It takes a lot of courage and grace to start over after wrapping up over a decade fronting one of the most successful bands in Christian music. Fortunately, courage and grace have always been central to the way Mike Donehey approaches his craft.
When Tenth Avenue North ended their storied career in 2020, Mike Donehey began venturing into new creative space. Flourish is the result, a richly imaginative, redemptive set of songs that shows Mike at the height of his songwriting skills. On the latest episode of Trevor Talks, Mike joins us for his second appearance on the show to talk about this season of rebirth.
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Trevor Tyson 0:01
Thank you for tuning in to Trevor talks podcast where we talk to real people about real topics and real stories. Today's guest is the first person that we've ever brought back on for a second run. And you'll figure out why in just a second. Literally just released the best album of his musical career, and also his debut solo project, and which is called a flourish, and a streaming everywhere. Y'all. Please help me welcome back. Mike, Donna. Hey, Mike. Man, we made it round to Let's go,
Mike Donehey 0:32
bro. That's a serious intro you just gave me I appreciate it.
Trevor Tyson 0:36
We didn't even go into all the accolades and all that stuff. Because it's not important right now. The only thing is important right now is we're talking and you have a new album out, which is phenomenal.
Mike Donehey 0:46
Live in the moment, right. I
Trevor Tyson 0:47
love it. Dude. Yes, sir. So I've said it before. And I'll also stand by it right now you're the one of the most consistent songwriters and performers out there. And you've obviously just proved it with flourish. And I really want to dive into like, where did this whole process begin for this record? And what did it get birthed out of?
Mike Donehey 1:10
Yeah, you know, it's probably I was just talking to my wife about this, this record is probably the most time I've ever spent on a record. Just because when you when you're with a band, you write, you write, you write, and then you kind of get in the studio for two weeks, and you're just in there. And you just do it, where I was writing the songs and recording the songs all year, last year and half of this year, working with different producers doing a lot of zoom stuff. And so I got to live with the songs a lot more. I got to re listen and re listen. And then I could email and go, actually, I want to add this and then I would record my kids and go I want you guys singing the gang vocals on this. And then so it was just honestly, I was only getting worried that I'd ever be able to finish the record. Because once you start tinkering too long, you have to eventually go, Okay, it's it's done now.
Trevor Tyson 2:05
I love that. And that leads into another question that I had. How was this so much different? You've recorded with a band for the most part, your whole career. And now moving into just your solo project, you've got hired musicians, you've got other people, you've got full creative control. How different was it to just have that freedom and go into this?
Mike Donehey 2:26
So when you're in a band, every decision is decision by committee. Right? So how do you like this guitar part? And everyone has to weigh in on it, you know? And for better or worse, this record was a lot easier. It took me longer, but it was easier. Because when the decision would have to be made, it'd be me and a producer. And I'd go do I like this? Oh, I like this. Okay. Yep, yes, we're doing it, you know. So for me, it's no surprise for me, this record feels like the most proud I've been of a record simply because I'm the one who checked off on everything. So selfishly, it was probably a lot easier.
Trevor Tyson 3:15
I love that so much. And you're also wearing a tiger run t shirt, which is amazing. So let's go got Dan Reed, and one of your old band members got that amazing sound going on. And you just kind of walked out of this era with 10th Ave, which you had an amazing, it was over a decade with death. And it's like, Okay, God, what's next? So what, what did that process, okay with transitioning out of being in that band, and touring all the time and being able to be at home with the kids. And obviously, we just went through that pandemic. And hopefully we're at the tail end of it, but we'll see. But what did it look like coming out of that?
Mike Donehey 3:56
Yeah, honestly, not Well, I mean, the cool thing was that we had actually decided to end the band before the pandemic started. And so we had just started a farewell tour that got canceled. And probably for the next two months, I kind of just moped and soaked and went, Well, I can't believe we didn't even get to do our farewell tour. What am I even supposed to do? Maybe this is God telling me that I'm not even supposed to do music anymore. You know, I tried to do a farewell tour can't even do that. And then just honestly, there's a song on this record. I called it flourish because the first song I wrote for this record was the song called flourish. And that was assigned just started in my my little office here. And it was just sort of my defiant fist raise that just because all my circumstances weren't what I wanted it to be. It didn't mean that I couldn't flourish in my soul, you know. And what's crazy is I wrote that song, and then it just sort of broke the dam loose. And then I couldn't stop writing songs. And I probably wrote 80 full songs had over 100 song ideas. And I realized, well, no, for now, I gotta keep making music, because I really seem to need it.
Trevor Tyson 5:29
Yeah, and what a message for this time, just flourish, we are all going to flourish out of this thing. You know, we're all stuck in a cocoon for most of 2020, and then going into 2021, hopefully not into 2022. But it's time for everybody. Just like, if you didn't find something new about you, during this pandemic, or this time at home with your family. You probably didn't pandemic, right, if that makes sense. But this record is like coming out at the perfect time. But I know you just went over the whole song flourish. But for the record, is there like an overarching theme that you kept holding on to and a specific message that you wanted to put out a little bit and each and every single one of these songs in its own way?
Mike Donehey 6:18
Yeah, um, yeah, we picked the name flourish, because it felt like it income encompassed all the songs in some way. These are all my prayers, you know, I feel like, this is probably the most intimate record I've written. Because, you know, again, I'm not having to bounce my journal off of four other guys and make sure it resonates well. It's just, these are the prayers that I need to pray, and the songs I need to sing. And yeah, I think the biggest thing that I wrestled with during the pandemic, was, you know, can I really choose this moment. Because until you choose the moment you're in, you're going to feel like a victim to your circumstance. And so there comes a moment where you have to go, I choose this. It's not what I wanted. But I choose to be here right now. And I guess the overarching theme would be, let's not go back to normal, you know, as the pandemic rescinds, and it will, it will eventually, you know, let's, let's, let's find a new normal, you know, there's a song on the record called glory I couldn't see which is kind of my anthem. For parents, at least for me as a parent, which was, you know, what, I don't want to just race through life and miss my kids. I want to actually see them and and be in the moment. So yeah, I guess flourishing in the moment you're in even if it's not the moment that you wanted, is sort of the theme of the record.
Trevor Tyson 8:04
I love that you said that we're maybe going to go back to normal but what is normal now? You know, are we going to be continuing to wear masks? Are we going to continue to do that? Like, we don't know what it's gonna look like? We may just be door dashing for the rest of our life we don't know. And God's really given you a specific message with this and the music video behind glory I couldn't see is beautifully articulated with you and your children just playing around like it's not a super serious music video, but it just grips you emotionally and it's like dang, like this dude really loves kids. If you take that away, like that's kind of what we view God as right he views us in that way where his children and with these music videos with the project with everything kind of coming out in this certain time. You have just hope like we can hold on to hope we can see hope like the beauty that we see coming through this art is God reflecting on to us right? The art that he's given you the message that he's given you the vision that he's given you is translating differently to a bunch of different people hopefully millions but this record is just I liked the song unity home just gonna go ahead and throw it out there that's my favorite song on the record. And in the chorus it goes Oh hallelujah Christ is with us and Him we live and move and breathe. So with his with this breath inside our lungs now and forever, we will sing. It just sounds like an old timey him obviously with the name unity him It has to. But where did that come from? That is one of the big questions I have.
Mike Donehey 9:46
Yeah, that's a fun story. I'm currently working on a second book, which is about learning how to stay in relationship with people you disagree with. Your view? Yeah, the message. The message of unity is just so on my heart. I mean, it's the thing Jesus is always praying for, for the disciples, and it, you know, I have the unique position of having played in over Thau, thout, maybe 1000s of different churches over the years. And I've kind of been struck by the fact that we actually agree on more than we disagree on, which it's shocking to me that we have so many denominations I go, these things we disagree with, over it's just not a big enough deal to separate yourself from the other person. But where the song came from, my sister lives just down the street. And it was raining one day, she calls me up, she goes, Hey, I, I had a melody in my dream. And I think we're supposed to write this song, because it feels like a worship, sort of melody. And my sister is in a band, which is an Americana band. So she doesn't write a lot of like explicitly Christian, per se songs or songs about faith explicitly. So she goes, I think maybe we should write it for you. And so she came over. And we sat at this piano behind me. And I mean, we wrote it in 15 minutes. I mean, it just tumbled out. Because her and I both have that same heart of just wanting to see people love each other, even if they disagree. And yeah, I'm really proud of that song. And the fun thing is Jeff, my former guitar player who's in Tiger run, that's the that's the one track on the record he produced. And I thought he did a great job.
Trevor Tyson 11:47
He did do a great job. And I kind of like to do something called a track by track. And I guess we already started it just a little bit. And the next song I wanted to talk about was all together, which was the lead singer, which kind of caught everybody like doing like, he's buck, but I'm like he never left. But that's just me. So the whole song starts off with no more play, Mr. Nice Guy. I'm done pretending that I'm all right. A fake laugh keep acting upper class, like I've never had a struggle in my whole life. Oh, can I tell you tell you the state I'm in cracks are where the light gets in. Maybe we don't have to have it all together? What if Grace made it safe to tell you the truth? Oh, and then just going down in one other line I wanted to talk about was the 12 Step one, like, Why can't a church look like that? So just starting from the beginning of the song. And then moving into that? Where did this song come from?
Mike Donehey 12:46
Yeah, so it started. I was writing with a producer friend of mine named Mike Kiper, he also co wrote a track on there called something that I can't explain. And we were sitting there, and we're watching videos of different artists playing like Tiny Desk concerts for NPR series. And we're getting into like some sort of hip hop grooves stuff we were listening to. And I said, you know, my best friend in the world is an addictions counselor. And he always tells me, the most profound sacred moments he's ever experienced in his life, have been sitting in the circle, where the people who are getting treated for addiction are sharing, like 100% vulnerable, and then are met with 100% acceptance. He goes that that tension between those two things when those happen, it's the most holy thing I've ever experienced. And I said to Mike, I go, but here's the deal. You know, it's weird. When I go to church, a lot of times, it's like we can we can share about past struggles. There's past struggle, TESTIMONY TIME. But we don't usually have a current struggle, TESTIMONY TIME. In church. If you do you get a special group, you know, it's called Celebrate Recovery or something like that. And if you've ever been to a Celebrate Recovery Program, which is kind of a meets church, I always go man, this is just what church should be right here. So we just start writing and I was just louses refun, feeling a little swaggy you know, after what we've been listening to, and I said, Man, if it's the real big thing on that song is me trying to point the finger at myself of going, I have to be vulnerable. I got to stop blaming the churches and vulnerable enough. I go because in that second verse, I say, I want to church it looks like 12 steps. We're all are honest and accepted, but it's going to take myself to cultivate that kind of life that others haven't seen yet. Have you ever noticed the second you take the initiative to be vulnerable? Suddenly, it frees other people up to be vulnerable with you. And I think a lot of times we're all waiting on somebody else to be vulnerable. So
Trevor Tyson 15:17
what are some ways that you've found yourself being able to break more freely from not being vulnerable and open up about it, whether it's in songwriting, speaking writing books? Is there a process that you went through to just break free from just doing
Mike Donehey 15:32
it? I mean, it's one of those things, you just have to exercise that muscle. And, and unfortunately, what happens with some of us is we take that first step of confession, vulnerability, and we and we share it with someone who's not safe. And who doesn't really understand the grace of God. And so they meet us, Jimmy Fallon style, you know, you're out. And they shame us. And what happens is someone who, when that happens, someone who's first taking that initial step, they withdraw even more like a like a crab into its hermit shell, you know, and, but when you are vulnerable with someone who meets you at that acceptance, it just emboldens you. And eventually, you can even share with people who aren't safe because you don't care anymore.
Trevor Tyson 16:22
Kind of like you on stage, those funny faces you make Let's go, do that's a process. It's a whole process. And you wanted to be an actor before you wanted to be a musician. So we we all see that it worked in your favor. I'm not saying you'd be a bad actor or anything. In fact, I don't even know. But you've got a gift for music. So let's roll with that too. All right. It's just it's phenomenal to see all of this come into life. Because I know the first time we spoke you were at the lake. And we weren't doing video yet. So we don't have that on video. But it it was a whole thing. Like I didn't know when music was going to come out. It was like, oh, maybe we should talk about 10th. Maybe we should talk about this, like dive into your story. You just had a book come out. And just to see where you've come in a little over a year, is encouraging. Like people see the pandemic like oh, people, like obviously, people have died. And it's been a bad thing. But not everything that came out of it was bad. Like we got this record, we've got happiness, like I found my I feel like I really honed into my calling. During this pandemic, it was almost like we were cocooned in or we can flourish and grow out like butterflies. I'd be a pretty dope butterfly, just saying, but it's just like, dang, like the worst of scenarios can turn into the best of scenarios. For some, like, it may not look like that for everybody. But for me myself, like speaking for myself right now, this pandemic was time that I needed to refresh and really just dive back into my calling. Get off the road, like now I don't go on the road, like Praise God. And it seems like it was that way for you as well in your family, being able to spend a lot more time with them. A lot of people that are touring are like, dang, I don't know how to do life at home. Like I don't know how to handle these kids. My wife usually does it. And we learn a lot of situations in that way. But, man, this is this has been a phenomenal time. We're gonna end up doing a third and a fourth and a fifth because you're just gonna keep putting out content. Am I right?
Mike Donehey 18:27
I mean, Lord willing and the creek don't rise.
Trevor Tyson 18:33
Well, is there anything else you want to plug podcast books coming out, etc?
Mike Donehey 18:41
Yeah, I am recording some new podcast episodes. Right now we're gonna do chasing the beauty season to probably starting sometime in September. I've recorded several episodes for that. And the book is still a ways off. I got to turn in a rough draft here at the end of the month. So I'm still escalating.
Trevor Tyson 19:01
Yeah, percolating is a big word.
Mike Donehey 19:03
Yeah, I guess so. You know, but honestly, I am with you. I really am so excited that you're digging the record because I'm every time when you're an artist, you listen back to the record. And it's, it's the worst. I mean, mostly what you're hearing are the things you would have done differently. And I usually have, you know, 2030 of those things as I listened through record, and this record I have maybe two or three have I would have done a different drum groove there I would have done this different but after them. I'm really not I love this. I love this record. So I hope everybody takes a listen to
Trevor Tyson 19:46
it. As I've said a million times in this episode, I love it too. And we're gonna put the link in the description below here. If you guys have just tuned in and just figured out about the podcast number one, you're a little late. Number two go check out my Mike's record flourish which is available everywhere. And I just want to thank new release today for making this episode happen as usual, and take a break for yourself if there is any call to action go join 12 Step Go join, celebrate recovery may not go that extreme right off the bat, but you know what is a good place to start and a good place to end? So praise God for that. Mike, thank you so much for joining us and we'll talk to you guys next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Mike Donehey has seen his fair share of the unexpected. Following a potentially fatal car crash as a teen, Mike learned to play the guitar while still in bed recovering from his injuries. Learning the guitar quickly gave birth to songwriting, and that songwriting quickly led to the formation of a band. That band, Tenth Avenue North, became one of the most loved and successful artists in Christian music. Beginning with their acclaimed national debut, Over and Underneath, Tenth Avenue North’s audience multiplied with each new album and hit song like radio favorites “Love Is Here,” “By Your Side,” “You Are More,” “Losing,” “Worn,” “I Have This Hope,” and multi-week no. 1 smash “Control (Somehow You Want Me).”
At the beginning of 2020, Despite widespread notoriety and a devout following, Tenth Avenue North’s members began to sense they each had their own unexpected and unique roads to follow.
Mike has seized this opportunity, reveling in the excitement to expand as a storyteller, communicator and thought instigator wherever his voice is heard. Mike’s acclaimed book, Finding God’s Life for My Will, was an immediate best-seller upon its release. Mike’s new podcast, Chasing the Beauty, will look for the joy of God in the places we didn’t think it could be. Chasing the Beauty will debut on www.accessmore.com in 2020. But perhaps most exciting, Mike has been feverishly writing and producing new music for an upcoming debut solo album. Being one of music industry’s most exciting and engaging live performers and speakers, live appearances will undoubtedly continue to be a big part of his story going forward.
The unexpected has a way of disrupting our lives in ways we might not have ever chosen. But for Mike Donehey, learning to embrace the unexpected has been the very thing that has brought forth encouraging and soul-healing art time and time again. Looking forward, Mike is trusting to be led in any way that will allow him to continue to serve and inspire.