Grateful web interview with Fritz Michel


Artistic expression generally knows no bounds, and given Fritz Michelthe range of experience, this is clearly the case. Born in France and based in New York, he established himself as an accomplished actor who shared his skills in film, television and on stage. And now, as evidenced by his new single and his new video for “Look Out (Botticelli Girl)”, Michel’s ambitions have broadened to include creating music that is articulate, intelligent and instantly accessible. Check out the new music video for “Look Out (Botticelli Girl)”, which premiered today:

Like his previous singles “Darker Now”, “King of Corona” and “Stardust” – all of which have racked up thousands of hits on YouTube and Spotify – “Look Out” embraces a pure pop sound, similar to Belle & Sebastian, Badfinger, and Big Star, with a flair for melodious melodies and a certain lyrical generosity.

But as we learned in our exclusive interview below, Michel is also a huge fan of the Grateful Dead, calling the group one of his biggest creative inspirations. Read on to learn more about this love of the dead, his meeting with Jerry Garcia in the early ’90s, and his plans for the year ahead.

GW: You have such an interesting career, not only in music, but also in theater and cinema. What are some of your biggest creative inspirations and how have your past collaborations outside of music influenced your composition?

Fritz: Thank you. I’m so happy to chat here on Grateful Web because I’ve always listened to Jerry Garcia’s music! To me, its honest and singular sound really speaks of the adventure of this life. I’ve seen him perform dozens of times with the Grateful Dead, JGB, and even some of his acoustic gigs. Surprisingly, one night in the early 1990s outside a Broadway theater during intermission, I found myself standing with Jerry smoking a cigarette. We were both in the audience and I had seen the Dead at Madison Square Garden the day before! I didn’t say anything because I thought he might use some space on his night off. He was just such a presence.

Garcia’s “Mission in the Rain”, for example, perfectly expresses a dark and desperate night in San Francisco. And I will add that John Kahn was a fantastic bass player and I heard that he chose many covers that made up the JGB repertoire.

I play bass and learning jazz taught me improvisation, harmony, melody and structure. I am thinking here of the classics “Sugar” or “Sister Sanctified” by Stanley Turrentine. My experience as a jazz band could be my most fundamental musical collaboration.

And you are right, my cinema / theater collaborations inform my music. One of my first professional singing gigs was in a rock and roll version of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Montreal which I did at La Mama, ETC in the East Village!

Right now I’m in a movie theater shooting the music video for “Look Out”. Jim Berry, the director, and I have made short films, written film scripts and even published a graphic novel together over the years. This time around we are using all the analog special effects like Chinese shadows, slide projectors, and lighting tips!

Having worked a lot outside of music, I approach songwriting with the audience and the story in mind. I always think about what is visual in music. Another big influence is David Bowie. His theatricality was out of sight

GW: Tell us about “Attention”. What was the inspiration behind this particular track?

Fritz: “Look Out (Botticelli Girl)” reflects the precious moments that remain in the memory. You want to hang on to those moments, but you don’t have much choice in life but to pay attention and move on. I wanted uplifting energy born from an intense shared experience, whether painful or exhilarating.

GW: What is the meaning of the song title?

Fritz: As for the title, I come from New York where we are all together all the time in the crowded streets but I also touch on mythology. I studied art history at university. A large painting like a Botticelli is full of clues and I hope the song speaks to them. Maybe there is a disclaimer in the title as well. Life changes unlike a painting.

GW: What’s your songwriting process like? How do you feed your imagination?

Fritz: I have found that the songwriting process works best as a shared journey like making movies or directing a play. You are looking for lyrics and themes like with a script. Colors and sounds emerge as you experiment with chords and progressions. The technical elements, the rehearsal, and the collaboration hopefully lead to something that connects with an audience. It’s a life of listening, then letting go and staying in the moment. Connecting the story to an audience dictates the process and this is also the challenge of live performance.

I started writing songs almost out of necessity when the pandemic exploded and I put the brakes on live performances. I met producer Tosh Sheridan through my teacher, jazz guitarist Tony Romano. Tosh is also an amazing guitarist (check out his slide work on “Look Out”)! We recorded “Look Out (Botticelli Girl)” at Tosh’s studio in Long Island City, so he has that New York energy. Tosh and I also collaborated on my other releases “King of Corona”, “Stardust” and “Darker Now”, so I’m grateful for this collaboration.

GW: Did any of the other performers and artists you met give you any advice that is particularly close to your heart?

Fritz: I would say I feed my imagination through learning. Self-knowledge teaches you what is possible. Writing songs takes a lot of practice. A director once told me: “Don’t act what’s going on. Play what’s possible. Playwright David Mamet tells the actors not to act and just say the words honestly. I think the same goes for singing and songwriting. Wisdom is elusive and mysterious!

GW: What’s the next step for you this year?

Fritz: In the coming year, I’m excited to be playing all of my new songs live and finishing my EP. The pandemic has been such a brutal and strange time for performing artists. All of us really. I miss the hugs. I miss the handshakes. As I also love calm, confinement has proven to be a creatively fertile time for me. Finding our way to the other needs to be treated. Simple things like upcoming summer travel plans to see all my first cousins ​​for the first time in almost two years take on a new resonance. We all have our stories to share.

Visit Fritz Michel on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/artist/5AAiYL7lm6zZPXwO5d3fe1?si=u2jQgK_bRUe4Ks2AI-Dk6w&nd=1