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Life has its highs, its lows and then there are those unforeseen events that can rock you to your core, making you suddenly painfully aware you’re not on the path you want to be on in life. For Mike Brown (Wilmington, NC), the pain of divorce was the wakeup call he couldn’t hit the snooze button on any longer. As a retail sales manager for a national sports company he was making good money, had his own store, and was on a stable path earning a good living. “What more could he want?” was the refrain he heard from friends and family.
Plunged into heartache, everything changed after the divorce for Mike who, remembering those days, says “It was hard to go to work in a place I didn’t want to be in and hard to come home to somebody who wasn’t there.”
To cope, Mike returned to his first love—music:
“I went straight towards the music. I had to… obviously I had a little depression from a fresh divorce and…a lot of my guitar playing, riffs, just started encompassing blues type stuff. And it was just very interesting [to me] what I was learning about all aspects of the blues.”
Mike had always loved music but had resisted going after it as a career choice, a decision he now says was motivated more by fear and naysayers than by his own internal compass. The divorce forced him to think long and hard about what he really wanted. Over the months that followed, Mike quit his job in management and moved in with one of his closest friends; it was a turn many would consider ill-advised, nevertheless he kept at it. With his friend’s blessing he then went about coverting the guesthouse into a recording studio. It’s at this point that Mike started writing and recording music daily, teaching himself everything he could. Then he hit a roadblock. He just wasn’t happy with the quality of the sound he was getting.
Mike had been toying around with the idea of going back to school when he came across Recording Connection. Like many, he was skeptical at first. He says, “I saw you guys and was like ‘Is this real?'”
Going into the studio to meet his future mentor, producer/engineer Jim Fox, proved to him just how real it was. Mike and Jim “gelled” right from the start. During his time in Recording Connection, Mike learned how to record, mix, and master his own tracks. He also had the opportunity to assist on sessions with artists and see firsthand how Jim aligns his efforts with those of the musicians he works with, enabling them to feel safe to create and give their best performances.
Now graduated, Mike says the difference between before and after Recording Connection is a stark one:
“My tracks are sounding like sonic gold… Now I know what I need equipment-wise and what I don’t need, what to use, what not to use, and questions I would have had years ago, like, ‘Why is that sounding like this?’ or, ‘Where does that pop come from?’ I would know the answers to now. I’ve become a better troubleshooter, which is always good in a studio.”
Mike’s apprenticeship has even developed his understanding of the business side of studio work: of making connections, building rapport, and managing day to day operations. And… he’s even got an EP in the works! As a longtime lyricist and rapper who says he’s “liable to throw in some Tribe Called Quest and then turn around and blast some Metallica at the same time” Mike’s exploring his diverse musical leanings without getting hung up on trying to appeal to a specific market or genre. He’s even singing on the EP, something he’s never done before. Jim’s belief in his abilities, he says, gave him the “little stroke of confidence” he needed to just do it. As for the heartbreak, its found its way, alchemized, into the music. Mike says, “When you’ve gone through that, for some reason when you put it in the art, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
As to where the path leads now, Mike’s actively building a life doing what he loves and says he’s much more excited than fearful about the future. He loves being in the studio and is focused on developing his musical and engineering talents in-tandem with the industry smarts that’ll make him a savvy artist and engineer. Armed with a newfound sense of fortitude he says:
“Things I thought were way too difficult to even comprehend [before], I have a stronger comprehension of [now]. I feel like I’m feeding my creative side on the daily, but I’m at almost a 60/40, 50/50 point right now where I have to put on my brain, my business brain and come up with ideas of how to promote and this and that. I’ve been doing research on copyrighting and registering songs. I’ve been an ASCAP member for years, but I’ve never took advantage of the benefits at all…I feel like there’s still a lot to learn, which excites me… I’ve always dabbled in music but have been kind of reluctant to dive in, head first. It was almost like I was making music for my health…I didn’t know how to make any monetary gains from it. And I’ve always had the passion of being an artist, but I felt like I needed more skills under my belt…I just finally got to that point in my life where I was like, ‘All right I’m going to do this. I don’t want to regret saying that I didn’t go in full-force with it…And I guess the biggest thing I took away from this whole program is my confidence. Yeah. This whole experience has made me a more confident person.”