Welcome to week nineteen of the #WritersQuick5 series - where we learn about writing from fellow writers.
I’ve known Mike Mentz for over twenty years. We’ve watched each other grow into adulthood and into our careers and I’ve been so proud of the incredible path he’s created for himself. Mike is a singer, songwriter, and world traveler. His songs are adult contemporary, pop, rock mostly. He’s about to release his third and fourth albums later this year. One of them, “Souvenir,” was recently nominated forAdult Contemporary Album of the Year by the Independent Music Awards.
Mike was also a finalist on a brand new reality TV songwriting competition which will premiere nationally later this year. His song Cigarette is featured prominently.
Didn’t you just love that? Here’s another taste of his music, from a song he wrote called Lonely Tonight.
Mike is a true friend, an all-around great guy, and I know 20+ years is just the start of our lifelong support of each other.
Let’s see what Mike has to say…
Question #1 - Where do you write and why do you write there?
Literally everywhere. I travel a whole lot, and I like to take advantage of the inspiration factory that is the unplanned route. Lyrics on the back of a napkin on a flight to Miami. Working out a melody on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic. Guitaring on an Airbnb terrace in Spain. Singing through a tune in the shower...every shower ever. I wrote my last 15 songs in as many countries. Not every writing spot is epic, of course. But I try to score as many as I can. For me there's a fuel found in the variety of the world and a romance to writing anytime, anywhere.
Question #2 - What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
Writing songs is definitely a unique animal for a lot of reasons. One I've been thinking about a lot lately is how big of a role my body plays in the process. Like most writers, I use a pencil, paper, my phone and computer to get down my ideas. But the ideas themselves are shaped in a very real way by my voice and my fingers. I write a line not just because of the idea it communicates, but also because of the way it sounds when I sing it and makes me physically feel when I play it. My body knows when a phrase and a melody are juuust right as much as my brain does.
Question #3 - What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
"This doesn't really matter in the songwriting game, but good sweet baby Moses, why do we include sentence punctuation like commas and periods within quotation marks when they're not part of the quoted material?
Technically correct sentence: I laugh every time I hear Jonathan Coulton's song ""Still Alive.""
But why is that correct?? The song title is ""Still Alive"". It isn't ""Still Alive."" So why would you put the period inside the quotation marks?
It's frustratingly illogical, and I just can't bring myself to follow the rule anymore.
Also, on a barely related note, I think semicolons rule. I think they're underused like whoa."
Question #4 - At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
I generally don't seek others' opinions until I believe the song I'm writing is finished. Before I show a song to someone else, I have to feel that I've given it as much life as I can on my own. I have to really love it first. Getting trusted feedback is a valuable and important part of the process, but ultimately I want to first make sure I'm happy with every decision I've made. If I've created what I believe to be a really good thing, I can more confidently have a productive conversation with someone else about that thing without feeling pressure to placate them. I've found showing a tune to someone too early in the process can mess with my head; there's a real danger I'll water down a potentially kickass line or great musical idea to make someone else happy before I've fully explored it myself.
Question #5 - What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
Sucking is part of it.
Thank you Mike for this window into the world of songwriting. And you’re right. Sucking at something is part of the overall process, but a necessary part to getting to something great.
Please be sure to subscribe to Mike’s YouTube channel. You can also follow Mike on Facebook and on Twitter. Be on the lookout for his albums later this year and for his television debut!
If you would like to be featured as a writer in the #WritersQuick5 series, please just reach out and let me know. I’d love to promote your work as well!
For updates on #WritersQuick5 and other info from me, please follow me on Twitter or check back with this blog for all the latest.
And, bonus video. Here’s a cover of a Jason Mraz song that Mike performed at Sofar Chicago. Enjoy!