A feature article I wrote in September 2010 on a musician I attended SUNY Purchase College with.
Singer-songwriter, Mikey Ballou, a junior composition major from Westchester, looks up in thought. His bleached blonde hair dangles over his eyebrows.
“Flexibility is important,” he says. “The music conservatory here offers more flexibility than most programs in other colleges. I don’t want to be limited to playing one instrument. I want to be in the studio and I want to record every instrument.”
He shakes his head and the hair over his eyes moves to one side. “I can network here. It’s nice to be in an environment where there aren’t 800 other musicians. Competition isn’t magnified as much.”
Ballou says he was exposed to music since he was a baby. He gives credit to his father, a professional musician, who he says he got his ears from. He considers himself independent from his father but it wasn’t always that way.
“My dad forced music on me ever since I was a kid and it sucked for the first few years. I wasn’t interested.”
After taking many music lessons and as he matured, Ballou learned to appreciate music. He began writing his own music at age 15.
“I became very involved with music on my own.” He pushes back his hair. “It started from those musical activities when I was younger. As I got older it became so much fun.”
Ballou considers himself to be a session musician, an instrumental and vocal performer who works and records with others.
“I’ve played drums and guitar the past few years, doing work for hire gigs. I play a ton of instruments.” His eyes light up and he counts on his fingers. “Guitar, bass, drums, piano, I sing.”
Ballou uses his musical skills to make a name for himself.
“I put all these elements into one track and put it out and hopefully make something good. I’ve been getting better and better at it.” He crosses his arms. “I want to be doing that for a living.”
Ballou wants to teach himself and learn as much as he possibly can about playing music. He speaks of Stephen Bryce Avary, who is part of a one-man-band called The Rocket Summer.
“Stephen Bryce Avary plays everything. I look up to him a lot. I want to do exactly what he’s doing.” Ballou shrugs. “But if all else fails, I want to produce and write for other people. Arranging and studio work has just been awesome. I will do anything I can as long as it involves pop music.”
Even though Ballou considers his genre of music to be acoustic pop-rock, he is influenced by any present pop music arranger.
“Matt Squire, Tony Maserati, Chris Lord-Alge.” Ballou grins as he throws out names. “They’ve all produced everything you’ve heard of on the radio the past eight to 10 years. I want to model after what they do.”
He looks into the distance. The slight breeze blows his hair. “My music will build,” he says. “I play around with it. I like studio mixes more than live performances. There’s so much more you can do in the studio. The goal is to replicate it live.”
Ballou plays with others as much as he can. He is interested in a band but does not have one.
“It’s hard to find a lot of people to play in a band called ‘Mikey B’,” he shakes his head and laughs. “I want to put out something I can perform myself, something that can evolve with a band behind me. I want to put out a product everyone will like.”
Ballou says that he has played a lot of shows the past few months, including playing in a band that opened up for Aaron Carter.
“It was a great opportunity to play a lot of shows this summer.” He points his chin at a group of friends as they walk by then turns back toward the table. “I hope to perform for millions of people at different times. That opportunity will be all I can ask for.” He smiles as he places an elbow on the table. “I’d love to get onto a New York City subway and hear a stranger rocking out to my tunes.”
Jared Martin, junior studio production major, says that Ballou is broken out of the “normal” artist mindset.
“They all think they’re so different from everyone else,” Martin says. “Mikey is not like that. He really has a good understanding of how everything works. He knows what he wants and he’s doing it.”