It’s not every day in a journalists life that you get to interview people of musical royalty, so when I was asked to interview Michael Williams of The Drifters I hop, skipped and jumped at the chance.
Musicvein caught up with Michael during sound check of the ‘Unforgettable’ stage show he was starring in at Melton Theatre. We talked about how he became a Drifter, What being in the group means to him, Lionel Richie and The Drifters arena tour later this year! I even got to share cake with him as it was his birthday.
MV: Tell me about your background?
MW: “Well I’ve been in the Drifters lineup for just over 10 years now and I have to say it’s been a roller-coaster ride but an enjoyable one none the less”.
MV: How did you get to be a part of The Drifters?
MW: “I was spotted by Tina Treadwell, daughter of George and Fayerene Treadwell, when I was in a club singing with a band I was in. She asked me if I wanted to be an understudy for The Drifters and heck – you don’t get asked questions like that every day! I was excited, jumped at the chance and so spent a year as an understudy, learning how to walk and talk like a Drifter you know, understanding their make-up and learning the back catalogue of hits. Then about 10 years ago I got my chance to join this amazing group properly.”
MV: What does it mean to you?
MW: “It really means a lot as my folks were big Drifters fans they loved Clyde McPhatter, they followed his solo career and that continued when he became a Drifter. There was a lot of Motown music around the house growing up so I that was my introduction to music and I guess my parents twisted my arm into loving The Drifters. But joking aside really, hearing hits like ‘Under The Boardwalk’, ‘Up On The Roof’ and ‘There Goes My First Love’ you can’t help but become a big fan even without the parental influence”.
MV: When you perform any of the big hits, do you feel like you have big shoes to fill?
MW: “I felt that at the very beginning, during my first 2 years with the band. It wasn’t until we started working with Butch Leake and Joe Blunt from the 70’s that my feelings took a turn. They said “…you guys are the Drifters now so here’s the baton now run with it!” So from there I tried to emulate those guys, not copy but emulate what they did before me”.
MV: As there have been so many members before you, do you feel like your a real Drifter or is there a sense of detachment?
MW: “Well according to the Treadwell family I’m a real Drifter! (he says letting out a huge laugh) they hired me so I’ll go with that! I mean you can name the great ones that were in the band before like Rudy Lewis and Johnny Moore and you stop to question yourself – am I a real part of this legacy? But after speaking to Butch and he saying “…we had our chance just like you’re having yours now” it helped me a lot, so I do my thing and there’s no sense of detachment as you say.”
MV: Which is your favourite song to perform?
MW: “Oooo I get asked this question a lot but I’m gonna say ‘You’re More Than Just A Number In My Little Red Book’ it brings back memories of when I was a kid. My dad used to play that song around the house a lot when I was small and I now have the pleasure of singing that one live so I have to say it’s my favourite one.”
MV: Will the Drifters be recording new music now?
MW: “Yeah the last album we recorded in 2011 went Gold, it was the first recording on the Sony label in 35 years – we’re really proud of that. ‘La Vie Et L’Amour’ it’s a different sound but we’re trying to give a little something to everybody.”
MV: And do you prefer performing the old hits or songs more current that you’ve worked on and can relate to?
MW: “Probably a bit of both, singing the old stuff gives you a feeling of the history that goes along with it, that vibe of what the guys before you laid down you just want to carry on that great vibe. Equally recording new songs brings new fans, a younger generation who we can educate and keep the legacy going.”
MV: Which artists are on your radar at the moment?
MW: “Wow, I’m a old school kinda guys so I still listen to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Boyz II Men. I know they’re not new but I look out for everything Boyz II Men.”
MV: Cool, and is there anyone you all would like to work with?
MW: “We’ve known Lionel Richie for quite a while but never got to work with him so that who I’d like to work with. Lionel’s written some beautiful songs and I’d like for him to write something for us, collaborate with us – I’m hoping that can happen.”
MV: What are your plans for the rest of the year?
MW: “We’ll be heading to Australia to tour. We’re also back in the studio to record more material and songs that we’ve written and that some great writers have done for us – we need to ‘Drifter-ize’ those. And! there will be an arena tour in October! but at this stage we can’t say who’s going to be involved in that – it’s Top Top Secret!”
For more on The Drifters see:
Facebook: The Official Drifters