Michael Bellar

Michael Bellar has performed music on six continents, but being a native of North Carolina, he stands by his slow, southern roots. He has toured and/or recorded with Amos Lee, Art Garfunkel, Howie Day, Wheatus, Jump Little Children, Teddy Geiger, Euro pop superstar Giorgia, and Jay Clifford’s Rosebud. His national TV appearances include Late Night with David Letterman, the Late Show with Conan O’Brien, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Ellen Degeneres Show, TRL, Good Morning America, Regis and Kelly, and the CBS Morning Show. He has also produced and scored music for CUT Music (LA), Fluid (NYC), Bang Music and Razorhead.

Michael is also the founder, composer, and keyboardist of the AS-IS Ensemble. This highly excitable, alt-jazz group has performed at such venues as Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, South By Southwest and the JVC, Bell Atlantic and New York City Winter Jazz Festivals along with being the former house band at the world-famous Blue Note jazz club in NYC. They have opened for John Scofield, Tea Leaf Green, Medeski Martin & Wood, Grant Green Jr., and JFJO.  In a review of their first ever performance in New York City, they were hailed as “Generation Next” by Billboard Magazine. The group has recorded three studio CDs – “Turned On Turned Up” (2009), “Like It Is,” and “REACT!”

How do you describe your music to people, Michael?

Man this one's hard. I know I should have the super cool buzz worthy label for you and if I had, I'd give to you. I think it's alternative-jazz. Jazz for people who don't like jazz. Definitely improvisational - always changing and lot's and lot's of rhythm and drums.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
It just was with me. My parent are both classical musicians, but growing up I wasn't interested in that. For me it was Led Zep and Pink Floyd. I went to a conservatory for piano not knowing what the hell was going on. And off hand this guy I know said, "Hey next semester we are going to start playing jazz, want to join?" So here we are. Whoops.......In the end, I want AS-IS to improvise more like Zeppelin did. It's a group thing and that is what gets me excited.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
This is a public forum right?

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Exposure probably. This band is the kind of band that lives on stage. It's a communal, live experience. So touring is where it lives - but it's an expensive place to live you know. Another issue is probably balance between taking care of your art and your business.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
This.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Well, I grew up in North Carolina. So I can't play fast......Then I moved to New York City to hang out with Sir. Roland Hanna. I've been here a long time now but man, I'm still southern. I've been really lucky but had a strange path musically. The guys in my group influence me the most musically. We are able to do so much with a small group and that's a dream. From a purely musical standpoint - I've found that steady gigs have been the place where the most growth usually comes from. The ideas and concepts for AS-IS have been there for a while now - but being able to play every week is where the ingredients become the soup.

What other artists out there do you love?
Miles Davis
Keith Jarrett
Nusrat Ali Khan
Led Zep
Prince
Billy Preston
Amos Lee

What does your future hold?
Just to keep doing our thing. Touring as much as possible and playing for the peeps.