“You can accomplish anything you put your mind to son” Everlasting words pianist Mike Wilson heard from his father long ago, that still motivate him today.
Beginning his musical stylings in drums, Wilson had no idea he would become so fond of the piano. “We had a piano, and I picked out songs on it, but my brother was a drummer and taught drum lessons out of the house to a few kids. I really wanted to do it, so he got me started.” Through junior high and high school he played drums in band, but was also taking piano lessons. He says, “I mostly played by ear, and I wasn’t a very good student.” His piano teacher played in a band with his brother, and had a Yamaha DX7 he was willing to sell. His parents helped him buy it, and his interest grew. “I thought it was really cool, and I started getting into it. All the bands that I wanted to be in already had a drummer and needed a keyboard player so I started doing more keyboard work than drums going forward.”
Through the years he has played in several cover bands, but tried his hand at some original work as well. Bands like Scarlett, Jungle Blue, and Banfield were mainly streamed in pop and rock. It wouldn’t be until 2003 that he would try something out of his comfort zone.
Jazz great Grady Nichols played on a worship team with Wilson, and mentioned he was searching for a keyboard player. As he was no where near a “jazz guy” he offered to help in his search. Mike says, “I assumed he was asking me for recommendations, rather than asking me to be in his band. I was like, “Man, keyboard players in this town are hard to find. I’ll keep my ears open, and let you know”. It didn’t sink in until soon after that the expression of sheer confusion on Grady’s face must have meant he was asking him to fill the slot. “I was so embarrassed! I just said, “Man, I’ve just never really been a jazz player so it didn’t even register that you would ask me”. It seemed like it was way too heavy a lift. I rarely ever listened to jazz, let alone played it.” After a short processing period and some soul searching, he agreed to take the gig, and the duo are still together today.
Thanks to his parents, he developed a love of music early, and the nostalgia of it shapes him today. He says, “that time of my life was so musically impactful to me, that it is seriously still my connection to music today. So much so, that I recently started doing solo gigs and adding a lot of the songs that I first heard in the back seat of their car to my sets.” If he could go back to that time and give himself any advice it would be this: “Stick with the piano lessons, listen more, and when you are playing a song with a band, appreciate the space. Sometimes the notes you don’t play are more important than the ones you do.”