At the relatively young age of 33, Michael Dunn has pretty much figured out a pile of things it takes others a whole lifetime to get a handle on.
He knows what he loves most in life – music.
He knows what he needs to do to keep his love alive – scaffolding.
And he knows just how hard he needs to work – VERY! – to channel all the energy he has for the gritty brand of classic country music he has now committed to his impressive first CD.
As a kid back in rural Manitoba, living in a trailer with his mom who nursed up to 16 hours a day to support them, Michael learned from her the value of time management.
Since the Local 1325 member started playing, even hosting, ‘open mike’ singer-songwriter evenings at various clubs and pubs around Edmonton, which have now led to tours and appearances in other cities, he’s been running hard.
Four or five years ago, in his first year of getting serious, he played 250 times at various open mike stages, perfecting his in-between-songs patter and writing, writing, always writing new songs.
His involvement grew with all the new connections – friends, actually – that he made as he frequented places and events where songwriters gathered. People kept introducing him to more people as he continued honing his musical chops and performance skills at more and more open stages
‘Learning your way into the music scene is no different than learning a trade…it takes a while before you stop hammering your own hand,’ he says.
These days, he’s working the night shift at PCL’s Edmonton mod yard.
‘It suits my rhythm,’ he says. ‘Right from the beginning, I was always more comfortable getting up at noon. It seemed more natural.’
Mike’s brand of country isn’t the wailin’ kind, he explains. ‘It’s more classic, like Waylon Jennings or Steve Earle…the kind of music you heard in your dad’s truck.
‘To me, New Country is kind of like Nickleback with fiddles.’
He’s passionate about writing REAL.
‘If it’s not genuine, authentic, than you’re lying to people.
‘I mean, my dad’s a trucker, I grew up in a trailer in rural Manitoba, I swing a hammer for a living…why try to be something I’m not?’
He’s proud of his CD – called Come On Out Back To The Shed Tonight by Michael Dunn and the Moanin’ After (a talented collection of musical friends, to many of whom he still owes a few bucks for their part in making the CD).
‘On construction projects, I get satisfaction knowing I helped many others accomplish a goal. But I built this CD from the ground up all by myself…that’s a real source of pride.’
In the last few years, Michael figures he’s put about two-thirds of his income into his pursuit of music. ‘It’s no different than having kids, or a great muscle car or taking lots of hunting trips…you live lean so you can do what you love.’
His investment of time, money and raw passion is beginning to be noticed, and not just by the audiences who have learned to show up when he’s on the bill.
Michael’s song Burnin’ Alberta, a tragedy about an older farmer who can’t work his land anymore, was shortlisted in the Calgary Folkfest Songwriting Competition. Then it won! He’s been booked to play at this summer’s Calgary Folkfest.
It’s taken a lot of focus, a lot of faith, and a pile of time and money to get where he is.
‘I work. I play. I sleep. That’s pretty much my life right now.
‘I do it because I love music and believe in what I’m writing.’
Michael Dunn can often be found playing at Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue Elephant & Castle open-mike night, Wednesday evenings.