Mike Williamson: Making music, making it big|
Saturday, June 30, 2012
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
MORRISDALE - Since the age of 3, Mike Williamson has been enthralled with music of all genres. From country to R&B, from gospel to rock and roll, Williamson has always wanted to be involved with music in some facet, whether it be as a songwriter or an actual performer.
The Morrisdale native is finally getting his name out there, and his hard work is starting to pay off.
As unbelievable as it may sound to some, according to Williamson, he first remembers listening to songs such as Ray Charles,' "Georgia on My Mind" and "My Girl" by The Temptations when he was 3 years old.
Williamson said growing up he was subjected to a wide array of different types of music. He said he can remember traveling throughout the state with his parents, John Sr. and Deborah, and listening to their specific music.
"You either had one of two things (types) going on," said Williamson. "You either had The Eagles' ‘Hell Freezes Over' CD playing, which was my dad's, or we were bumping (listening to) Froggy."
Williamson, who also goes by his stage name Mike Willz, said he was in chorus from sixth to 11th grade while attending West Branch. Other than that, Williamson said he has no formal training. While in high school, Williamson dabbled in songwriting. He credits a college prep writing class he took from former teacher Thomas Partner as having a big influence his life.
"One of the things he (Partner) did in that class was song analysis," said Williamson. "He just had a lot of helpful tips in that class that helped me evolve into a writer."
After Williamson graduated from high school in 2004, he realized he had a knack for putting words to music. He then spent a few years honing his skills and experimented with making music with friends Gary Sabol and Barney Perez.
Williamson said his first real performance in front of an audience was in early 2007 at Cooney's Tavern in Winburne. Williamson said a friend of his, Shawn Price, introduced him to the disc jockey there and allowed Williamson to sing a few songs.
"It allowed me to get my feet wet," said Williamson. "I told myself ‘Wow, this is fun! I want to do this.'"
Williamson said his first "serious" performance was at the Club Car Café at the Quality Inn Hotel in Altoona.
"I only did about six or seven songs," said Williamson, who was extremely grateful for the opportunity.
After that, Williamson took part in many karaoke competitions. At the end of 2007, he won the Moshannon Valley Super Bowl karaoke contest.
Winning the contest "really started getting my name around town," Williamson said.
Since then, Williamson started recording at his home with friends, creating a hip-hop album and an R&B album in 2010. But he did not stop his public singing during this time.
He was a finalist in the karaoke competition at the Arena Bar and Grill in State College in 2010, and returned and won the Moshannon Valley Super Bowl karaoke competition a second time in 2011.
Williamson was also the $1,000 grand-prize winner of the karaoke competition at Philipsburg's Heritage Days last summer.
While performing is a great passion, Williamson also enjoys the songwriting aspect. He said since 2005, he has written more than 385 original pieces for all types of genres. He tends to write something new every day, whether it is an actual song, thinking of concepts, etc.
In addition to the hip-hop and R&B albums he has created, Williamson has recorded a gospel album with the help of a professional, Jack Servello of Altoona, which will soon be released.
Williamson said, down the road, he sees himself doing one certain genre: country music.
"That goes back to my roots of being raised on that kind of music," Williamson said. "And lately, I've had a really, really strong following of people wanting a country album from me. I've done the R&B album, I've done the hip-hop album and I did a Christian album. The only thing left for me to do, and it just seems right, is country. People have always come up to me and said I have that country ‘twang' to my voice, and that's what they see me doing. And the more I've thought about it, they're exactly right."
Williamson said he is drawn to the stories that are told in many country music songs.
"I don't care if you're the greatest hip-hop fan in the world, if you just take time to sit down and listen to a country song, I guarantee you'll walk away with something you didn't have about it before."
He would also like to have his music sold in stores.
Williamson is being represented by Paul Scheiner and Sheri Graham of P.S.S. Promotions. He said they've been an "amazing help" in promoting him. He said he would not be where he is at if it weren't for people like them, as well as countless others.
He'll be performing during Heritage Days this year on July 11 at 4 p.m. and tonight at a cancer benefit in Woodland Park, Woodland, at 7:30 p.m.
On advice to others wanting to follow their dreams into the music industry, Williamson echoed words famously uttered by the late college basketball coach Jim Valvano.
"Don't give up," said Williamson. "No matter what hardships or hard times come your way. Always chase your dream ... good things will come to those who wait."