Erica Batchelor is in the business of Miggs…
Miggs isn’t your typical band driven on high hopes of fame and fortune. Instead, Miggs is in the business of Miggs but not in the way you would think. Don Miggs leads the journey armed only with his passion for music. Risking it all for a lifelong dream is very brave but can also result in losing everything.
The band’s newest album titled 15th and Hope was produced by Grammy award winner Phil Ramone and shows us what it’s like to make music for the love of music. Their first single off the album titled “Stars” has the potential to be a radio masterpiece. It has all the necessary elements including a head bobbing chorus with Don’s sometimes rough yet enticing vocals.
I was looking forward to this interview for many reasons one of which includes the band’s recent success with a music video starring Lindsay Lohan. However, after talking to Don, I came across something completely unexpected; honesty and sincerity. Many bands today make music for the same reasons, and you begin to expect certain answers to questions. I was caught off guard to hear how Don describes his music career as a true story about the “american dream”.
A businessman trying to make a living off of his strengths and talents. It’s what every one of us hopes for in life. This interview stands out to me personally from those I’ve done in the past because of how open Don was about his experience. Check out Pop-Break’s interview with Don Miggs…
Pop-Break: First off, tell me the story of how everything got started. How did you become interested in music?
Don Miggs: Well, I think that that can sometimes be a product of your environment. My dad and my uncles all played music and so it was almost inevitable. There was always a guitar or piano or drums or something around the house and so it just sort of started naturally. My parents said that when I was like 6 or 7 months old I used to rock back and forth. I literally broke a crib from rocking back and forth and broke a couch kind of holding on to the arm. Music was always in me and I’ve been writing and playing since about 8 years old on a more serious level. It was always sort of natural. I always thought that was what I would be, to the point that I didn’t bother getting a drivers license until I was 18 years old because I thought that I would be driving around in tour buses and limos and I just sort of always thought that was what was going to happen. It took a real passion even though I went to school for business and I loved baseball and did a bunch of other things. It was always where I felt most comfortable and it still is.
PB: So what has your journey been like over the years? I know you started out playing at your local Barnes and Nobles and now you’re touring the US. What has that whole experience kind of been like for you?
DM: It’s crazy because as much as things change they sort of stay the same. You’re always hoping for the next piece and when you get it, you want the next piece. There are other times when you wish you could go back a little bit because you maybe miss playing the little shows when there is only 300 people instead of 700 or 1500. It’s a constant sort of battle between wanting more and wanting a little less if that makes sense. You know, it’s probably like that with you. If you’re a writer you want to keep writing and have it become this big thing but you kind of have to be careful what you wish for.
For us, when we first started out we were driving around in a station wagon. It was my drummer’s dad’s old station wagon and then we had an SUV. Then we started touring and we had a white van. It was a 16 passenger van which is like a staple for bands starting out. Then we thought, “Wow, if we could just get an RV then we’d be set”. And then we got an RV. And then it’s like, “Man, if we could just get a bus with bunks.” Then we got a bus with bunks. Then with a driver, and now we have a driver. And then there will be the next thing so you’re always sort of learning and growing. I’m amazed I still wake up and I’m amazed I can still make music for a living and that people buy it. Someone just put a tweet up that I saw two minutes ago that said, “Oh my god Miggs is where I’ll be at the hotel”. You know when you’re a kid that’s what you dream about so I don’t take it lightly that I actually get to do it for a living. I really honor it and I’m excited that this is what I get to do.
PB: That makes me happy that you’re truly passionate about what you do.
DM: Yeah, it’s everything to me.
PB: I also read that you’ve had your hardships over the years so what sort of inspired you to tough it out through the struggles of losing members and things like that?
DM: Well there were some dark days, I can tell you that. We just played a show [a few] nights ago in San Francisco and San Francisco is where Miggs really sort of got our footing if you will. That is where I met the members of the original band, except for Michael [Lombardo] who’s my bass player now, he was there before them. I spoke to people that had been there from the beginning and they said they’re really excited because this album reminded them of why they loved Miggs. They felt like we sort of, or me; lost my way a little bit there in between Insomnia and this album and I sort of agree with them. There were a lot of times when it would have been easier to quit.
I’ve done really well with writing songs for people and I’ve done really well with commercials and even some outside businesses so I don’t make music and go on the road for any other reason than because I don’t have a choice. It’s who I am. It’s not about making money or not. It’s about living my life with integrity and intent and getting up every day and feeling like I have a purpose. I now have two little boys, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old and my job is to lead the way for them and to show them that anything worth having is worth risking it all for and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve missed a lot of weddings and funerals and birthdays and anniversaries for other people and big events because this is what I do. Thank God I found a great woman who has taught me that the most important thing in my life is my family but before that point all I did was this and whatever it took to be able to keep doing it. I’m a really good example of how if you love something enough and you really give it everything you’ve got, that you can make a living out of it. You can make it work because we’re 10 years in [Miggs] and with all that’s happened to us, no one in their right mind would have thought we would be getting our biggest record deal and have our biggest album which is 15th and Hope produced by Phil Ramone who has 15 Grammy awards. Nobody would have bet on that. We’re like the american dream. I am honored to be able to say that. I work hard to be able to say that. I work hard to make sure that I deserve it every day if that makes sense.
PB: Speaking of your new album that was produced by Phil Ramone, what was it like to work with such a legend?
DM: It was magical. It was unbelievable because what I learned from him is that you never have to show anybody you’re that accomplished, you don’t have to prove anything. He never belittled us. He never made us feel like we weren’t going to make a great record. While we were in the studio, he was just nominated for one or two more grammy’s with Paul Simon. I think Paul was nominated for something or he was up for something and then he won a grammy with Tony Bennett. When you’re with a guy like that you expect him to have a big ego. He was just generous and kind and made us feel like we were worthy of being one of his grammy award winning artists so it was amazing.
PB: That sounds incredible. You also brought up that this Miggs album sounds different from Miggs in the past. What would you say categorizes this as a different album from what you’ve put out in the past?
DM: Well I stopped trying. Our last album Wide Awake did fairly well and it had a couple semi-hits. It has “Let the Games Begin” which had Lindsay Lohan starring in the video. We were trying really hard to prove something. I wrote about 30 songs for the new album, maybe more but we recorded 30 and wound up doing 12 for the album and they were so different. At first I [thought] for Miggs we need to do this specific thing. Phil sort of helped me and the guys in the band just be like ‘let’s just stop trying to be anything. Let’s just make a record. A record that we can be proud of.’ This felt like the first album Miggs made where I didn’t care about a record deal or anything else and then you know low and behold we’re making a record and we got a great record deal. We got that great record deal because we made a really good album. Maybe there isn’t a great single, maybe there isn’t a song that’s going to knock Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga off the charts but you can put this album on and listen to it from song 1 through 12 and I think you can appreciate where it’s taking you. It feels like you’re going somewhere. It doesn’t feel like it was manufactured to sell you something. It was made to make you feel something and that matters.
PB: You did bring up Lindsay Lohan and I have to ask, what was that whole experience like? Did you get to work directly with her?
DM: Yeah. Right after the experience, Access Hollywood and all those people were asking to have us come on and spill the dirt and I really took the high road and just said it was fine and she’s a professional and she didn’t come wasted or anything like that and I stand behind that. When she was on camera, she was wonderful. She really has something when she’s on camera. Unfortunately, the truth is when she’s off camera, she’s not that. She acts like a spoiled brat who thinks she deserves something and none of us deserve anything. We all have to sort of work for it. I don’t dislike her. She’s very nice. I’ve seen her afterwords and she said hi and I feel badly saying that because it sounds rude. She has something worth giving and I feel like she spends so much time blaming everybody else for problems. She has terrible parents. She doesn’t have a role model, maybe, but she wound up doing things like being disrespectful to us. Showing up late. Making us wait for hours for her to come out of her dressing room to film a simple stupid music video. We’re not doing Picasso here, this is finger painting. We’re doing nothing that’s amazing. It’s like just do your part, you’re going to get paid for it and stop all the shenanigans. She was a little bit of a diva mess and she’s earned some of it, maybe, but I know people who make way more money than her who are way more famous who know how to act way more human.
PB: Let’s change topics a little bit. What is one thing you would say to a potential listener about your music?
DM: If you’re looking for hipster music, it’s not us. If you want to feel something in your head, your heart, your feet and your crotch then I think Miggs is your music. We kind of hit everywhere. We’re not one dimensional. We’re kind of like hot sauce that takes a minute. The first time is kind of like, ok it’s passable; and i think if you listen a little bit more and more you sort of get what it is we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to help speak for everybody like people who maybe don’t speak for themselves. I want the music to feel versatile. I want people to go, wow I know that emotion. I know what you’re talking about because my mom and I had that argument or my boyfriend or my husband or my dad or whatever it is. That’s what I feel like my job is to sort of articulate the emotions that we all go through just in regular every day life.
PB: Which song off of your newest album means the most to you?
DM: Well, they’re all kind of my babies right? In different ways. The one that I’m loving the most right now playing live is Home. I just feel like it talks about just loving somebody so much that everything is on fire and you’re blind. All your nerve endings are just shot and there’s something just so amazing about that feeling. Maybe that one is my favorite right now.
PB: What are some future endeavors for the band? You know, short term and long term goals. I know you’re touring now but is that obviously something that is going to continue or what do you see for the future of Miggs?
DM: Well, 2013 we’re setting up to be a big year. We’re going to do a lot of touring. We’re going to be releasing singles and doing songs for commercials and TV shows and movies. We’re going to be in the business of Miggs! Hopefully we touch a lot of people with it and then record some more music and hopefully do it again. Just keep touring a bunch and trying to just keep making forward steps.