by Sarah Harris
To millions of vampire fanatics around the globe Michael Malarkey is first and foremost Enzo, the uber-charming bloodsucker and fan-favourite on hit American TV show, The Vampire Diaries. Now that the show has completed its run, he’s focusing on his first love, music. The actor turned singer-songwriter has recently released a much-anticipated debut album, ‘Mongrels’ and he’s going out on tour to celebrate.
You’re best known as Enzo from a very popular series The Vampire Diaries. Has your role on The Vampire Diaries affected your music production in any way?
Not really. I had a lot of change in my life throughout my time on the show, so of course in a convoluted way, but nothing directly related to it. You’re affected by all the jobs you work, the places you go and the people you meet. You learn new things about yourself and are constantly evolving. Naturally, you channel all that life juice into whatever you do, your work and your relationships, whether you know it or not.
Does being an actor and trained to tap into emotion inform your song-writing and make performing easier?
Yes and no. It’s probably helped in the writing process. As an actor you often have to go to some pretty dark, unfamiliar places and live out really high-stakes circumstances. The more of those stories and experiences you have, the more you learn about yourself and the more you learn about the world and the easier it becomes to write from those places. That being said, playing live is very different from acting, because when you’re acting you are playing another person and when you’re up there on stage with your guitar laying it all out there, it’s much more personal. You’re playing yourself. That can be hard at first.
How does the music industry compare to the film/TV industry?
At the end of the day, it’s all the same. The game is rigged; play accordingly.
I’ve read that when you were younger you fronted hardcore/punk bands. When did you decide to pursue the folk/acoustic genre?
If you can’t play an instrument and you’re the frontman, you’re often waiting for new songs to work on. I had notebooks full of poems and lyrics at the time and was often frustrated that I couldn’t write by myself. So, I started teaching myself guitar and began writing my own songs. I never decided to pursue a certain genre, I always just wrote whatever came naturally to me. Thing is, all your influences just bleed into you and the more you listen to different kinds of music and experience life, the more your sound develops. This is just where I am right now with everything I’ve accumulated in my life so far. Who knows what the next record will sound like? A lot of life will surely happen between now and then.
Regarding your sound and songwriting, have you been inspired by any particular artists?
I could list hundreds of artists here. I’ve been inspired by music all my life, not only the music, but the stories and the struggles, the soul of it all. You start listing other bands and people start linking you with them. So I’ll just say I’m inspired by anyone, in any walk of life, that is out there doing their thing, getting down in it and keeping it real. If what you do comes from an honest place, it’s inspiring.
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
Probably ‘You Can Call Me Al.” Graceland was playing a lot in my house when I was growing up.
What has been your biggest obstacle as an artist?
Self-doubt. We’re taught competition from a young age which can actually be very detrimental for young people to think about, especially artists. A lot of the time that’s what causes self-doubt. Comparing yourself to others. The thing is, it’s not about being the best, it’s just about giving your gift to the fullest. That’s the point of it all, in my opinion. If that’s what you’re doing, then no one can really mess with that. Everyone’s story is interesting and completely unique to them.
What messages would you hope to convey through your music?
I don’t really think like that, I just write what I write and hope people will get what I’m doing. In general though, my hope for music is that it can continue to break down borders and unite people. We’re all going through the same journey, just with different filters, different data. I suppose the message has something to do with that. Whatever I’m going through, so is the listener and vice versa. We’re all in this thing together.
What are your main aspirations for the future?
Keep on keeping on and never stop learning.
[…] Suzy Kassem once said that doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will, and Michael can attest to this. He said that when he was growing up, he was taught to be competitive, which he now admits is more detrimental than helpful. In his opinion, competition results in comparing yourself to others instead of focusing on bettering yourself to reach your full potential. Once you feel that others are better than you, you start doubting yourself and the gifts you have, as he told Swansea Student Media. […]