Already an in-demand Nashville-based musician, Micah Wilshire’s contributions to music include session work for artists like Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen. As a writer, he’s scored big with television and film placements as well as songs for orchestrally dark-pop artists like Katie Garfield and country/rock newcomer Kasey Tyndall. Now, Wilshire is getting ready to explore a different side of his musical craft—one he’s waited nearly two decades to do—with his beautifully crafted, jazz-inspired EP, Manifesto.
Wilshire brings out the heavy hitters for Manifesto, including contributions from bassists John Patitucci and Willie Weeks along with drummer Nir Z. Three of the songs on Manifesto were co-produced with Dennis Matkosky, whose resume includes working with Al Jarreau, George Benson and George Duke.
With Manifesto, Wilshire may have delivered an EP that’s twenty years in the making, but as groove-laden tracks like “In The Stars,” “Woman,” and “Be With Me Tonight” confirm, it’s an album that was certainly worth the wait.
AXS recently spoke with Micah Wilshire about Manifesto and more in this new interview.
AXS: How did this project come about?
Micah Wilshire: I had thought about doing a project like this for about twenty years. The issue was, when I moved to Nashville I immediately started doing session work, which was fun but put things on the back burner. Eventually, you get to a point in your life where you say you know what? I’m going to do something where there's no pre-condition, and this was about my love of jazz, soul and pop music.
AXS: Is there a different mindset you need to be in to write a jazz themed album as opposed to writing for country or pop?
MW: It's completely different. Most of the time when you’re writing for pop or country, you're consciously trying to go after a vibe that’s currently happening. This style of music was more geared toward coming home after work and having a shot or two of whiskey and then waiting until day turns to night. For me, it was about writing at night by myself with guitars that lend itself to that sound.
AXS: Your father was a guitarist who played the same circuit as Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix. How much of an influence did he have on you as a musician and ultimately, to this album?
MW: As far as centers of influence, he was huge. He was deep into the Wes Montgomery style of playing and left town when he was fifteen to play in New York. He's an amazing player and really lyrical when he plays.
AXS: Let’s discuss a few tracks from Manifesto, beginning with “In The Stars.”
MW: I was listening to a lot of Dizzy Gillespie and wanted to write a song that had that kind of feel and groove. I was in such a mindset that I picked up the guitar and wrote it in about forty-five minutes. It’s an old school, romantic song with a good time feel.
AXS: “Be With Me Tonight.”
MW: The writing process for that came after reading “The Great Gatsby.” I’ve only read that book a few times in my life and this time it transported me back to that time period. I wanted to write a song that I thought could be played in a really smarmy, flimsy club.
AXS: “Where I Wanna Be.”
MW: I had that progression and melody in my head for about fifteen years. Back then, I wasn't looking to follow through with this project but when the time finally came I remembered it and wrote the rest of the song.
AXS: What was it like working with Dennis Matkosky on this project?
MW: I've known Dennis ever since I left high school. He was the very first session I ever did. He wrote a ton of big hits and produced guys like George Duke, George Benson and Al Jarreau. He's been a real mentor for me and has guided me through a lot of things. He's also an amazing piano player and played Wurlitzer and piano on the song, “Right Kind of Wrong”.
AXS: Do you have plans to do any live dates to support the new release?
MW: I do. I'll be going out to L.A. in early spring to do a few dates and have spoken with people in New York about coming up and playing some shows there as well. I’ll also be doing some shows here in Nashville.
AXS: What are you most looking forward to about the New Year?
MW: I'm really looking forward to getting out and playing live. I haven’t done it for a while and when I did it was as a backup guitar player for other artists. It’s going to be fun to step out on my own now and do it. Everything worked out great on this album and I'm so grateful for how it all fell together. This coming year I’m going to focus more on the TV and film world. Katie Garfield and I are also planning a dark jazz project in January that’s based on the idea of addiction. A lot of stars are aligning right now that are going to make 2018 one of the best years of my life.