Michael Andrew Interview

Born in a town called Menomonce Falls, Wisconsin, Michael Andrew has always loved sophisticated Swing music.
Even as a young boy, his favorite performers were Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin-----generations removed from his time.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a major in theatre, Michael developed an act for Carnival Cruise Lines. He became one of their top entertainers, performing on eight of Carnival’s ships and entertaining on prestigious inaugural cruises around the world with Carnival, Holland American, Crystal Cruise, and American-Hawaii Cruises.
In 1990, he formed the Michael Andrew Orchestras, headlining in venues such as Merv Griffin’s Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, and the world famous Rainbow Room in New York (City).
Celebrities such as John Travolta, Cybil Shepherd, Gene Wilder, Dustin Hoffman, Carol Channing and Jerry Seinfeld all dined and danced to Michael’s music at The Rainbow Room.
How does the saying go?-----It don’t mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing.
Michael Andrew-----has that Swing!!

Q – Michael, you’re a little young to be into Swing music aren’t you? When did you discover this type of music?
A – Just growing up. In my family we’re from Wisconsin. My parents both loved music. They both liked the great standards that were written in the 40’s and 50’s. I really didn’t know that I was getting exposed to it anymore than any other kid. Maybe I wasn’t. But, for some reason I was drawn to it. I never really grabbed onto rock ‘n’ roll that much. I liked the music of the Big Bands and I was always trying to find it. The only place I could find it was my parents records. It wasn’t until I went to college that I was finally able to find other people that were into it and realized that anybody who studies music has to kind of pass through that style, in order to get any further along in the progression of jazz.

Q – Who were you listening to?
A – I was listening to groups like The Four Freshman, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Sammy Davis Jr. Those are the albums my parents had. Then later when I went to college, I started to find this stuff re-released on cassette. I would buy a lot of Bobby Darin, Mel Torme, as well as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, some of the early stuff of The Manhattan Transfer.

Q – You worked for the Carnival Cruise Line. Tell me about that experience.
A – Well, that was my first job out of college. I didn’t really know what to do. I had a Theatre Degree, but, I loved entertaining as much as I did being in the theatre. I really wasn’t ready to move into a city and kind of work-----wait tables, audition, and that whole thing. I didn’t think I’d be happy doing that. So, I wanted to find a way I could entertain and do my own show, which is really hard when you don’t really have a show. It’s the old Catch 22. When you’re starting out as an entertainer, people want to know where you’ve performed, what kind of track record you have. When you don’t have a track record and you haven’t performed before, it’s impossible to get booked anywhere. So, you have to start somewhere and a lot of us, a lot of young entertainers will start on the cruise ships. Usually they’ll be in a musical revue or something with a cast. Then, they’ll break off and start to do their own act. What I did was I managed to get myself booked on there as an entertainer. I put together an act very quickly right before I went on there. The act worked o.k. but, as I was working on the cruise ship, they also had me doing other things like calling Bingo. And, I was on the Cruise Staff. Since you live on the cruise ship when you’re young, you don’t have much experience. As I got to watch other acts, I developed an act that became a headlining act for Carnival and they started to fly me to all of their inaugural cruises. So, then I wasn’t doing any of the Cruise Staff stuff anymore. I was just what they call a Fly On Entertainer.

Q – Could you work year round?
A – Yeah, I could. I just got sick of it kind of fast. I did it for at least a solid year. Nothing but cruise ships. I didn’t really have a base, so I finally settled in Orlando, Florida.

Q – Today, you have your own orchestra?
A – Right.

Q – How many people are in that orchestra?
A – About nine. It varies between eight to twelve.

Q – How do you get around?
A – Well, we’ve had different phases of the band. At one point, when I moved to Orlando, I wanted to be close to the ships. This was back in 1990. I also thought this was a very fast growing city. There was a big hype about it being a great town for actors and performers ‘cause the movie industry was starting to do projects here. So, I thought this is as good a place as any. I didn’t really like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. What I discovered is that Orlando has an incredible corporate convention market, which brings cos. in that want to do conventions. On the last night of their convention or sometimes, all the nights of their conventions, they’ll have a party at night and they need entertainment for that. A lot of these black-tie events they want a more sophisticated style of entertainment, of music, than a rock band. So, I was hired in the corporate market to do these parties. So, I took all the charts that I was using on the cruise ship and I added a few more and I started doing these corporate shows. I had to put together a band for that. So, at the time I was just calling it The Michael Andrew Orchestra. We had that for a few years. While I was doing that and part-time still doing the cruise ships, somebody saw me that knew someone in Atlantic City and got me booked in Atlantic City. While I was in Atlantic City, an agent saw me from The Rainbow Room and he asked me if I would be interested in auditioning for the position of the bandleader and singer at The Rainbow Room. So, I had a little bit of band leading experience just because I was putting these bands together for corporate shows, but, not a great deal. I was doing this maybe once a week and the other times when I was on the cruise ships there was a bandleader there. But, I was picking things up quickly. By the time I got the audition I kind of knew what I was doing enough to fake it as a bandleader in New York City, So, I got the job and it lasted for 2 years. That’s when I really learned how to take control of the band and set the tempos correctly for different styles of dancing.

Q – So, how many gigs a year are you doing these days?
A – Well, I don’t know. The last year that I kept track believe it or not was 300, but, that was like a crazy year. I think that was ’98. Now, one week we’ll do six gigs and the next week we won’t do any. We try to cluster them together. I get the guys rehearsed for special things. It’s real sporadic.

Q – You’re playing all over the U.S. not just Orlando aren’t you?
A- Sure. After the gig at The Rainbow Room ended in 1995, I stayed in Orlando for awhile and didn’t do a lot of touring until the Big Swing craze, which came in about ’97. At that time the band was called Michael Andrew And The Retro Swing Band. We were performing six nights a week at a club called Atlantic Dance here in Orlando. It was run by Disney. We were the house band. But then, that gig ended and they wanted to change the format. It was great timing because we were starting to play in L.A. at The Derby and the Coconut Club, and in Chicago at a place called Liquid. All these clubs that were sort of Top 40 clubs were converting into Swing because it was the big dance craze. So, ’97, ’98, were big years for us, touring and we also had a club that was created for us in downtown Orlando. Any night that we weren’t performing on the road, we were invited to perform on Rat Packs on the Avenue which was in the heart of downtown Orlando. Even though we were on the road a lot, we were considered the house band at a club in Los Angeles every Saturday night for Merv Griffin at the Coconut Club. So, I was there once a week and would fly other places for different engagements. That lasted for a year and a half. Recently, I’ve become real selective about where we perform, what kind of shows I do, and the kind of exposure it has. It’s gotta be either very high exposure or good bread for us to do it now ‘cause I don’t like to get over exposed or burnt out. But, because I’ve performed all over the country, we use different musicians for different events.

Q – Have you ever tried to land a major label deal?
A – Yeah, we’ve tried.

Q – What’s been the reaction?
A – For awhile it was the old, we already have a Swing Band. We don’t need another act in this genre. And then right when we had a few bites, the Swing craze kind of ended and a lot of the labels got hurt because they were putting out a second or third release with bands that just weren’t happening anymore. They got stuck with a lot of product and it left a real bad taste with a lot of the labels.

Q – You feel that Swing music is on the decline. I would take issue with that. I actually sense it’s gaining in popularity simply because there’s nothing going on in the Rockin ‘n’ Roll world.
A – From ’98 to ’99, it definitely declined. I mean, ’98 we could walk into just about any nightclub that was doing “live” music and get a gig just because it was the “hottest” style of music. Now, as far as its trendiness, Swing music is yesterday’s news. That may sound negative to you, but to me it really doesn’t matter. It was very tough for me in the years it was really popular. We were playing a lot in the nightclubs circuit. I prefer playing for audiences that are there to really listen to the style of music that we do which is really more than just the trendy style of Swing that came back in the late 90’s. I also like to pay tribute to Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, not just our originals. So, it didn’t really affect me that much that it’s on the decline as far as the mainstream. It doesn’t really matter. I’m still doing it. I still love it. I’m still making money at it.

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