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Music Is My Sketchbook

APRIL 13, 2007
Some of my guitars
This article is about my work as a musician. You can also listen to songs from two of my latest CD's, 11th Street Summer, and New Heaven.
I've been playing guitar since I was in high school, and became very serious about it as an art student at The Rhode Island School of Design. Later, while living in NYC in the 1990's, I played bass and guitar in several rock bands which played in downtown Manhattan clubs such as Brownie's, The Continental, CBGB's, The Knitting Factory, and The Limelight. In between gigs and illustration assignments I began to write and record instrumental songs in my home recording studio. During this time I discovered my "voice" and began writing lyrics to my songs.

Buying my first computer in 2000 was a revelation both musically and artistically. I began recording songs on my Mac, issuing CD's of original material, a practice which I continue today using GarageBand.

I currently play bass in the all-illustrators jazz and blues band The Half-Tones along with Barry Blitt, Joe Ciardiello, Rich Goldberg, Hal Mayforth, Rob Saunders and James Steinberg. We perform regularly at The Society of Illustrators in New York City. It's a great thrill performing together, something I value highly in my life.
The Half-Tones before performing at The Illustration Conference in Philadelphia. Left to right: Barry Blitt, James Steinberg, Hal Mayforth, Rob Saunders, Rich Goldberg, Michael Sloan, Joe Ciardiello
The cover art for this CD evokes the street where I once lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY.
Listen to songs (mp3) from 11th Street Summer:

Many of the songs on my latest CD 11th Street Summer (2007) are a look back at my life in NYC during the 1990's. I lived and worked in a one room apartment on a quiet brownstone-lined street in Brooklyn, an oasis where I could get away from the crazy energy of the city. It was in this apartment that I began writing and recording my own songs, and found my "sound". This fourteen-song CD is an appreciation for that apartment, the street where I lived, and that time in my life.
My watercolor painting for the cover of New Heaven used some imagery and typefaces from a book about the history and evolution of Tarot cards.
Listen to songs (mp3) from New Heaven:

The ten songs on New Heaven (2002) were written after I left NYC. The songs are about being married, people I know, impressions of the places where I've lived, and one of my favorite subjects, the weather. I like to document my life in my songs; they are like sketches in a sketchbook.

One of my favorite songs, "Have You Seen My Magic?", is about the frustration that I feel when I've lost my Mojo (that's what my friend Hal Mayforth calls it), or my inspiration.  It's when the ideas for new songs or paintings just aren't coming, the juices aren't flowing. For me, there's a definite ebb and flow to my "magic". It's exasperating when it's not there, sometimes for weeks on end. When it returns, which it always does, it feels like hearing the first birdsong of spring.
Having two passions of equal strength can make life feel like a tug of war. Fortunately I've found ways to strike a balance between art and music so that I've never had to choose one over the other. They both feel very necessary to me; I can't live without either of them. The energy I get from one nourishes the other.

There's a lot of joy in hearing how my songwriting develops, and discovering what song is around the next corner. It constantly amazes me that within the limitations of six strings, I'm always able to find new sounds that lead me into exciting, new musical directions.

You can purchase my CD's here.
CD Liner notes:

"A voice as smooth as love gained, as jagged as love lost. Dreamy choruses
that wind around the whine of strings, sly snaps and claps that catch us by
surprise, the hypnotizing 'oh yeah's' that cajole us into trying out freaks
and whips, night hours and tweezed eyebrows.  Fuzztones that drive out the
darkest side of ourselves to expose them to the summer rain. A voice that
carries whispers of bitterness, coated and cured with the bright glimpse of
light at the end of a tunnel. Textured harmonies and insistent strumming
that melt together and drive apart, that evoke golden summer dreams
swooping on a rollercoaster above a sparkling sea. Gleeful melodies that
have the guile to curl wry lyrics around our ears like sardonic whipsmacks,
and that waver in the softness of new found love and new life. A talent to
be heard and experienced. Michael Sloan is here where we want him to be,
singing what we want to hear, saying what we want to say."

-Elizabeth Smith