It's incredibly rare the impact that LA-based indie artist Michl's music has made, considering the fact that since he started out, he's preferred to keep much of his life private beyond the music. You won't have seen his face in any music videos or press photos for the most part. Yet with over 94 million streams on Spotify alone as an unsigned artist, it's clear there's something about Michl that's powerful enough to command attention. Instead of going with the current, Michl has instead chosen to carve out his own lane in all aspects of the definition within what could be seen as an overwhelmingly oversaturated world where artist branding is emphasized often almost as equally as the music, or perhaps even more. Having just wrapped up touring with Marian Hill and recently released his debut art film Datum, Michl has a busy summer ahead of him as he finalizes his album and begins mapping out dates for his solo tour.
"I haven't released a ton of material but everything I've released I'm super proud of. I haven't been trying to rush anything or get anywhere fast or anywhere I feel like I don't deserve., Michl tells us. The past two years have all been about taking in what he's learned without forcing anything, a key factor of his ability to stay focused on music, and now film, without any distractions. Staying relatively under the radar with his identity wasn't meant to be some forced performative statement. Instead, he says that it's "more natural for me to just do that". It's a daunting choice, especially as PR firms, management, social media, and various aspects of the music industry seem to point in the exact opposite direction. And Michl is completely aware of his decision to not care, at least about the more intricate or what may be deemed "necessary" facets of what an artist should be doing to make themselves successful.
"I knew going into this this that if I didn't do this interview or this photo shoot.. I wouldn't get as many eyes on me. But I wasn't really concerned with that, I wanted it to be more about the music first".
Withholding information was never the intent, and Michl emphasizes the point that "Slowly, as people want to know more, I'll slowly give more of myself out".
There's probably few music artists starting out who would want to take on anything but music, yet impressively enough, Michl's ambitions stretch far and wide, while maintaining a type of focused discipline that demands attention. His debut art film Datum that was released this past spring which he co-directed with Sean Hollihan, is mesmerizing to watch. It was shot in his hometown of Riverside, California, "a city of commuters" as Michl puts it, weaving in surrealist imagery grounded in reality. Though Michl himself doesn't make any appearances in the film, it adds another layer of depth to his artistry, a project that successfully accomplishes the goal of capturing more about the artist and his life growing up in his hometown than any press release ever would.
"I think I had always wanted to showcase the city I grew up in because it's very much an underdog type of city. I wanted to paint it in this beautiful way, in kind of an odd way".
"Showing my hometown, the actual homes I grew up in, the streets I walked when I was growing up, is as genuine as I can get and as real as I can get. I don't think there's anything more that could show me other than doing a documentary".
The film is soundtracked by three of Michl's own songs. However, the artist makes it a point to say that the primary focus of Datum is the film itself, not the music. "I always looked at if if I was going to do a visual, it would be the visual first and the music second. If I'm going to put my name on it, whatever it is, it could be a drawing, it's not going to have anything to do with my music. I felt the same way about this. The music was secondary and I wanted it to fit into the film and vice versa".
Though Michl has released both an EP and a handful of singles since 2016, he's finally gearing up for his biggest project yet, an album that's set to be released sometime in the fall, which will include a couple of singles that he's already released this year. The addictively dark, brooding sound of his previous music, well, "I don't want it to sound the exact same as my first EP, I don't think I'd be growing if I did", Michl comments. He mentions that his future holds a bit more collaborating than his previous music, and this new shift can be heard in his collaboration with Mura Masa, a positively upbeat single rife with guitar plucks and an electric streak of refined sentiment called "Better With You" that came out earlier in the spring. Avid listeners of Michl might notice the shift in tone on the single which, different from his earlier songs, surrounds the notion of optimism, both sonically and lyrically. The collaboration came about naturally: "I'm a big fan of Mura and I know him personally, so in that way it was natural. But I think me kind of reacting to what he did as far as production and what not kind of put me in an optimistic environment", Michl says.
Perhaps this new positivity, or at least a type of sanguine awareness will weave itself into his upcoming album as well, which is set to be released sometime in the fall. "I'm writing out of a release of something and that's kind of what my whole last EP was about, which was about that changing of being in a relationship and falling out of a relationship so I think that was very apparent that was what the subject matter was on. It's definitely more optimistic now and I'm still looking to collaborate with other people. It's more exciting for me too because it takes me out of my comfort zone and hopefully it can get some more unique to my brand type of music."
Michl reflects upon his relatively young career in the most positive light, which could seem surprising to listeners who were used to the darker matter of his older songs. At the same time, he speaks of his accomplishments with the utmost candor, constantly looking for ways to keep improving and challenging himself.
"I feel like I've done everything in a genuine way and I think that's come across and people can definitely see it. I'm just really proud of where my project is and I would love for it to keep growing as it has been. I'm definitely not where I would love to be as far as like.. I would love to play my own tour, my own shows the way I want to do it. I'm still hoping to grow, but grow the right way."
As an artist, Michl's constant desire to improve and appreciate his process of growth is most admirable. Listeners can only expect that his new album will be something to talk about as well.