Photo by Charles Davenport
Article by Sol Smith
It was a couple of months ago that I finally made a point of attending Bay City's Free Speech Spoken Word, Music & Open Mic Night. I was there to watch a friend read a couple stories and thought I'd stay to see the open mic portion of the night. I spent much of my younger years at open mics, and I've always enjoyed the spontaneous and unpolished feel of it; the typical open mic will mix seasoned veterans with younger players performing for the first time. I was impressed with the mix that I saw that night, but there was one performance that stood out in my mind.
When Mike Beasley took the stage, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. He was older than most of the musicians there that night. He wore a flannel shirt and jeans and carried a guitar that has been clearly very seasoned, and he kept his head low, not looking to the audience as he patiently tested the sound. I can't remember the song that I first heard him play, but I remember the clarity of his voice and the skilled articulation of his guitar. His voice as it filled the room rested somewhere between Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot. When the first phrases sang out, I turned to my friend and said, "I feel like I should have paid for tickets to see this guy!"
I later learned that Beasley taught himself to play guitar as a teenager in the '70s. Like many aspiring musicians, he was armed with a chord chart and a radio tuned to pop music. His list of influences covers a wide range, from The Beatles and Jethro Tull to Def Leppard and Toad the Wet Sprocket. "I dabbled in songwriting in the '80s and almost got published in Southern California," Mike said, "then foolishly dropped the effort despite much positive feedback from industry people." He put music aside long ago and pursued a career in teaching English, which he now does at Delta College.
But he keeps coming back to music. Recently, changes in his life have left him with "more time than money" and a "deep, resurgent love for composing songs." In addition to a love for songwriting, he has a real talent for it. During his performances, when he sometimes sings eyes closed in concentration, it's his original tunes that are the real highlights. "I like to write songs, so I hope to have original songs published and recorded, whatever form that takes,” Beasley told me. "Right now, two songs are under consideration for publication and production with a Nashville publisher."
You can catch Beasley play just about anywhere around the Tri-Cities area. He plays the third Friday of every month at the Free Speech Spoken Word, Music & Open Mic Night, now being held at Espresso Express Coffee House on Water St. in Bay City, at The Magic Bean in Saginaw, at Bemo's in Bay City during Happy Hour on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m., and in various other venues. You can become a fan on Facebook, where he posts a schedule of upcoming gigs, or listen to several songs on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/mikebeasleymusic. At his performances, he sells a very well produced CD featuring his original songs.
Trust me. You need to catch Mike Beasley's performances now while they're still free. Later, you'll be stuck paying big bucks for tickets; this guy's going somewhere.
© Sol Smith, 2010