Interview / Michael Malarkey

Atlanta based musician and actor Michael Malarkey might be currently causing a stir with his role as Enzo in famous TV series The Vampire Diaries, but right now, his grand musical abilities and passion for songwriting shine through as Michael is about to play a sold out show at Wilton’s Music Hall in London. His charismatic first single Through The Night And Back Again is taken from his debut EP Feed The Flames which captures Michael’s honest, engaging story-telling and haunting vocals. MGMB speaks to the multitalented artist about his music, influences and plans for 2015.

Eva: Your debut EP Feed The Flames is now available for download, with vinyl on its way this month. Could you tell us how did this record come together and what inspired the stories behind these songs?

Michael: I’ve actually been writing music for over a decade so the songs on Feed The Flames just happen to be some of my latest material. This is just the first time I’ve decided to release my music publicly. I recorded about five albums worth of material before this offering and used to just send them to friends and family. Danny Kier (Sound Diplomacy) is a good friend of mine and he sort of helped me to get my shit together to get into the studio and do it properly. We worked with friends of his up in Sheffield and recorded it in two days! At the time, it was the only time I could set aside for it so it was pretty wish-bash-bosh, but we had a blast and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
I suppose the inspiration is just being in tune with the twisted dichotomies that exist in life and love. Songwriting for me is a sort of poetic journalism so inspiration is quite an elusive thing to try to pin down, but I’d say that it’s something to do with trying to make sense of it all philosophically in an honest and creative way.

The lead track Through The Night And Back Again is the first single taken off the EP and keeps on receiving a great feedback. What are your feelings when you see so many people being moved by your music?

I’m moved that they’re moved! I’m glad that people seem to be connecting with my songs on the same intimate level that I connect with them. Fads come and go, but good old-fashioned songwriting has proved over and over again that it will stand the test of time. I don’t feel like I’m pushing the boat out and carving new ground or anything; I just write songs. I think people will always appreciate that.

What are your earliest memories of connection with music?

I remember listening to some of my parents old cassette tapes as a kid, specifically one called The Beatles’ Love Songs. I played that tape until it broke. Another favourite was Graceland by Paul Simon. I also tuned into whatever radio stations were around, but I quickly grew bored of top charts and in junior high I started listening to a lot of punk and hardcore bands like Operation Ivy, Minor Threat and Rancid, and went to as many gigs as I could. My real passion for music began during those years.

Regarding your sound and songwriting, have you been inspired by any particular artists?

Loads. I have a fairly eclectic pool of influences ranging from Nick Cave to Converge to Wu-Tang. My biggest inspiration though is just plain old life, relationships and philosophical musings, all that jazz. As far as other musicians go, Tom Waits was my biggest inspiration to start writing my own music. The first album of his that I heard was “Rain Dogs” and I have never been the same since…

You’re best known as Enzo from a very popular series The Vampire Diaries. Do you ever get to show off your music abilities to your co-stars on or off set?

Oh, we’ll have a little jam here and there. After wrap sometimes Ian (Somerhalder) and I will go back to his place, have a couple glasses of wine and play some music. I’ve done a couple gigs in Atlanta since I’ve been there and each time at least a few Vampire Diaries folks have turned up to support. It’s a damn fine group of people on this show.

You must be really excited to play a sold out show in London on 8th January. What are your hopes for the night and what have you got in store for your fans?

Well, the venue itself is absolutely gorgeous. I played Gatsby there in a production of The Great Gatsby a couple years ago so I’m thrilled to return and see all the fine folk at Wilton’s again. I’ll be playing a lot of new stuff and naturally all of the songs off the EP. There’s some great support by the likes of Oh Sister and Sam Brookes. It also happens to be Elvis’ birthday, so I’ll be throwing in my own folk rendition of one of his songs. There’s a bit of a surprise at the end as well, but I don’t want to spoil it. It’ll also be the first show that I’ll have merch and the record available, which makes it extra special. As far as my hopes go, they’re the same for every show: don’t fuck it up.

Do you plan to get on the road some more this year?

Absolutely. I’m currently getting plans together to start booking a bunch of US, UK and Europe dates. Excited to be taking the show on the road. Watch this space…

Let’s say you get to hang out with one dead musician for a day. Who would it be? And if he/she asked you about today’s music industry what would you tell him?

Probably Jim Morrison…but I doubt we’d talk about music.

If you could pick a few of your favourite records released in 2014, which ones would they be?

D’Angelo, Wild Beasts, The War on Drugs, Code Orange, Liars, Pallbearer, Caribou, Swans, Braid…….to name a few.

What are your main hopes for this year?

Keep building. I’ve written a lot of new music since Feed The Flames so I’m looking forward to getting into the studio as soon as my filming schedule allows. There’s also some pretty groovy Enzo storylines happening with Vampire Diaries so looking forward to getting my teeth into them as well. Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook @mkmalarkey for updates!

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