's what music started doing for me.

Q - I understand you also work with teens with mental and social disabilities as a music teacher/therapist. What made you want to do that and what do the teens teach you?

Working with kids with mental and social disabilities actually fell into my lap in high school, and I haven't turn back since then.

They genuinely just want to be your friend. They have no form of judgement against you whatsoever.

These kids also have a genuine contentment that I wish I had. And the reason I don't have it is because I judge and analyze everything.

Since working with them, I keep pushing myself to judge as little as possible and just make lemonade from lemons.

Q - What do you think you add to the Chicago music scene?

I think Chicago is a fine place to make music. I don't necessarily find it a great place to have a music career, though.

I was spoiled during my time at Berkeley and when I lived in Nashville. I haven't seen musicians like that anywhere else in the world.

I try to be bold in everything I do. My lyrics are more than 'insert name and dance club here,' but my melodies will still make you shake your ass and feel something in your body rather than just your head.

Q - Do you have some short-term and long-term goals?

My short-term goal is to build a fan base, get my name out there more.

Everybody knows the checklist what an artist needs to do. What I really want people to do is come talk to me on Facebook and YouTube.

I really make a huge effort to connect with people through those sites.