Originally from Pennsylvania, singer-songwriter Mike Breen now resides in the great southwest where he is currently performing and writing and has just released a new CD of original music entitled [easyazon-link asin=”B007H0148I” locale=”us”]Mike Breen and the Big Dream: All Night Long[/easyazon-link].
Mike released two CDs in the ’90s to critical acclaim and started to have other artists record his songs, which eventually led to a passion for recording. This was also when he got his first “b bender” Telecaster that would eventually lead him to write and record a CD called [easyazon-link asin=”B000CAARMO” locale=”us”]Mescal Mary & Other B Bender Guitar Instrumentals[/easyazon-link], which received notable reviews in many national publications including “20th Century Guitar.”
In 2004, Mike released [easyazon-link asin=”B0019BBFRQ” locale=”us”]Apartment Living[/easyazon-link] featuring a bunch of his DADGAD acoustic guitar instrumentals. He currently records and produces his own and other artists’ music, most recently working on Jessi Colter’s “Out of the Ashes” and with Tanya Tucker, Jessi Colter, Reggie Young and Jenny Young on a song for the new Waylon tribute on Scattertunes.
Mike has composed and recorded music extensively for television and movies, including “Walker, Texas Ranger – Trial by Fire,” Discovery Channel’s “Sucking Amps,” and A&E Biographies on Bruce Willis, Halle Berry, Will Smith, Cuba Gooding Jr, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, Leonardo Di Caprio, and Owen Wilson. Other musical credits include “Lassie’s Pet Vet,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Property Ladder,” “My First Home,” “Clinically Wild – Alaska,” “ABC’s Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann,” “American Idol Rewind,” “Wedding Central,” “Farmer Wants A Wife,” “Can You Duet,” “Clean House” “Losing It, Tales From Fat Camp,” “The Osbornes Reloaded” and “Let’s Make A Deal.” Whew!
So Mike, where do you find inspiration for writing original music?
I’ve always felt the need to connect with the world through lyrics and music as a conduit to that place we all share deep in our souls, that place of truth.
Do you have a structured process for writing original songs, or do you rely more on inspiration and things less predictable?
My songwriting process has become predictable and repeatable. I’ve found that mornings are best for me and I need to have a guitar or some musical instrument in my hand. I begin by playing a little and then singing a little which usually opens up a channel to a place where the flow or connection is. In Irish tradition it’s called the “Thin Place” — the zone where the barrier between this earthly plane and the spiritual plane is more easily transversed.
You’ve done quite a lot of TV music over the years. How did you get involved in that business, and to what do you attribute your success in that domain?
I’d been pursuing ways to get my songs out there and lucked out with a composer in L.A. who was starting to pitch to TV and Movies. Since then, I’ve started to study the music from different parts of the country and really enjoy finding melodies and performing on instruments that evoke images of specific places and scenes. It’s a nice break from the intensity of my other compositions.
What have you learned so far about the process of marketing original music?
The industry has changed so much, especially recently, that it’s a whole new ball game out there. Live shows are still very important, touring and social marketing as well. But, TV and film placements are equally important.
I can’t say there ‘s a formula for breaking into this market, but what worked for me was having a bunch of instrumentals. Most TV shows use instrumental cues and a lot of them use music libraries to find cues. So, if you start writing and recording instrumental music — or take the vocals off the tracks you already have — you’re on to a good start and probably the quickest way to get in.
Make sure you have signed up with a PRO (i.e., BMI, ASCAP or the like) and then begin the search for a good library that likes your music and will give you an agreement without the words “in perpetuity” so if things don’t work out you can get all the rights to your song back after an agreed amount of time.
To learn more about licensing I would check out these sites:
What affect are advances in technology having in how you go about writing original music?
None. However, the changes are huge when it comes to recording. I write old school with just a guitar, pen and paper. When I record I love all the new technology.
Your b bender telecaster performances on your “Mescal Mary and Other B Bender Guitar Instrumentals” CD are remarkable. What exactly is a b bender and what’s the trick to pickin’ one?
Thank you. The b bender is a device invented by Gene Parsons and the late, great Clarence White when they were in “The Byrds” that enables you to “bend up” your B string using a lever attached to your guitar strap instead of using your fingers.
I also use a G bender on my guitar. From what I’ve read Clarence wanted to do some pedal steel bends that we’re impossible on his telecaster so he got with Gene who was a machinist as well as the drummer and got some pedal steel parts and routed out the back of Clarence’s guitar and “voila” the first b bender was born.
That guitar is Marty Stuart’s now and you can see Marty playing it all the time. In my situation, I was doing a lot of trio work so the b bender enabled me to play a chicken-pickin’ solo on the first go-round and then play a pedal steel solo on the second. Then, being a songwriter, I just had to write some instrumentals that used the b and g bender which I find to be so much fun.
What are thoughts on 1) becoming and 2) staying relevant as a songwriter?
Always perform your songs, always listen to what the kids are listening to and never give up!
What are the top songwriting tips you can offer for folks just getting started?
Learn the basics, listen to the hits and then find your own voice.
Tools of the Trade
What instrument do you use when developing a new song?
Mike: I do most of my writing on my trusty Froggy Bottom Jumbo Acoustic.
What devices do you use to record your songwriting ideas?
Mike: I record random ideas on a [easyazon-link asin=”B00378LGD2″ locale=”us”]Yamaha Pocketrak[/easyazon-link] and then when I get ready to cut the song I use [easyazon-link asin=”B0061ZPCUQ” locale=”us”]Pro Tools[/easyazon-link].
Do you use any software or apps in your songwriting process?
Are there any other items you consider essential for your songwriting toolkit?
Mike: A thesaurus, a dictionary and a rhyming dictionary.
Music by Mike Breen:
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