When it comes to building a musical career constructed upon creative expression, dedication to one’s craft, and focus upon one’s musical vision, few artists within the Great Lakes Bay Region have successfully and rightfully achieved the stature and respect of Michael Brush.
Beginning with his work as a teenager in the pop-rock combo The Paupers back in the 1960s, up through his musical excursions into Jazz and Blues idioms with Brush, Lopez & Fulkerson, and later with Brush Street and The Fabulous Retreads, since his retirement as Musical Director at the Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy back in 2010, Mike has been busier than ever with expansive musical projects and collaborations; and has been honored with numerous awards for a lifetime of musical achievement and cultural contributions to the Great Lakes Bay Area and beyond.
Now, as we embark upon a fresh new year, Brush has turned his eye towards going through many of the original compositions and songs he has created over the years, with a focus and goal of placing them into a more definitive form. “My goal in recent years has been to realize the full potential of each song, which often involves rethinking them”
Recently, several original songs by Michael Brush have been remastered under the meticulous care of engineer Andy Reed at the Reed Recording Studio in Bay City and regrouped and re-released for digital distribution & download at most music sites such as I-Tunes, Amazon, etc.
Two of these more recent songs are One People and Crossing the Bridge - a 2020 song that was written after recording One People. One People was co-produced by Andy Reed; and Crossing the Bridge was co-produced by Donny Brown, former co-founder of The Verve Pipe; both songs infused with additional backing vocals containing vocal work by Amy Petty and Donny Brown.
Additionally, PIECES - a combination of Brush originals from his release of the same title, along with Like a Box of Chocolates, which features the work of vocalist Julie Mulady, have also been remastered for digital release along with his remarkable work of original holiday masterpieces on Decembering, which contains previous material from that EP along with newer additions.
Mike says the easiest trap to run into is to over-arrange a song. "It's a trial-and-error process and you're writing your own song, so can do whatever you want with it; but my goal was to try and not make them all sound the same. The nature of each song should be the focus," states Mike.
“When I approached Andy Reed about taking some of the songs I’ve written and putting out a collection of remixes, I thought I would use the title Pieces once again, so selected two of the 10 compositions that were on that original release and assemble them on a different collection with all the material remastered,” he explains.
“The song Pieces is all sung by Julie Mulady,” continues Mike. “Crossing the Bridge is a song I wrote and recorded right after we did One People, and I got revved up to re-approach them because I had written some notes from songs I’d written over time and a few lines I had never used, so wrote that song this year after we did One People.”
“One People features Amy and Donny and when I wrote that song back in 1999 it was before the 9/11 attacks,” reflects Mike. “I remember after 9/11 there was this big multi-generational gathering at Saginaw Valley State University, because there was so much backlash against Islamic peoples, so I performed that song with the SASA Choir. I thought One People needed more of punch to it, so it opens with a choral bang, whereas the original recording is subtler.”
“I rearranged it and went in with Andy to see how it would go and the entire experience was very cool,” states Mike. “I played the song for him, he put down some scratch keys an created a big drum part, did a couple guitar tracks, and played bass on it. Basically, he came up with ideas I wouldn’t have come up with, which was exciting.”
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Mike’s work and with Mike as a human being,” states Andy Reed when asked about his involvement in the project. “The first thing we tackled was One People which we recorded at my place. This was the tune that really got the fire going for Mike. Mike worked with Donny Brown on Crossing the Bridge, but sent it over to me to mix and master. Donny did an incredible job on this track. It really showcased Mike’s writing and vocals.”
“The only tune I had creative input on was “One People” in which Mike and I co-produced,” continues Andy. “He had a vision to make it a little more current, as the message itself has a lot of relevance today. We brought in Donny Brown and Amy Petty to sing harmonies and it really brought it together. The different textures really go well with the songs message. When mixing Crossing the Bridge, I heard a Quincy Jones vibe going on, so I went that route with the mix. It was rhythmically tight and complex at the same time. It’s a super cool recording.”
“For the rest of the songs, Mike had asked me to remaster them. They were already mixed and released, so I just added a little shine to them so he could re-release them digitally and they would fit in with the new standards of digital audio. Every year these standards change so it was well worth updating them for that format. Overall, I had a great time digging into Mike’s music. I’ll always be a fan first.”
Reusing that title from his original Pieces release, Mike went on to remix and remaster the entire Decembering album on site with Reed, adding such tasty morsels as the risqué holiday humor of The Happy Present with Jeff Hall on saxophone.
“Andy is blessed with such a strong ear on the mixer and my main objective in working with him as to add a little sparkle to the mixes,” reflects Mike. “I wanted to put them out there on these digital sites and make them available for download and let people know they are out there, especially given the current timeliness of such songs as Crossing the Bridge and One People.”
For the horn section on Crossing the Bridge, Mike says he brought the talents of John Rickert, George Bork, and John Anderson into the mix and the track also features Donny Brown and Joe Balbaugh on bass. “It’s actually pretty easy when one has such a great collection of choices in terms of musical talent to work with.”
When asked if he’s been writing new material during these past 10-months of lockdown, Mike says he’s been more focused with tying up his loose musical ends with this latest project. “I don’t like to write stuff just to write stuff,” he notes. “There has to be a reason or a big topic for me to focus upon when writing a new composition and I haven’t had the muse. I don’t write songs about how ‘My Baby Left Me…’ because I’ve been very fortunate in that department; and my interest in song-writing is centered on topics that make a social statement, have social value, or have an interesting topic or narrative,” Mike concludes.
Summing up his own experience with the musical alliance, Andy Reed is justifiably enthusiastic: “It’s been great to see Mike put his foot on the gas with his music. He is a talented artist and I’m glad he’s putting out his material for everyone to listen to. I’m also grateful to be on his team. I cannot wait to do more.”
Check out the new material and obtain your downloads by visiting these links:
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023