Michael Lynche, known as “Big Mike” due to his large build, was a versatile stand-out on season nine of American Idol. That versatility made him a resilient contestant. After being voted off the show following his take on “Eleanor Rigby” during Lennon/McCartney week, the judges to used their one-time-only “save” to keep him in the game. Lynche made the most of it, eventually finishing in fourth place for the season. I caught up with “Big Mike” prior to his performance during the Seattle stop on the American Idols LIVE! tour.
What’s it been like touring the country?
The most amazing learning experience that you could ever have for your career. Really seeing how a show of this magnitude runs, all the things that are involved. It’s very unrealistic to start out your career being on an arena tour. So I’ve really been trying to take the time to learn.
Can you describe the feeling of performing for these huge crowds each night?
For me, I’m pretty much focused on delivering the songs from a very honest place every time I go out. It’s not that I get caught up so much in the roar of the crowd, as much as I want that music to come across and resonate with someone. I want it to be something new and fresh every time I sing it. I want my music to be felt when I’m sing.
What songs have you been doing?
“This Woman’s Work,” [Kate Bush] a big one for me this on the TV show. “Ready For Love,” [India.Arie] another one from the show. Then I’m doing a fun one, “My Love,” by Justin Timberlake. And me and Casey James do a duet, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman.”
Have you laid any groundwork for the next phase of your career?
I think the goal for all us it to make an album. I’ve just been getting my team in place, the people I’m going to work with. I’m excited to get to get back in the studio and be creative.
Do you do any songwriting?
I do. That’s what I was doing in New York before I did Idol. I love that side of music as well, just creating. You’re not worried about who’s looking at you, or how to perform. You’re just creating something that’s new and fresh.
Who do you consider your biggest musical influences?
Maxwell, a big influence as far as R&B goes. I love Lauryn Hill, one of my favorites of all time, no one can sing like she does. I also have some classic influences like Al Green, Earth Wind & Fire. I love the showmanship of Sly and the Family Stone.
What about James Brown?
Oh of course, man, yeah!
Because I loved your take on “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Thanks man, I appreciate it. That was one of my favorite songs to do. I really wanted to pick songs that I felt no one else would attempt. I didn’t feel like any of the other contestants would do James Brown. I always want to do songs with a high level of difficulty.
How did it feel when the judges used their “save” on you?
From the get-go on the TV show, I had been very focused. Trying to do something I’d never done before. I wanted to keep my confidence the same. Not get too low or too high about the things being said. It definitely felt good that the judges saw potential. I’ve gotten a lot of love from a lot of people in the industry. I felt good about my chances.
Were you an intensely devoted fan of American Idol?
I wouldn’t say devoted, but I watched the show from the beginning. I always had my favorites each year. Idol was something I always wanted to do and felt I could do well just from watching it and taking notes on it.
Of all the great mentors you got to work with, who was your favorite?
Harry Connick Jr. was quite amazing. I don’t think any of the top five would disagree. Because he basically spent a week with us. He really wanted to see us grow during that time. He spent multiple days with us and got a feel for who we are and where our talent lies. He had advice that was very specific.
It’s interesting to see how the top 24 gets whittled down to the top 12. In my opinion, the most unjustly cut was Todrick Hall.
It was interesting to me that he didn’t get more love from the judges and the public in general. He really was one of the most talented guys, period, from this season. When you’re creative like that, it can mess with you when its not accepted. Especially when you’re not even given props for your creativity. I didn’t like that. I thought that he was just as talented as anybody and definitely could’ve gone really far. When someone is really creative, unless you’re a musician, you don’t always understand the genius when someone changes a song. Everyone wants it to be the same and show reverence to whoever did the song originally. But creative people sometimes take some risks. As a fellow musician I really respect his talent.
It seemed to me that you assumed a “big brother” type relationship with the rest of the contestants.
From the get-go, the whole top 24 in general took the approach of wanting to be like a family and bonding together. It’s different every year, nobody knows what you’re going through except for those people right there. So I always put myself in the role of a big brother, making sure everyone feels encouraged. Some weeks people talk good about you on the blogs, some weeks they don’t. My goal was making sure everyone felt someone was watching and appreciating their good work. It’s important to have someone to lean on in life. To have a brother, a sister, a bond.
Tell me about the band you were working with in New York before Idol.
I was singing with them for four years. They’re a wedding band. It was the best experience for the show, because I sang across the board genre-wise. There was never a theme week during Idol that I felt uneasy about, because I was doing it for a living.
Were your bandmates thrilled with your success on the show?
Oh yeah, that band has been together for like 30 years. I just happened to be the current lead singer at the time. They groomed me. I came in kind of as an apprentice. They were all guys who loved the show and told me I should do the show. When I went to audition, I didn’t tell any of them because I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up if I didn’t go through. Once they found out, they knew I could do well.
You mentioned showmanship earlier, something I felt you brought a lot of to this season.
I feel in this atmosphere of American Idol it can get lost. People sometimes perceive it as something different. But I like to be entertained. I don’t want to just hear a voice, I want to see somebody perform and own that stage.
You did that week after week. Thanks for sitting down with me, Mike.
No worries man, my pleasure.