Written by Steve Mosco Friday, 28 March 2014 00:00
Taking a successful step in the music business requires plenty of talent, but also a measure of luck. And for a trio of local musicians, a recent one-off performance sparked a whirlwind of attention and video clicks.
Mikel James of Farmingdale, Carolyn Miller of Massapequa, and David Wong of Huntington Station were on separate musical paths before convening to record a cover of “Say Something,” a song originally released by A Great Big World and then re-released featuring Christina Aguilera.
After recording the song and a video clip, the trio’s effort was featured on the Huffington Post website, catapulting it to close to 30,000 YouTube views in a matter of days.
“I heard the song on the radio and thought it would be cool to do a cover,” said Miller, who knows James and Wong through mutual friends. “They [James and Wong] had never met before, but they were totally down to do it. And while jamming it out one day we realized we really had something special.”
The musicians recorded a crystal-clear version of the song to make it downloadable on iTunes and the response has floored all three of them. Crediting both talent and sheer luck, Miller said the success of the track might lead to more collaborations between the trio.
“People went crazy for the song. It is such a hot and relatable song that I guess it just speaks to people,” she said. “We weren’t expecting the response, it is really a huge honor. But there has to be luck involved in something like this. If it didn’t get picked up by Huffington Post, it would have been just three kids jamming in a living room.”
This certainly was not Miller’s first foray into the performance arena. Her fascination with the arts began at an early age while sitting in the audience of a Broadway theater. From there she performed in local Long Island theaters, in national commercials, recorded voiceovers and booked television and film roles. She honed her craft in college on a scholarship at the prestigious Boston Conservatory, where she was featured in many main stage productions.
Miller continues to spread her talents in theater, film/tv and music. But counting Barbra Streisand and Broadway star Idina Menzel as her heroes, it is no secret where her performance love lies. “My first love is theater, but you look at someone like Barbra Streisand and she is someone who has transitioned into every field. That is a career to emulate,” she said, adding that belief in one’s talents is of the utmost importance no matter where the performer lands. “Of course you have to believe in yourself, but also this career is for those who eat and breathe it. It requires so much time and dedication. You have to literally put everything you’ve got into it.”
Her collaborators are also no strangers to hard work and dedication, but Farmingdale’s Mikel James began his musical journey as a way to get out of writing a report. His teacher gave him the option to instead write songs about various subjects, from the
Constitution to health. And from there, a career was born.
“Writing songs about school subjects was cheesy, but it got me through high school,” said James, who also performs in the three-piece group, Young Atlas. “I just kept doing it and eventually I started writing my own lyrics and stuff. To do what you love for a job and make it into your field, that is the best feeling you can have.”
For his part in the “Say Something” collaboration, James sings and plays guitar. He said the recording’s success came as a shock to the system.
“This thing just blew up. Suddenly people I don’t even know are sharing it,” he said, adding that the success has made all three artists feel that much better about their talents. “It really makes you feel like you should be up there with the best.”
But aside from Miller’s piano, James’ guitar and both of their vocals, the song also features the deeply nuanced work of violinist David Wong. Miller said the violin adds a lot of emotion to the song, something that Wong said he was able to contribute without taking away from the lead vocalists.
“The biggest thing with violin is to not try to do too much and make sure to leave room for the vocals,” said Wong. “It takes discipline and listening to realize when you should come forward and when you should hold back.”
What started as a one-off performance might soon morph into other collaborations, as the three musicians are kicking around hosting a cabaret-style performance featuring the “Say Something” performance, their solo work and many other possibilities.
“We’re totally down for working together again,” said Miller. “What shape that performance will take is still up in the air.”
For more information on Miller, Wong and James, check out the artists’ websites at www.carolyn-miller.com, www.mikeljamesmusic.com and www.davidwongviolin.com.