Lee Mitchell ITN’S July Featured Artist
‘I have been lucky enough to acquire a loyal following of subscribers to my channel regarding my songwriting and singing skills. It can be very humbling to know you have touched so many lives with what you create. I tend to write about many subjects, but it can be extraordinarily moving to be approached by some one to write a piece for something that can stir the emotions — specially the plights of people in situations that affect their lives so dramatically? Such was the case of American Author Kelly Cyr with her “Supreme Love: A Battered Woman’s True Story,” a harrowing account of abuse that inspired me to pen my “Prince Of Jerusalem” song for her. I have been described as being very poetic, very romantic, very inspirational and very emotional. I am inspired by what goes on around me and I am constantly writing songs to the music that I hear in my heart. I like to think the music speaks for itself…some of my songs can be heard on site our at the youtube link below:
(Laughter) Hardly a career but I've been going for 40 years, writing and singing my own compositions. My love of music goes way back to the start of the 70s…This period was my first attempt at tinkling on an acoustic guitar. My Father sang in a skiffle band, in the late 50s, and it was my Uncle Harry who first sparked my interest in the instrument. The first song I learned was an old LeadBelly song called “Take this hammer,” a simple 3 chord structure. It was a blues song and it lit the flame in me that will always be a burning passion….
2. How old were you when you were drawn to music and do you have the exact memory of when that happened?
My earliest memory was the song: “House of The Rising Sun,” the Bob Dylan version. I was about 5 years old and my Father had it playing on an old red and white record player. Something in that music must have washed over my soul. The song is about a woman driven into prostitution by her circumstances. Dylan learned it from Dave Van Ronk - If I remember rightly. But Dylan’s haunting version is unsurpassable. Maybe that is why it has had such an affect on me - Even after 40 years!
3. Did your family recognize your desire to play guitar and your talent early on? Were they supportive?
Well as I have said my Uncle Harry probably gave me the hunger to hear artists like: Rambling Jack Elliot…Big Bill Broonzy and many others, but all of my family are very musical. Many of my cousins play a mean acoustic guitar…and my cousin Mark has a voice like a canary! He and I used to spend some nights going around the folk clubs singing in the late 70s. They were interesting days…
4. You say music is your whole life. What do you mean by that, when you say that? Why is it your passion?
I have studied and played music now for 40 years. There is nothing like the challenge of attempting to write a song and shaping chord formations, infusing it with words and pouring your emotions into it. Unlike people, music has carried me through my darkest times…My guitar is like the child I never new…Every now and then I hold it and it inspires me…Perhaps my only true refuge…( Besides my beautiful wife Kelly Jo, of course! )
5. What instruments do you play?
The instruments I play are: Guitars, acoustic, electric, 12 string, keyboards, harmonica, some banjo and a bit of bass.
6. How do you write songs? Do you hear it in your mind first? Are
there constant melodies going through your mind?
It rarely comes from me hearing something in my head -- although it has happened where that has been the case. The song that comes to mind is “Hear the wind whipping ’round my door” from my 2nd CD for Impact music called: The Great War 1914-18. I added the music instrumentation after I had written the verses. My normal procedure is to tinkle around on the guitar until I hear something. Some times flashes of rare beauty spring forth. When they do I am like a painter with a brush…Even though some pictures I paint are better than others, they all hang in my gallery…that’s where they belong…
7. If you were going to inspire someone to be a musician or a songwriter like you are, what would you say to them?
I would say once you have discovered the type music that inspires you, or more so, moves you -- and music should move you…for it’s born out of the emotion, initially, then practice, practice, practice.
If you only want to learn 3 chords by all means do so, but the more effort you put into your practice the more you will get back in return. Inspire to be like the people who inspire you - I must add here, It's very hard to be unique - in whatever genre you want to play…and practice again!!
8. What has been your major musical influences? And who are your favorite ones?
Because I have digested so many genres of music over the 40 years I have been playing, there are too many to name! Perhaps one should look at my musical influences page on the site here.
9. What do you want to leave behind with your musical gifts?
It would be nice to think that somewhere in the future guitarists are interested enough in my work to want to play it. That would be quite humbling.
10. What has been the hardest part about trying to break through the music industry. Being recognized?
Well it is a bit different now days and I’m no longer a kid chasing the glitzy lights…That was never what it was about for me…it’s all about the music. But the way the industry is now developing where the major labels have no monopoly on the industry anything is possible - even for the indie singer/songwriters like me!
11. Why do you play solo? Have you ever played in bands and what were they? What is the advantages of being a solo vs. being part of a band? What are the disadvantages?
I have played in a few bands, I can’t recall their names, but I always found them a lot of work for little return. Most of the time the musicians are at a different stage in their musical development and that can be tedious. I played with some wonderful musicians though. Two of my childhood friends are phenomenal musicians:
Ivor Jerome Dyer -- guitarist…Paul Grant Amazing -- Bass player.
There is an old friend of mine who engineered and played on my Jamusi track in 1989, Mark Mawson. He is an awesome guitarist!
12. How would you classify your music? Mainly acoustic? Or
what other categories? What is your favorite music?
Acoustic music is my only interest -- unless it is classical. My favourite music is folk, blues, jazz, ballad, instrumental, ragtime, pop. I write in all those genres. Sometimes for strings as well.
13. Who is your audience? Who would like your music best?
Audiences can be hard to define…I would like to feel that my audience stretches across the board.
14. How would you define your music and why would anyone want to hear your music? What makes you different from other musicians and songwriters?
I think the music should speak for itself. As with all music it either reaches some part of you or it does not. I must always leave that, unabatedly, to the listener.
15. Music changes people’s moods, and helps them in so many ways; it also expresses what they are feeling/thinking or going through in their own lives. Is this gratifying when someone can relate to what you created? Even when they sing along with you, they form your song to their own life, they take you with them in their own lives. This is the role of what a musician should do. But what is your personal motivation of why you continue to write songs and master your music?
I have to write songs. It’s not only a way of letting off steam but it has been part of me for so long that I believe it is truly now a part of my physical and emotional make up that needs to be satisfied.
16. What is the highest complement you have ever been given? How about the worst criticism?
Some kind soul said about my song, “Do you want me to read your heart?” that it was like a flower of God. (Laughter) Someone said I was just plain boring. To each his own.
17. What would be the ideal life for you as a musician who could do anything he wanted and was not restrained by money, lifestyle, other people or anything? Or are you living that now?
I had a dream! (Laughter) A cottage by a wood…a swimming pool…probably in Cornwall in the UK…And that special woman to share it with…(Laughter again) I found my wife. She out shines all the a-fore mentioned dream scenarios.
18. How would you describe yourself?
Kind, generous, loving, comical, honest…(Laughter) and being a little bit crazy helps!!!
19. Any memorable musical moments that you want to share?
I once met guitar legend Mark Knopfler when I was 16. He encouraged me to push on. And I once told one of my greatest heroes -- Ralph Mctell -- that my friend, Curt, who was standing beside me at the time, that he (Curt) reckoned that he wrote one of Ralph’s songs! I put them right on the spot! Hilarious moment! Well, for me anyway..
20. Where do you find your inspiration to compose?
Sometimes a suggestion can inspire a song. As with my song “Prince of Jerusalem” from Kelly Cyr’s ( Now my wife) autobiography, “Supreme Love: A Battered Woman’s True Story.” I have also written “Lost Bird” regarding the Wounded Knee tragedy in North Dakota, and was personally thanked by the author of a famous novel about her life for keeping the plight of LostBird and the Lakota Indians alive. A lot of my ballads are about love, romance, mythologies and just how I am feeling in the moment about a particular subject matter.
21. What is your dream now? And how do you see yourself in the future?
Continue creating the material I love to write, and greener pastures to plough...
Thank you for sharing your beautiful music with us Lee!