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Wakey!Wakey! performs indie-pop sound on Saturday

BY LAURA WILLIS | NOVEMBER 04, 2010 7:20 AM

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Mike Grubbs is in a rush.

He has been on the run since 9 a.m., hastily getting ready for the drive to Canada for the start of Wakey!Wakey!’s November tour. This lifestyle vaguely resembles that of 10 years ago, in which he was just another Brooklyn musician who hadn’t quite yet discovered the magic of exclamation marks.

A teenage television drama helped change that.

Among the audience members at a local performance was a friend of Mark Schwahn, the creator “One Tree Hill.” Someone told Schwahn about the Brooklyn piano player, and the TV producer was soon at an open-mike night watching Grubbs play. Grubbs’ song, “War Sweater,” was then featured on the season-six finale of “One Tree Hill” in 2009.

“That was the overnight success that happened after 10 years of hard work,” he said.

Wakey!Wakey! will perform its indie-pop songs at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Blue Moose, 211 Iowa Ave. Admission is $5. Singer Jenny Owen Youngs will open the show.

By collaborating on “One Tree Hill” together, Schwahn and Grubbs became close friends. Schwahn decided to write a character for the musician, named “Grubbs.” Wakey!Wakey!’s frontman played a bartender in the show, who was slowly unveiled as a singer.

“Suddenly, I was getting chased down the street, which you think is going to be cool, but you are never really prepared for it,” he said.

University of Iowa student Jake Cole first heard Wakey!Wakey! on “One Tree Hill.” He immediately bought Grubbs’ album, listening to it on repeat while at work.

“I like the piano, violin, and Michael Grubbs’s voice,” he said. “It’s a good combination that makes me want to hear more.”

Cole predicts the upcoming Wakey!Wakey! performance at the Blue Moose will have mixed reviews.

“Not everybody likes the same kind of music, and Wakey!Wakey! isn’t something that you would hear playing on the radio repetitively,” Cole said.

Along with Grubbs, Wakey!Wakey! consists of Anne Lieberwirth on bass, Patrick Doane on violin, and Tanya Buziak as an additional vocalist. They have created two EPs, a live CD, and its latest album, Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said, which was released in February.

Before performing on “One Tree Hill,” Grubbs worked as a professional stage actor in New York City. He noticed significant differences between working in front of a camera as opposed to singing and acting on a stage. One aspect was that in television, actors often joined a team. The business people often directed the fate of the show, whereas musicians often had to gain publicity on their own.

“In theater, it’s all about getting your big break,” Grubbs said. “The most talented musicians and artists never get discovered.”

While his fame came from a character on a hit television series, he feels passionate about his career as a musician. Growing up, his life revolved around music. With his mother working as a choir director, and his father and sister both being singers, it was only natural for him to begin playing the piano at age 5.

Grubbs says that unlike in the past, he thinks about how his music will affect listeners. After years of performing on a stage, he is often not nervous, but nonetheless, he feels a jolt of energy before each show.

“When I wrote the last album, I didn’t know if anyone would even hear it,” he said. “It’s extremely moving to have a crowd recite the poetry you scribbled on a piece of paper when you were in a bad mood. To have people sing along is really an amazing thing.”


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