Mike Mitchell – June Artist Spotlight
Artist Spotlight – June 2022
In 2007 Mike Mitchell could be found teaching violin/fiddle lessons on Saturday afternoons at a local music store. During the summer of that year, two students entered the Twin-Fiddling category in the Wayne Henderson & Jimmy Edmonds fiddle competition in Galax, Virginia and WON! Those two students are now his stepchildren. Congrats to the kids for taking home the trophies. On that auspicious occasion, the idea of merging Jenny Brooke’s piano/flute studio with his fiddle/guitar/mandolin studio became the main topic of conversation. In just a short time, the Floyd Music School was born and since that day, Mike and Jenny have been teaching there full-time. The school has continued to expand and produce great musicians. Students have graduated and went on to study at Berklee School of Music, Frost School of Music at University of Miami, UNCSA (University of North Carolina School of the Arts), Belmont and ETSU (East Tennessee State University). There have also been artists that are now pro-performing artists, recording artists and even playing in churches all around Southwest Virginia. In 2014, less than 10 years after opening, The Floyd Music School partnered with LessonFace and is now able to bring their music lessons to students all over the world!
Before the success of The Floyd Music School and becoming a known singer/songwriter and instrumentalist, Mike started his dream of playing the fiddle at the young age of four. Mike was born on August 5th and grew up in Floyd, Virginia. Floyd, Virginia has a population less than 500 and was named after the 25th Governor John Floyd (in office March 1823-1829). Sometime during his school age years, Mike moved to the great state of Ohio (I am a little bias ha-ha!) where he graduated from the Western Reserve High School in Berlin Center, Ohio. Berlin Township was organized in 1828 and was name after Berlin, Germany. Although Mike’s mom will tell you that he started asking for violin lessons at the age of three, he furthered his instrumental skills by learning the guitar and mandolin after high school.
At the age of 20, Mike began singing and songwriting. During that same year, he had his first paying gig at a bar on Carson Street in Pittsburg, PA. Mike has found that he tends to start most of his writing process as a catharsis, to help him deal with deep thoughts and/or feelings. It could be during his morning walks or a long drive. Then it goes through a refinement process and eventually as a demo in his studio. Co-writing has become a new experience for him over the last few years and mostly always done over a Zoom call. Over the years he has noticed that he has matured from rock, pop, and jam material to Bluegrass and Country writing. He is proud to say that “it is here, he will stay”.
Mike is a caretaker of a Gagliano copy violin which belonged to his Great, Great, Great Aunt Suzette. Aunt Suzette passed it down to her nephew DJ Mitchell. DJ Mitchell is Mike’s Great, Great Grandfather. In the back of that violin, you will see where DJ scribed his name and “Geneva College, PA, 1890”. Throughout the years the violin became damaged in the pegbox area (which is the very top of the violin where the strings are attached) and was not repaired until 2008. Since that repair, Mike has played it and has always used it on one song, every album. Hearing his son play that fiddle gives him the strongest feeling of tradition and purpose!
Along with the Gagliano inherited fiddle, Mike also had inherited an Amati copy (same era) that unfortunately (foolishly) got pawned in Boardman, OH in 1990 and an E.Martin, one piece back violin, that he sold to a man in Narrows, VA around 1995. As Mike’s love for music and appreciation for these instruments grew over the years, he has been looking and hoping to be able to put them back into his collection.
(So, if you think you may have or know the where-a bouts of these two violins, please contact Mike)
Inspirational people like Heidi Brooke, his stepdaughter, and Sam Bush, musical hero, are two people that had a hand in Mike’s love for Bluegrass music. Heidi has inspired Mike to work hard for what he wants, to never quit, the meaning of family and true unconditional love. Sam Bush, an American mandolinist who is considered an originator of progressive bluegrass music, has given inspiration in Mike’s multi-instrumental skills. It is obvious that having the ability and skill to play multiple types of instruments allows for more diversity in creating new music. Another person that has made a huge impact in Mike’s life was Arthur Conner, longtime world-renowned fiddle maker. As Arthur passed in 2020 at the age of 95, Mike would give anything to have a few more minutes with Arthur to tell him, “Thanks for always believing in and supporting me. Hope I’m making you proud”.
Having such a great supportive and inspirational backing, I asked Mike how he got involved doing the IBMA Songwriters Committee. Mike explained to me that about four years ago, Rick Lang heard him rehearsing with Mark Schatz and Jeff Scroggins (who were providing back-up for him in a showcase) in the hallway at an IBMA convention. Later that day, Rick found Mike and introduced himself. They have been friends ever since. In Mike’s words, Rick has been one of the most supportive and encouraging people that he has known in this business. Rick has motivated him to stay committed to the craft. Mike affectionately calls Rick, “Guru Rick”. Working on the IBMA Songwriters’ Committee has given Rick a chance to meet and network with the best and most successful writers in the business. Every co-write that Mike has done on his new record was done with writers that he had met through the committee work.
As the director of the IBMA Songwriter’s Mentorship Program, Mike is now able to give back to the craft by introducing new writers to some of the same folks who Mike was able to work with and from whom he learned so much from. For the up-and-coming artists, Mike would like to remind them that “You’ve gotten where you are because of a dream”. No matter how busy it gets, don’t forget that and keep your dream alive! There will be times when you are the only one still holding on to that dream. That is the time to you need to hold on to it all even tighter. No matter how many times you hear “No”; don’t let it make you think your music is not good or worthy, remember EVERY compliment you’ve ever gotten and use them to persevere! No one (but another artist) is going to know how much work it takes and how much sacrifice you make. You will succeed if you stay true to yourself and your music.
Mike just finished a new album titled, “Fathers & Sons”. The title has a recurring theme (folks and family passing the music on). Mike’s favorite song on the album is “Making Hay” because of how much fun he had playing the fiddle. For the first time, Mike Mitchell’s album is comprised of co-writes (Dawn Kenny, David Morris, Rick Lang, Jack Shannon and Echo Valley). Mike stated that he found the singing was the easiest thing to do and that the writing and recording of the fiddle breaks were the hardest.
Many of the songs on the album are about family and inspired by his children’s lives. The song “Love of The Mountains” was written by Allen Mills, uncle of Jason Moore (bass player on the album). Jake and Joey Mosley, bandmates, were taught by their fathers and grew up in a family band. Tray Wellington, banjo player on the album, did not know his own father well and was raised by his material grandfather which is something that Mike and Tray have in common. Mike himself was taught to play by his mother and has since taught his own children and stepchildren to play. Unfortunately, right now, Mike and his own son, James Michael, are not super close. James is Mike’s favorite fiddler to play twins with and finds himself wishing, praying and keeping the hope alive that they will be making music together again soon.
During the writing of the songs on the album, his father-in-law, Toby Mort, passed away from a painful and fast cancer. He was a hero to his daughters and 17 grandchildren. Mike was truly inspired by his example and now tries to live up to that standard, which sometimes feels impossible but he TRYS.
After talking with Mike for a little while and him opening up about his new album, his climb in the music world, experiences with students (of all ages and backgrounds), I asked him what he has found to be the most difficult thing he has experienced. Mike’s response was, “Drugs destroy everyone involved!” The damage that drug addiction does to a person can also make a huge impact on their loved ones (friends and family). As we all have seen, addiction (of any sort) can be blinding, misunderstood, life altering and even life ending. Both Mike and I, along with others, pray for each addict to be able to see; the love around them, the strength within themselves, to free them of the hold, the hope for a better future and guidance from God. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.”
Fast Firing Fun Facts:
What is your favorite Holiday and why? Christmas! The most important and wonderful part about the holidays is FAMILY!
What is your favorite saying/quote? “Fine, have it your way!”
What/Where was your most memorable moment (outside the Opry, if you have already)? Playing the main stage at FloydFest (world music and arts festival held annually near Floyd, Virginia)
Routine or ritual prior and after going on stage? Says a prayer and deep breathing exercise before going on stage and then smokes a cigar after the show.
What is your dream destination? Southeastern Italy
What state has been your favorite to do a concert/event in? Colorado
What is your favorite type of car? Old Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Do you have a hobby outside of music? Yes, love fishing
What is your favorite kind of Ice Cream? Double Dark Chocolate from Homestead Creamery
What is your favorite junk food? None
Do you have any pet(s) and what are their names? Cali Goodun, a Czechoslovakian Shepherd given to me by a songwriter, Jack Shannon, after a show in Indiana.
What is your favorite book that you read or author that you like to read? John Ehle, by John Steinbeck
Who is your favorite Actor/Actress? Kevin Costner and Ashley Judd
What is your favorite movie line? “I’m your Huckleberry” from Tombstone
News from artist:
Mike Mitchell has a new CD coming out SOON!!! The title of the new album is “Fathers and Sons”. There have already been two singles released, “Calling Me” and “I Hear Banjos”. As a Broadcaster, it has been awesome seeing my website getting flooded with requests for “I Hear Banjos”. On May 15th, “I Hear Banjos” made its debut on my Weekly Top Ten Countdown as Number 10 and has since moved up. That song along with “Calling Me” has really got me excited about hearing the complete album.
Website for artist, tour dates and/or merchandise:
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