Simply put, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald is a natural-born talent. The Calgarian singer-songwriter has a voice that soothes the soul, a way with words that eases the mind and a firecracker heart set on spreading joy.
His latest album “YES” dropped in August, and Fitzgerald has been busier than ever since, taking his electric show on the road to share the stage with artists like Bobby Long, Steve Winwood and Michael Franti & Spearhead (to name a few). We spoke with the music man about his creative process, life the road and his ever evolving plan for the future.
THEREGION: “YES” is an eclectic body of work, full of soul, honesty, power and heart. What did you set out to accomplish with this album?
MICHAELBERNARDFITZGERALD: Well, I made “YES” over a long period of time. My situation was changing a fair bit as I was going to Los Angeles a lot to put the record together song by song. I’ve never really made a batch of songs that were all super similar; they usually come out pretty eclectic. We set out to have the guitar, the voice and the mood really tie the whole album together. I don’t know, sometimes I want to write a slower love song, sometimes I want to write something that’s more up-tempo and fun. I just really like to go with the flow, wherever the session is going.
REGION: Has your creative process changed in the years since releasing “The MBF Love LP”?
MICHAEL: Definitely. I wrote “The MBF Love LP” more on my own, whereas with “YES” I’d go to L.A. to sit down with Jon (Levine) and Brian (West) and we’d start at three in the afternoon without a song, write one, go have dinner together and come back and usually track it. That was the process behind most of the new album, which is interesting—it was cool to be a little bit less prepared and a little more open to whatever creation we stumbled upon.
REGION: You spend a lot of time touring around North America. What’s life like on the road?
MICHAEL: It’s great! I mean, I haven’t been travelling too much lately, but travelling and being on the road is wonderful. I have the blessing of getting to play music with a group of friends; everyone I play with in the band I would spend time with outside of music—all day if I could! It’s just really nice to share the stage with people you really love to be around. We eat good food and meet wonderful people and get to play the songs we love to play. I’m happiest on the road and I’m happiest on stage. Sometimes if I’m home for too long I get a little too introspective…
REGION: You’ve visited many places while on tour. What’s your favourite way to explore a new stop?
MICHAEL: It’s nice if you get to have a bit of time in each city—sometimes you’re just so tired if it’s been a late night or you have an early morning with a bunch of driving—sometimes you’re a little wiped. But I love when you get an afternoon off to check out and explore a city.
One of my favourite stops from last year was when I got to spend a bit of time in Philadelphia. I spent a whole day just walking around Philly by myself, and it was wonderful to take in the city that way. There’s nothing like it. The other thing I love about travelling is when you go back to familiar spot and you’ve got your favourite things to do there: you know, you go back to Vancouver and you eat at The Eatery, seeing familiar faces. Those little things make it worth while and make cities really special.
REGION: We’ve seen you live in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto, so it’s safe to say that you bring the same infectious energy with you wherever you play. Where does your confidence on stage come from?
MICHAEL: I don’t know! For starters, it’s wonderful that you’ve seen the show in that many places. That’s cool. I don’t know where it comes from though. Sometimes the best way to describe what happens on stage is to say that often, it feels like you’re just channeling it. Being on stage is a time in my life when I am completely worry free. It’s a time where you just put it all out there and you’re not really worried about what you’ll have left at the end of it. You completely surrender yourself to whatever will happen, you know? Again, it’s embracing that spontaneity and realizing that the whole thing could blow up—it’s a very fine line, but I love that.
REGION: How should people feel after an MBF show?
MICHAEL: I met this percussionist who plays with Steve Winwood last year, his name is Café, and he took me aside—I don’t know why he chose to tell me on that specific day—but he mentioned that his whole life has been devoted to playing music, but more importantly to spreading joy. That’s what he believes his real vocation to be; he’s here to spread joy and that really stuck with me because that’s what I set out to do in the beginning. I’m sure at moments you lose sight of that, but I’ve thought about that almost daily since I met him, just thinking about how the job really is to take whatever joy you can give and give it.
That’s what I hope people leave with, I hope that they feel happy and feel excited about living and excited about the rest of the day and the next day and all that.
REGION: You’re from Calgary, a place proud to love you. How has the city influenced your music?
MICHAEL: I’ve left the city here and there for a while; I was in Toronto and then I spent a bunch of time in L.A. when I was making this music, but I keep on coming back to Calgary. I do appreciate living in the city. I appreciate the people here and I appreciate all the things that this city has done for me. And for whatever reason, it continues to feel like home, so I embrace that. I’ve lived here since I was three years old so I guess it’s had all the influence in this time I’ve been playing music. I love the city and I’m happy to live here and come back here.
REGION: What’s next for the self-proclaimed “dog man with a good plan and two hands”?
MICHAEL: Just continuing to edit the plan! The dog’s on my lap; I’d get him to bark but he’s nice and quiet, which I appreciate. I want to get back into making more music and would love to get back out on the road especially; I’m due to do a run of Canada. There’s just a whole bunch of things I’d love to do, but again, I’m just trying to stay open and caring and do all those things at the same time.
REGION: And let the universe come to you?
MICHAEL: Yeah, as hard as that can be sometimes. To really relax, set the intention of being good and get back to spreading joy.
REGION: Picture this: It’s a gorgeous summer day in Cowtown—you’re at a backyard barbecue with close friends and your dog, Elliott. You’ve got a cold Village Blonde in hand. What are you listening to?
MICHAEL: Wow, what are we listening to? Hmm…I’m always so bad at the ‘what are you listening to’ questions but this one is way better than the ‘last five things you listened to on your iPod’ question. That one is not fun! But the soundtrack to this summer day would have to be a song by a man named Mason Jennings called “Your New Man.” We’d follow that up with an entire evening of Plaskett. And you’re invited.
Count us in!
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Feature image provided by Red Umbrella P.R. Photograph by Mark Maryanovich.