Monday, September 15, 2008

So Who Is Michael Johns? (Part Two)


Before he was introduced to the world on American Idol with the stage name Michael Johns, that which all of us now know him, he was best known by his given name, which is Michael Lee. That was the name used as he performed with Jeff Bramwell and Hank Barbee while living in Atlanta. He is the Michael Lee who was lead singer on the EP released while with the band Film.

In 2001, Michael traveled to Los Angeles to showcase music for a number of labels, and was signed with Maverick Records. It was there he found band members Robb Torres and Kevin Haaland (guitarists), Ari Gorman (bass), and Kirke Blankenship (drums), to form the rock band The Rising.

The Rising's story is best described in the following interview with Michael, as published by:

While getting signed to Maverick Records was a major step for Atlanta-based rock group The Rising, the band realizes it's only the beginning. That's why the quintet is taking their music on the road, playing smaller venues and trying diligently to build a fan base. We're playing nearly every night, said frontman Michael Lee with traces of his native Australian accent still dangling. The singer admitted touring hasn't always been an enjoyable experience. At a lot of places, people still don't know who we are, he said. We're such a new band sometimes it's unpredictable. Lee has been singing in bands since he was very young, and was looking for a way to take it to the next level when he was given the answer by You Am I singer Tim Rogers, who was performing in 1997 at the Australian music festival Big Day Out. I'd always been a big fan of You Am I, so when they finished their set, I snuck backstage and approached lead singer Tim Rogers for advice, Lee said. He told me if I wanted to make something happen, I had to go to the States. The young singer packed his bags and headed for Atlanta instead of Los Angles or New York because he felt his chances were better in a smaller setting. Within a month, he met a fellow Aussie and club owner who gave him a job washing dishes and cleaning toilets and eventually allowed the fledgling vocalist to sit in occasionally with local bands. Eventually Lee met a guitarist and became the club's headlining cover band. The next few years, Lee spent days writing and honing original songs and nights performing covers. Recording a demo in 2001, Lee went to Los Angeles where he showcased for several labels, eventually inking an exclusive pact with Maverick Records. He then began assembling the elements of his new band, picking and choosing from the talent the LA music scene had to offer, including drummer Kirke Blankenship, guitarists Robb Torres and Kevin Haaland and bassist Ari Gorman. The newly forged The Rising realized they had an electrifying creative energy about them when they played their songs in front of an audience. With today's technology, anyone can record an album, but not everyone can pull it off live, Lee said. We elevate it to the next level when we play live. The singer admitted he wishes he could get into the studio and rerecord, but for now The Rising is currently touring for their debut release, Future Unknown, produced by Rick Beato and Lee, and recorded at Southern Tracks in Atlanta. All my life I dreamed of making an album like this with a band like this, Lee said. We want to be a source of inspiration, a reason to believe, a way of seeing the world. Maybe that's a lot to ask from a bunch of simple songs, but music has made a difference in all our lives. This is our way of passing it along.
What the interview doesn't say about The Rising, is the success they should now be enjoying. We'll delve even deeper into that subject on the next post.

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