We had the opportunity to interview Michael Sackler-Berner AKA MSB for an Artist Spotlight! He just released his fantastic new album Short Stories on February 22! He has a unique sound that is addicting to hear, so you'll definitely want to check out Short Stories. But also be sure to check out what he had to tell us below!
1. How did you come to pursue music and how long have you been at it?
"I wrote disgruntled teenage poetry and was too impatient to learn other people’s songs as a kid, so I started writing my own songs. Then my friends and I formed a band to play them in high school. I knew I would do anything to make it my life’s work after a couple 1000 plus person shows in Montreal went well when I was about 20. Placements on TV shows took it from a hobby to a profession. I cannot imagine doing anything else at this point."
2. Could you walk us through your process of writing music?
"It is always very different. Sometimes I can be very considered and specific - writing around a title, being directly inspired by another song or something else. BUT, the songs on "Short Stories" were all written at critical junctures in my personal life when I just sat down, and out they came. Almost like improvisation. I carried them around with me at shows for years, tweaking them slightly until they calcified into what they are now. On this record, the production was far more calculated than the writing. I owe a great debt to Joel Hamilton and about 20 musicians for helping
make them into “Short Stories.""
3. What artists have inspired you in your career?
"This list is endless and always expanding…to name a few off the top of my head — Tom Petty, Harry Nilsson, Nas, Leonard Cohen, Sinatra, Bob Dylan, BB King, Belle and Sebastian, Aretha, Otis, Bob Marley, Biggie, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow, Tom Waits, Coltrane, Cat Stevens, Roy Orbison, Ben Harper, Neil, Jimi, John Lennon, Paolo Nutini…and on and on."
4. Do you have any favorite music gear (guitars, amps, effects pedals, keyboards, etc.) that you love to use? If so, what’s the story on them?
"I mostly play very old guitars that are in rough shape with just a couple pedals. I find new guitars far too easy to play and they sound predictable. I mostly own Silvertones, Fenders, Gretschs, Kays, and a couple others. People always admire my instruments for being old and unique, and then they complain that the action is too high and strings too dirty and thick. I guess I like the fight, and I like the tone of older, thicker strings through tube amps. Outside of all my old, mistreated guitars I love the new Magnatone Amps. Magnatone is a company I endorse. They are handmade in the US and are all over this record. Sometimes I use older amps too, but the Magnatone’s are super reliable and the tremolo is great."
5. Can you describe the vibe at your live shows? Also, what do you enjoy most about a venue when you do a show?
"Every night is totally different. I’ve played crappy empty coffee shops, full theaters with union crews, and everything in between. There is no normal. That said, I try to make sure one common thread is that the musicians with me are excellent - and playing for the song. I’m very lucky because I have been surrounded by amazing players my whole life that want to be there because of the music. That makes a huge difference. I play a lot solo too, and that can be most successful actually, because if you have a listening crowd the communication is crystal clear and lyrics do the heavy lifting. I want people to steal a moment for themselves where they can clear their head or reflect. It’s healthy for every to turn off their phone and open their ears once in a while - and a dance a bit if they want. That is what I try to provide - and it seems to work for most people regardless of age, gender, orientation, race or politics."
6. What is one thing that you want the public to know about your music?
"Just hopeful that the music finds them and it communicates something useful in some way."
7. Do you have any recent/upcoming projects or performances you would like fans to know about?
"I just released a new album Short Stories. I also front The Slim Kings who are out playing all the time, and just wrapping up a record produced by Nick Movshon (Bruno Mars, Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Charles Bradley, Antibalas)."