Soulful and introspective, Atlanta musician Michael Forde has an uncanny way of blending the intricacies of jazz with easy rhythms and lyricism that is not only deeply personal but effortlessly relatable. With the release of his debut solo EP, Moments Under Water, and his latest single, “The Breath In My Beat,” Forde’s songwriting is put on full display, alongside his innate skill as a musician and producer.
Written, played, produced, and recorded entirely alone, Forde embodies the idea of a solo project, turning inward to what he describes as the chaos within rather than looking out at a world over which he has little control. Following the release of “The Breath In My Beat,” I got the chance to talk with Forde about flow states, Pink Floyd, and a little bit of four-legged, furry inspiration.
AF: Let’s start at the beginning: how did you get into music? Was it something you always knew you’d do, or was it a hobby that grew into a career? Was there a moment when you realized, “Hey, this is what I want to do forever”?
MF: I have always had a deep love for music but the time that I actually started to pursue the art of music heavily was when I was about 15 years old. I had taken piano lessons for about 4 years when I was a kid and when I was 11, I got my first guitar. I took a few lessons but my interest in it died for some time. One random day, I just picked the guitar back up and for some reason it felt different. I played ’til my fingers felt like they were going to fall off. From that moment on, I’ve been playing guitar as much as possible.
I eventually met an incredible teacher (and now friend), Micah Cadwell, who has pushed me to guitar playing abilities I never thought I would get to. He really helped to solidify in me the desire to play guitar for as long as I live. As for recording and producing music, I didn’t get into that until I was about 19. My good friend Anthony and I started recording music together under the name Ashuraa Nova; that was my first true band experience and we self-produced a five-song EP. Ever since then, I have been learning and refining my production skills. I have recorded, mixed, and mastered all the music that I have made to date on my own; that is the other part of my musical journey I love so much!
AF: Did you grow up in a musical household? Who do you consider your greatest influences?
MF: I did not grow up in a musical household. I am actually the only one in my family that plays a musical instrument!
Saying who my greatest influences are is difficult since my influences are constantly changing as I grow on my musical journey. I would say that my overarching influences would be bands/artists like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Frusciante, Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson, and Marvin Gaye. As of late, I’ve been exploring a lot of jazz fusion type stuff. I would say, right now, my main influences are Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Alfa Mist, Herbie Hancock, David Bowie. Bowie isn’t jazz fusion but I just love his entire musical catalogue so much!
AF: You’ve released both an EP, Moments Under Water, and a single, “The Breath in My Beat,” in the last few months. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Do you prefer to work alone, or in a collaborative environment?
MF: I prefer to work alone. Getting into a flow-state when making music is very meditative for me. It has become almost a safe haven for me when life gets too chaotic. I have made a little studio space in my apartment that I can retreat to when I need to recharge or when I am feeling inspired. As for my process, I almost always start off with a guitar groove or progression and build the song from there. I do play all the instruments on these songs except for the drums, for which I use logic plug ins and drum loops. I want to move towards physically recording drums, but I just don’t have the space for a kit at the moment.
AF: Where do you find inspiration for your music?
MF: I know this is going to sound cliché, but nature, my girlfriend, and my pup, Gilmour. Just being in nature or watching my girlfriend play with our dog brings me inspiration because those moments are so relaxing to me that my mind starts to wander off and inspiration strikes. Most of my music is more so emotionally based rather than commenting on something that is happening in society. For me, music has been a means to express the chaos that I experience inside of myself and how that chaos sometimes affects the ones close to me.
AF: What drives you to create real music in a time where music seems more mass-produced and disposable than ever?
MF: It is just something I love to do. I mainly create music for me. I love sharing it with people, but it has always been something that I make for myself. I think that is why I always lean towards lyrics that more so have to do with emotional states of mind versus political statements. Music is a vehicle that I use to articulate how I am feeling at a specific point in time. I gain a tremendous amount of satisfaction just from creating it and sharing it with my friends. My goal isn’t to get a top hit on Spotify or something like that; there is nothing wrong with that, that just isn’t my end goal. I just want to create as much music as I can because I love doing it so much.
AF: How have you evolved as an artist since your start? How do you balance evolving in a constantly changing industry and staying true to yourself?
MF: I would say I have become more refined in my craft, but the goal has always been the same: to create music that I love to listen to. I am constantly influenced by albums that I find and it bleeds into what I am creating. I actually just got this Brian Eno record called Another Green World that blew my mind. It’s sort of like a precursor to David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy records; this record will probably push me to make something that uses a lot of synthesizers and ambient guitar. I guess I would say that I don’t pay too much attention to what is happening in the music industry with regards to what I create.
AF: What has it been like to launch a career in the Atlanta music scene?
MF: It has been a little difficult for me. I am a very shy person, so it’s been challenging pushing myself to go to local jams and to network with other musicians. It has also been difficult finding an audience, which I do attribute some of that to the fact that I am shy about my music. For the most part, I have enjoyed everyone I have interacted with thus far and everyone has been really kind and encouraging.
AF: What is your favorite music venue in Atlanta? Best show you’ve ever seen in the city?
MF: I love the Tabernacle. I think it is a perfectly sized venue and I love seeing shows there! It’s hard to say, but the best show I have seen in Atlanta would be between Radiohead and Coheed and Cambria. I also got to see Julian Lage at The Earl and that was absolutely mind blowing; the things that man does on the guitar should be illegal!
AF: Last one! What’s next for you?
MF: Right now, I am working to release a single by the end of September and an album by late November; hopefully I can hold myself to that. After that, I am not sure. I may try to put a band together to play some shows, but right now I am just focusing on finishing up this record.