Following a fantasy can take you away from home and the people and places you love, but the bright side of such a journey comes in knowing that you really can come home again.
Musician Micah Walk hasn't lost sight of his roots despite pursuing his dreams in Chicago. Upon the release of The Micah Walk Band's latest CD, "Bright Side Fantasy," he made sure Springfield was a stop along the way.
This is not the first time the Girard native has made his way back home since moving. He usually makes it back to the Springfield area at least once a month.
"I try to get back to Springfield quite a lot because it's definitely my favorite place to play. We've developed a following in Chicago, but it's slow coming. There's a lot of competition," the 26-year-old Walk said. "I like the city a lot, but a lot of the time I miss my family and the cornfields. I feel a little torn when I feel like I want to come home because other times I love it in Chicago. But my family is here, and it's hard to be away."
Walk has been working part time at a dot.com agency and working with a booking agent to help the band line up gigs around Chicago. Walk admits that's really not his style.
"I get really burned out on stuff like that; I hate it," he said. "Most places I talk to, if I ask to play there, the first question isn't, 'What style music do you play?' They ask, 'How many people can you bring?' And even if you consistently bring 75 people to a bar, you might have a bad night."
That wasn't the case in Springfield. The band, featuring Walk on guitar and lead vocals, Jon Cardoni on guitar and vocals, Dan Hartman on bass, and Darin Hotlhaus on drums and vocals had no problem filling, not one, but two venues on the night of its local CD release party. The party began at Andiamo! and finished at Marly's Pub.
As Walk and his band members set up for their July 25 gig at Andiamo!, the theme of home was definitely apparent. Friends, fans and family members gathered at the small café on Sixth Street for a treat different than the coffee and food usually served at the shop. The treat this time was the small, intimate all-ages CD release party pre-show with The Micah Walk Band.
The café offered couches surrounding a small coffee table as well as several chairs and wooden stools set up to accommodate all the anxious listeners.
While the band tuned guitars and tested equipment, partygoers ordered lattes, sodas and beer. The hottest items for purchase were the band's latest CD and T-shirts.
Walk and his band members even took time to mingle with the crowd, including Walk's father, sister and grandmother.
"Oh my gosh, I am so proud of him," 80-year-old Eileen Walk said of her grandson. "I really enjoy listening to him. I get all of his CDs and listen to them a lot."
Cameras flashed and applause rang through the small space as the band took the stage shortly after 7 p.m.
The crowd apparently knew the band well, as it sang along with every song.
Walk's dad, Dan, said he is enjoying watching his son follow his dream.
"It's awesome, about as awesome as you can get. He loves it, and I love watching him," Dan Walk said.
The band later played a 21-and-older show to another packed house at Marly's Pub around the corner on Fifth Street.
Several people followed from Andiamo! to the next part of the evening. Dan Walk wasn't about to miss the next show.
"How often does a guy my age get to stay out until 2:30 a.m.?" the 58-year-old said.
And this time the crowd at Marly's Pub was singing and dancing to tunes that could be the next big hit. But Micah Walk doesn't really know what hitting it big means.
"Most people would correlate hitting it big with making a lot of money," Walk said.
"Of course a lot of money isn't a bad thing, but hitting it big for me would be being able to quit my day job, make enough money to be comfortable and have health benefits."
Right now, Walk is focusing on "Bright Side Fantasy." The band's plans are to present the CD to various labels, both big and small, in hopes of at least getting a distribution deal.
"It's the best thing I've been involved in, as far as music goes," Walk said. "I hope a lot of people want to buy the CD."
However, in lieu of a distribution label, The Micah Walk Band's music, including "Bright Side Fantasy," can be found at some independent stores, such as Recycled Records, on cdbaby.com and iTunes.
Sneak Peek: 'Take Me Home'
Although, "Bright Side Fantasy" was just released, like any artist, Walk is already working on his next material. He gave the crowd at Andiamo! a sneak peek of his most recent song.
The song, called "Take Me Home," is a ballad about missing the place he left while trying to enjoy where he is.
"'Take Me Home' is brand new. It's definitely not on the new CD. I wrote it after I was done. But that song is just about missing home," Walk said.
Walk offers advice
Looking to follow in Micah Walk's footsteps? Walk offers some advice to young, aspiring musicians.
If you want to be a songwriter, Walk advises to always write lyrics that mean something to you.
"If you're trying to write, write from the heart. Don't write what you think people want to hear. If you write things you feel strongly about, people are going to be drawn in no matter what you do," Walk said.
Walk typically draws from life experiences or books that inspire him.
"Obviously, love is a big thing, or lack thereof. One of my friends says he loves a songwriter who can't stop writing about love," Walk said. "And recently I've been reading a lot of books by Paula Aquilla and Richard Bach. They are a couple of my favorite authors right now and have been inspiring songs."
If you're looking at more of the guitar-playing aspect, Walk believes that practice makes perfect.
"If you're trying to be a guitar player, I'd say find a good teacher and play, play, play, all the time," Walk said, noting that he is the guitar player he is today because of that mind-set.
"He started playing when he was 15," Dan Walk says. "He couldn't even sit in front of a TV without his guitar. He always had to be playing."
The making of the CD
"Bright Side Fantasy" is the fourth CD for The Micah Walk Band, but different from the others.
This CD wasn't recorded in a professional studio like the first three. This one was recorded in the home of the band's drummer, Darin Holthaus.
Bassist Dan Hartman studied recording, studio engineering and music in college.
"We used the equipment Dan had and turned our drummer's house into a studio for a while," Walk said. "A professional studio costs $50 to $60 per hour, and that starts to add up. We recorded the first one that way and our budget ran out."
This CD took a little longer to make. Walk said the time frame from start to finish took a year. But they didn't actually spend a full year in studio.
"But we didn't work on it Mondays through Thursdays. It was a Friday night and weekend thing. And there were several weekends we didn't work on it. Total time spent on it was probably about two months," Walk said.
Story published Friday, September 5, 2008 ( Volume 3, Number 5 )