Music Q&A:
Michael Malarkey

Perhaps most recognisable for his role in Vampire Diaries, the actor-cum-singer has released a new album and is touring. He plays Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, 25-27 Oct

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Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences?
I’ve always been inspired by artists that take you on a journey and the lyrics and how they’re presented has always been one of the most important parts of that for me. I’ve always said that my own personal musical trinity is Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. Most of their songs are like watching short films or walking through a gallery of paintings that transport you to another world. That’s the landscape where I write from: active-listening music, emotive-storytelling. I also grew up being inspired by the more indie side of things, artists like Joan of Arc, Sparklehorse, Bright Eyes; a lot of heavier music as well. I used to play in hardcore bands back in the day. I don’t think too much about my sound or to intentionally write about certain things – it’s all much more of a visceral process, like painting.

How have you evolved as a musician over the years?
I guess I’ve lived a hell of a lot of life from the time I started writing music up until now. If you evolve as a person, you naturally will also evolve as an artist. It’s definitely a fuller sound and it’s gotten a lot easier to transmit what I hear in my head to tape. I’m not trying to do anything too clever, just continuing to challenge myself and make the music I want to make.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I am close to wrapping a new series for Sony’s Crackle Network called The Oath. It’s about cop gangs. It’ll be out next year. Super-gritty show with a very talented cast. I’m reading for a lot of other stuff as well and have been writing a lot of new songs. Gearing up for the UK/Europe tour, so there is plenty in the pipeline.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
People respond to art that comes from a genuine, inspired place. I’ve always found that the more you know yourself and don’t worry too much about “the race”, you’ll always be fine. You shouldn’t think about the industry. Leave that to your team. Do your own thing and always honour everyone’s job in the business. Just because you may be the face of your work doesn’t mean you should put yourself above everyone else. People really recognise and appreciate when you treat everyone with respect and take an interest in others. Be a full person. Be kind. Eliminate the competition element in it, which is also usually self-imposed, and focus on self-discovery and challenging yourself. That way the only thing that matters is doing what you do and that way you will still be fulfilling yourself and doing your best work regardless of the outcome.

What’s on your rider?
Jameson, pilsner, fruit and nuts.

Tell us about your worst live show.
I used to deal with a lot of chatting through shows, especially when I was first starting out. It used to really get to me, as I was always playing solo back then and was already pretty self-conscious about playing my songs in public. I used to do post-mortems of the shows in my head and torture myself over tiny details, the most minuscule mistakes. In a way though, that mentality would also encourage me to push myself harder and challenge myself, though I don’t give myself as much of a hard time anymore. I’m just completely myself and enjoy being in the moment when playing live. We all have a good time regardless and the audience definitely is always with us every step of the way. It’s a great feeling.

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Michael Malarkey

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