hot damn, ethel. looks like it werks. and yes, mike golay lives here.
Mikey's Twangville Gazette: Bio
My name is Mike Golay. Often times... I play guitar. I'm not exactly sure how to categorize my music, but I am influenced by jazz, Celtic, bluegrass, rock, pop, punk, folk, funk, ska, hip-hop, classical and world music, as well as a lot of other stuff I can't articulate at the moment. I think a little bit of all of it comes out in my music. There are things I can do and places I can go when I play guitar that I don't feel I can get to by any other means. I keep playing to keep feeling and travelling. It's nice out here. You should come for a visit.
For the record
Half Pint, my first solo acoustic album, was released by Banshee Records in April 2003. You can hear streaming clips from my records in the music section. My second record, Across the Bridge, also on Banshee Records, was released in November 2005. Shortly thereafter, independent music label CANdYRAT Records signed me. Cool. I'm currently at work on a third album.
Your friends and neighbors
I've had the good fortune to make a number of great friends and I feel like I know so many others through their music. I've listed a number of players who have influenced me here. Please support the arts! Consume music voraciously!
You know... buy it and stuff.
Q: When did you start playing guitar?
The Bumby Tapes: 10 Questions and Answers - June 2004
A: My parents gave me a junior-sized, Korean-made plywood guitar bought off the wall of a record store when I was seven or eight, I think. I was really into Elvis at that time - despite the fact that he'd just died - and had to have it. I didn't have any real success learning to play. I got a Mel Bay book of chords around the same time but, again, didn't get far. My left hand in particular just couldn't get around the shapes. I already had an interest in drums and percussion, so I did that for the better part of 20 years. At some point I took electrical tape and white-out to the guitar and turned it into a Van Halen acoustic...
When I was about 16 I "borrowed" a Harmony acoustic from an uncle. I still have it. I mostly noodled on it. I took a number of years off from music but decided to pick guitar up again in 2001, at the age of 31. A few years later I did my first record, Half Pint, released in April of 2003.
Q: Did you take lessons?
A: I took a handful of lessons from my good friend Al Petteway in 2001. They were informal, mostly geared toward basic technique and composition, and were a lot of fun. But for the most part I'm self-taught. I've found video lessons put out by various players to be very helpful and I still play through a lot of transcribed music in guitar magazines and books.
Q: How would you categorize your music?
A: "I play solo acoustic fingerstyle guitar." That's what I usually say when asked. The problem is, very few people understand what I mean when I say it. And that's fine. It's a huge category in some respects, but in terms of the actual market, it's definitely a niche. If you were to put my record in a chain record store, it would probably end up in either Folk, New Age or Country, depending on what sound clips you listened to or what chain's stocking guidelines you followed. I guess I would say it's Folk or Acoustic music. I don't sing (which is the most common followup question and answer). I just play guitar.
I've been influenced by all kinds of music and I'd like to think there's a little bit of all of it that comes out when I play guitar. I honestly don't consider myself much of a guitar player, per se, and I don't think I do the typical "guitaristic" things on the instrument. I just try to play compositions that touch me somehow or another. On guitar. Solo. Acoustic, more or less. With my fingers.
Q: How do you approach playing the guitar?
A: I have to sneak up on it and pounce. Even so, it usually puts up a pretty good fight.
I like playing different styles and using different techniques on the guitar, but I don't really have what some would call "a method." I've taken bits and pieces - and I continue to carry around many misunderstandings and ill-attempts at picking things up - from all kinds of music: celtic, folk, pop, fingerpicking, banjo and old-time music, classical (or maybe I should say quasi-classical), percussive and "slap-tap" playing... It's all good and fair game to me. I don't make a lot of conscious decisions about what to play - like: "This is going to be a [banjo-inspired] frailing tune." Though I have done that, I confess. Mostly I just try to hear what's in my head clear enough to make a go at realizing it on the guitar. With varying degrees of success.
I will allow the following. The things that probably most characterize my playing, at the moment, would be: melodic use of left-hand slides and glissandos, sustained and occasionally complex right-hand picking patterns, use of harmonics - both open string and fretted/right-hand, percussive playing with the right and left hands on both the guitar's strings and body, extensive use of open and altered tunings, slow left hand. I'm also a longtime drummer and I think some of the techniques and phrasing that I employ on the guitar have to do with my history playing various percussion instruments.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: I grew up listening to and playing a lot of jazz, but I have very little jazz vocabulary on the guitar. I love listening to all of the jazz guitar greats and still pick up the latest releases from a number of artists. I got really snobby about jazz for a little while, in college, but I took some time off, came back and just started listening to everything, and found that I really dig pop music, oddly enough. But I listen to everything and I try to pull out a little of everything - not just guitarists. I love Copland, Bernstein as much as Miles and Monk. Or Weezer.
I've heard a number of guitarists I respect give the advice that to be a good solo guitarist you need to listen to non-guitar music and vocals in particular, and take what you hear there and apply it to the guitar. The point being that you can only get so far by just listening to guitarists and playing guitar. And I would agree. You want your guitar to sound like a complete instrument, not just six strings doing "guitar stuff." But I also think it's valuable to do some listening to great fingerstyle guitarists, at least formatively. And I have. I've listened to a lot of players and I still do.
In terms of the guitar, I have a number of players who have inspired and/or influenced me listed on my site.
But if you were to force me to narrow it down, I would say the following players have made the biggest impact on me in terms of actually playing guitar: Pierre Bensusan, Michael Hedges, Adrian Legg, Leo Kottke, Don Ross, Al Petteway, Ed Gerhard. But there are so many greats out there and I listen to lots of different players for lots of different reasons - some for technique, some for emotional feel and content, some for composition. In terms of composing and identity, Bill Frisell, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Amrit Sond - as well as lots of pop, rock and celtic musics - have left a discernible mark. There are some amazing players doing great arranging as well... I need to stop the name-dropping at this point.
Q: What guitars and strings are you playing these days?
A: I am eagerly awaiting the completion of a custom cedar/old-growth sapele, slightly longer scale (25.7") guitar with a body taper (Linda Manzer's design, which she calls a wedge), in the mini-jumbo to jumbo size, made by the Washington, D.C.-based luthier David D. Berkowitz. I imagine that guitar will become my main instrument going forward. I have a number of other guitars, but the primary one has been a custom spruce/maple Taylor 612ce, which I used for 10 of the 12 tracks on Half Pint. I also play a customized mahogany Regal squareneck dobro, a Weissenborn Style 3 copy, a 1999 spruce/sapele Taylor 355 12-string, and I'm fond of a 1988 spruce/mahogany Taylor 512 and a spruce/mahogany Larrivée L-01, the latest of which is a relatively inexpensive but lovely guitar I use primarily when I'm traveling. I have a cedar/rosewood Yamaha classical cutaway, as well as a few other guitars I keep mostly for sentimental reasons.
I'm very lucky to have an Endorsing Artist relationship with Dean Markley Strings. I use their GoldPhos and GoldBronze strings on various guitars in custom gauges: .56, .42, .32, .25, .16, .13. I can't recommend them highly enough. They're fantastic strings - I've tried just about everything out there - and they're a cut above.
For the dobro I've used D'Addario Flattops and a custom set of Paul Beard strings. On the classical I use D'Addario Pro Arte EXP extra-hard tension.
Q: What kind of pickup system do you use?
A: It varies per guitar but I've more or less settled on a dual-source McIntyre system: GF-30 Feather (bridge), SBT-04 Transducer (soundboard), which I blend (quite medievally, I might add) using a pair of L.R. Baggs PADIs. I recently wrote an article detailing how I use this system and other systems in general. For the dobro I use a Fishman Passive Resophonic.
Q: What is your writing process like?
Except when it's not. Most of the things I write take a little time and seasoning to get right before I feel like they're good enough to record. Occasionally things fall in place quickly, but more often than not I do a lot of tweaking along the way.
I like to use my home recording studio to work on compositions. With today's equipment it's very easy to lay down basic ideas, edit them together into rough pieces, listen back, refine, etc. I use my computer recording system as a sort of digital scratchpad. I'll record a melody, listen back. Write a B section, record it, edit it onto the A section, listen back. Write an intro, slap that on, listen back, etc. It's fun. When I finally get things the way I like them, I'll go for a live take. The most important thing to me is getting rough pieces down and listening back to them critically. I personally don't think I can both play and listen to my own playing - or my own compositions or arrangements, I should say - at the same time, and be objective. I need a little bit of distance from the playing, the technique, so I can just hear the music. I can usually identify things I'm doing in a tune (or not doing) that I would have never noticed when I was just playing. It's a nice, though sometimes very long, process. And I still rewrite and rearrange pieces that I've been playing for a long time.
Q: How did you record Half Pint?
A: It's pretty well documented elsewhere, but the Cliff's Notes version is basically: in two sessions over about four days, in two locales, both yielding roughly half of the record. I engineered everything myself, using a fairly low-end setup, including two mismatched condenser mics, a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro mixer and a Roland UA-30 USB analog to digital converter, into an underpowered, futzy and very loud laptop running Cool Edit Pro 2.
I did very little editing and then turned the tracks over to Scott Spelbring at DragonflyEast in Haymarket, VA, for mixing and mastering.
The whole experience was a lot of fun. Especially when it was over.
Q: What are your future recording plans?
A: I intend to continue recording my own stuff. For what I'm doing and for where I'm located it's the best option that I have. The house has a nice, rather small room that I have set up as an office/studio. I'm in the process of doing some equipment upgrades - new mics, mic-preamp and a new a-to-d. Meanwhile I'm in the middle of writing my followup record, titled Across the Bridge. Like Half Pint, it includes many styles and is a very personal record written out of some of my experiences in the last year or so. I'm doing some demos now and I hope to have it completed in early 2005.
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