Michael McQuaid, 21-year-old soul and R&B musician, followed his dreams to Nashville.
Born in Memphis but raised in the suburbs of Dallas, first Plano then moving to Frisco, Michael said he attended an after school program at his high school called School of Rock that lead him to discover his passion for music.
“At first I thought it was so cheesy, but after a couple weeks it turned out to be really cool,” he said. “They would put you in groups and my thing was guitar, so they would put you on other instruments and get you out of your comfort zone.”
He said at the end of the program everyone played a show for family and friends.
“It taught me stage presence and how important it was for me to get out of my comfort zone,” he said.
After graduating in 2011, Michael went to college mainly because of his parents.
“My parents said if I went to college they’d support me and put me in a place to live all I just had to do was pick where I wanted to go,” he said. “I thought about going to New York, Los Angeles or Nashville because I knew I wanted to be an artist.”
Michael picked Nashville because he wanted to go to Belmont University, but unfortunately didn’t get in because of his grades. He then applied to MTSU and was accepted. At first he was reluctant but now said he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I’m using what I learned in the classroom in my music every day,” he said.
Seeking a Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations in the recording industry, said he initially chose Nashville over New York and Los Angeles because it’s the perfect median between the busy city life and the small town feel.
“I just fell in love with Nashville,” he said. “Everyone is so nice and motiving and wants to work as a team.”
Michael said it’s a great time for all music in Nashville.
“You would think it’s all country music but if you go away from Broadway and go to the surrounding communities, there’s so much more to Nashville than just country music,” he said.
Michael said since being here he’s had a new respect for country music. In the past, he said he has worked with country music writers before and it’s influenced the way he not only listens to it but how he writes his own music.
the EVOLUTION of HIS SOUND
Michael grew up listening to rock bands like The Grateful Dead and ACDC from his father along with Motown favorites like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke from his mentor.
Last year, he put out a pop EP called Heart&Soul. He said at the time he thought he had to make pop music in order to make a living.
“IT’S A GREAT RECORD AND I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT, BUT I REALIZED I WANTED TO GO MORE TO MY ROOTS. I WANTED TO BE MORE ME. I WANT TO BE MORE SOUL AND MORE ROCK.”
Michael, a solo artist, started playing shows around town with a background band. He said people starting asking him what his band was called and that’s when he realized he wanted to focus more on his artistry and being a solo artist.
“I just didn’t feel authentic, and the number one thing with me is being authentic and true to myself.”
Michael said we live in a world where there are so many cross-genres and artists are so broad that it’s difficult to fit them into a specific genre.
“IT’S EASIER TO PUT PEOPLE IN A BOX LIKE THIS GUY IS R&B OR THIS GUY IS ROCK, BUT PEOPLE HAVE SO MANY MORE INFLUENCES THAN THAT SO IT’S JUST KIND OF A MIX. I JUST LIKE MAKING THE MUSIC THAT I LIKE AND THAT I LIKE TO LISTEN TO AND THE MUSIC THAT INFLUENCES ME.”
He said newer blogs are calling it progressive-R&B, chillwave, or neo-R&B.
“I remember when I went to produce the new record, I told the producer that I wanted to sound like Miguel and Lana Del Rey had a baby and he was like okay I got it,” he said with a laugh.
Michael’s new EP entitled Glasshouse is due out on November 13th. He has a new single called “VIBES” which can be heard on his SoundCloud.
“The newer record feels more like me, and it’s a great feeling,” Michael said.
COMMUNITY and WHAT’S AHEAD
Michael defined community as people working together for the same goals.
He said building connections and relationships are important to him and it’s something he wants to focus on as well as further developing his artistry as an R&B artist.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the music scene here,” he said. “I live in Murfreesboro but every time I come downtown I just appreciate it so much. I drive by the skyline and I can’t believe I’m here. Just to be here and doing what I’m trying to do is awesome.”
Michael said because he decided to change his sound to more R&B he’s had to really engage with that sub-community more.
He said every morning he wakes up and makes a list of things to do. He said whether it’s recording, writing a song, sending emails, or doing other things music related, the key for him just to stay organized.
“I want to continue making what I think is great music, playing more shows and building a fan base,” he said, also stating that he’d eventually like to go on tour.
Michael said music, putting out his new record, his girlfriend, his cats, school, family and building relationships with people are all important to him right now in his life.
“You learn you need other people,” he said. “You can’t just sit in your house and think you’re going to have a career. You have to go out and meet people and network. I was the guy who sat at his house and just played music but I’ve learned you’ve to go out and do more.”
Thanks for reading Nashville!
Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
It starts with community. It starts where you are.