Mike Shinoda Reveals What Gave Him the Confidence to Pursue Music
There are many ways for kids to get into music, but ultimately you have to get up onstage to take that big step forward if you want to perform. In the latest edition of Linkin Park's "Notes" where the members are sharing their lives with fans through the band's mailing list, Mike Shinoda offers insight to his musical start, revealing that a youth group helped provide him with the confidence he eventually needed to pursue a career in music.
As Shinoda tells it, he was approached by the program's musical theater director named Bruce about the possibility of taking a role in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
"After the first group meeting about the show, Bruce took me aside privately," Shinoda recalled. "'Hey Mike,' he said, 'There are a lot of important roles to fill in this show, and I want you to consider playing the Pharaoh.'"
The Linkin Park musician recalled, "My stomach turned. I did not want a solo. But even worse, the Pharaoh number was a light, funny song in the style of Elvis. I had grown up listening to Public Enemy, and Chuck D taught me to be anti-Elvis. 'Bruce,' I said, 'I can’t do that, I really, really don’t like Elvis.' He paused. 'Do me a favor. Think about what we could do to make it work,' he told me. 'We’ll talk about it next week.'”
Shinoda says, "The following week, when the youth group meeting was over, I sat with Bruce privately. 'I have an idea,' I said. 'Would you let me change the song, and take the Elvis stuff out, and replace it with a style of music I like?' I remember him smiling at me with a complicated look on his face that I didn’t understand. 'OK, maybe…how would that work?' he asked. I described the types of music I was listening to: rap, funk, and rock. I thought we could retain the 'story' of the song, and maybe even make it more funny, but doing it as a rap song over a funk track."
The Linkin Park musician says that in retrospect, he now realizes the amount of time this was going to cost Bruce in allowing for this change, and that the director was putting plenty of faith in him not fully knowing if he could pull it off.
"We spent the next few months reworking the lyrics," says Shinoda. "He let me write an entirely new track for the band to play. We designed a ridiculous, 70’s-style bell-bottomed Pharaoh outfit and stage set to compliment the new style of the track. And when we premiered it in front of an audience, I felt confident on stage, and proud of the thing I had helped make."
Now, as a multi-platinum recording artists who has continued beyond Linkin Park into a solo career, Shinoda says, "Looking back, there’s no way this experience didn’t dramatically influence my confidence, not only for getting up in front of people, but my confidence in proposing an idea I believed in. There’s even a possibility Linkin Park may not have even existed, if not for this mentor who decided to put faith in me."
Shinoda concludes the reflection from his youth with a message of thanks: "Thank you, Bruce. I hope someone else reading this makes the kind of bold, brave decision you did. It made a big difference."
To check out more of Linkin Park's "notes" and to sign up for the mailing list, check here.