Influenced by the singer-songwriters of his dad’s generation such as Willie Nelson, John Prine, and Jerry Jeff Walker to name a few, Michael Gay found his love for guitar after years of drumming. Born in Denver and raised in Rochester, Minnesota, thrifting had a big part in getting the wheels rolling for Gay. His dad’s record collection and searching for names he recognized from the 70s singer-songwriters and outlaw country was his inexpensive pastime.
A country-folk storyteller now based in Minneapolis, the band and songwriter scene couldn’t help but draw him in and pull him away from original intentions of becoming a Social Studies teacher. Along with his passion for history, he works as a tour manager when not creating his own music, and Gay also dabbles in leatherwork, woodworking, and motorcycles. Not to mention he produces the Pony Rug live video series that features Minneapolis-based songwriters. Needless to say, he’s a creatively-fueled individual.
But Gay hadn’t always performed under his own name.
Best known in the Twin Cities for his Almighty American project, Gay has opened up for such artists as Margo Price, The Mavericks, and Kacy and Clayton to name a few. The 2017 Americana album, Somewhere Ride, caught praise from fans and media, drawing comparisons to Jason Isbell and Boxcar Willie. The singer-songwriter style gave a laid-back and relaxing vibe that comforts the soul. Now switching to a more back-porch sound, he has plenty more music on the way.
The B side of his January duo release starts off with an imagery-laden piece with a captivating a capella-driven piece, with the only other sound being a snapping of the fingers underneath his bare vocals. The tune, “Good Night”, creates a story worthy of reminiscing about, when hanging by the river with a group of pals was the focal point of one’s life. “We could see downtown glowing, Mississippi flowing, and the water swirling around/Somebody said that we outta go swimming but everybody turned him down”. Those lyrics are ones that pull you in to wonder what happens next, as you’re sitting at the campfire with a s’more in your hand. It’s those times where the phone is forgotten, and all you can do is happily sit in nature and hum a tune of the good ol’ days.
Gay carries you into the next song with the gradually increasing instrumentals, walking right along with you into “Long, Cold Winter”. Despising the fact that seasons of life are dry and long and don’t provide fun in the beginning of the song, by the end he sings a different tune. The perspective on life changes when he sings that those times are the ones that make us stronger and we can look back with a heart of gratitude. “Cause I need these long cold winters, I need not having any fun, so bless these long cold winters, cause they’ve made me into who I have become”. If that’s not something we all can’t reflect on nowadays, I don’t know what is.
Recording his new and upcoming album in Nashville, Make It Right can be expected later this year. Until then, “Good Night” and “Long, Cold Winter” are out now for your listening pleasure.