Author: Thommy Delaney

In the world of modern songwriting, experimenting is still alive and well. Even though he uses today's technology in certain parts of his music, Mike Herz still incorporates actual instrumentation with acoustic and electric guitars (as it should be). From acoustic folk to rockin' electric guitar sounds, Herz does it all on his latest release "Painting Over Paintings." In my interview with Herz, we talk about his inspirations, songwriting, his band Part-Time Custodian, and much more. Without further ado, let's turn it over to Mike Herz!

Hey Mike! Congratulations on your recent release "Paintings Over Paintings." Tell us a bit about some of the things that inspired you to create this album.

Thank you! This album is a bit of a mutt. It has some songs that were written many years ago but never found a home and some that were written in this past year. I knew I wanted to create a DIY album, rather than go into the studio. I recorded it all in my living room. There's freedom and limitations doing it that way and I kinda embrace both parts of that.

I noticed that most of the album is acoustic. Though you do bring in some elements of electric guitar every couple of songs along with piano in the last song. What made you want to do more acoustic instead of electric?

Acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk music is how I got into playing music. It's also the easiest and most intimate way to perform live and the least amount of equipment to carry to shows. On some of the songs I wanted to try more layered production because there are so many options with the sounds you can create on a computer and it's super tempting. I just scratched the surface. I threw some tracks at the wall and saw what stuck.

From a songwriting perspective, are there any musicians in particular that inspired some of the songs on this album?

I saw Alex G open for Bright Eyes at the Stone Pony about a year ago and really enjoyed his set. A lot of what they were doing live reminded me of my band. Then when I dove into his catalog I discovered that he had a wide range of sounds and I enjoyed his experimentation with synths and some unconventional stuff. That definitely had been lingering in my mind this past year. I respect the variety and artists that aren't afraid to change up their sound and style.

Every song on the album is not only well written, but also very catchy and memorable in more ways than one. A particular song that comes to mind is "Small Victories." As I listened to it, it reminded me of a cross between Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" and Jim Croce's "Hey Tomorrow." What gave you the idea to speak the verses and sing the choruses?

Great question! I originally sang the entire song with no spoken verse, but during the recording process sometimes I get bored and just try stuff. At first when I did the spoken verse I used a very deep voice and it sorta sounded like a mix of Tom Waits and a drunken cowboy, but I liked the concept because it seemed to make the chorus more poignant while really allowing the lyrics in the verses to soak in. Someone told me it reminded them of "Lullaby" by Shawn Mullins. I went back and listened to that song and was like... yup. Totally the same concept. In truth if it was inspired by anything it was probably The Felice Brothers. I listened to their latest album a lot this past year and their one song "Valium", which has spoken verse, really hit home. It probably seeped through subconsciously.

Another song that piqued my interest was "Walk With You." In the bridge, you use a B minor chord but then you play a B Major chord in the middle and then go back to the B minor chord. Not all the songs on this album nor your songs as a whole do that. Do you always try and experiment with different techniques with your writing?

"Walk with you" is one of the old songs I finally gave a home to. I had to relearn it based on an old iphone demo I had. I played it capo'd pretty high up on the neck to just try a different approach. If I changed from a B minor to a B major it's probably cause I messed up. Hahaha. My writing has changed a lot over the last decade. I come up with more melodies first without any instrument. Sometimes I start on piano and just sit on a riff for a long time and hum it out. I used to be a pen to notebook lyric writer and that has all but died... I'm not sure why. Different chapters of life I guess.

I noticed the song "The Ultimate Boon" only had piano, drums, and bass which comes in near the middle. How come you did not add any guitar at all on this particular track?

I really love that song. I recorded it once before and wanted to try it again. It's all sort of inspired by Joseph Cambell's theory of Theory of the Hero's Journey. The trials and tribulations. I did a one take acoustic guitar part for it and it's essentially me just playing some hammer on chords sparsely. It's there but it's subtle in the mix.

A lot of your songs have harmonica in them which I don't particularly hear people add to songs as much as they used to. I think it is an interesting part of your sound that makes you different from any artist today that either just stands on stage singing, playing guitar, or both at the same time. What inspired you to start playing harmonica and add it to some of the tracks on this album?

Thanks! I love harmonica. I heard someone say it is the sound of the soul crying. Bingo. I definitely fell in love with it because of Bob Dylan. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Something mystical about how he played it in the early 60's on his acoustic sets. Go watch the video of him playing Tambourine Man outside at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. It's a biblical experience. It just pierced hearts and elevated the emotion of the songs. Modern performers that I've seen use it like Conor Oberst or John Craigie use it in the same vein. So in many ways, I'm another middle aged white dude copying Bob Dylan's style from 60 years ago. It's all good.

I am aware that you have another project called "Part-Time Custodian" which is similar yet slightly different from what you do with your solo material. I really dig the sound of the band and I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking that we would love to hear more great tunes from Part-Time Custodian! Do you have any plans to release anything with the band in future?

Much appreciated. The band is so much fun. We have been playing a lot of shows around the tri-state area and we are actually in the final stages of mixing a new 6 song EP. We have taken our time with it and are exploring how we are going to release it, but those songs should be out in the world before the end of 2023 hopefully.

Between solo shows and performances with Part-Time Custodian, what shows are you most excited to do in the coming weeks and months?

Good timing. There are a bunch of good ones coming up as we head into Summer.
June 1st Finegan's Pub Hoboken, NJ*
June 4th Songwriter Showcase Lambertville, NJ (solo gig)
June 9th John & Peters New Hope, PA*

Mini Tour
July 6th Dusk Providence, RI*
July 7th Luthier's Co-Op Easthampton, MA*
July 8th Station Bar & Curio Woodstock, NY*
*Full Band (Part-Time Custodian)
Details here:
Or here:

Other than your upcoming shows, what else do you have planned for 2023?

Releasing the band EP is next on the list, and then I'm thinking of my next solo project. Might go into the studio this time and really do it clean and proper. Maybe :)

Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?

Thanks for reading and possibly checking out my music. I hope you find something you connect with. Hope to see you at a show sometime. And remember, when you clean your vacuum, you become a vacuum cleaner.

Artist Bio: With an uncanny ability to turn a phrase and deliver lyrics that rattle around in your head, Mike Herz writes and performs in a style that is all his own. Born and raised in northwest New Jersey, music has brought him across America and into venues of all shapes and sizes. He's been recognized for his songwriting at the NJ Folk Festival , Rocky Mountain Folks Fest and Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. He's also played dive bars where intoxicated people request songs he does not know. In addition to his solo work, Mike fronts the indie rock band Part-Time Custodian which plays throughout the tri-state area and beyond. His latest album "Painting Over Paintings" was released in April 2023.

About the Author: Thommy Delaney is a Senior Music Business Major at New Jersey City University. He is also the lead guitarist and a vocalist in the Bayonne Indie pop-rock band BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Looking for something new to listen to? Be sure to follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj on social media and stream their music on all platforms.

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