About Mike

Mike Westbrock, a songwriter living in St. Paul, MN, defies easy musical categorization. His songs encompass as many moods as the genres he writes in; from brooding and serious instrumental rock, to playful and upbeat club tracks, and heartfelt, story driven country songs.

In Nice Guys Finish Last, a country song that, in his words “should be instantly identifiable to anyone who has ever felt like second best”, Mike shows his talent for putting a novel spin on a clichéd idea and driving it home with a compelling narrative. Pop numbers like Eleven immerse you in the club atmosphere; you feel the pulsing rhythm from the strobe lights in the movements of the club goers, like an electric current arcing through the crowd. Pieces such as Tension Swarm and Fire Sermon clearly evoke the raw, undiluted anger and aggression found in classic hard rock and metal albums.

At times, it can seem like the songs were written by different people. In a sense, this is true. According to Mike “I just love music, period. Not a style or a genre; just music. Music is a language and it’s universal. There are so many facets to it, so why limit yourself to one specific point of view? That’s like a painter limiting him or herself to one brush and one color. You’re ignoring the rest of the palette.”

Mike’s versatility and passion for a wide variety of genres was no accident. He grew up listening to and emulating such diverse guitar luminaries as Jimmy Page, Lindsey Buckingham and Joe Satriani. “I really gained an appreciation for the beauty of the guitar from those artists.”

But it wasn’t until Mike studied with renowned jazz guitarist Mike Elliott that Mike’s horizons really began to expand. “Elliott would challenge me”, says Mike. “He was a jazz artist by trade, but he could literally write and play anything. He would say ‘See if you can write a country song. It’s all about the story and the craft. Now try a pop tune. It’s the production and the hook’. I really respected his open mindedness. He showed me there is something to appreciate in all styles.”

Mike draws inspiration from his life experiences and the world around him and couples them with what he learned from his mentor to apply to his craft. “Every kid dreams at one point or another of being a rock star. But there comes a point when society tells you to ‘grow up and get a real job’. I wanted to thumb my nose at that idea a bit, and that’s where the country song ‘A Little Too Old’ came from. It’s light hearted and upbeat, but there’s an underlying message about staying true to your dreams.”

On a more serious note, You’ll Be the Last is about dealing with a failing relationship and gaining the inner strength needed to say ‘enough’ and moving on to something better. “Everybody’s had a relationship; whether a significant other, a friend, a boss, or whomever, where they know that it’s not healthy and they need to break from that. The easy part is knowing what needs to be done; the hard part is doing it.”

Gutsy rock instrumentals such as Wah-Rah and Unexplained Phenomenon provide an intense counterpoint to the more emotional pop and country songs. “Sometimes you can say things best by saying nothing at all. It’s enough to let the music speak for you.”

Though his songs cover a multitude of styles and topics, Mike continues to diversify his interests and to explore new avenues of expression. “I’m always looking for fresh angles; both lyrically and musically. I just want to write the best songs that I can; expressing feelings and experiences we can all relate to, but hopefully in ways that nobody has thought of before.”