Hailing from rural Northwest, New Jersey, Mike grew up amongst fertile farmlands and majestic mountains. So naturally, as a teenager his music of choice was rap. Why you ask? The words. There was poetry and passion there, and it resonated. Some years later Mike discovered the songs of Bob Dylan, and after listening to those words his heart clinically stopped for 3 minutes. While dead he saw a heavenly blinding light and returned to Earth with the understanding that simply a guitar and words could alter the universe. Folk music hit home. So words were written, chords were learned and songs were born. Songs sung in a deep voice that rattles around in your head long after the music ends. Songs that make you think but don't trip you up and leave you realizing something you already knew.
This year Mike was nominated by the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards in 3 separate categories.
1. Top Male Songwriter 2. Top Folk/Americana Act 3. Top Single/ EP for "Graduation Day"
His debut album "Overgrown" was released digitally through this website in February 2013.
Here is what some people have said/written:
Here is an interview:
On a quiet autumn afternoon inside Newton's Plaza Diner, a young writer wearing a wool snap-cap jots down thoughts on back of a paper placement. He writes about life in general, the underdogs, the hardships — about familiar people and places in Sussex County.
Mike Herz has put down roots and doesn't give thought to "getting out" of the town where he grew up. He appreciates the architecture and the home town feel, especially on Spring St. and around the town green.
"I have several songs that are directly connected to this area including one about the heart of Newton called 'Spring Street'."
Reflecting his belief that modern day Newton has never thrived the way he thinks it could, it is a poignant story that captures and immortalizes the effects of a dwindling economy on a small town.
Herz is part of the independent folk scene, comprised of under-the-radar musicians and lesser known artists. Playing solo acoustic guitar, his music is "lyric driven" with verses that hit home and go deep to listeners. "It's folk music at its heart."
Speaking to the burden of financial debt from student loans is his song, "Graduation Day," which will be featured in a documentary about the current student protest movement in Quebec, Canada.
After hearing lyrics of the song on a clip Herz posted to YouTube that include, "And my high school diploma is somewhere buried in a box / My college degree put me in a hole / On my graduation day I had to marry Sallie Mae / With an interest rate that suffocates my soul.", the producer contacted him about using it in the film.
But Herz also shows his humorous side in songs like "The Ballad of Waving Willie", a quirky anecdote about the man named Willie who sat along Rt. 206 waving to cars for 40 years.
As a youth growing up in Newton, he liked playing sports, particularly basketball, but after graduating high school in 1999 he didn't think a sports-related hobby would be sustainable.
He found his love of writing and song writing in college while attending Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison where he earned a degree in English literature and published a 40-page poetry book titled, "The Altered Master Plan" in 2008.
After listening to early songs of Bob Dylan, he decided, "I want to do something like that. Nobody reads poetry, but I thought I might be able to connect to them if I put music to my words. I never wanted to be a guy who plays covers during happy hours, I want to write songs that people could connect to."
Thus began the discovery of other singer/songwriters that fell outside of the Top 40. He found a community of folk musicians from around the country who are all very supportive of each other and the music they create, including John Gorka, also a native New Jerseyan and John Elliott, an independent songwriter, who Herz describes as "chips all in with no retirement plan" for the non-stop touring around the country.
He also admires Bob Dylan, who he says is ever-changing and always interesting, John Lennon for his passion and Josh Ritter, a songwriter and novelist.
Making no plans to become a famous rock star, he enjoys playing small venues and open mics where he can meet the audience after shows. Being able to connect directly to people through his song writing makes it worth the effort.
He has traveled along the East Coast from Vermont to Philadelphia and several trips to New York City, including the legendary Bitter End in Greenwich Village, NYC to perform.
Another notable performance was opening for Jill Sobule at The Stanhope House on a night where the audience had to evacuate right before the show started due to a propane leak in building next door. The incident inspired Sobule to write a song during the wait and performed it for the audience.
Herz currently teaches high school English and is finishing graduate school to earn a masters degree in special education. While his own courses inspire him through the reading curriculum — including classics like 'The Great Gatsby' and others on obtaining the American dream —he is sharing expertise and his love for writing by starting an after-school songwriters club. Between 6 to 20 students receive help in creative writing and song structure at all different levels.
When asked what the near future holds in store, "If I'm still writing and performing in front of audiences, I'll be happy."
Herz has been invited to WNTI Radio (91.9FM) on the morning of Oct. 26 to play a few songs and talk about his song writing and music on the "One More Cup of Coffee" program. It will be his first time on radio.
The next big local show on his schedule will be opening for Marshall Crenshaw at The Stanhope House Nov. 3.
Friend and independent musician, Jeremy Manjorin, is helping Herz produce the recordings for his first CD release which will be available through his web site, at live shows and on iTunes and other online music sites this winter.
To hear his recordings and see video clips visit mikeherzmusic.com or facebook.com/mikeherzmusic.
Email Mike directly at email@example.com or send him a message on his Facebook page