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Concert Reviews and Interviews:  Michael Stanley

Interview by: Mike Farley

For those of you not familiar with Michael Stanley, he is an incredible singer/songwriter who has been making and recording music for several years. He is basically a living legend in Northeast Ohio, and for good reason. I recently had a chance to talk to Michael about his past successes and future goals.

Mike Farley:
Who are your songwriting influences?

Michael Stanley:
We all fall back on Lennon and McCartney as well as Jagger and Richards. My favorite all-time songwriter is Jimmy Webb, and I still respect the Joni Mitchells of the world, as well as Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen.

What kind of music do you listen to today for enjoyment?

Anything I listen to in my car would be considered a bizarre trip. I make a lot of compilation CDs. I really like some of the music coming out of Nashville, particularly a husband and wife duo named Buddy and Julie Miller, who are simply amazing. It's all about the songs for me and good songwriting. That's actually one of the reasons I like your band so much [Mike Farley Band].

You've toured with such artists as the Doobie Brothers, Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles. What was it like and did you like the lifestyle?

[Laughs] It's cool when you're young. If you're older, you'd better be doing it the first class way. It was great opening for some of those bands, but we actually had the chance to open for the Stones and the Who but I turned it down. Bands that open for the Stones barely get out alive. 
And we came of age at a good time [1980s]. Radio was so much more "friendly" than it is today. And you could actually make money on the road and gain a following back then.

You've written songs for the Cavs and the Browns. Are you a big sports fan?

I'm a big baseball fan. I also did an Indians tune in 1985. It was great growing up with the Indians and doing that song, though they lost 105 games that year. But you know how it is -- all athletes want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be athletes. We share that "on the road" thing too.

Your new album is called "18 Down." How is it selling so far and how can new fans pick it up?

You can pick it up in Northeast Ohio at most stores and on the Web at places like I don't really keep track of how well it sells anymore -- I'm more about making good music and if it sells, it sells. If not, I can give them away as Christmas gifts. [Laughs] Making good music is cheaper than therapy. 

What are some of your most memorable career highlights?

The fact that we did 11 albums in 13 years. A band lasting that long is pretty cool when you consider the average life span of a band back then was two to three years. We were also the first "local" band to the play at the Richfield Coliseum, plus we sold out four nights at Blossom in the early 80s -- 96,000 people total on the four nights.

You've lived in the Cleveland area your whole life and are somewhat of a legend here.
What do you like most about Cleveland?

I grew up on the west side, and eventually moved to the east side after college. I've traveled everywhere, even overseas, but it always felt good to come back here. Some places might be prettier and have more to offer, but this is a working class town where if the people embrace you they always will. 

For people looking at this Website and seeing your name for the first time, what artists are you most compared to?

I'm compared mostly to Springsteen, [Bob] Seger, [John] Mellencamp and sometimes Tom Petty. I guess I get Seger and Springsteen the most, which I'm pretty happy about because I respect those guys a lot. 

Besides playing shows in Northeast Ohio, do you guys tour much anymore?

We go as far as we can go to get back by Monday morning. We all have real jobs and families [editor's note: Michael is the afternoon drive-time disc jockey for WNCX 98.5 in Cleveland]. A few years ago we toured with the Eagles for a short while and last year we went as far as Texas to play.

What else is going on with your music career?

I'm trying to get more into writing. I have some things in the works that I can't mention because I don't want to jinx them, some things that are happening in Nashville. That's what I'd like to do more of, is write songs for other people to record.

Is there anything in your career you haven't yet accomplished that you'd still like to?

This is a career I never planned on. I started my band because I got fired from a job. I never thought this would last as long as it has. But it's what I do and I'd still be doing it even if I wasn't playing places like Nautica. I even still play some lo-fi gigs with my guitar player Mark Lee Shannon where we just play covers and blues tunes. That's something I really enjoy because we just play songs we like to play.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Just that I really appreciate the support of everyone. Now more than ever we all need to hang together, and all grow old together. 

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