Summit Right Brain: The Wandering Madman coming to a sidewalk near you (video)
SEE THE WANDERING MADMAN
Starting Aug. 12, the Wandering Madman can be seen at the Dillon Farmers Market every Friday. He also plays once a month at the Edwards Farmers Market, with the next performance Aug. 13. Book him for a private party by calling (314) 435-9512 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARE YOU CREATIVE?
Are you an artist, musician, chef, fire dancer, etc. and would like to be featured in Right Brain? Email A&E editor Heather Jarvis at email@example.com.
It’s easy to recognize Jeffrey Michael in his modified box truck. A large sign above an 8-foot hole cut in the side of the truck with a custom garage door reads “The Wandering Madman.”
Accompanying smaller signs around the cutout read “Free Music,” “Donations keep me alive,” or “Anything is possible,” as well as signatures from strangers written in dry erase markers on a clear board housing the signs. Inside the truck he calls home is an area for speakers and his music equipment, the only signs of habitat a microwave and a red sleeping bag on top of a small bed tucked into the front end.
With large headphones placed around his long, curly brown hair, Michael breaks out into Cold Play’s “Fix You” from inside his truck parked in the driveway of a Breckenridge home where he was hired for a private party. Playing the melody on his keyboard, he sings the lyrics — “Lights will guide you home/ And ignite your bones” — captivating the small crowd for a moment with a voice rivaling Chris Martin.
Michael has been living in his truck for the last five years, breaking out of the normal restrictions of society to spend his summers in Colorado and winters in Florida, although he has spent time in many other parts of the country over the years. From St. Louis, Missouri, he left the Midwest half a decade ago to begin his journey in Austin, Texas, where his first venture playing on a street corner led to a police encounter and a $250 ticket.
“If you are a music lover, it’s hard to find a better place than Austin, Texas because there is music 24/7 nonstop,” he said.” But if you are a musician trying to make a living at it, you are one in a million.”
The mobile musician used to play in more traditional bands but became frustrated by the politics of the industry. He used to be the sound guy at a Missouri club and was once a roadie for Elton John and Cake tours. But now, he lives simply, spending his nights in parking lots around the High Country in his truck, surviving off donations he receives from those who enjoy his music. He mainly plays on random sidewalks when he can get away with it, farmers markets and the occasional music festival or private event, giving out CDs of his cover songs for a few bucks here and there. The love he has for what he does now is undeniable, and he hasn’t let any of the struggles that come with living out his truck turn him back to a more normal reality.
It’s his love for creating and sharing music and the innate need for something other than a 9-5 that drive him to be The Wandering Madman. His truck is a home, recording studio and performance space; a way to share his passion and survive on his own terms. He has dreams of traveling the world and inspiring others to follow their own dreams, just like he has, using song as his vehicle.
“Music was always part of my life, a great way to escape into the headphones and make your reality just disappear,” he said. “You can paint a whole universe in there — all you have to do is close your eyes and you’re there.”
Summit Daily News: What exactly is the Wandering Madman?
Jeffrey Michael: The Wandering Madman is a one-man band psychedelic storyteller fueled by the belief that even a single person can redirect the course of the entire universe. That’s the concept I’m hoping to instill on people, is that you have the power in your hands if you really dedicate your time and your energy to something, you can manifest this. I consider myself a mediocre talent and extreme determination, and that’s what’s helped me rise up to this point, and it’s the same power and energy that we all have inside of us.
I felt so detached and so … put in the corner of this reality because I have so much trouble dealing with all of the environmental things and all the wars, this and that. I couldn’t just go through the grind every day working to put a little more money in my savings account; I had to do something that made me feel like I was doing my part. … I wanted to show people how expensive it is to live in this reality and if there’s some alternate means or simple means that you can do. I gave up cigarettes and mostly alcohol and soda and coffee just because these two or three dollars a day adds up … which equates to a couple weeks of living at a job that you don’t like. We use these habits to get us through these situations that we don’t necessarily enjoy. If you can change your situation you won’t need those habits and it’s a win-win.
SDN: What was the initial inspiration behind this project?
JM: Necessity is the best word for it. I had to engineer something that was better, that would make sense as far as touring and traveling. I couldn’t wait anymore — it had to be now or never. Even if you feel like you are going to fail or you feel like you don’t have all the information or the wisdom that you need, there is a certain point where you just have to hit the road and figure it out on the way. … I felt like I had to try something to bring people together through music. … Maybe by the time I’m 80 I’ll have one song that’ll have made a difference.
SDN: What are some of the struggles you’ve come across traveling like this?
JM: I’ve been woken up several times with knocks on the door. I’ve had my bike stolen successfully once … I was parked in a Target. … The biggest thing is that you never know if they are just coming for the bicycle. You maybe think they know you’ve got the gear in there, they know you’re alone, they’re prepared. It really makes you re-evaluate the whole thing every time it happens. … But I didn’t want to give up, and it’s the only way I could comprehend continuing on the musical journey. All my friends, my old band members are married with kids and have the houses now, and it’s so nice — I can imagine having the security, just having a place where you are permitted to be because everywhere I go, I’m a trespasser. … It would be nice to have some company, to remind you that it’s a ride and you don’t have to take it so seriously when things don’t go right — you don’t have to beat yourself up over it. At the end of the day, you’ve got someone right next to you.
SDN: What would you say is your ultimate goal with this project?
JM: I’d love to travel the rest of the world, I’d love to have a boat version, have a truck and drive around Europe — even if it’s not professionally or on a bill, if I could just go and wander over there. I think they’d appreciate the music and the opportunity to sit and listen to someone sing for awhile. Over here, people are so busy, and they have plans, and there is no room for the unexpected, and that’s a shame because that’s where all the beauty is. …
I’d love to travel the world and stay living in the truck and use the profits for something other than myself. … That’s the goal, is to show people that they can do quite a bit more than they give themselves credit for. A lot of times, you just need someone in your corner, just pushing you and helping you. A lot of people don’t get that luxury, unfortunately. I try to be their someone. It’s a little reassuring knowing there’s always some crazy guy out there living in a box truck doing whatever it takes to keep on living in this crazy world.
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