‘Michael Burrows is a musician who has forged a diverse path in the industry as a band member, jingle writer and solo artist. Recorded under the restrictions of COVID-19, his latest release Brand New Heartache features a very alternative/folky sound borne from the collaborative effort of Michael and his two long time friends Lior Attar and Simon Starr. His original works as an artist have seen him collaborate with the likes of Neil Finn (Split Enz/Crowded House/Fleetwood Mac) for his song Please Don’t Cry and he was even handpicked by Canadian-American folk-rock singer Martha Wainwright to be the opener on her 2015 Australian tour.
On top of all these impressive feats, Michael has also had a successful career in jingle writing. Please read on to gain some awesome insight into the music industry from Michaels perspective as he runs us through a week in his life.
– A job description in your own words
I’ve always had a fascination with the way branding flows in and around our lives. I grew up in an era where you could whistle along to every brand and it created a quirky and alternative soundtrack (alongside The Beatles) that shaped part of me.
I am a singer-songwriter releasing music and my current single Brand New Heartache was released during COVID which has had its pros and cons. I have recorded with Neil Finn, toured with many artists such as Martha Wainwright and had great radio support in Australia and the US with a few singles reaching top 30 positions on US Billboard charts in the past couple of years.
Being a dad, I’m always trying to encourage my kids to jam…unsuccessfully, and I also play in a cowpunk band Buncha Counts
– A brief daily journal over a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)
I’m not a very organised person so my week is dictated by a messy list that eventually gets worked through and then anything unfinished has to get carried over – I mean it all needs to get done somehow!
Every day starts early with a dog walk and either meditation or some simple yoga, just to have a few moments to myself. Somebody once said, ‘own the morning, own the day’, so I’m committed to this routine,
Even in COVID, I am finding that the week is a blur of sales meetings, brief taking, studio experimentation, liaising with the US team on new or future music releases, playing with social media, liaising with PR, singing melodies and words into my phone at random times and of course experimenting in the studio, as my producer, (who is now working remotely), turns all the noise into works of art we can sell.
This journal was during a crazy time when I found myself suddenly in the middle of creating and releasing a COVID track. The campaign, called #whatweneedtodo went viral but while doing this, I was still in the midst of producing several new jingles and releasing a new single (featuring Lior and Simon Starr), in the US and Australia.
Mondays always start with a debrief with my producer at Brand Music, Grainger. We go through the list of jobs and start our research and development. Sometimes it just comes to us, and sometimes, it can take days to nail the direction.
Today the COVID campaign was launched on radio. Instantly it also got support from TV networks and during the day, it became clear that the hashtag and visuals I put together were taking a life of their own, with politicians, celebrities and community members getting behind it. Suddenly, this went from being merely a jingle campaign to needing me to create radio scripts, TV ads, billboard artwork – and fast! I found the day was spent doing live interviews, fielding requests from the community and managing online trolls. I have to say, it was a huge rush.
I normally make Tuesdays a day for writing new jingles, so they are ready for external singers and recording on Wednesdays. We all sit in different rooms (or buildings) and share ideas back n forth until we nail the concept. And you do know when you’ve nailed it. I have found that giving myself the pressure to have everything written in two days pushes any writer’s block or procrastination out the window.
Dealing with my US team for the single release (Brand New Heartache), means allowing for timezone differences so, for LA and NY, the calls are quite early. It’s Monday for them so it works perfectly. From radio plugging to socials, playlisting and PR we create a new worklist of tasks and catch up on achievements.
I’m mostly hanging close by the studio so that I can sing a line, play a lick and help produce the 30-second pieces ready for presentation to clients. One of the most exciting and difficult things about working in a fast turnaround environment, with many talented creatives, is understanding that it’s not about who’s idea it was, it’s about finding the best idea.
The #whatweneedtodo campaign is still very active on radio, and this day I am too. We are now working with an ad agency to get TV ads approved and ready for airing. Quite surreal being in the middle of this. A career highlight.
Brand Music work hasn’t stopped and once the jingles have been recorded, we get them ready to present, which involves a myriad of creative execution from mock TV ads to copywriting radio ads and developing new artwork. Wednesday is a creative day. I’m running on adrenaline.
Working with my social media and PR team early in the morning to set next week’s strategy for the single release. I’m getting the latest update on radio additions, rotation and playlists so we can push these out to socials. Today we are sending press releases to both the US and Australian media with updated information about the song. I double back to my to-do list for US and tie up loose ends.
All new jingles have been sent out for review, so we normally don’t follow up until next week to give them time to listen and share with their own teams.
I have always tried to set aside Thursday afternoons for my songwriting. I have a bunch of new songs that travel with me so I allow this time to noodle around the studio and jump from piano to guitar, spinning vinyl and hoping for divine intervention to land on my often blank page. Pre-Lockdown 2 I had an album I was about to record with Greg Walker.
It’s still Thursday in US so we have a chance to do an early catchup to see how the single is tracking on radio and brainstorm creative ideas for US socials.
Today I have a #whatweneedtodo interview on Sky News with a segment on The Today Show which meant documenting socials and responding to comments.
Cleaning up the studio, accounting admin and dealing with any initial feedback on new jingle campaigns done as quickly as possible, so that I am not taking too much work home.
Pre-Lockdown there would always be shows to attend or play. Currently, it’s a family walk and then we all leave each other alone to work on our own projects. For me this has been a good time to do some songwriting.
The new weeks to do list gets created and we start it all over again. I feel so lucky with my job that it’s just not a hassle if I have to work through the weekend.
– Challenges and accomplishments in your week
When I look at the list at the end of the week I realise that we’ve achieved so much. It’s the work of an extended team and it’s a great feeling. Success, failures, would haves, should haves, all fade away knowing we tried our hardest and all projects are helping to push the business forward and keep people employed.
– Highlights of the week (pros of the job)
The buzz you get when your creative output is being loved and applauded is a highlight. I love that I get to create something that didn’t exist one day then it becomes a big part of someone else’s life, changes their business or enters public consciousness. It’s an honour really.
– Lowlights of the week (cons of the job)
When I miss an important part of my family life and wish I didn’t prioritise some of the deadlines and pressures associated with running my own business. It’s always a balancing act and it’s hard not to let the wins and losses affect my moods. I’m getting better at leaving these at the front door.
– Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field
You must let go of feeling like your art is selling out if you are connected to brands. I get a buzz every time I hear my work on air and it’s that mix of art and business that you need to embrace to truly make some waves. Also always be the best human you can be. Relationships are everything.