The most important thing that I’ve learned is to become as most self-sufficient as possible. Learn an instrument, how to mix/engineer, or how to produce. It saves time, money, and allows you to discover your sound, rather than listening to what whoever’s running the session thinks your sound is.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mikeyy Austin.
Lansing, Michigans Mikeyy Austin is a Hip Hop artist, musician and bandleader. His range of musical influences come rooted in the experience he had playing music in church as a teenager. Inspired to combine elements of soul and jazz into his music, Mikeyy has been successfully releasing music since early 2016. Very involved in his community, Mikeyy hosts monthly events to raise money toward art scholarships for Lansing students.
His new album “Greenhouse” raises the bar as it blends serene sounds under a soulful boom-bap sound bed. We had the chance to sit down with Mikeyy to learn more!
Can you tell us the story of how you grew up/Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My name is Mikeyy Austin and I am a 23-year-old hip-hop/soul artist and bandleader. I come from a family that was heavily into church and the gospel. My weekends were spent in church rehearsals, preparing poems, skits, and songs for different Sunday Youth Events. I hated it as a kid, but as I got older, I began to gravitate towards the musicians and music directors. My interest in drums and keys had me sitting in the musician pit every Sunday taking notes and learning. Outside of the church’s four-walls, I grew up in Michigan’s State Capital city, Lansing. It’s a ‘small’ city considering it’s the State Capital. Being in an environment where everyone knows everyone, community became an emphasis for me as a teenager. In high school, I began putting on events to bring my peers together, which led to me putting on concerts.
My early start in event curation helped me realize that the stage can be used to have fun and build community. Through this mindset, I’ve been able to put on events that promote diversity and community, while raising scholarship funds for local high schoolers continuing their education in art programs. My musical career was sparked by event curation/ performing.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
In 2016, I had just begun experimenting with recording and real ‘song-writing’. The first song I recorded was titled “ErykahBadu”. At the time, I think I was heavily inspired by the Soulquarian era to the point where all I listened to was Erykah Badu, Dilla, Common, and D’Angelo. I put it up on Soundcloud and maybe a month or so later, I woke up to a bunch of Facebook and Soundcloud notifications. I saw that Erykah Badu had followed me on Soundcloud and shared the song on her Facebook page. It was really encouraging to get that kind of response on my first song and gave me the confidence I needed to put myself out there.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t think it’s a ‘funny’ mistake, but it was definitely something I was able to learn from. When I was first starting, I took EVERY show that was offered. Like, I couldn’t say no. Some of it was the idea that I had to appear active to be productive. I remember I did 3 shows in one Saturday… in Lansing. Remember, Lansing is a small town. So by over performing, I began to see the attendance decline with every show. One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was to chill out on the yes’s and be more strategic as an artist and a brand, and that’s definitely free game I’d give to any artist just starting.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My new album, ‘Greenhouse’, releases May 22nd! This album is about growth, harmony, and newness. To me, “Greenhouse” is a mood. I’m extremely excited and proud of this project, as I feel this is a perfect representation of me as an artist, my experiences in my upbringing, and the direction that I am going. Greenhouse fuses elements of soul and jazz over a dusty hip-hop sound-bed and is a ride from beginning to end. The 13 song LP will be available digitally on all major streaming platforms, and physically at www.mikeyyaustinmusic.com, on May 22nd.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Film and television are extremely powerful because in many cases, portraying stereotypes reinforce what viewers believe they can and cannot be. Diversity in film and television allows all viewers to picture themselves in different roles, or identify with their reality. I also believe that talent comes in so many different shapes and forms. Without diversity, a lot of those gifts are missed and passed up on, which is a disservice to the public. Representation reinforces what viewers believe they can be also. I was watching Snoop Dogg talk about Suge Knight and Death Row Records on GGN. He was saying how before Suge, no one was running their own record labels. But that representation creates a sense of “I can do it too”, and is what paved the way for entrepreneurs like Master P, P. Diddy, Top Dawg, etc. I think this concept applies to all art forms, including film and television.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- There’s a lot of things I’ve learned in my musical journey. The most important thing that I’ve learned is to become as most self-sufficient as possible. Learn an instrument, how to mix/engineer, or how to produce. It saves time, money, and allows you to discover your sound, rather than listening to what whoever’s running the session thinks your sound is. I always felt this pressure and rush being in sessions with other people and engineers. I learned that I make my best music in my room, by myself. I think taking the time to become self-sufficient will help any artist in the long-run.
- Actually practice your craft outside of recording a performing/performance prep. Go to an open mic. Have a concert to yourself. In a lot of cases, music is natural, so there’s a misconception that you don’t have to practice. Until you get on stage and your out of breath and forget your words. You have to treat it like any other craft and practice at it. I’m in the mirror rapping, practicing cadences, and experimenting as much as possible. If you’re intentional about practicing your craft, you’ll eventually start to see growth.
- It’s possible to do things on your own. I guess it goes back to being self-sufficient, but when I was first starting, the idea of putting out music, putting on shows, touring, etc., seemed like things only people with record deals could do. Believe it or not, you can use the internet to do all of that and more. When you think about getting your art to the masses, it’s intimidating and makes you feel small. But knowing that there are so many resources out there, and we have THE INTERNET, anything is possible.
- Be patient. Seeds don’t grow overnight. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see immediate results. I look back on all the music I put out that didn’t catch traction, and instead of getting upset, I tried to view it as a part of the foundation. You’ll also listen to your music 2,3,5 years later, and be thankful that wasn’t the song to blow.
- Do what feels right. The artists we love the most are the ones that are most comfortable in their songs. No one wants to listen to someone that sounds unsure or uncomfortable.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s important to take time to chill and refresh yourself. Burnout is real, especially for creatives. The job of a creative is to entertain others, tell the stories of the voiceless, and be vulnerable/share yourself with complete strangers. If the creative doesn’t make time for self, how will they want to continue to serve/make time for others? I can’t stress the importance of self-care enough!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My work away from music includes working with students in multiple districts in the Greater Lansing area, teaching, and facilitating Restorative Practices. Restorative Justice is a peaceful conflict resolution program that brings together victims and offenders. Restorative Justice addresses the root harm while giving the victim and offender a say in how they’d like to move forward. This concept has been implemented in the criminal justice system here and there, but I’d like to see it as an actual option when dealing with “criminals”. There are so many people behind bars that shouldn’t be. And with the US having a higher incarceration rate than any other country, imprisonment obviously doesn’t seem to correct behaviors. A movement that focuses on repairing, restoration, and communication in the criminal justice system is a movement I’m all for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” — Stephen Covey
Being able to scale back and see a perspective other than my own has been the biggest lesson for me. Seeing other perspectives, ideas, and thoughts, allows you to realize you don’t have all the answers, and there’s still a lot to learn.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Erykah Badu, what’s up Auntie!! Let’s do breakfast… I can cook. (:
But seriously, Erykah Badu sharing my first song ever gave me the confidence to be myself and in result, has allowed me to become the artist I am today.
She comes from the era and the sound that has influenced me the most, so to be able to ask her questions about her influences and her story would be a dream of mine.
How can our readers follow you online?
@mikeyyaustin is my handle on all social media!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!