Just as music can enhance a movie, a party or a spin class, it can also do the same for a greeting card. Meet Mike Murray, one of American Greetings’ very talented audio producers, and read what he has to say about his love for music and how it has become his vocation:
When did you first realize your interest in music?
My earliest interest in music was memorable because it moved right past ‘enjoying’ into a state of total obsession, which is really what defines a person who chooses a career in this field, right? I was just 4 years old, adorned in over-sized headphones, listening to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers on my parent’s hi-fi over and over again. In the unlikely form of a ballad about gambling, the music bug had bit! I remember, even at that age, being completely mesmerized by the textures, tones, layers, and overall depth of the track – and of course, the lovely and infectious melodies. That same feeling has lasted throughout my life, and in many respects, grown considerably.
What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as a musician?
My position here at American Greetings is Senior Audio Producer, which basically means I help take care of any needs relating to sound or music. After I received my first guitar–(thanks Mom and Dad!), I took lessons in classical guitar and eventually went on to graduate from the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN. During that time I became very interested in the process of not only writing music, but recording and producing it as well. This was quite possibly the most valuable part of my education, as it enabled me to bring ideas to life in the studio.
Could you tell us more about the process of integrating music into a card and its importance?
One of my favorite mediums for music is the role it plays in Motion Pictures and Television. It can truly make or break a movie or show and some of my favorite compositions are ones featured in film. I like to think of our ecards as mini-movies, and I constantly strive to write or produce music that enhances the card and compliments it!
What is it that inspires you when creating a piece of music for a greeting card?
Musical inspiration seems to come from everywhere like going to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform or seeing the latest blockbuster movie and hearing a great score. But it can also be as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store and hearing a song over the loud speakers that you like, and boom, an idea pops into your head that was inspired by what you just heard.
What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?
There was a piece we did for a Valentine’s Card called ‘My One and Only’ which was a real standout for me musically. We don’t often get to write original pop songs, but this afforded us that chance, and with the help of the editorial staff we were able to craft a song you could easily hear on the radio. The format allowed us to produce one version that was ‘ecard length’, and another, full-length version, which our customers could download upon receiving the card. We worked with a lot of great musicians during the production, and it has always stood out as a highlight for me.
What famous musicians have influenced you?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Umm…all of them? I guess it depends on the genre, but deep down my first true love is pop music, classic rock and soul to be specific, so I will always be influenced by the greats: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and the list could go on and on! I am also a huge classical fan; enjoying Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin, to name a few.
What inspires you to create your music and how do you stay motivated?
As I said earlier, music is a huge part of my daily life, so whether it’s listening to a friend’s band play, turning on the radio, or watching a show, it’s always there to remind me of the great music being created every hour of every day. I want in on the creativity! The more I hear, the more I want to make my own mark, and create something I can be truly proud of.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I never ever want to stop growing as an artist. So, regardless of what I’m actually doing or where I’m living, although on a beach would be nice, I just hope I’m continuing to learn and enhance my musical toolkit.
What advice would you give to a musician just starting out?
I was at a music conference last year, and one of the speakers on a panel said: “a successful musician creates something new everyday”. I thought that was great advice and would definitely pass on that sentiment. In other words, don’t get complacent, always strive to create, and practice, practice, practice!!
What do you do for fun?
I play in a cover band on the weekends mostly for fun, although we do record some originals, which keeps the project fresh. I also play hockey a couple nights a week and I enjoy reading, cooking, running, and going to the movies as often as possible!