Click Here to Get Your Free 12-Minute Sound Healing Lesson

How to Be Creative and Productive During COVID Times – Mike Errico [Podcast]

creativity songwriting Dec 15, 2020

 

Mike’s Websites:

Home

Mike’s Music:

Bandcamp   iTunes  Spotify  

Songs Featured in this Episode:

“Here’s to the End of the World” by Mike Errico  “Aricebo” by Mike Errico

Connect with Mike via Social Media: 

Instagram  

Facebook 

Twitter

Mike’s curated playlists of music from former students:

Various Genres  Upbeat Roots  Indie Pop

 

New York-based recording artist, writer, and lecturing professor Mike Errico has built his name on the strength of critically acclaimed releases and hit composition for film and TV.

Mike and I recently connected to talk about the challenge of being creative and inspired during isolation, how his 80 year-old father keeps his brain clear as a bell playing classical piano, and the one thing all prolific artists do to refine their creative process.

 


Transcript

JIM DONOVAN:

Today on the Sound Health Podcast…

MIKE ERRICO:

My dad now… and we worry about it. We worry about the cognitive abilities of both them and everything. He can play a 20-minute Medtner piece, just from memory. I mean, he does that all the time. And whatever they say about, “You should do crossword puzzles when you’re older and it’s good for your cognitive health or whatever.” He’s like, “I don’t have time because I have to learn this other piece,” and the complexity of those pieces is huge, so his mind is very sharp.

JIM DONOVAN:

Before we get started, I’d like to invite you to take advantage of a free resource I made for you. It’s called the Sound Health newsletter. In it, I share the latest research in music and health, plus you’ll learn music and wellness exercises that you can use every day to feel your best. Just come visit me at donovanhealth.com to get started today. That’s donovanhealth.com

JIM DONOVAN:

Hey, there. Welcome to the show. This is Jim Donovan. I am so glad you’re here. 

We’ve got a great show for you today with New York-based recording artist, writer and lecturing Professor Mike Errico. 

Mike is an incredible songwriter whose music has been featured extensively in film and television. 

He teaches songwriting at universities like Yale, Wesleyan and NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He’s toured with many artists, including Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead, Derek Trucks and my former band, Rusted Root. 

Hey, Mike. Welcome to the show, man. How are you doing today?

MIKE ERRICO:

Doing all right. It’s great to hear your voice.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, you too. It’s been a long time and really enjoyed the times we got to tour together and we’ll get into some of that today. My friend Dan O., who is my manager for my franchise and helps me with this podcast told me that you live up right in the epicenter of this whole COVID thing up in New York City. Where about New York City do you live?

MIKE ERRICO:

I’m in Brooklyn.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. And it is yeah, I guess, it’s the epicenter, so, we’re lucky.

JIM DONOVAN:

What’s it like there right now?

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s weird. We’re doing, we’re doing all the things that we can possibly do. I haven’t left the house in weeks.

JIM DONOVAN:

Wow.

MIKE ERRICO:

I mean, it’s got to be, I don’t know, how many weeks. Time is getting a little bit fuzzy.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s got to be at least six weeks. My hair is interesting at this point, but I’m not complaining, whatever.

JIM DONOVAN:

Are you going to shave it?

MIKE ERRICO:

We might, I might. The only scissors we have are either sort of industrial grade or they’re like children’s scissors. I have two kids, so they’re like little green plastic ones that have zigzags along the blade.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well, whatever you do, you should film it. No matter what.

MIKE ERRICO:

I know.

JIM DONOVAN:

I mean, that’s just fodder waiting to happen.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, I think we might. I mean, I don’t know. We’re going to just cross the bridge when we get there. We’re all just looking a little shaggy. That’s all.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

But we’re safe and everything’s cool and we get our food delivered in and intense wiping down of doorknobs…

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

… and light switches every night and the whole thing.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Now, how old are your kids?

MIKE ERRICO:

Seven and three.

JIM DONOVAN:

All right, so you have not just yourselves to take care of, but you’ve got their entertainment to take care of and–

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh my God. Yeah, I spend a lot of time on the carpet building train tracks, actually.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

We got a delivery this morning of four Thomas the Train trains.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, I remember, yep.

MIKE ERRICO:

Some of the cast of characters… So they came in today and he’s over the moon today and luckily, our seven-year-old is a huge reader.

JIM DONOVAN:

Wow.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, we have a small backyard and I have an exercise bike.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s we’ve been shot out into space in our house.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s exactly what it’s like.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

We have all the comforts of home, and that’s it.

MIKE ERRICO:

That’s it. Just the doors don’t work anymore.

JIM DONOVAN:

Wow.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s very strange, but it’s cool. I mean, the number one thing is, is trying to keep the kids feeling secure.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yes.

MIKE ERRICO:

Feeling safe and upbeat, which require that we be as upbeat as we can.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. So, what are you doing to take care of yourself?

MIKE ERRICO:

Well, it’s weird. I guess if anyone’s ever been on antidepressants or any sort of like mind-altering drugs or anything like that, you kind of understand that a lot of our decision making and our attitude is chemical-based, despite the facts. 

I mean, we can actually make a lot of different things out of the same set of facts. So it’s an act of will basically to try and stay upbeat, specific, for myself, for my wife, for the family, but also for my students. I still maintain a full course load that we’re doing via my basement via Zoom.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And nobody needs a depressed professor, so I treat it like a performance a little bit, but it’s an act of will to take what’s going on now and find the positive in it.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s so well put because depression or depressive behavior…

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

… or maybe just crabby behavior, maybe that’s not the right way to say it, being morose about things is contagious. If we’re responsible for people like you with your kids, me with my kids, our students, it’s easy to “infect them” just with that poor mood.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes. And they do not need it.

JIM DONOVAN:

No one does. Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. I mean, it’s funny. I think about the different age groups that I’m in contact with. My parents are in their 80’s, but my students are like in their 20’s—like 21, 22 to like 25 or 26—and they’re cooped up.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know, which is worse. And then there’s the seven-year-old and a three-year-old, it’s really hard and it’s more important to all of them to be a light than to really be a mirror of darkness, kind of.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And I don’t mean to sound like poetic or whatever, but you have to put some spin on the ball here. Hopefully that is infectious as the depression or the crabbiness.

JIM DONOVAN:

I love the idea of it’s a force of will. I’m finding I have to do specific things to keep myself right.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

I have to move my body and if I don’t do that, if I just sit there, I go downhill pretty quickly. What doesn’t help me, I found that yesterday is that enough if I eat a half a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, that didn’t help in the long run.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

It was really good for like 10 minutes and then like it ruined the rest of my night, so that didn’t work.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. The kids have what, Puffins and graham crackers and they tend to leave this stuff around and I basically am the stop before the garbage can for a lot of the food here. And that doesn’t help, and I also have to say that I found out recently that my local liquor store will deliver.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh.

MIKE ERRICO:

That has not helped.

JIM DONOVAN:

That doesn’t help.

MIKE ERRICO:

No, that doesn’t help. What has definitely helped has been the exercise bike, like you’re saying, getting your body moving. I’ve been reading a lot about walking, about how walking helps different types of creative work and that’s been really interesting. 

I’ve been reading this Atlantic article from Thoreau basically, who did a tremendous amount of walking and it was in the Atlantic in 1862 or whatever, because we have time to do this kind of stuff. And he’s amazing and walking has been has proven to be a chemical. It’s a chemical change in the body that opens up the mind in incredible directions… in the way that tequila just doesn’t do.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s a longer burn, I guess, on the walking then.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, absolutely.

JIM DONOVAN:

Are you able to walk at all up there, or you’re pretty much just in the house?

MIKE ERRICO:

No. I what I do is there’s a little app called the seven-minute workout.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

There’s that and I have an exercise bike that I got from an uncle or something. It’s like 30 years old, but it works. It needed a nine-volt battery and then it like just popped back into life.

JIM DONOVAN:

Nice.

MIKE ERRICO:

And thank God for that. Thank God for it. It changes the chemistry completely and it is a longer burn just like you say. You do it in the beginning of the day… It’s like caffeine, but better.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Something I found recently that I would have never imagined would ever help is taking really quick cold showers, like as cold as I can stand it.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh my God.

JIM DONOVAN:

It sounds awful. First, you take a warm shower and then you kind of get yourself out of the water and flip it over to total cold.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yep.

JIM DONOVAN:

And then just put one foot in and then wipe the cold water on your leg and then get your hand in and do your extremities first.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And I’ve been doing this for maybe three weeks now and I’m up to… I can do maybe three, four minutes in there on total cold. Again, it sounds awful, but what I–

MIKE ERRICO:

I’ve tried it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Have you tried it?

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. I have tried it and it is not fun.

JIM DONOVAN:

No.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

What I’m learning though is that like my body is acclimating to it, so that if I breathe deeply as the cold is acclimating through my body through the water, when I get out, I feel freaking clear and amazing.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Even if I’m like completely foul and uh…

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

So, I think I might need to up my dosage of that to twice a day.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh my God. It’s like that kind of exhilaration that you’ve been chased by a bear, but made it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Exactly. Oh, yeah, and the bear is myself. Are you guys leaning into any music recently in the past couple weeks?

MIKE ERRICO:

You mean in my own or others? What do you mean?

JIM DONOVAN:

Just like anything that you’re listening to that’s helping you through any of this?

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, it’s funny. Just the weirdest thing has happened. 

I pulled out my record player, which has been unplugged for a decade at least and I put it on and I have a stereo, like an old stereo, whatever. I put it all together and I’ve been listening to vinyl in my crates. I found out that it’s not all mine, like not all the vinyl I have is actually mine.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, surprise.

MIKE ERRICO:

I think it’s my parents, so there’s like crazy stuff in there. 

There’s my stuff which is the guitars, so Joe Pass or Segovia and Savickas and all these guitar people that I was learning from when I was learning, whatever. 

But then there’s like Bobby Darin and Stan Kenton and things from the ’40’s and ’50’s, like pop from the ’50’s and early ’60’s and stuff like that. 

And my kids love it, but I love it and they’re loving the physicality of it, and also the intentionality of it. Like you have to get up and flip things and you have to pick things up and move. It’s physical, and they have no idea what that is, but they’re really loving it and they’re actually listening harder…

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s interesting.

MIKE ERRICO:

… to stuff. Yeah, it’s really weird, but everything in the house works. 

I don’t know why I decided to regress to a technology. It’s not my biggest collection of music. I have way more CDs than I have vinyl. But my CD player, I don’t know where it is. I had one and I think it’s broken somewhere, but it’s the vinyl that I’ve gone to. Which is really the early, early stuff like Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder… stuff like that. Early Elton John, like Van Morrison, The Clash. It’s been fun and I’ve been actually putting them up on my Instagram story, just to take a look at the artwork on the covers.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right, and that’s all untouched from Photoshop.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s totally untouched, but there’s the scratchiness, and there’s a completely different sense of compression of bandwidth, of all these crazy things that I’d forgotten about. I hate people who are like, “Oh, vinyl sounds better than CD or streaming or whatever.” 

It’s just all different, but vinyl is very focused and it’s very interesting. If you can get past the popping and scratching, it’s a different list and it’s a very focused kind of bandwidth. So it’s been really interesting, unintentional. 

It has nothing to do with being cooped up, because like I said, Spotify totally works. I have all of my playlists and everything…

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

… available to me, but we just dipped into an older technology, listening to like Muddy Waters. It’s been really weird.

JIM DONOVAN:

It almost seems like you should listen to Muddy Waters on vinyl and not Spotify.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, there’s something to it. And then other things come up and I’ve noticed this as a teacher as well. Muddy Waters, this is well before guitar tuners, right? Everything is wildly out of tune.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, wow.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s hilarious. Dylan, if you listen to early Dylan, if you play Katy Perry and then you play a Bob Dylan song, they’re completely different instruments. All the Max Martin stuff, the pop stuff from the aughts and the ’10’s and ’20’s, it’s tuned to within an inch of its life.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yes.

MIKE ERRICO:

And I feel like Dylan was just picking up guitars in the corner of the studio just going. You know what I mean?

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, this sounds good. Let’s go. Turn it on.

MIKE ERRICO:

Totally, like the B string is a quarter tone out, you know what I mean, or whatever it is. Then you realize, it’s not about that at all.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, it’s interesting how you put A against B and you can see the difference in vibe.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Just the sheen of it all.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, and the song form and the ambition. It’s a completely different time.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

These Elton John songs. First, I don’t know why I happen to have Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy by…

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

… Elton John. Those songs meander, they go into sections and nobody’s on a click track, like nobody’s on a grid and the whole thing is just moving with a completely different intentionality. It’s been very crazy. It’s just crazy… Maybe I’m losing it. I don’t know.

JIM DONOVAN:

I was telling my wife the other day, it feels like one long 10,000-hour a day that we’re in.

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely. Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s like you go to bed and “All right, I’m up again, and I’m doing my day and oh, wow, it’s bedtime again? Okay, well, I guess I’ll go to sleep now.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. I have a question for you.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

My students and people I’ve been bringing in as guest speakers, and these are also things that I’ve read, people are having—like not wanting to listen to anything.

JIM DONOVAN:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

MIKE ERRICO:

Right? Like reading has been very difficult. I guess maybe it’s just that concentrating has been hard. Have you been finding that?

JIM DONOVAN:

I’ve been finding an utter lack of interest…

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

… in listening to much. 

I don’t feel like reading. 

I try to pick up my guitar, like I force myself to pick it up and I can sit there with it, but there’s not much inspiration coming. 

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this the other day and I think part of it is that, at least personally, I’m in a regular state of fight or flight. So stress is up even though I’m doing lots of self-care.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

It still spikes. All I have to do is hear one sentence on the news and it’s popping back up again.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

I kind of know my own process and if I’m driving the car and I’m in that long trip zone of going up the highway, there’s no traffic. I can drop-in, easy.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

I think I personally need that complete flow relaxed situation for those kinds of things to happen. So it’s interesting. Yeah, I’ve heard that from a lot of people, like it’s having a challenge just getting motivated to listen, to play, to create.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. And it’s funny because I listen to them like this one pop group, former students named Overcoats, did a Zoom interview for my class last week and they were just like, “Yeah, we’re supposed to be touring our second record, and we just aren’t listening to anything, and we’re kind of just staring at the wall a little bit.” 

And I’m sort of wondering if it’s that they’re distracted or if they’re kind of recalibrating towards trying to find out something else that really matters, right? 

Like maybe they’ve been listening to too much garbage and what this is a cleaning out. 

Again, it’s an active will to find the optimism in this, but maybe they’re actually listening to silence, say. Maybe they’re just recalibrating their mind. Maybe we’re all sort of doing that.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, maybe. I think part of it in me is that… so, I have a band, we still play out. Having that next show is a motivator.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Having the tour that comes up… That’s a motivator to really get stuff together and I think to see the music industry, how big of a hit it’s taking and the fact that we don’t actually have an idea yet of when does it come back? How does it come back?

MIKE ERRICO:

I know.

JIM DONOVAN:

Those things, I know are in my mind and I’m imagining in a lot of their minds, too.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

But one thing I see in my daughter… So my daughter’s 20… She had to come home from college. Basically, I had to actually extract her from it. She had a great job, friends and all this stuff.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

And all of it disintegrated immediately. It was within hours… Her whole life that she was creating wasn’t there and she was back home again.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And what I’ve noticed in her and she and I have talked about it, is that it seems like she’s just trying to hold on and waiting for things to go back, which is normal.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And what I’ve been talking to her about is, that you’re waiting for this thing that we can’t know yet. Just that act of waiting for the thing is causing excess suffering when what might help is accepting that “This is how it is right now” and managing that as its own thing. And letting myself feel the sadness of that and feel the anger of that and all of it, but to admit to myself, “This is what we’re in now.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And then when it changes, then it will be “then” and we’ll deal with “then” when “then” is occurring.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sure. Yeah, I feel like with a certain amount of experience, I feel like you can get to that.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

And I think kids, like my three-year-old and seven-year-old are actually kind of enjoying it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

They get to see mom and dad a lot more.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

There’s all of that. That acceptance is so much easier for them. But can you imagine like you have your band, you’re on the come up hugely, you got signed, you have an album out, you got this big summer tour coming, and that’s when this thing hits.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, it’s miserable.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s got to be really devastating for them. And that’s the place where some of my students are at.

JIM DONOVAN:

It is devastating and that’s the truth of it.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And we–

MIKE ERRICO:

But the acceptance of it that you’re talking about is just, it’s hard one, but it’s the way out.

JIM DONOVAN:

It is the way out and it lets us, I think it’s just my opinion, it frees up my energy of, “Well, is it going to happen today? Is the news going to tell me the new thing today that’s going to solve a thing?”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And I know for sure, and this is just I think my middle-age speaking, is that, “No, it’s not going to solve it and it will be wildly apparent when we can get back to some semblance of what we were doing before.” And I think we’re in a situation where some of the things that we used to do won’t work anymore.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Some of the ways of being won’t work anymore and that might be challenging, but might also not be all bad.

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely. I completely agree, but we got to get there. You know what I mean?

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

So, we have to keep our heads together and that’s going to be a different type of challenge at different age groups, I think.

JIM DONOVAN:

I think you’re right.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And what I’m realizing here at my house is we are just managing the moment. “What moment are we in?” How do we get through this one? Sometimes it’s managing the second that we’re in.

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely.

JIM DONOVAN:

And we don’t always we don’t always do it very well.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s life. It’s just what’s happening.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sometimes at the end of the day, my wife and I will just look at each other, just high five each other, just like, “Nice… good day.”

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. “We did it. We did it.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Nice job. We made it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yep. I’m glad I’m doing this with you. I was wondering if we could, let’s pivot over to song.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sure.

JIM DONOVAN:

Songwriting, music. Did you have a rock star that you wanted to be as a kid?

MIKE ERRICO:

I didn’t. I feel like the people that I looked at when I was at the age when I could have that were way larger than life. They were not human. I feel like one could have maybe aspired to be Kurt Cobain, because he was kind of “down” a little bit. He was dressed like someone who was in the audience.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sort of like, but to try to be, I don’t know, David Bowie, George Clinton, Freddie Mercury, you know what I mean? David Lee Roth, whatever. People like that I feel like, that just wasn’t even possible.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. They’re big, big, big.

MIKE ERRICO:

They’re big and they had incredibly high voices.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well, there was that.

MIKE ERRICO:

There’s no way. Like it was impossible and the guitar players were just blinding. It was too much for me. I could tell you the band, the aesthetic that I wanted was always Pink Floyd. I love that expansive…

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

… flow, sort of like just filmic, cinematic almost stuff. Things like Dark Side of the Moon or Animals or something that was like that was the thing where that was accessible to me.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And was also possible. It felt somehow possible.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, they created like these tapestries, these sonic tapestries.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

That you could be inside of really.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. And it wasn’t rock star focused, it was aesthetic focused. Like David Gilmour wasn’t in plastic pants and all that kind of stuff. It was really a band.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And that was a little bit of a different thing. Yeah. So that was sort of the rock star that I aspired to.

JIM DONOVAN:

They really were kind of the “anti-rock star.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. They’re an ensemble. Where it was like, whatever, the Stones, you have Mick and Keith. There was like a couple of folks who you could really want to be or whatever, Van Halen, and people further down the line.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

Even Kurt Cobain… He was a guy. He was a star, even if it was an “anti” thing, but real ensembles had a different sort of feeling.

JIM DONOVAN:

Now, did they compel you to first write songs or was there somebody else or some other reason that you decided to begin writing?

MIKE ERRICO:

No. I didn’t start writing until much later. I think the reason why I was just crushing self-doubt. I mean, there was just no way. I think it was kind of rock stars, which has intimidated me right out of the whole idea.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I’m from Long Island, so I just feel like that’s all we kind of knew. It was like these outsized MTV characters. These cartoons.

JIM DONOVAN:

Cartoons is a good name, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I didn’t have that, but what I did have was the ability to play. So what I did was I played in a lot of bands and I basically “interned” as a guitarist for lots of different bands. And I was able to watch other front people sort of dialogue with audiences and you could see what’s working, what’s not working and you sort of learned on stage. So if you’re getting booed, you were getting booed, but it wasn’t you really getting booed, it was the other guy getting booed.

JIM DONOVAN:

Exactly.

MIKE ERRICO:

He was the writer/front man, whatever. She was the writer/front woman, so it was different, but it was like an internship. And then I feel like it was after learning by their side, I slowly gained the confidence to do it.

JIM DONOVAN:

I could at least go up there and get booed, geez.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, look, I’ve had fruit thrown at me. I mean, there’s doubt.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, no.

MIKE ERRICO:

I’ve been hit. I’m sure you’ve been hit with something. I mean, like, you guys have played…

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

… thousands of shows. I’m not saying that we’re aiming. I’m just saying like stuff gets thrown, yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, stuff gets thrown. I mean, I was in an early band back in teen years where we actually got thrown out of places because we sucked so bad. You know like, “You know what? You can stop playing. Here’s your $30, please go.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’ve had not so much that but since I kind of went with an acoustic guitar, but a love for Ani DiFranco, who’s pretty loud…

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

I would go into folk sort of clubs and songwriter clubs, and just watch the sound man just bring the faders further and further down to try and equalize how loud I was being to the point where it was basically off and I was screaming. And so it got into that and then you know that’s how you never get booked again.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

It was just a bad fit, lots of bad fits. We’ve all played the full rooms and empty rooms.

JIM DONOVAN:

True.

MIKE ERRICO:

Which is cool.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, you need to know what each feels like, I think.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, yeah. The empty room sound better, I have to say.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well, yeah and there’s no distractions either.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right. Sound check always sounds better than the show, I don’t know why.

JIM DONOVAN:

So, is your creative process different now than it used to be?

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes, it is a little bit. Depending what you mean by “used to be.” I try to keep the same sort of regimen, but the context has changed tremendously.

JIM DONOVAN:

What’s it look like? Take me through you’re creating something, how’s that go?

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. So when I’m lucky, I don’t use an alarm, but I wake up for some reason really early—regardless when we go to sleep. So got the coffee, the coffee has been set earlier and is already is done, so it’s like “gas and go.” I journal every day, and that’s the root of the whole thing is journaling.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I make that mandatory in my classes and I tell them to go three pages a day or 10 minutes a day or whatever it is. I make it mandatory that they do it in longhand and I do it in longhand as well.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh.

MIKE ERRICO:

And then the journal will basically honor any of several art forms basically. I’m sort of like a multimedia person and I feel like music accounts for a small percentage, really, of all the stuff I do.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And obviously, it’s journaling, so most of its garbage, right? But there are songs that come and there’s a book actually, that I’m writing right now that has come directly out of it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, that’s great.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know… it’s an invention or it’s dialogue with my kid. How am I going to tell them about the things that kids ask you about? Actually, why is the sky blue? I should really check on that because I’m going to get tested later. So, stuff like that will come out of the journaling. And yeah, I think that longhand is important because like it can go into drawing. I don’t know if you’ve checked out Carl Jung’s journals.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, no.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s that series of journals that he didn’t want to have come out until after he died. There’s illustrations and crazy stuff like that, illuminated sort of like William Blake’s of manuscript of the illuminations and all that kind of stuff. That can happen as well. 

I let it go. I just let go. Music is a small portion of the whole thing, but every once in a while and it’s a little bit like going fishing, I guess. You put the line in the water and whatever comes up, comes up. It could be a boot. It could be Moby Dick.

JIM DONOVAN:

And what I’m hearing you say, too, is that you have to put your boots on and go to the water every day.

MIKE ERRICO:

That’s the only thing. I feel like for my classes that I’ve read so much about writers who talk about their process, and it’s almost the only thing that they agree on.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Is that it has to be a practice, it has to be a routine, it has to happen every day. 

Whether it’s Stephen King and On Writing, he writes, I don’t know, 10 pages in a legal pad per day that’s minimum. Or it’s like the Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way where she’s like three pages a day of morning pages. You’ve got to do that, whatever, straight down the line. 

I’ve interviewed lots of artists and producers and stuff like that, they all say the same thing. They all show up. 

Trent Reznor. I was just listening to a podcast with Trent Reznor talking. He gets up every day and he’s like, “Let’s make more scary music.” I mean, it’s 2020 and he’s still doing that, which is amazing because it comes out, it’s amazing. If you’ve read Jeff Tweedy, Jeff Tweedy has an autobiography.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

He talks about the same thing. He just goes in as if he’s like a scientist and he goes to the lab every day and he’s like, “Let’s go blow some stuff up.” Maybe something great will be here. And that’s it. It’s the routine and it’s the curiosity behind the routine as well, like, “I want to go.” So, that’s the kind of thing that I feel like all artists will agree on.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. And I think when you do that, it really gives you a chance to reflect on kind of where you are in yourself at any given time.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And if you have that ability to be brutally honest with yourself, then I find that’s when the juice happens.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Like that’s where all the good stuff is in that really raw, honest, sometimes embarrassing stuff.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. Oh my God, yeah. The idea of embarrassment is so interesting. I have these art school students who have a lot of walls up and everything. And it forces me to be the biggest idiot in the room, so that the bar drops low enough that they will open up.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. You have to model it first before they’ll trust you.

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely. If I come in stiff and formal or whatever, it’s just going to be a stiff, formal day. But again, it’s an act of will to sort of make stuff possible. So, that’s definitely part of it. 

An embarrassment, I call it “bravery.” And if I feel like a particularly brave song comes out, I’ll recognize them for being brave and I feel like it goes a long way towards the next song being a little bit more brave, etc., etc.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, because as the listener, we just want to hear what’s real because…

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

… sometimes we as the listener, need you as the writer to say it for us.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, definitely. What is it? There’s that Pete Seeger line, “Just ignore the facts and tell the truth.”

JIM DONOVAN:

There we go. That’s a good one.

MIKE ERRICO:

So good.

JIM DONOVAN:

One of the most honest lines in one of the songs of yours and to make sure I’m pronouncing this right, is it “Arecibo?”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

So, she said, “I don’t like to waste my time, but you seem teachable.” That’s like the first line of the song. And I immediately thought of like that’s probably exactly how my wife Tracy thinks of me.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, sure.

JIM DONOVAN:

“This guy’s teachable, I’ll keep him.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely, yeah. It’s funny because Arecibo is actually a radio telescope in Puerto Rico that is featured in Contact, the movie by Jodie Foster.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

That’s my probably my favorite movie. It’s definitely my favorite movie. I mean, it’s a terrible movie, but it’s my favorite. I don’t know. But yes, it’s the same kind of feeling of this looking for a signal, looking for signs from out there.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

So anyway, I won’t give it away, but the alien arrives, anyway, sorry.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s an excellent song. I was totally jamming into it this morning.

MIKE ERRICO:

Thank you.

JIM DONOVAN:

One of the things I love about what you do is you have this ability to place the listener right into the song with you. What can you tell someone who’s trying to unleash that in their songwriting, but having a tough time getting there? Is it just the journaling or something else?

MIKE ERRICO:

Well, I do think that journaling is part of it and if there’s a first draft that I feel is getting somewhere, but isn’t there yet, I’ll definitely tell them to, “You should journal on this. Here’s a prompt for a journal that take us to this particular place.” 

But it’s funny, you also mentioned that one line at the first line of the song… 

I stress to them first lines of songs and I’ll jostle around their arrangements in search of the pregnant line that will take us somewhere, something that works via implication. 

Because once something is implied it, the other shoe has to drop. We’re interested, we’re hooked.

I always look for that first line for them in the way that’s like the car crash in the first five minutes of the film or in a crime fiction, a murder takes place like in the beginning. And then the rest of the film is who’d done it. So those first lines are really important. 

So when they can’t access or they haven’t reached it yet, that’s one of the first places I’ll look is “What’s the first line? Are we starting somewhere that will warrant the journey to an endpoint?” 

And then also, “Let’s take a look at the chorus. Do you have the sense, that central sense of what the song is wanting to be about?”

Because sometimes, they’ll have this sense of the song, but it’ll be like the third line of the second verse, and they just walked past it, but I’ll ask them to journal on that third line or whatever line it is to find out what opened up, what this story is really about. 

And don’t be afraid to revise 100 bazillion times. 

You didn’t get it right the first time? Nobody gets it right the first time.

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

Every song on any chart has been revised more times than you can possibly believe. I was just reading Walt Whitman revised “Leaves of Grass” his entire life until he got it.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s so funny because my next question is how do you when the process is complete?

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, my God. Well, that’s another thing. I mean, this is so funny because these are the questions that they asked me and I’m always like, “Oh God, I’m stumped by that.” So when I get stumped, I just go reading. So, I read a lot about that, but to get to the most concise answer to that question that the short story writer George Saunders and he has the greatest line ever, he’s like, “Ending is stopping without sucking.”

JIM DONOVAN:

There it is.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right? I mean, that’s it. I mean, that’s kind of it. It’s just like if it’s starting to suck, you’ve passed the endpoint… pull it back. But there’s so many questions as to like “How do you end it?” You end it by reframing the beginning with a twist or that’s something that a lot of songs do. They’ll reiterate the first line.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And they’ll stick it again at the end, but now it’s different because you’ve gone on this journey or whatever, but regardless of how it ends, if you’ve stopped before you started sucking, you’ve done a good job.

JIM DONOVAN:

And I’ve seen it possible to over refine where it is maybe sucked maybe four weeks ago, and then it got good, and then it’s sucking even worse than four weeks ago.

MIKE ERRICO:

That’s a heartbreaker. But at least what I say to them is, “You’re under no pressure, usually, to release. So have the versions—sit them next to each other and have them fight it out over time.”

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. There you go.

MIKE ERRICO:

“Let them fight.” I mean, the great thing about all the different revisions and versions that we can do with things is that we can actually go back to the one before, right?

JIM DONOVAN:

Right.

MIKE ERRICO:

So that’s a great thing. So overshooting that is not really the sin that we think it is. But to that end, what you’re talking about, is another thing that that students will do is they’ll have a great idea, but it’s not totally finished yet… But they try to pass it off to me as like a skit or like an album track or an interstitial kind of in-between, long kind of thing.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And I’m like, “Dude, come on.”

JIM DONOVAN:

No, no, no.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. If that’s one thing, I mean, let it be that but I’ve never seen an interstitial song that I’ve pushed, not blow out into something much better. It’s just getting to the effort.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And the effort of revision and the admission that like, “It’s not done yet.”

JIM DONOVAN:

And you know it, you can feel it.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

You can feel and it’s just not hitting yet, and then when it does, it’s palpable.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. I occasionally will allow students to give all their disclaimers upfront, not because any of the disclaimers work before they play a song, but just because I want to hear them admit that they know it’s not right yet.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Because that just helps them…

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

And yeah, the work of revision is really it’s very much tied obviously to, “Is it done?”

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

Also, your filter. Sorry if I’m rambling…

JIM DONOVAN:

No, this is great.

MIKE ERRICO:

But the people who you ask. That’s such a key component of this is like, “Who do you trust to give you feedback you can use?” So your mom, not a great call.

JIM DONOVAN:

No.

MIKE ERRICO:

She just loves you, so that’s not really the most critical listen usually, or she hates you, whatever. She doesn’t like anything, so why do you play anything for her?

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. You’re never going to please her.

MIKE ERRICO:

You’re never going to please her. You should never have started writing songs before then.

JIM DONOVAN:

“I thought you were going to be a doctor.”

MIKE ERRICO:

“You would have been such a good doctor.” So anyway, so who’s trustworthy?

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

For you? It doesn’t have to be a musician, maybe it shouldn’t be a musician, but just a good listener.

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

I remember playing a song and I had a riff. And my daughter at that time was like four. 

And I was like, “I’m going to play this riff in a gradually shifting tempo until she starts dancing. And when she starts dancing, that’s how I know it’s the right tempo.” 

I don’t know, if she were five, it would be a different tempo. I have no idea, but it was enough to work. It was compelling enough. It’s defensible kind of idea.

JIM DONOVAN:

It is. She’s a pretty open filter. There’s not a whole lot in there other than what’s natural.

MIKE ERRICO:

Totally. And how children still fall in love with the Beatles, it’s beyond comprehension to me. They love them. My kids know every word.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know how they did it. I don’t know what that is, but it’s incredible.

JIM DONOVAN:

Maybe we all now need to go to India for a while and figure it out together.

MIKE ERRICO:

Maybe so. Or write with Paul, I don’t know.

JIM DONOVAN:

Or write with Paul, I mean.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

It could just be that he’s a genius and they’re all geniuses, I don’t know.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know, but there is something there and there’s something that really evades anything that’s sort of anything intellectual, it’s something more than that.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. So I know that you teach songwriting at NYU’s Clive Davis School of Music and also Columbia. What are the most rewarding parts of the work that you do there?

MIKE ERRICO:

I really like the interaction which is why this is very difficult for me right now with the Zoom, but it’s more of a challenge and I’m just up to it, but it’s when a song was in class, and they release it that moment or they play it live or whatever it is that they do with it, that never gets old.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, that’s going to be a kick.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, I keep playlists of their releases and I have them broken down by genre and I haven’t broken down by release dates and all of that. For two reasons, so that they can meet each other because now I’ve been doing it long enough that a freshman might never meet a freshman from five years later. Do you what I mean? They’re coming across different times and different schools as well.

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

So, I want them to know each other, so I want them to be able to write with each other and work with each other, tour with each other and that kind of stuff. So I put these playlists together so that they’ll meet with each other, but also, if a music supervisor or publisher comes to me and they’re looking for a type of song or a type of writer, I can hand them a playlist and be like, “Oh, yeah? Here’s a resource.”

JIM DONOVAN:

Wow, what a great resource.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right? Like I need a dance track that sounds like Robyn. Great. Here’s 40. I do try and curate them, but I also try and give everybody a shot because they earned it. And I mean, a lot of this stuff is just amazing also, so it’s not hard to curate.

JIM DONOVAN:

And you maybe you can share those playlists with me and I can put them on the podcast page.

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh my God.

JIM DONOVAN:

And do our part to put those out there.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sure.

JIM DONOVAN:

That would be great.

MIKE ERRICO:

What genres do you want?

JIM DONOVAN:

Give me your best stuff.

MIKE ERRICO:

I will do that.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’d be fantastic.

MIKE ERRICO:

I will do that. Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

I would just love to hear them.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s really fun. I mean, some of the stuff is way out. Some of the stuff is like pop, pop, pop, but some of it is completely bananas.

JIM DONOVAN:

Great.

MIKE ERRICO:

And yeah, and I don’t make a distinction between those in the class. Either it works or it doesn’t work.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Either you stopped without sucking or you didn’t.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. There you go.

[Musical Interlude: “Here’s to the End of the World” by MIKE ERRICO.

JIM DONOVAN:

So, if you don’t mind let’s pivot to, Dan O. was telling me about, you have a sister Melissa, who’s also an accomplished singer.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes.

JIM DONOVAN:

And Tony nominated Broadway star and that your dad is an avid piano player. What role did your family play in your musical development?

MIKE ERRICO:

My dad really obviously as the dad part of the family really had probably the most outsized influence. We’ve always had a piano that’s just a little bit too large for whatever room it’s in because he just needs a big piano and he always sort of has, like that’s his sports car.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

He still, to this day, takes classes at Juilliard and performs with orchestras and all that kind of thing. So there is like a feeling of classical music, of romantic music, which is kind of what he’s into. Also, Debussy and Satie and like sort of the earliest 20th Century stuff.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

As long as it’s harmonic. When it becomes discordant, he wasn’t into it. But I mean, as a result, I have a song on my last record that is a complete and total Tchaikovsky rip-off. I mean, you would never know I would think, but I went there because that’s just sort of part of the basis of my upbringing, which is cool. 

I mean, my sister and I, Melissa and I have worked together in the past and we have definitely done stuff and when it comes together, when it makes sense, I think it works really great. We’ve played live and all of that. I mean, she’s very Broadway. So, it’s a completely different thing.

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

Well, Broadway was changing before it closed. A friend of mine was working on the Alanis Morissette musical. My guitarist was in Beautiful, which was the Carole King musical. I actually got a former student into Mean Girls—the Mean Girls musical.

JIM DONOVAN:

Fantastic.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, so he had been touring with them as their guitarist. So Broadway is sort of like changing, what it means to be in Broadway.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

So, it’s always been a thing. We’ve had family bands when we were kids and I’m trying to do that now with mine. My kids are kind of musical, so I’m fostering it as hard as I can without being a jerk about it, but they already know all the words to Yellow Submarine anyway. I don’t even know them. I had to print them out. So we’ve been starting to do that as well. So it’s a good basis. It’s been a really good basis.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. And you’ll never regret that.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t think so.

JIM DONOVAN:

My kids are teens now and just all that kind of stuff from their childhood is some of the sweetest stuff.

MIKE ERRICO:

I can imagine. And I want both of them to be drummers. I told them that right away.

JIM DONOVAN:

Good. We need more drummers for sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

I know.

JIM DONOVAN:

We need more. We need more good drummers that can groove and serve the song, so teach them that part.

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely, 100%. 

They’re so funny, too, because they love drums, but they also love disappointing me. So they’re like, “I’m not going to be a drummer, Dad.” Then I find them drumming I’m like, “Ah-ha!”

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Yep.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well, I don’t listen to anything they say, just watch what they do.

MIKE ERRICO:

For sure. For sure.

JIM DONOVAN:

Exactly. With your dad, you mentioned earlier on, he’s in his ‘80’s, is that right?

MIKE ERRICO:

He’s 80.

JIM DONOVAN:

80. Okay. If you even know this, how does he use music to keep his mind sharp, to keep his health up? It’s one of the things that we talk about in this podcast a lot is how music helps health.

MIKE ERRICO:

Sure.

JIM DONOVAN:

Do you see him doing a stuff like that?

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, my gosh. Well, he’s, he’s amazing. He’s annoyed because he’s in a shelter-in-place. He has his share of pianos he can deal with, but he needs to open up. He’s a doctor and he wants to get his practice back.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

But he’s 80, right? And still, that’s where his mind is. It’s funny. Just last week, there was an interesting article about Peter Beard, the wildlife photographer…

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

…who had Alzheimer’s and ended up just wandering off and they found his body, but they’re the same age.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, no.

MIKE ERRICO:

And were actually in the same class at college. 

My dad now, and we worry about him. We worry about the cognitive abilities of both them and everything. He can play a 20-minute Medtner piece, just from memory. I mean, he does that all the time. 

And whatever they say about, “You should do crossword puzzles when you’re older and it’s good for your cognitive health or whatever.” 

He’s like, “I don’t have time because I have to learn this other piece,” and the complexity of those pieces is huge, so his mind is very sharp and I’m sure the music has outsized influence on that. It’s amazing.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

To see other people in his age group, and what he’s able to do mentally. It blows people his age away as well. I mean, it’s pretty cool.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, well, if you think about it, so you’ve got 10 fingers and thumbs, and you got to get all those working in concert with each other, while reading a page of dense black dots.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. Yes.

JIM DONOVAN:

Or just memorizing all that stuff and all the different neural connections that have to be built for that even to happen–

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And then how they get reinforced when the fingers move, when the eardrums perceive, when the brain perceives what the eardrums are sending it, what his eyes are looking at the time. There’s just so many processes that happen at one time for someone to be able to do that extensive of a difficult piano piece.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s not surprising at all, and I’m so glad to hear it.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, but what’s interesting is that his mental capabilities are such that they are outstripping his physical capabilities and he deals with his sort of arthritis or he has like a tendon operation and it changes his reach. And some of these like hotshot pianists from back in the day had really big hands and they would show off their reach within the arrangements.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

He is unable to do some of those things, so he has to change his technique. He knows the notes, mentally, but has to change the physical technique…

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

… to reach them, which is an added level of cognitive ability, the adaptation.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yes.

MIKE ERRICO:

The physical capability. It’s amazing. He talks about it a lot, yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. It ends up being better for him, even though it’s probably frustrating that he can’t do the reaches that he used to be able to.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

But it’s better for his brain that he can’t.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right. But also, I feel as artists, I feel like we all have to adapt to our abilities. That’s what we’ve been doing the whole time.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, adapt or suffer.

MIKE ERRICO:

Adapt or suffer. I feel like people like Joni Mitchell’s voice, Billie Holiday’s voice, Dylan’s voice. How the music has changed based on some of the physical capabilities. And the music hasn’t gotten worst, in a lot of ways it’s deepened.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

But the technique has changed. I think Brian Eno was talking about this once. It was like his voice started dropping and all of a sudden he realized that he had a low C. He’s like, “I never had a low C. I lost a few on top and I gained a few on the bottom, so I wrote for those notes instead of notes I used to be able to reach.”

JIM DONOVAN:

It sounds like a win.

MIKE ERRICO:

A huge win. A huge one. It’s the movement of style. It’s growth.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s also that force of will thing that you talked about earlier.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Not letting the fact that things are changing take you down, but pivoting, “All right, so it’s not this anymore, but I’m going to pivot to this and now it’s going to be this for as long as I can do that.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes.

[Musical interlude: “Aricebo” by MIKE ERRICO]

MIKE ERRICO:

And not to put too fine a point on it. I feel like we’re at an inflection point, culturally right now.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yes.

MIKE ERRICO:

There’s a hard pivot that’s occurring. It’ll be interesting to see to what. I think that’s where we are.

JIM DONOVAN:

I’m with you, that makes the most sense to me. I tell my kids, “We’ve had things like this throughout history. We just haven’t had one in your lifetime, like you haven’t seen it yet.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

Since we’ve been alive, we’ve seen all kinds of pretty intense things. This is different. I would argue that something like 9/11 is just as pivotal and if not more intense.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

In a lot of ways, especially for people in New York.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, it’s funny. I actually had a show in New York on 9/10, the night before.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, wow.

MIKE ERRICO:

And it was this weird sort of, just lackluster show. It was a place called the Village Underground.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

The toilet had broken and so there was water on the floor. It was like just one of those nasty shows, whatever. And, I muscled through it, and everything was fine, whatever. But I woke up in the morning, and everything had happened and as a byproduct, all of my songs changed. 

Some just completely fell by the wayside, revealed themselves to be shallow, and others deepened in ways that I had not even intended. Just everything changed.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s fascinating.

MIKE ERRICO:

It was so weird. I changed my whole set and I feel like I changed my approach to writing. 

And I try to talk to my students. I mean, I know that they want pop music and they want to do all that kind of thing, but there’s real need to do things that matter. 

It’s super fun, fun matters, escapism matters. But I push them to get to the center of whatever it is they’re talking about. And whatever it is, to do it as if and because it matters. 

It was that 9/11 sort of moment that sort of really drove that home for me. Maybe that’s happening again, I don’t know.

JIM DONOVAN:

There’s a lot of wisdom in that and going through something like a 9/11, going through what we’re going through now… Personally, I had a couple of near deaths last year… I think going through those kinds of things, I would venture to say that not only is it important to do those things that matter and that are real, but that at the end of the day, whenever that is you can look back and if more of your moments were things that really mattered, it’s going to be easier to kind of look back on that life…

MIKE ERRICO:

Absolutely.

JIM DONOVAN:

…than if it was, “Wow, I just really wasted my time here.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. That’s what this moment is about, I think for me and for you as well, it sounds.

JIM DONOVAN:

It’s helping me to hear that you changed your entire set, because that just kind of sparked me as, “You know what? That’s something I could do to be inspired,” like that I’m going to go in and just make some changes.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Some things that I’d never thought of making before. That’s really good advice.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. Here’s another one though that was that’s been very strange. At NYU, I received a grant to further my creative process or whatever, and my thought was to give my songs, my stems to my students and pay them out of the grant to remix my material.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh!

MIKE ERRICO:

Right?

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s great!

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah, because I mean, they’re off the road, they’re suffering. I’m able to pay them and they’re able to, I don’t know, just flex their muscles and do their work and create. And that circuit, I feel like is mutually inspiring and so, that’s another really fun sort of moment. It’s part of like changing up your set like you’re saying.

JIM DONOVAN:

That’s an outstanding idea to let somebody take your ideas and let them see those ideas through their eyes and their ears. I love that.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. And pay them!

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And the payment isn’t coming out of my pocket really because it’s a grant. I suppose I could use it, but this is “What a great way to use it!” I feel like I don’t need it to eat right now, so spread it around.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, that’s a great mindset. I love, love, love, love that.

MIKE ERRICO:

Great.

JIM DONOVAN:

So you and I, we shared many stages throughout the years.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes.

JIM DONOVAN:

One show in particular was Woodstock ’99.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

Which… very interesting show on a lot of levels. Can you tell me, for you, what was that show like?

MIKE ERRICO:

Well, for me, it was my “coming out” party, basically.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

I had just put my debut album out and it was, I think, my first gig after that debut and I played it solo and I played it alone. I mean, I had nobody around. I had no second person.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, my God.

MIKE ERRICO:

No help, no stage help, or whatever. Do you what I mean? No tour manager. So I just got up there and I was in between Ben Lee and Bijou Philips, if you recall.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know. And it was hot as hell.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, it was burning.

MIKE ERRICO:

And you just knew something bad, this was bad. It was bad. It was people yelling about peace and love and also breaking stuff. 

So it was super, very confused. I think ill-conceived. 

It was on a military base, this “peace and love” thing. It was super crazy. 

And then of course, if you look at the history of the music industry. I feel like Woodstock ’99 is probably at the peak of the industry. 

So that’s my first album and first show as a signed artist.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

And they’re from ’99 until today, it’s basically a straight line down.

JIM DONOVAN:

I mean maybe it’s your fault, Mike. Maybe it wasn’t–

MIKE ERRICO:

It might be. People were just talking about Napster and I was autographing blank CDRs that they’d gotten. Thanks for downloading it, but thanks for stealing it, but sign up for my mailing list?

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t really know what to do about that. And they would say things like, “You buy this CD, I’ll buy this CD, and then we’ll just burn each other copies.”

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

In front of me like it was totally cool. And of course that was then and here we are now, but like Woodstock ’99 was the jump off point. It was my launching pad and it’s been a tough orbit, but cool. I’m alive. Everything’s good.

JIM DONOVAN:

The idea of it seemed really cool. I remember getting excited. “Wow, we’re going to go do this. There’ll be all these amazing bands there.”

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And I remember playing the show and when we were playing that show, our singer had just let us know that he was going to go do his solo thing, so, we were all kind of fighting. It was just an awful, awful day. 

And there we are. I just remember this vividly. I’m like staring at half a million people. There’s just this mass of people. I can’t see the end of all the people.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

And they’re spraying them down with hoses because it’s so hot and we’re playing these songs and people are dancing and all this stuff. And I just remember this awful feeling like, “How can I be feeling awful right now when I’m trying to live this dream that 99.9% of people who want to do music would give a finger for?”

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

And it’s just fascinating how perspective is. Like it seems from the outside like, “Wow, this would be the best.” And yet just that one day of experience, it was the opposite of that.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. It’s very pivotal. Again, another weird pivot. 

I mean, I opened a lot of those solo shows that the lead singer went out on. And it was just another whole saga that was really, really wild. Just all-around perspective, just being what it is, context being what it is. It was great to go and Woodstock, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe I was going to fly it.

JIM DONOVAN:

Sure.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah. Then I get calls the next day like, “Are you alive? Did you burn?”

JIM DONOVAN:

“Did you burn?”

MIKE ERRICO:

“Are you on fire? Do you have all your guitars?”

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh.

MIKE ERRICO:

And “Yeah, everything’s cool. Everything’s cool.”

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Pulling out of there, the great setup. We had the tour bus and we have the satellite TV on the tour bus, so we’re watching Woodstock as we’re pulling out of Woodstock.

MIKE ERRICO:

Right.

JIM DONOVAN:

And I can see on one of the shots, in the distance, it looks like one of the speakers is smoking. I’m like, “Is that speaker on fire? What the heck is that over there?” And sure enough, they were actually burning the damn things.

MIKE ERRICO:

It’s incredible. What was it? I guess it was Red Hot Chili Peppers handed out candles.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, did they really?

MIKE ERRICO:

Somebody handed out candles.

JIM DONOVAN:

That was a design flaw.

MIKE ERRICO:

Here’s the thing. Candles for you, but water is $4.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. Free candles for everybody. Here’s some lighter fluid. Oh, boy.

MIKE ERRICO:

So funny.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah. So, what are you looking forward to? So let’s fast forward. We’re able to play out again.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

We’re back to doing things. What are some things you’re looking forward to?

MIKE ERRICO:

Looking forward… I’m looking at, well, a lot of things. I’m looking forward to getting back in rooms, period.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

Rooms at all.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

With other humans, maybe.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yes, any room.

MIKE ERRICO:

That’d be great. Yeah, any room. These remixes that my students are putting together…

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah.

MIKE ERRICO:

… is really fun. As I said, I’m writing a book. I’m excited to continue sort of studying that and writing it and hopefully offering it to people in a way that hopefully helps. Those kinds of things are going to be interesting. I’ll be teaching at Yale in the fall.

JIM DONOVAN:

Oh, congratulations. That’s awesome.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know. The future is weird. The past was weird. The present is kind of what we’ve been talking about. I’m cool with the present. Those are the lines that are out in the water. And going day by day, I think, will be interesting.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well, I hope that you’ll let me know about those.

MIKE ERRICO:

I will, or course.

JIM DONOVAN:

And in fact, what’s the best way for people to learn about you? I’m going to include all of your social links on our page…

MIKE ERRICO:

Oh, yeah.

JIM DONOVAN:

But if you have one spot that we can send people to.

MIKE ERRICO:

Errico.com

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

MikeErrico.com, also. Either one works.

JIM DONOVAN:

Yeah, so E-R-R-I-C-O.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes.

JIM DONOVAN:

MikeErrico.com.

MIKE ERRICO:

Yes. I’m active on most socials. I think I’m going to skip TikTok.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

I think it’s time. I think it’s time to not. I skipped Snapchat and I think I’m going to skip TikTok.

JIM DONOVAN:

Okay.

MIKE ERRICO:

I don’t know. But all the others I’m on.

JIM DONOVAN:

Perfect.

MIKE ERRICO:

I’ve grown up.

JIM DONOVAN:

Mike, really, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today and I hope you and your family stay safe up there.

MIKE ERRICO:

Thank you.

JIM DONOVAN:

Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing great work. And maybe we can do this again sometime? This was really fun.

MIKE ERRICO:

I would love it. That’d be great and much love to your family as well.

JIM DONOVAN:

All right, Mike. Hey, take care. Thank you.

MIKE ERRICO:

Cheers.

JIM DONOVAN:

Well that’s it for today. I appreciate you tuning in. Remember to come see us on our social media channels, on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and YouTube. Just search “Jim Donovan Sound Health.” Now before you go, I’d like to let you know about a free resource I made for you. It’s called the Sound Health Newsletter. In it, I shared the latest research in music and health in an easy to understand for.


I also share beginner friendly music and wellness exercises that you can use every day to feel your best. When you sign up, you also get discounts on first access to all of my sound health products and events. Remember, it’s completely free. If you’d like it, just visit donovanhealth.com and enter your name and email address and I’ll start sending you new issues right away. While you’re on the website, you can also read full transcripts of this show and check out a ton of other valuable resources.


If you have any feedback, send me an email to [email protected]. All the information presented on this show is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.

Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.