We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Ash Sharbaugh and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michael, what role has risk played in your life or career?

I believe that taking risks is paramount in order to actualize any modicum of self-worth during one’s venture through a lifetime. Just as with a crawling child learning to walk, taking an initial step — while simultaneously preparing for a fall — engenders optimism and character, particularly when one preemptively envisions themself able to rise up post-failure.

From a young age of 15, I chose to pursue my art[s] until my deathbed, and intentionally instilled within myself a philosophy that eschewed monetary worship and childbearing; in other words, I knowingly risked experiencing the bite of poverty and possible deep-seated regrets (the ’empty nest’ syndrome) in order to live to create.

In my art — particularly in my music composing, I embrace risk, and experiment with all of my heart each time I create. From pop song to ambient foray, I take chances, and celebrate aleatoric discovery. For example, I might purposely let my hands falter on an instrument, or close my eyes and play, or designate a random sound or looping passage to foil against an ‘agreeable’ something I had already formulated. I, thereby, relinquish overt and conscious control, and become the audience, as well as the creator. Some of my favorite musical realisations have emerged from such experimentalism.

On the surface, assuming risk might seem like living dangerously, but it is incredibly invigorating, and imbues my life with some of its most pride-filled and happiest moments!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I compose poetry, but am primarily a composer of atmospheric pop, spacerock, ambient, and experimental musics. I am prolific, and do not wait for inspiration to strike; instead, I instigate the creative process using aleatoric means, and always record my improvisations, and then review, and ‘mine’ them in order to discern their miniscule and hidden sonic gems. These techniques take time.

What sets me apart from others, I believe, is my attention to detail: I sometimes venture into the territory of 100 discrete tracks and 200 mixes until I am content and confident of a musical composition’s readiness for airplay. One’s art (likely) represents them to the world, so should it not be well-groomed, tidy, and ready to be heard?

I am particularly known for my ’80s-influenced pop music, and have been told that it is unique due to the constant influx of trap, hip-hop, and R & B that I am exposed to; these genres infuse my music with modern sensibilities in that way, and add a sort of ‘edge’ to my streamlined eighties sound. My ambient and experimental musics, on the other hand, are soothing, and, at times, ‘alien’ to the ear: they float and shimmer, meander, and — more often than not — ‘haunt’ listeners’ ears, I have been told.

In addition, one cannot underestimate the time it takes to catalog, publish, and then track and monitor one’s music after it reaches the public’s ears; thus, I spend much time tracking metrics and statistics: copies sold, streaming counts, where, when, and by whom it is played most often, et cetera. This is not done merely to more successfully ‘capitalize’ upon my music in the future, but to ascertain whom I am touching with it, and how I might entertain them — and reach others — better in the future. I make music to share music. I yearn to reach people.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take my friend to Bisbee, for there — and, seemingly, there alone — is the largest conglomerate of freewheelin’, joyful creatives I had ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life. I would take my friend to The Quarry for an orgasmic, organic, farm-to-table brunch, and then walk the ornamental, winding, and hilly streets afterwards for a hefty fit of exercise. For lunch, we could enjoy an Angus burger at The Copper Queen, and then mingle with the eccentric and friendly town regulars and workers throughout the town just prior to a pleasant nap, all the while cradled in the agreeable, temperate weather. We would then have to flow into the evening at the boisterous and invigorating St. Elmo’s bar for libations, dancing, and live music. Inevitably, we would fade toward sleep beneath the wonderful and inspiring array of stars that shine above the hallowed city.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Joe Meek, Brian Eno, Henry David Thoreau, and Erich Fromm all deserve ‘shoutouts’: Joe Meek, by many, is considered the world’s first independent record-producer, and struck out from beneath the wings of a major record-making conglomerate to create odd and unconventional hit musics that enjoyed only moderate monetary success; Eno is a pioneer — and proponent — of chance-music, and has crafted some of the most mesmerizing sonic tapestries by embracing it; Thoreau’s Walden justified My anti-materialistic outlook, and in it, I paraphrase, he proclaimed ‘the more furniture one has, the more one has to dust,’ as well as ‘the more windows one has on their house, the more one has to guard’; in his To Have or To Be, Fromm decried possession and ownership by discounting the picking of a flower “roots and all,” for doing that kills it, and, instead, he declared its beauty and efficacy greatest when it is respected, and appreciated, from afar — living and being in its own natural environment. These folks shaped my outlook toward life, infused my art with meaning, and filled my ‘I’ with pride.

Website: https://linktr.ee/michael.ash.sharbaugh

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mikashsharbaugh/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikashSharbaugh

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michaelashsharbaugh

Other: SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/michael-ash-sharbaugh

Image Credits
Michael Ash Sharbaugh

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