Mike Vial's wife, writer Natalie Burg, said she wouldn't marry him unless he quit his public school teaching job to pursue music. Five years later, Vial has played 1000+ gigs across the United States and Canada, and he's releasing a new album. For his fourth music release, A World That's Bigger, Vial recorded the entire folk album live and acoustic, similar to how Nick Drake made Pink Moon.
â€œI was encouraged by Nick Drakeâ€™s story,â€ he said. â€œI aimed to capture the energy of my live performances on this record.â€
So in the spring of 2016, Vial took three acoustic guitars and recording gear to a cabin in northern Michigan. With the help of his friend Mike Gentry behind the mixing board, Vial completed a challenging, personal record. But it wasnâ€™t easy.
â€œVial has an incredible amount of mental stamina and finger calluses,â€ producer Gentry said. â€œThe guitar playing is intricate. It isnâ€™t something every musician could do!â€ After recording 150 takes, Gentry and Vial picked the best ten; the album A World Thatâ€™s Bigger was finished.
The album covers three universal themesâ€”life, death and loveâ€”that Vialâ€™s family has experienced during the last five years. The title track â€œA World Thatâ€™s Biggerâ€ celebrates the birth of Vialâ€™s first child, yet also recognizes the anxieties of raising her.
â€œI looked up how expensive college will be for Ginny in 17 years, and it was half of the mortgage of the house!â€ Mike said. â€œI had to write a song to calm my nerves.â€
While the record is a celebration of family, a common challenge also haunts it: â€œGinnyâ€™s birth was bookended by two miscarriages,â€ Vial said. â€œWriting songs like â€˜Little Drumâ€™ and â€˜Those Shoesâ€™ helped me find closure with the fear and pain.â€
And the pain runs deep in other songs like â€œBurning Bright,â€ a dedication to Vialâ€™s relative, Michigan Senator David Plawecki, who died of cancer in 2013. Plaweckiâ€™s dying wish was to give all of his friends and family $100 to give to someone else in need. His generosity was reported in the news, and inspired Vial to write the song in tribute.
The record also highlights Vialâ€™s past as an English teacher. The lyrics are full of literary and Biblical references. â€œMy former students will have a leg up on identifying the allusions to Greek mythology and Shakespeare, if they read the assignments,â€ Vial joked.
Vialâ€™s songwriting has indeed matured, and his lyrics often achieve a poetic quality. Two songs from the new record earned Vial a spot as a Grassy Hill Finalist for this yearâ€™s CT Folk Festival. The song Vial will perform at the competition, â€œGirl on the Mountain, Boy on the Beach,â€ addresses the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
â€œIâ€™ve been thinking about how lucky I am to raise my daughter in Ann Arbor, and how so many families are fleeing their homes overseas.â€
Vial hopes the music will inspire us to do more for those in need, like Plaweckiâ€™s dying wish. After one listen to his music, the world will be definitely bigger, and brighter.