Michael Gordon, who goes by the stage name Mk.Gee, is a New Jersey native and a junior at the Thornton School of Music majoring in popular music performance. Gordon incorporates smooth jazz, R&B and disco funk into his personal sound.
His two singles, “Unaware” and “I Know How You Get,” also demonstrate careful songwriting to give his music thoughtfulness and depth. In caring about creating gorgeous, lo-fi visual aesthetics as well as meticulous songcraft, Mk.Gee creates an immersive music experience for listeners. After releasing two singles which have accumulated over 340,000 streams on Spotify and SoundCloud, he has spent time touring with fellow indie-pop singer Baum, and working on his new EP, set for release in March 2018.
The Daily Trojan interviewed Gordon to learn more about his music career and future endeavors.
Daily Trojan: How did you get your start in music?
Michael Gordon: I started playing piano when I was 6, and then I switched to guitar when I was 11. I’ve always had a passion for writing from the start, and music has been a part of my life forever.
DT: Tell us about your sound.
MG: I grew up on a lot of jazz and there are a lot of amazing colors that can come out of that. The whole genre is about experimentation and honesty, which I push for a lot. I have an extensive passion for funk and old R&B and guitarists like David T. Walker and other prime ’70s funk core musicians. I like the way it makes people feel. I grew up right next to the beach so I like the experimentation with … not lo-fi, but DIY production people. I’ve always been drawn to people with creative control and what they do with it. This project right now is a cross between my love for R&B and my love for indie production. I always push for going outside the box. There’s no point in doing something that’s already been done. I feel like people are longing for something really different — and so am I.
DT: Where does your creative process start?
MG: I usually start building a track, kind of like how hip-hop producers work, where you bring in a track and then you bring in this one person who top lines over it and brings in a melody and a song over it. Usually I just write songs with me and my guitar, and it’s usually a melody and chords first.
DT: What’s your favorite part of the music process — writing, producing or performing?
MG: Right now, it’s so comfortable for me to write and produce in my room. I could literally do it for 10 hours a day and I wouldn’t have any problem with it. There’s just two different sides of the game. I love performing as well — it takes a different mindset. I think it comes in circles for artists. You’re like, “I love live performing right now,” and you start getting into a groove of just nailing shows and then the same thing happens with production.
DT: How do you get “in the zone” to be creative?
MG: For writing, it happens in a lot of places, but for production, it’s my room. With production, it’s always about being in a spot where you can get around easily. If I have an idea, I can build on it. Writing is different; you’re inspired by what’s around you, so being in new places usually helps.
DT: What are you working on right now?
MG: I’m finishing up my EP that’s going to be released in about March. Everything is pretty much complete in terms of the tracklist and artwork. Right now, I’m in the mixing and mastering process, which takes a while. Now, it’s just about living with the songs enough so you can let it breathe and come back to it and see it with a different perspective. I like to be in control of what’s happening with mixing and stuff and I don’t send it off to other people to mix, so I usually wait about a month or so before I come back to the track.
DT: So you’re deeply involved with every step of the songwriting process?
MG: Definitely, I try to be. I don’t view it as a selfish thing; a lot of people do. I want to be creating every part of the track. If there’s something I can’t do, I’ll call on someone else who can do it better. My intent is not to be selfish, but I see the outcome and I know how to get the outcome.
DT: Would you call yourself a perfectionist?
MG: Definitely. There’s art in imperfection, but you have to find that line. I’m somewhere between imperfection and perfection.
DT: Who are your musical influences?
MG: Anything that makes me feel something, I usually pull from. It’s so long, but I’ll give you a few that inspired me a lot for this project — Bibio, Andy Shauf, Steve Lacey, Kindness, Kevin Parker, Homeshake … I could literally go for so long. Whatever you create is just an extension of who you are and to say I only have a handful of music that I draw from is kind of limiting.
DT: I see that you have videos that embody the vibe of the song to accompany your singles. Will we see visuals on your next project?
MG: Yes, definitely. I do a lot of photography. With music, there’s good aesthetic and bad aesthetic, and anything to add to that aesthetic is like, “Why not?” I write to pictures a lot just so I can have more of a story and a feeling of that picture and time. The “Unaware” video was about a year’s worth of footage — it was a trip to put it together. I got it developed last winter and I wrote “Unaware” with the visuals. I’ll definitely be incorporating visuals, it adds to the art.
DT: Are the two singles you have out now representative of the EP?
MG: Yes, it’s close. I think there’s a lot that it pulls from. The single I’m releasing on [Nov. 17] is a little different from my other two, so people can’t pinpoint my sound yet. It’s very similar, but soundscape-wise, it’s not as wet-sounding. It’s warm but not as dreamy-sounding, like “Unaware.” It’s hard to explain. I’m trying to do a two-sided EP. It’s about soundtracking someone’s Friday. There’s going to be a day side and a night side. So from Track 1 to Track 9 will be from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. There’s a story I want you to be placed in a setting, not just with the lyrics but [also] within the soundscape. I want the person to be transported to that time of day and that feeling that time of day brings.
DT: Do you have any upcoming shows?
MG: I have a show on Nov. 17. I like the feeling of having a really intimate concert, like a house party kind of thing. Me and my buddies built a stage in my backyard and we’re going to have a concert the same day of my single release. I think we’re going to be playing around 10 p.m.