Michael Yurich has been involved in music all his life.
He was first inspired to take piano lessons at the age of eight years old after seeing his friend Jimmy Barkley play piano.
“[Jimmy] was taking piano lessons and he was playing quite well,” says Yurich. “And I just went ‘Wow that’s really cool.’”
From that point on, music became a key part of Yurich’s life. Now, a masterful singer, guitar and piano player, he has been a staple of the Sault music scene for many years, both as a member of bands and as a solo performer. He himself became an inspiration and mentor to countless local aspiring musicians.
Yurich has been on numerous albums and recordings over the years. His last album was 2010’s Catching Up with the News.
But who is Michael Yurich? His latest album Identity gives us a glimpse.
Interestingly, the title was partially inspired by people not being true to themselves.
“I basically find that a lot of people are not themselves. The songs on this album say something about that. [Additionally] all the songs are different and every one has a different identity,” says Yurich.
“I feel schizophrenic about music. There’s one side of me that plays the piano and one side that plays the guitar. It’s a duality that I work off of … one side of me is like Mozart and the other side of me is like Hendrix. So what am I going to do?”
Writing music is one of the aspects of being a musician that has continually kept him engaged.
“If I’m inspired, I write,” says Yurich. “Writing lyrics is the tough part and singing. I write a lot of instrumentals.”
Outside of the Sault, Yurich has played music in many “local” scenes, including, Windsor, Detroit, Toronto and Sarnia.
“Throughout the years, I’ve been influenced by a lot of different people,” he says. “Musicians are like nomads. We travel through different things, go to all different places and we accumulate inspiration.”
For many of the original songs on his new album, that inspiration comes in the form of lyrics first.
“It sounds really weird when you try to make the lyrics happen after. Sometimes you work off a hook or a lick,” says Yurich, using his track The Cold Gray Day as an example.
“I had a vision about that song. I was travelling through Blind River and you know the rolling river how it is there in the winter time? I’ve gone through that area plenty of times at 25 below zero and I just thought about that feeling [and that scene]. It’s those sorts of details that can inspire me.”
He wrote the track Singing the Blues, originally from Catching Up with the News, in Kitchener while he was recording with Danny Mott.
“[The song] is about an imaginary thing happening, people were going to get together that hadn’t been together for a long time. When I thought about it, I kept thinking about Count Basie and stuff like that…”
Yurich was listening to a lot of old jazz stuff and swing music when he wrote that song.
He took the song to Sarnia and did a multitrack recording of it. It was first released on the Catching Up with the News album.
He eventually rerecorded the song for the Identity album.
The first single for the Identity album, Love in Limbo, was released with a music video back in January, in advance of the album release.
“This was surprisingly my first [music video],” laughs Yurich. “My son, he coerced me.”
The video was directed by Yurich’s son, filmmaker Jade Robertson.
“It was a collaborative effort. We both had been talking about it for a while, combining what I do with what he does,” says Jade Robertson.
“We were just waiting for the opportunity to get it right. My dad had come down to Toronto to see me last year and had an updated version of the album to listen to in the car that was not far off from being the finished version. I took particular note of Love in Limbo. When I heard it, I was like, ‘Damn I know exactly how to edit something here…’”
Yurich gave his son the background story and inspiration for the song. Robertson took those details and created the video.
“The concept behind the video is based on a true story that my dad shared with me of a man [he knew],” says Robertson.
“[The man’s] partner left without telling him that she wasn't coming back. He would continue to shovel her spot in the driveway in hope of her return. So the video follows [the man] searching and yearning for his lost love.”
The experience of directing and producing his father’s video was a positive experience for Robertson.
“It was so much fun. I got to boss my dad around for a day,” laughs Robertson, who is clearly joking.
“It’s always a pretty intimate thing when you’re filming so I’d say at first it felt a little self-conscious and there was definitely a bit of weird and awkward tension. But once we got into a few takes, all that went away and the natural performance shined. My dad’s a professional for a reason.”
For Robertson, who studied film at Brock University and has worked in the field for about 4 years, his father's creativity inspired his own journey.
“It’s motivating to have a figure like my dad to look up to. He works so hard every day at what he’s passionate about,” he says.
“When I was a little kid, it was like having a superhero for a dad. He’d put on his cape and go out at night to save the world and rock out at Reggie’s. Now, in releasing this album, [he is] seeing some of the reward and recognition for all those years of hard work.”
Identity features a number of local players on it, including Josh Norling, Mark Gough, Bob Yeomans, Chris Johns, Valerie Powley and Warren Reville.
It was produced by Greg Kobe and can be downloaded or streamed on all major music platforms.
Physical copies of the album will be available at upcoming gigs as soon as the Sault music scene reopens post-pandemic.
Watch Love in Limbo here.