Michigander meets with Top Shelf at Shaky Knees Fest

Michigander meets with Top Shelf at Shaky Knees Fest

Jason Singer, the 29-year-old also known as Michigander, has been very productive during the last couple of years. He lost some weight, wrote some new music and got engaged. Instead of succumbing to the negativity that COVID brought to so many people, Jason decided to turn that time into something positive, writing his latest EP, Everything Will Be OK Eventually.

The future is looking like it will be more than ‘OK’ for Michigander, with an upcoming tour with The Lumineers and Manchester Orchestra.

After an amazing performance at this year’s Shaky Knees Music Festival, myself and alt musician Anastasia Elliot sat down with Michigander to discuss the record and who he would host if he were to throw his own music festival. 

AE: Is this your first Shaky Knees?

  • M: I went to Shaky Knees in 2013 as an attendee to see The National. I drove down and it was at Atlantic Station, I remember, and I said, “I’m gonna play here one day.” And now, nine years later, I’m playing. It feels very exciting. I wasn’t really expecting the big crowd and they were singing. So, that was awesome. 

AE: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

  • Yeah, kind of. I do vocal warm-ups. A friend of mine sent me an app that has vocal warm-ups. I have been listening to “Close To You” by Dayglow with my headphones on. I just dance really stupid to it and try and get myself warmed up and my blood flowing. Sometimes, we take a shot of tequila. Nothing too exciting. 

TSM: Do you get nervous before you go up there?

  • Not really anymore. The bigger the show, the less nervous I feel. 

AE: I totally understand that. I feel the exact same. When I am playing bigger shows, I don’t hardly feel nervous at all, but the smaller ones I always get some nerves. 

  • I love acoustic shows. If it’s a big band, small crowd, that makes me nervous. But, I feel really comfortable doing acoustic sets. 

TSM: Your recent EP ‘Everything Will Be Okay Eventually’ is amazing. What was the thought process behind it and how does it differ from your earlier releases?

  • The title comes from something I was just texting my friends as things were getting cancelled. We had this dream year planned to support some bands and festivals; Shaky Knees was the first to go I think. When that happened, it sucked. I texted my guitar player “everything will be okay eventually”. I saw it on my phone and thought a lot of the songs I was making were kind of like that, so that’s why that title stuck.
  • The music is different because I was forced to work on it longer. It was originally supposed to come out during summer of last year. I was just sitting at home playing on my computer, which I have never really done before. Usually, I am just playing on guitar, drums, etc. I got all of these new tones and ideas into it, so the record that we ended up releasing was different from the one that was originally going to happen. I’m so glad! I listen back to some of the earlier stuff and hear how much is missing or would have been missing. And now, those songs would be so weird to exist without those new parts. 

AE: Even though things getting cancelled sucked for a lot of us artists, do you feel like you gained a lot of benefit from being stuck inside on a personal level?

  • Yes. I really had to dive in and explore who I was outside of my band and outside of my music. That was really tough. I lost a hundred pounds and did all kinds of things and got engaged. I had so many things in my life change.

AE: I feel like it was a growth year for a lot of people!

  • I am excited to look back on these times, like a year or two from now, and see what people think. But, I am so happy it’s back and it was crazy being onstage today and saying, “Oh shit! This didn’t exist for a long time.” I am thankful and grateful. 

TSM: How often are you creating music? Do you write while you’re on tour or do you wait until you’re home and in a more quiet, grounded setting?

  • I don’t do anything on tour besides play shows. I wish I could. Some of the guys do. I am just so focused on the show aspect every night and everything in the day [that] leads up to that. There are a few ideas we jam during sound check that I am excited to listen back to in the future. I do have voice memos that I am always adding to and I journal every day, so there are a lot of ideas that I will go through and write some tunes at home. 

TSM: I read somewhere that you do a lot of EPs and, someday, you would like to write a longer album that you can hold onto and tour for a while. Are there any albums that you really love and visit often? 

  • There are so many. The National’s Trouble Will Find Me is an all-time favorite. Joshua Tree by U2. I am an album person and that’s really how I consume music. I am going to make an album one day, but I think one more EP and then it will be full-length time, which I’m excited for. 

AE: Do you consider how your songs will translate in live shows a lot when you’re writing? 

  • Yeah, definitely. “Let Down” I wrote specifically for Lollapalooza. I thought, “This is it, I know the crowds will sing this” and they do. I have always kind of written that way and it’s always worked. I’m trying not to get pigeonholed in that kind of thing. 

TSM: If you could put on your own festival and pick three headliners, who would they be?

  • I am going to go with a boutique festival. I would have The National headline, because they are my favorite band. The first night I would have a rockin’ band, The Arctic Monkeys. And, then The National. The last night, I would want a curveball. We would need a pop act or an old-school act. I would like to see John Mayer play some of his old albums in full. I would want him to play Room For Squares in full at a festival. And, then Smash Mouth every night — just a 15 minute set. There would be a “Smash Mouth” stage where only they play. They actually like my music and it’s the weirdest thing. They tweet me all the time. I want to be their friend, but I am also nervous to be their friend. 

TSM: What’s next for Michigander?

  • We have a few more dates on this tour and I am moving to Nashville soon. In February/March, we go on tour with Manchester Orchestra and then, hopefully, festivals and a new body of work in the summer next year. That’s the plan.

Michigander – “Better”

Cover photo by Kris Herrmann; thumbnail photo by Jacob Mulka

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