MM: I come from here; I come from Annapolis. I was born at the Navy hospital. I was an Army brat and so, I lived in Germany. In Germany, I first saw the cover of Jimi Hendrix’ record and just stared at it. I wanted to play guitar, not necessarily to play songs but to make noises and just I was obsessed with him since the third grade and when we were in Germany, the third grade every Friday we could all bring in a record and teachers would play it and all these kids have like Mickey Mouse records and I had the Jimi Hendrix record, Purple Haze. The teacher sent a note home, saying that no one should bring a record that wasn’t played at home, and my mom would send a note back, saying this is ALL he listens to at home! Since the third grade... It wasn’t until I was maybe 13 that I got my first guitar. I still have it and still play it. I just learned, just taught myself, I’d drop the needle on the record and learn it, even though I really had a knack for it, I learned very fast.
JPB: Did you read music when you were coming up? Was it all by ear?
MM: No. I’m still terrible at that, although I teach kids every day how to read music, but for me to do it myself, it’s just...
MM: Work. I can teach you to do it...
JPB: Yeah, well I can read music; I just can’t play anything.
JPB: In the future, what do you hope to be known for or remembered for? Your legacy.
MM: Um, just that I did my own thing, whatever I wanted to and just try to be an example for people - you can live your life the way you want to live and just be yourself, you're fine. And hopefully, my main focus and goal in life is to make
people forget about their problems for a little while. Don't worry for a little while, a couple of hours.
JPB: That’s nice.
MM: It helps me to not worry for a couple hours too, so that that's my favorite thing about playing, is to be in that space where everybody's just "we're going to forget about politics or problems or money." That’s my favorite place.
JPB: How would you describe our scene to visitors? What should they not miss?
MM: The Annapolis music scene. They should not miss a Friday or Saturday Night at Stan and Joe’s, or Sunday morning at 49 West (Coffeehouse, Winebar & Gallery), Sunday or Saturday evening at 49 West, and there’s Rams Head On Stage, Rams Head (Tavern) in the front window, Middleton's - you gotta’ go there on Saturday night when it’s so crazy, packed and I mean, that's pretty much it! There are a lot of solo artists who play, at Metropolitan (Kitchen & Lounge) is always a good place to see somebody, cause you mostly you can do your original stuff at Metropolitan, so that makes that place really cool. It's just a lot to see, a lot of different type of acts too, but I think everybody's kind of unique, nobody's really copying each other - hopefully we all respect each other.
JPB: Very much so.
I'm going to add a question into our list. You began to play out acoustically, kind of late. How was that, adapting?
MM: Um, it was really, not scary, I'm never scared of anything, but it was different it was hard because I spent my whole life playing in bands, and you're just playing one role. When you're playing by yourself, you gotta’ fill that whole universe up by yourself. So, it's a little bit daunting at first, difficult, and I’m still getting the grip of it, that's why I still love to see guys who could just sit down and do that, fill that space up by themselves. It was a lot of local guys that are so great that I would go and watch them, first, to see how they did it, like I’d watch Jimi Davies and guys like Jordan Sokel. Those guys are so good and, I’d just watch to see what they were doing to fill up all the space that kind of help me do it. And the think that turned out really good for me was (that) I became more of a minimalist when I do it, so I'm not worried about playing all the parts like I was at first. Now if I just play the bass line and sing, I'm fine with that, it helps me be a better singer too.
JPB: What do you take personally from music, what does it give you?
MM: Some strange sense of purpose... I guess, like if you are a doctor and you're doing something for somebody, you feel like you're giving to the world. To me, I feel like I'm adding something positive to the world but then, when I think about like it, it’s like “wow this kind of egotistical, you’re just playing some songs, Dude!” But what I get from it is connection with the audience or just even if it's just one person in the audience, it’s like a connection back and forth. Like I said before, we're not thinking about our problems or politics, and the music is all that we’re focused on. It bonds people from different walks of life - play for rich people, people don't have money, this color people, that color people, and you all can relate to a song, that's the one point where we all can come together and love this one thing, a song, no matter what our lives are like. That’s the biggest thing that I get from it, just to see people you know having fun or commenting on my music and stuff...
JPB: We talked briefly, privately, that when you're playing acoustically or anything else and people like to drop in and say “hey,” and feel that they have a really very strong relationship with you through the years...
MM: Yeah, I love that. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I moved back here. I lived in Europe for a while, I lived out west, for a while and it was fun but the thing that's missing is the people you know come and see me and have known me for years, and it really is comforting to see my friends, if they just peek in for a minute, I don't know if people going to see musicians locally really know what it feels like to have somebody you know come, specifically, and just say “hi.” You don’t have to stay all night. Stay for one song, or not even one song - but it really, really, helps you get up the next day and do it again. It really means a lot, if people who come to see us know that, but it really means a lot to us.
JPB: The sense of continuity... that’s neat.
MM: Oh yeah, yeah.
JPB: So, our last question is, “What would you consider to be the perfect gig? Where would it be, and who would be with you?” (No R-Rated stuff...)
MM: It would probably be outside and would probably be daytime with a nice breeze, and a nice crazy audience. As far as musicians, that’s kind of hard to say. I know a lot of great musicians – I would have 10 drummers, 10 bass players... just the people who are positive and open-minded to my way of playing because a lot of my way of playing is improvising –I’m notorious for not having a lot of band practices because I try to pick people for their personality and then we go on stage and see what happens. And a lot of musicians kinda’ don't like that, they want to know what’s going to happen...
JPB: no training wheels...
MM: Yeah, the unknown is so exciting to me. I don't know what's gonna’ happen. Might be good, might be bad, might be the best thing ever, you just don’t know, so that's what I like. So it would be musicians who are open minded to doing that and fearless in a way. I know a lot of musicians, but only a few of them are really fearless in that way - well they’ll jump up there, come on yeah, show me, what do you got?
Yeah, yeah and then take that challenge and have a good time doing it. That's when it turns out right, when you're not afraid. When I go and play, I’m not afraid. What happens if I get a wrong note - so what? There are real problems in the world. So it would be my fearless musicians, there are a few of them, and I'm not going to name them!
JPB: Yeah, yeah, we can talk about that later, ok?
Last question, and then we'll wrap up: “where can people find out about your music (aside from Naptownmusic). Where can people find out more about you and your schedule?”
MM: My website is www.MichaelMcHenryMusic.com; all of my original stuff is on there, my schedules are on there too, and and couple of mug shots of me...
JP: And how many albums have you done now?
MM: I’m thinking 11? I don't know if all of them are on there – I have 3 more full CDs that are mixed and mastered and ready to go that I just haven't put on, not yet.
JPB: And so we can find and buy music through your website as well...
MM: Mm-hmm, yeah, or if they just call and ask me - I'll just give it to them (shhh, don’t tell them that!). That’s bad business, you know what I mean, that’s cool, the Internet is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you don't get paid for your music anymore. I used to get checks in the mail every now and then from my songs selling, really nice checks. But now the last royalty check I got was like $72. But the good thing about it is, I have people in Australia and France and some Asian countries, that email me and tell me about all of my music, and they asked me “what did you mean by this line and this line?" I really, really like that because it means they’re listening to it. They ask me, “what did you mean when you said this in this song?” So that's the greatest thing ever. That's better than money I think.
JPB: I know you’ve got a daughter, obviously, and she's getting older. Are you going to be playing more away from home or are you going to stay close to home? Or all of the above?
MM: All of the above! I stopped traveling so much because she was little and then, when she was starting school It was really a hassle and I didn't like leaving her.
JPB: Being a single parent...
MM: Being a single parent. So she would have to go with me (when I travelled) and I wanted her to have a more stable life, have friends and stuff so - and she does now, so that worked out really good. Now that she's older, if I go, she still wants to go.
JPB: Well, but she’s studying music too...
MM: Yes, she's into music a lot and writing and all that stuff so, maybe we'll be travelling more, in the future because it's fun for her too – she wants to do it. She told me, she’d let me be her guitar player someday. I’m looking forward to it.
JPB: Couldn’t be better!
MM: So, I still got a chance!
JPB: Thank you.
An impromptu jam (Mar. 18, 2015) at Jimi Davies' Wednesday Night Open Mic at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge, with friends, Christina Wilharm, Karl Hunter & Dirk Shumaker (of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy), Jeremy Ragsdale, Junior Bryce, Scott Slay, Jimi Haha (of Jimmie's Chicken Shack, etc.), Hurricane Kevin Lebling, Dan Kagan, Timmie Metz, and many, many more <3