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INTERVIEW: MICHAEL SWEET of Sweet & Lynch – January 2015

| 20 January 2015 | Reply

When you discuss the busiest men in music, you would be remiss to ignore Michael Sweet.  In addition to his band Stryper, he has released solo discs – including 2014’s excellent release I’m Not Your Suicide, toured as lead vocalist with Boston, and written a book.  Now he unleashes a new rock venture on the world in the form of super group Sweet & Lynch, his project with George Lynch.  I was lucky enough to grab a little bit of Michael’s time and discuss a little bit of everything with him before the disc is released.

Photo taken Downtown Los Angeles on   07/30/14.

Michael: What’s going on, man?

Toddstar: Hey, what’s going on, Michael? How are you doing?

Michael: I’m doing well. How about yourself?

Toddstar: Great.  Thank you for asking. Appreciate you so much taking time out for us today. I know you’re a busy man.

Michael: I’m busy. I’m just prepping for the guys to come out here, the Stryper guys, and that’s more of a mental prep than a physical prep.

Toddstar: I bet. Especially with everything you’ve got going on. You’ve been a busy man the last year.

Michael: Yeah. There’s a lot going on.  I’d like to, at some point in the next two or three years, I’d like to take a little time off and just not do anything a good four or five months if possible.

Toddstar: There you go – a little vacation from life.

Michael: Absolutely. We go to Turks and Caicos for a couple weeks and maybe go from there to Puerto Rico and from there to Mexico and from there to… we’ll just drag it out for four months.

Toddstar: Sure.  Love Turks and Caicos myself, so good choice.

Michael: Oh, yeah.

Toddstar: Well, listen, for those of us who don’t know, I’ve got the one and only Michael Sweet on the phone and, again, thank you so much for taking the time out for us today.

Michael: Thank you, buddy. I appreciate you doing the same.

Toddstar: No problem.  Let’s talk about the latest fun project, Sweet & Lynch Only to Rise.

Michael: Well, it’s pretty much, for lack of a better way of putting it and using the old cliché, it’s pretty much a match made in heaven. George is one of those guys that have been on my bucket list, one of my top-ten players of all time. I love George’s style and, gosh, who doesn’t, and I always wanted to do something with him. When I was asked to be the singer for a super-group that Serafino was trying to put together, he originally had Jon Levin in mind as we all know who plays in Dokken. When that didn’t work out, I suggested George, and the rest is history, man. George agreed, and we’ve stayed in contact with one another over the past few years and we made an album together. Now it’s time to put it out there and see what the world thinks.

Toddstar: Sweet & Lynch is one of those super-groups like you’d talked about. You’ve got a killer rhythm section as well, but you’re no slouch either. You’ve got a killer voice. You’ve got your own guitar-playing abilities. What is it about being in a “super-group” that really drew you in?

Michael: Well, I always laugh at the term super-group because I certainly don’t view myself as a superman, a super musician or someone who deserves the title super-group, but that being said I thought it was a great opportunity. When Serafino contacted me and I started suggesting other guys – George and Brian and James – and he loved the idea and then I suggested producing it and he loved the idea, I instantly got excited about it because I love to produce. I love to write songs. He allowed George and me to write all the songs, and that’s the stuff that excites me. It’s fun to sing on an album and I would have done that, but obviously that’s not what I’m as passionate about as much as I am songwriting and producing, believe it or not. That’s when I really roll up my sleeves and come to life; going into the studio and from beginning to end being a part of everything. Just to sit here and be talking to you about reality of the Sweet & Lynch album when it was just talk a year and a half ago, it’s pretty astonishing, and the fact that we were able to pull it off and make it happen… he lives in L.A. I live out here. We were never in the same room together. Brian, James and I were, but George was never in the same room with us. I think we have an album where it sounds like we were all in the same room. It really works.

Sweet and Lynch.jpg

Toddstar: I would agree with that. It’s a very cohesive album from the opening notes of “The Wish” through the final chords of “Only to Rise.” It’s cohesive and it doesn’t sound like something that was disjointed because of anybody not being around. When it came to writing – you mentioned writing now with George – you’re kind of the guy in Stryper. You had a great album last year with I’m Not Your Suicide where you took most of the writing. What was it like to sit down and kind of share that writing hat with someone else this time around?

Michael: Well, you know what? I’m open to it 100% if it’s easy and if it’s smooth and if it’s productive. There’s nothing like going… I’ve gone to Nashville and L.A. and I’ve had writing sessions with people where it didn’t work. It was nonproductive, and it was a waste. That’s just not fun. When you’re working with guys like Blair Daly who co-wrote “I’m Not Your Suicide” with me – that song – it was a dream come true because Blair is the real deal. Blair is one of the best writers in the world today, and he’s a Stryper fan. He gets me. He gets Stryper. He understands. He knows. There’s a history there, and I love writing with guys that I click with and that, when you walk out, it is productive and you go, “Wow. We’ve got a great song.” It’s the same way with George. George sent me guitar riff ideas and then I made them songs. He sent me a minute, minute and a half long guitar track and a drum machine, and I took those and added all the sections that weren’t there and I wrote the lyrics and I wrote the melodies. Then we had a song. Went and tracked Brian and James then came home, tracked my vocals, sent it all to George, and George was blown away because he never heard them as songs. He only heard them as guitar riff ideas. When he heard the songs, he called me up and he was blown away. He just went on and on. He was like, “Oh, my God. I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable.”  It was really cool to hear his excitement after hearing the entire songs.

Toddstar: That’s awesome. When you get these ideas from George, were there any songs that – once you started listening through and started putting ideas together – were there any songs that you struggled to finish or struggled to complete?

Michael: Oh yeah. There were a few. Absolutely. One of those songs was “Only to Rise”. I didn’t know what to do with that melody because I typically gravitate to upper range melodies that are a little bit more tailored for my voice because I have a higher voice, and that song isn’t, though. [Michael sings part of the verse] I’m singing in a lower range, and I struggled with the melody. I tried a bunch of different ideas, and it just didn’t work in my upper range. I tried something, thinking out of the box, like, “Well, let me try singing the song down lower.” I did, but it was a little bit of a struggle with that song. Absolutely. Most of the songs were real simple, came up with the melody, over and done with. It was like, “Wow. That’s great. It works.” That one was a little bit of a booger for me.

Toddstar: Okay. Well, looking through the track list and your memories of putting everything together start to finish, are there any songs that really just hit home with you that you see becoming part of maybe your repertoire from here on out whether it be a solo show or something you put together? Any of these songs that are going to stick with you musically for a long time that you can imagine?

Michael: Oh, yeah. There’s quite a few. I would be right at home in a solo set playing “The Wish.” I mean, that would work stylistically for just me playing it; me playing guitar live on that track and singing it. It would fit with my other stuff, absolutely. There are quite a few songs. “The Wish,” “Recover” would work. “Recover” has kind of got that Stryper vibe going on anyway. Oh, gosh. I love “Strength in Numbers,” “Love Stays.” There are so many songs that I would feel very comfortable and right at home playing or adding to my solo set.

Toddstar: Cool.  One of my favorites that you haven’t mentioned yet, and I’m going to get into it a little bit, is “Rescue Me.” There’s something about “Rescue Me.” I don’t know if it’s the melody. I don’t know if it’s the chorus is kind of anthemic without it being a huge arena rock sound, but it’s that personal feel of the lyrics. You can just hear them through your vocals. Where did a song like “Rescue Me” come from for you?

Michael: Well, that was a song where when I had spoken to George when he was getting ready to go in and do some sessions for this album, I spoke to him before every session, and I’d say, “Hey, dude. Give me something that’s a little Van Halen-ey.” He sent me “Only to Rise.”  “Give me something that’s a little bit more like Dokken ‘The Hunter’.” He sent me “Dying Rose.” So we purposefully, strategically thought out every song stylistically. That song was one where I said, “Dude, give me something a little Journey-ish.” I think he even titled it “Bad Journey.” I think that’s what he titled it. Musically, without the vocal – and maybe a little bit to a degree with the vocal – but it’s got a little bit of that old-school Journey vibe, and that’s what I went for in the production sense, too. That’s why I’ve got the B-3 organ on it.  All these bands, all this… Foreigner, Journey, Van Halen… these are all the bands we group up on and that we loved growing up. It’s funny.  Every interview that I’ve done over the past few weeks, everyone has a different favorite. I just did an interview twenty minutes ago.  The guy’s favorite was “Me Without You.” Then before that I did an interview with a guy whose favorite was “Dying Rose.” Everyone has their own favorite, and I guess what’s cool about that is it says to me there’s a lot more than just one or two good songs on the album.

Photo taken Downtown Los Angeles on   07/30/14.

Toddstar: I would agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. Again, from opening note to closing chord, this thing’s just a great album.

Michael: That’s great to hear you say, man. I hope the rest of the world agrees. I really do.

Toddstar: Oh, I’m sure they will once this thing hits the light of day for the rest of the world, when it comes out on January 27th in North America. Let’s talk about you for a second. You have a lot going on and, again, you’ve been busy over the last couple years. You put out a Stryper album. You put out your solo album. You’ve done a book. Now you’ve got the Sweet & Lynch. What is it about music that just drives you to just always stay busy?

Michael: Music is in my blood. It’s such a part of my soul, man. I can’t escape it, and lately I’ve been describing it as a blessing and a curse. That might sound a little odd, but it is a blessing in the sense that I have that ability and that gift that I feel is God-given but, at the same time, it’s a curse because it distracts me from other important things in my life; my wife, my relationship with her, my daughter, my relationship with her, my son, my relationship with him, walking the dog. I’ll get caught up in a song when I was supposed to walk the dog or run errands, and then my wife comes home and I did none of the above. So that’s where it’s a little bit of a curse, but it’s just such a part of me. I give 110% of myself to it, and I just can’t do it any other way. I talked about this, too. I’m O.C.D. I’m A.D.H.D. I’m an extremely ridiculous perfectionist. I like everything perfect, and I strive for perfection. If I don’t feel it’s perfect yet, I’ll keep going till it is, and sometimes that can be a curse, too, because you’re reaching for something you’re never going to get.

Toddstar: As a fan of you and all the different bands you’ve been with, it’s nice to hear that the wife will get on you as well and…

Michael: Oh, my God. Yeah. Are you kidding me? She does it in love always. She’s awesome. I wouldn’t change a thing, but yeah … rightfully so. She has every reason to get on me. Are you kidding me? I drive myself crazy.

Toddstar: Tell us, Michael, what was the last album/CD/download/cassette/8-track, whatever your mode of great music is, what’s the latest thing that you listened to just to listen to?

Michael: This is going to sound probably weird, but I don’t listen to anything. Because I’ve been so busy lately with music and all these projects, I haven’t had time or taken the time to listen to anything. I don’t even watch TV. My form of watching TV is when I get in bed with my wife, and we’ll catch up on an old show that’s DVR’d and we’ll go to sleep halfway into it. I don’t watch much TV.  I don’t listen to much music. When I do listen to music, I don’t break out my old collection.  I appreciate and love and have all that stuff in my head and my heart note for note, the stuff I grew up on; Van Halen, Maiden, Priest, Bad Company, Journey and all this stuff. When I do listen to music, I put on something new. I’ll put on a modern rock station or I’ll put on an alternative new station that’s playing new stuff because I like hearing what’s going on now, and sometimes I’ll go out and buy an album because of it. I remember when I heard Maroon 5. I went out and bought their album because I loved it. When I heard Keane, I went out and bought their album because I loved it. When I heard Muse, I went out and bought their album because I loved it. There are bands that instantly make me sit up and take notice, but not very many.

Toddstar: Let me get your take on something.  You mentioned Maroon 5, so it brings up Adam Levine and everything else. What’s your take as a musician who… I don’t want to use the word paid your dues, but you paid your dues. What’s your take on the whole reality music TV show thing? Whether it is American Idol or The Voice or… what’s your take on that whole side of the music industry?

Michael: I watch The Voice. I watch The Voice.  I dig The Voice because they focus on the voice, not so much the drama. That’s why… I stopped watching American Idol when they started going on that behind the scenes drama thing, and I just thought, “What is this?” This isn’t what I want to see. I want to hear people sing. That’s what your show is based on and finding the next American Idol, so show me people singing; not 10% of someone singing and 90% of someone crying because the other twenty people are making fun of them or because they’re a whack job or … so I stopped watching Idol long ago. I still watch The Voice. I love it. I like the judges on The Voice. I like the talent on The Voice. I think Adam Levine’s awesome. What a talented guy and a great guy. He seems to be real level-headed. I just dig the show. Lisa and I watch it a lot, but at the same time – I’m not referring to The Voice by any means – I’m a little burnt on all the new shows. I can’t keep up with everything, especially the reality shows. There’s just so many of them, and I view TV… TV’s not what it used to be. That’s for sure. There’s just so much garbage on TV these days, and I usually don’t watch it.

Toddstar: Right. I’m with you on The Voice. I like the fact that they don’t know anything until they hear the voice. I think that says something.

Michael: Exactly and, to me, that’s what it’s about, and I dig it, man. I dig it, and I hope there are many more seasons to come, man, because I think they’re doing it right. I like how they mix up the judges and change things up, and I think it’s cool, man. I watched this last season, and I had a good time watching it.

Toddstar: Well, listen, Michael, I know you’re busy. I’ve got one more for you if you don’t mind before I cut you loose. You have had a storied career. I have been lucky enough to see you many times in my lifetime, and you’ve got this resurgence now where Stryper is back being popular in circles and you’ve got, again, a solo album that did quite well. I loved it and gave great ratings, too, and then you’ve got this project and then, like you said, you’ve got Stryper coming back around to start playing again. With everything going for you – you’ve got your children; you’ve got your wife – at this point, 2015, for you, Michael, what is the meaning of life?

Michael: Oh, gosh. Sometimes I forget the meaning of life because I get so caught up in everything at hand; recording and touring. I look back, and I say to myself, “My God. Where did the past two years go?” My wife and I just celebrated our fifth-year anniversary, and I say, “Where did the past five years go? What have we done except work?” So that’s not the meaning of life, to be a workaholic and just let everything else pass you buy and, unfortunately, I do that. I do that more often than none, and I would like to change that. I think if I give more thought to it and put a little more effort into it, I can. I would like to enjoy time with my wife and vacationing and time with my kids and doing things that really do matter because music is amazing. It is my life. It always has been, but at the same time, when I have to stop playing music, it’s not going to be there for me.  My wife is. My kids are. That’s the stuff that matters. That, to me, is the meaning of life is family, time with family, relationships, building those relationships, and making your mark – not just in a song or with a song like I do – but giving people something to remember you by that’s positive and that’s encouraging to them years down the road when you’re gone. That’s the meaning of life to me.

Toddstar: Well, there you have it: the meaning of life according to Michael Sweet.  I couldn’t have said any of that better myself. Again, Michael, thank you so much for taking time out today. We appreciate it. We wish you all the best and well with what you’ve got coming up, but especially with the Sweet & Lynch release coming out on January 27th from Frontier Music, Only to Rise, and we look forward to hearing many more singles off of it.

Michael: Absolutely, buddy, and I’m looking forward to the future. There’s a lot more in store, and thank you for supporting and being there for us. Couldn’t do it without you, man. We’re grateful.

Toddstar: We’ll talk to you next time you swing through Detroit.

Michael: Okay, buddy. Sounds good, man.

Toddstar: Thanks, Michael.

Michael:          Okay. Bye.










Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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