This is a shot taken in New Brunswick, NJ where I recently played a set at the NJ Folk Festival on the campus of Rutgers University. Wow, what a day! There were A LOT of people. Thousands!! I was selected as one of six winners of the Singer-Songwriter Showcase. I always enjoy listening to other songwriters and taking bits and pieces of what appeals to me and storing it in my subconcious somewhere. They say comparison is the theif of joy, and in many ways that is true, but impossible to avoid. Writing songs is a very vulnerable thing....and while it's not about winning or losing, it is nice to know the songs connect with people.
In other News....I was in the News. Mr. Greg Watry was kind enough to feature me as "THE BAND/ARTIST OF THE WEEK" in the NJ Herald this week. I will post the article below, but before I do I just want to say that I am excited about the future. I am playing some great gigs this summer and I have a goal to release 2 albums this year, one with my musical companion Emily Barnes and another solo. There are always obstacles and road blocks and reasons to deter, but I have made up my mind to make this trek come hell or high water. Hope I'll see you on the other side of the mountain.
By GREG WATRY
The backdrop's a contrasting paint-chipped wooden barn and green grass. Folk musician Mike Herz picks the introduction to his song "It's Love" in a video for the song. Leaves fall from the gray sky, and Herz, in his deep voice, sings, "It was something so familiar, like I'd been there before/Rolling through my mind like coffee cups on my car floor."
To Herz, a misconception about the folk genre is that the lyrics must always be narrative. But sometimes lyrics in a song are only images and descriptions that allow the listener to interpret and glean their own personal meaning. Some of his favorite songs, he said, cannot have their meanings pinpointed.
Herz recalled his mother playing James Taylor songs when he was a child. He was attracted to what he called "powerful songwriting," such as Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." While he had an ear for music, it would be some time before he tried his hand at an instrument.
"I was an athlete in high school and college," he said. "It wasn't until that started being less of a priority that I started to explore" music.
A man of words, Herz was fond of writing poetry and was drawn to lyrics. He picked up the guitar in his mid 20s, a little after he was introduced to the music of Bob Dylan through a friend. "I just realized that I had a better chance of people listening if it was to a song, rather than just telling people to read a poem."
At the same time, the music on mainstream radio sounded inauthentic to him, and he discovered a body of independent artists who produced powerful, poignant songs that resonated with him. "I thought, this is what I want to do," he said.
Learning the guitar was a process, but he persevered. "I almost smashed it against the wall several times," he laughed of his early days with the instrument. "But I'm a stubborn man and an obsessive person, so those two things were in my favor."
A group of artists began to rotate heavily in his life. He frequently listens to the sounds of Josh Ritter, Gregory Alan Isakov and John Fullbright. John Gorka's song "The Gypsy Life" also has a special place in his heart.
"I find a lot of material to write about living around here," Herz said. "It's an interesting area because New Jersey can be stereotyped a certain way and this area certainly doesn't meet the stereotype."
One song on Herz's debut 2013 album "Overgrown" is called "Spring Street," and captures Newton's main thoroughfare in a soft and melancholic light.
Herz is currently working on his second album. "My first one was home recorded and I was happy with what I was able to do with limited technology and funding, but you want to make sure it's better the second time around," he said.
This past weekend, Herz traveled to Rutgers University to participate in the New Jersey Folk Festival. He was chosen as one of six musicians for the festival's singer-songwriter showcase. He said the experience was positive, and he played a half-hour set for an audience of over 10,000.
The human condition drives Herz's songwriting. Love found, love lost and hardships are the stuff some of his songs are made of. And with lyrics like, "I was the blistering pavement and you were the summer rain," it's hard not to relate.