Artist Highlight: Paul Mirkovich
Posted on September 28 2019
Paul Mirkovich, Music Director of NBC's "The Voice"
How did you get started in the music industry?
I started playing the piano when I was 4 years old. Mostly classical with some ragtime as well, which was very popular at the time. Since I could read quite well I got my first paying gig at 15 as the musical director for a local church’s production of South Pacific. It paid a whopping one thousand dollars for 3 months, 5 days a week!
After high school, I spent a couple of years at the Dick Grove School of Music and had some amazing instructors and met some great musicians there. I was playing in pit orchestras around town playing piano and synth for a little while until I got my first road gig in 1986 with Jeffrey Osborne. From there I got other road gigs with various groups. Then, in 1989 I went out on tour with Cher, eventually becoming her Musical Director (MD).
A few years later I joined the group Nelson and had my 15 minutes of fame as a Rock and Roll star. I also have been fortunate to play with Whitesnake and Foreigner in the RnR world. In the midst of all this touring I was also doing TV shows like Rock Star (CBS), Comic Strip Live (Fox), Majors and Minors (MTV), Rock The Cradle (MTV) and others.
I also have served as MD for Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Tori Kelly, Hilary Duff, and Anastasia…so as you can see I guess I have worked with a quite a few wonderfully talented women. I also currently work with Pink as her MD, which sets up her tours and considers her the finest female entertainer on the planet.
When did you take on the role of Musical Director at NBC's "The Voice"?
I started with the show from the first show in 2011 and have been there every day for every show since arranging and performing over 5000 songs on the show and recording almost 4000 for iTunes release with the band.
What was your most memorable experience?
It would be hard to pick one moment. We have had some remarkable performers on the show. Jordan Smith is a great talent. Any of his performances were great. Chris Blue doing Rhythm Nation with a huge set, full band, and 16 dancers was amazing.
Playing with iconic artists like Smokey Robinson, Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder, Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton, Travis Tritt, Reba McEntire, John Fogerty, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger, Patti LaBelle and to many others to mention has been amazing. Playing with and working with Taylor Swift on the show has been amazing. Our coaches are all great and fine artists. It is a great show to be working on.
Who would you consider your biggest musical inspiration?
Everything. Some of the first records I ever remember listening to were "The White Album" by the Beatles,"Talking Book" by Stevie Wonder, and "Court and Spark" by Joni Mitchell...and listening to these while I was studying Beethoven and Chopin.
Later Keith Jarret, Chick Corea and Bill Evans were big influences. Also, I would have to say Tom Oberheim, Robert Moog, Dave Smith, Ikutaro Kakehashi (Roland), John Bowen, and Eric Persing (who created some of the greatest synthesizers and sounds that changed the world of music forever).
What is the first instrument you learned to play, and what instruments do you play now?
Piano has always been my first instrument. Synthesizers are vital to my work and I have quite a collection. I know a couple of guitar chords but I am not a player really. I play all the harmonicas pretty well. I sing pretty well I think. I orchestrate for just about anything, and I play a fairly good harpejji.
How has the harpejji inspired your playing?
I loved it instantly. I am kind of obsessed with it. I actually have both the k24 and the g16. My g16 lives at the stage and I play it on the show quite a lot. The k24 lives in my studio and I use it on sessions for the show and other projects.
I love it because it is something new. Truly new. It is not a guitar, it is not a keyboard, It is not a pedal steel. It is it’s own thing. I could grasp the concepts immediately as it makes sense to me from my keyboard brain. But it is it’s own thing. I will admit I wish it had a sustain pedal sometimes, but the lack of it forces me to think differently. There are some remarkable players playing it now that I watch and learn from. Cory Henry and Jacob Collier to name a couple. I find that I love the instrument best in the baritone range between the guitar and bass. I also find that it serves me best when I am creating a new part, not trying to just cop a guitar part from a song we are doing. I also think in the years to come as more people begin to play it more, we will all learn from each other. Maybe we should have a harpejji convention or jam night somewhere?
What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your musical footsteps?
Work hard. Be meticulous. When learning music, whether it is an electronic song, country, RnB or Jazz, learn it note for note like it is Mozart. Because, in fact, this music is today’s Mozart. Then, once you know a thing as it was intended, you can change it up mix and match etc..
Listen to everyone’s opinion, because even people who don’t know notes, can have a valid thought or at least a thought that may take you somewhere you did not think to go. Work to completion and then let it go. Make quick choices, you can always change your mind later.
When working with others, it does not matter where the best idea comes from, run with the best idea and don’t think you have to have every idea yourself. But once you choose that idea, make it the best it can be. Don’t piss off your bosses by arguing with them or thinking you know better, but always tell them the truth and give them your opinion. That is what you are there for after all. But, if their choice is different than yours, again, make it the best it can be and believe in it. Always remember, unless your name is Cher, Pink, or Janet, you are not the gig. The gig is the gig. Don’t take yourself too seriously. When playing a song, any song, believe in your heart that this is the greatest song in the world. Enjoy yourself and let those working with you enjoy themselves as well, after all you are playing music.
Paul Mirkovich - Rig Set up on NBC's "The Voice"
Harpejji on "The Voice":